by Jessica Smith
How to become a morning exerciserImpending deadlines, last-minute meetings, an impromptu dinner date. These are just a few of many schedule conflicts that keep you from fitting in your evening workout. It's a common problem with an obvious yet seemingly impossible solution: Work out in the morning! We know, it's so hard to get up when you could snooze for another hour! But becoming a morning exerciser is doable (even if you've never been a morning person). Follow our step-by-step plan and you'll soon wonder how you ever started your day any other way!
1. Slowly start moving your bedtime up: Working out in the morning is counterproductive if you're not getting enough sleep (numerous studies have linked a lack of sleep to everything from weight gain to an increased diabetes risk, not to mention low energy and fatigue), and trying to wake up early if you aren't fully rested is even more difficult.
Your strategy: First, decide what time you'll need to start waking up to make your workout happen, and then calculate what your new ideal bedtime should be (most experts recommend 7-8 hours of sleep each night for best health and weight-loss results).
If you usually hit the sack at midnight, don't expect to start falling asleep at 9 p.m. right away. Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you gradually reach your ideal bedtime (and remember, the hours you spend in bed are not the same as hours spent sleeping, so be sure to allow yourself some time to unwind and fall asleep too). In the meantime, you can still fit in a morning workout! Use this "sleep transition" period to focus on shorter, targeted workouts. This fat-blasting routine only takes 10 minutes!
2. Determine a realistic strategy for success: Is the gym really the best option for you at 6 a.m.? Dragging yourself, work clothes, shoes, hair dryer, and makeup bags all the way to the gym-ugh, we're ready to go back to bed just thinking about it! Isn't there something easier you could do instead? A great workout DVD or a home circuit routine can be just as effective as a gym session.
More great options: Walk or jog around the neighborhood, or check for bootcamp sessions at nearby parks. Find a way to make your morning workout something you'll look forward to and be able to stick with without a lot of extra effort (with the exception of the effort you'll put into your actual sweat session, of course).
3. Plan to fail: Yes, you read that right. While we do love the expression "fail to plan, plan to fail," being prepared to fail truly is the best credo you can have when it comes to sticking with your fitness routine. Life happens, and you've got to be prepared with a backup plan. Maybe you decided your best morning workout strategy was running outdoors-so what happens when you wake up on a rainy day?
Decide ahead of time what you'll do if (when) something out of your control comes up. Create more than one alternative so that when your workout partner cancels (time to try that Tabata workout?) or that snowstorm hits (how about a workout DVD?), you'll still be able to rise, sweat, and shine.
4. Psych (or bribe) yourself up: Even if you have had 8 hours of sleep, it can still be a struggle to get up before the sun does. That's why we highly recommend bribery. If you love to start your day with Starbucks, make a deal with yourself that you'll only be allowed to stop on your way to work if you fit in your workout first (and make sure to avoid the high-calorie, sugar-packed drinks and pastries on the menu). Or if you've had your eye on an amazing new pair of shoes, treat yourself to them only if you make a month's worth of scheduled morning workouts. It may sound silly, but if the thought of your new shoes or skinny latte helps get you out of bed, it's worth trying!
5. Build a motivating a.m. mix: Never underestimate the power of great music to motivate you to get moving. And you don't have to wait until you're ready to exercise to turn on a rockin' mix! Start blasting your tracks as soon as you sit up (if you have a sleeping partner or family, we recommend using headphones).
Add your favorite songs-the ones that really get your heart racing-to your mix and change it often so it always feels fresh and inspiring. (Here are some pumpin' workout songs to try if you need some suggestions.)
6. Share your plans on social media: We're not suggesting you share every detail of your workout with the world (We all have one of those people in our newsfeed), but getting feedback and support from your social network can help you stay on track towards reaching your fitness goals-especially at the crack of dawn when you need it most.
Post your workout plans the night before (Trying out a new Kettlebell class in the morning!). You might be more motivated to get out of bed after announcing it on your Twitter feed.
7. Prepare for a painless pre- and post-workout: Zap morning workout excuses by making your pre- and post-workout routine as simple as possible. Put your workout clothes, socks, shoes, even your hair elastic right next to your bed so you don't have to waste time fumbling around for your gear. And don't let the thought of sweaty hair keep you from a good training session before work. We are huge fans of dry shampoo (and polished ponytails) in cold weather, and a quick, water-only rinse in the shower on warmer days. Pick out simple work outfits (i.e. a dress versus a three-piece outfit) on days you know you'll be short on time.