Morning workouts can be a killer if you’re not used to them. Even if you’re an early bird, it still takes your body — and mind — some getting used to. “It’s doable, though you may have to reset your body clock, which will take some time,” says Carol Espel, MS, director of fitness at Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami.
So why would you choose to work out in the morning when that’s not your usual time? Maybe it’s the only time of day you can consistently log a sweat because your afternoons are unpredictable. If you’re an outdoor exerciser, maybe you’re trying to beat the heat during the summer, so you exercise earlier in the day. Or you could be training for a fitness event that starts in the morning and you want to get your body used to morning movement. Whatever the reason, we’ve got you covered.
While it might be a struggle at first, those morning workouts can yield benefits you won’t get from workouts later in the day. One of the obvious ones? “You can check a workout off your to-do list immediately, which is a great feeling,” says Pearl Fu, trainer at Sweat Factor in Los Angeles. You then don’t have to worry about fitting a workout into your schedule or being too tired to do it at the end of the day, she adds. As a result, morning exercisers tend to be consistent, which means that if you’re going to the gym, you’ll run into the same individuals and build a support system.
So what can you do to help your mind and body adjust more to those morning workouts? Here are seven tips:
- Plan backward. Sleep can play a significant role in your fitness endeavors, so you don’t want to shortchange it. To combat this, factor in how many hours of sleep you need to get a good night’s rest, and this will determine when you need to power down for the night, Fu says. You may need to head to bed a little earlier if you’re going to wake up earlier to move.
- Prep your workout gear the night before. This has long been a strategy of fitness fans who do early-morning events, but it works equally well for the everyday exerciser. The biggest reason to set your workout clothes out and have your gym bag packed? “You’ll avoid any delays in getting to the gym (or getting that workout going),” Fu says.
- Make your breakfast the night before. This dovetails with getting your gear ready, and by having a small meal, you’ll help wake your body up, Fu says. Just make sure you include water in that morning meal because you’ll probably wake up dehydrated and will need to hydrate for your workout.
- Start with afternoon workouts. If you’ve always been an evening exerciser, mornings can be brutal at first. So to help ease your body gently into it, move your workouts to the afternoon, if possible. “This will help transition your wake-up and wind-down time,” Espel says.
- Do short, easy workouts at first. Your body will need time to adjust, so rather than shocking your system at once, Fu says to start with workouts that aren’t too taxing on the body. Even if all you do is wake up and stretch for a short time, you’ll start getting your body in the routine of waking up and moving. As you get more used to the mornings, you can ramp up the activity.
- Allow time to adjust. While many people say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, Fu says you should give yourself at least two months to get into the habit of consistent morning workouts. “If morning is a good fit, your body will begin to crave the morning routine and miss it on the days you skip,” she says. Just anticipate some rough days before the gratification sets in.
- Consider group classes. Misery loves company, right? Possibly because group workouts can be an effective way to get motivated and commit to the morning, Espel says. Plus, you’ll no doubt encounter many of the same people in these classes, and while you’ll make friends, you’ll also have like-minded individuals who might be willing to share their tips for how they make morning workouts work.