For most aspiring fitness aficionados, a “perfect” day would begin with a full, satisfying workout, complete with warm-up, cool-down, shower, and breakfast, followed by a productive day at work. Realistically, however, most days start with a promise made the night before to wake up early and exercise, tailed by waking up just late enough to avoid the whole thing, and complemented by slinking regretfully into your normal routine. We all know there are multiple benefits to exercising in the morning, but how do we convince ourselves to take advantage of them?
In addition to clearing your afternoon schedule for relaxing and socializing, getting a workout in bright and early can actually make you more efficient. For example, the hour or so in the morning you might previously have spent getting into your routine is replaced by productivity, since you’re already awake, refreshed, and alert from your trip to the gym. You’ll feel accomplished and satisfied after you’ve had a successful morning, which puts you in a good mood and inspires you to do better all day long.
Even with the best of intentions, achieving a lofty fitness goal like regular early morning workouts seems untouchable, and the mere mention of getting up hours before a morning shift receives looks of horror from most. No matter how difficult and unachievable this seems, however, it’s not– and there are plenty of gym-goers that have discovered the secret to fitting in a satisfying workout before work. Here are 5 of our best tips to get you out of bed and onto the treadmill before you even have time to complain:
1. Experiment with meal prepping. The most efficient thing you can do for your future self is to prepare wholesome, healthy, and easy meals to grab when you’re on-the-go. Because breakfast is the most often-skipped meal of the day, focus on making sure you’re able to grab a nourishing bite to eat before a long day at work, after you tear it up at the gym. Eating within two hours of exercising is important, especially after a morning workout, as replacing lost calories is necessary to continue feeling strong and alert throughout the day. Wait at least 15 minutes before eating if you’ve just finished your set, however, as the body digests food slower when engaged by the “stress” response to physical exertion. If you’re wondering what to make first, try Deliciously Ella’s vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free Warm Sweet Potato, Mushroom, and Spinach Salad for your next meal-prep!
2. Wake up with the sun (or soon after it, at least). Letting natural light filter into your bedroom can help you wake up easier and feeling more refreshed, letting your brain process the time of day and position of the sun. Leave your curtains open slightly overnight, allowing the sun’s rays to slowly wake your brain up before your alarm clock beeps you out of bed. You’ll find that, over time, getting out of bed will become easier and your body will offer less resistance to an early-morning gym session. Having trouble catching natural rays, or jittery about leaving your drapes open at night? Try getting right out of bed and opening the curtains as soon as your alarm goes off, letting the natural light pour in. You’ll feel more awake than if you start your day in total darkness, and getting your day started will feel so much easier.
3. Sleep in your (clean) gym clothes. Ridiculous as it sounds, sleeping with your workout duds on can motivate you to get out of bed and into the gym. The lack of excuses (can’t find a sports bra, missing a sock, etc.) will propel you out of bed on time and right to the bathroom for a quick once-over before hitting the treadmill. Complete the effect by leaving your tennis shoes or trainers right next to your bed, unlaced and ready to slip into, and get right to it. A pre-loaded gym bag near the door, complete with change of clothes, toiletries, and breakfast, can make squeezing morning exercise in easier than ever.
4. Make a plan and practice it. Going to the gym is only the beginning– it’s what you do while you’re there that actually matters in the long run. In addition to creating a schedule of workout days to stick to, create a workout plan that makes the most of your short time on the machines, and remember to include all parts of your body (legs, arms, abdominals, glutes, etc.). An effective workout will include stretching and warming up, a balanced set of exercises, and a stretching and cool-down period afterwards, with enough time for hygiene and nutrition after. High-intensity, short workouts are great for those with little time to spare, and can be more fun and engaging than a regular workout. If you’re struggling with creating or maintaining a logical and effective workout routine, try searching for a pre-made task list or instructional video to help get you started. If you’re looking for a place to get started, try Kayla Itsines’s 28-Minute Stronger Workout Circuit for an easy-to-follow guide from a friendly expert!
5. Turn your life into a gym! If you’re absolutely pressed and simply can’t make it to the gym this week, consider all of the opportunities your daily life hands you to exercise. Instead of driving to work, ride your bike or run the distance, toting your work clothes with you and giving yourself plenty of time to get ready before you’re expected to begin work. Other ways to “work in” a workout include running the stairs instead of taking the lift, having every phone call while standing up and pacing, and using half of your lunch break to walk or do mild calisthenics. Even if you think exercising before work is impossible, fitting in small bursts of activity throughout the day is realistic and can make a huge difference in your overall health over time.