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Should I Head to the Gym in the Morning or After Work?

If you are dedicated to getting off the couch and fitting some sort of exercise into your busy schedule, experts agree, whenever you work out, you are heading in the right direction.

The American Heart Association recommends the following:

  • At least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity activity; or
  • 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) per week of vigorous aerobic activity.

So, should you plan on waking up an hour early to head to the gym? Or, pack your workout gear and head to a spin class after work?

MORNING WORKOUT WARRIORS

Fitness experts and physicians say this group may benefit from an all-day energy boost by opting to work out early. Additionally, your body may be better ready to burn fat in the morning when you have less sugar in your system to burn first. The mental gains of an early morning workout have been frequently touted as a way to clear your mind and start the day on a positive note, which is why most Fortune 500 CEOs work out in the morning, according to www.fastcompany.com.

On the down side, a more extensive warm-up is advised first thing in the morning to prevent injuries.

EVENING EXERCISE CHAMPIONS

When you’ve been up and moving all day, your body may be better prepared to handle a sweat or strength-training session, physicians say. Plus, you have more fuel in your system from meals and snacks throughout the day to fuel your energy level and keep you going.

On the down side, beware of exercising too close to bedtime. According to helpguide.org, moderate or vigorous workouts should be timed at least three hours before bedtime. But, in general, studies have shown that any exercise has the potential to help you sleep better and get the rest your body needs.

Although there are benefits for both morning and evening workout sessions, fitness experts say personal preference and consistency are the most crucial factors to ponder. For example, if you are not a morning person, will you really stick with a plan to get up early every day to go running? If your best efforts fizzle out after Day 2, you are better off joining an after-work exercise class that you’ll stick with.

The American Heart Association recommends considering several factors including:

  • Location: Is your gym on the way to work?
  • Time of day: Are you a morning person who gets a burst of energy all day after a workout?
  • Type of physical activity: Are you doing strength training that requires more fuel (food) in your system than an early morning protein shake can give you?
  • Social factors: Do you have an after-work running buddy who will help keep you motivated?

Additionally, you don’t have to follow just a morning or evening workout plan. When your time is limited, consider breaking up your workout to hit your daily exercise goal:

  • Brisk 10-minute jog in the morning;
  • Walk for 10 minutes near the office and get some fresh air; and
  • In the evening, jump on the treadmill for 10 minutes as you process your thoughts from the day and plan ahead for tomorrow.

Whether you run 2 miles in the mornings or walk a few times around the block in the evenings, every step is one in the right direction toward building a healthy lifestyle.

7 Benefits of Morning Exercise, Plus 5 Tricks To Actually Love It (even if you hate mornings!)

I was once a die-hard evening workout person. A 9 to 5 job work schedule coupled with a disdain for working out in the morning any time before 7am left me with no choice. Work, eat, exercise, sleep was my daily routine.

However, as I’ve gotten older a lot has changed. Most importantly, I’ve grown to love working out in the morning and now find that my energy and exercise motivation is highest before 9am. The thought of exercise sessions in the evening makes me feel tired and even a little restless (I’d prefer to get my workout finished early in the day so that it’s not on my mind).

This is not just personal preference either. There are many reasons why getting up and moving your body first thing in the morning is a must.

If you’re not a morning person then I just ask that you read this with an open mind. Maybe it sounds impossible for you to actually enjoy a wake-up-workout-out start to your day, but I once thought that too and now I can’t imagine life any other way.

Why Morning Exercise Kicks Butt

An early morning workout offers numerous benefits, both to your health and to your daily schedule, that exercising at other times of the day just can’t provide. Yes, you will have be disciplined to wake up early. And yes, you have to be focused on achieving an effective workout, not just go through the paces in a zombie-like state. It just takes a little time and practice before morning exercise becomes your habit.

Need some convincing? Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of exercising early in the morning.

1. Morning Workouts Enhance Your Metabolism

Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumptions (EPOC) is a buzz word in the fitness industry. Basically it means that your body burns more calories after your workout, even when you’re sitting at a desk or driving in your car. One study showed that participants burned an extra 190 calories in the 14 hours after exercise when compared to those who didn’t exercise at all!

The purple section of the graph shows how oxygen consumption (and calorie-burning) takes time to return to normal after your workout.

This works perfectly with a morning exercise routine. Get up, get moving, pump up your metabolism and then start eating. Whenever you eat your body can do 1 of 3 things with the calories you take in.

  1. It can use it as a source of energy
  2. It can use it to replenish your body
  3. It can store it for later (i.e. fat!)

What do you think happens when you eat after exercise? Yup – you are replenishing your body. What happens when you eat later in the day while your metabolism is still rocking from your morning workout? You guessed it – you are replenishing your body and providing calories to meet your higher metabolic needs. You do not get this benefit when you exercise later in the day.

2. A Good Morning Workout Routine Will Help Cultivate Consistency

Working out in the morning ensures that you don’t interrupt your workout schedule with other daily items that can seem more pressing. For example, if you exercise in the evening you run the risk of being late from work, feeling overloaded with errands that must be done, or saddled with other unexpected to-do items. There goes your workout.

First thing in the morning is the time of day when you’re least-likely to have something “just come up”. This is the time to establish consistent exercise.

Other times you may simply feel too tired to exercise by the end of a long day. But, in the morning there is nothing to distract you from getting down to business. Exercise will be your first priority and it will get done.

3. Morning Exercise Improves Your Physical and Mental Energy

Engaging in morning workouts is your all-natural cup of coffee. Wake up your body and prepare your mind.

Movement can be a tremendous source of energy, something many of need when we start our day. But beyond that, morning exercise has been shown to improve focus and mental abilities all day long. Not only will you feel awake and have more energy after your workout, but your mind will be ready to take on whatever tasks you have lined up that day.

Some research has measured the effectiveness of exercise to “wake up” the mind, and the results show that it does a better job than coffee!

A quick stint of exercise has been shown more effective than a cup of coffee in promoting cognitive abilities.

4. Early Morning Workouts Help You Develop Strong Self-Discipline

I don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that waking up early in the morning to exercise enhances your personal discipline. Just like any habit, developing the discipline to get up and exercise in the morning only gets easier with time.

Perhaps more importantly, this discipline is likely to spill over into other areas of your life. After all, if you’re going to such lengths to exercise each morning, pairing that work with healthier eating, as an example, only makes sense.

5. A Morning Exercise Routine Will Help You Get Better Sleep

Waking up early in the morning to exercise will in turn help you sleep better. Your body will enjoy a healthy sense of fatigue at the end of the day and will be ready to sleep. Say goodbye to the tossing and turning that comes when your body is restless!

I’m not making this up either. A recent study had participants exercise at 7am, 1pm, or 7pm 3 days per week. Guess who got the deepest, longest sleeps? Yeah – it was those who were doing the 7am workout sessions!

Morning exercise not only improves the length of sleep you will enjoy, but also your quality of sleep by promoting deeper sleep cycles.

Evening exercise can actually have the opposite effect. Exercise is a form of stress, and your body reacts to stress by releasing hormones including adrenaline. Would you take a shot of adrenaline and then expect to fall asleep soon after? (I didn’t think so)

6. Morning Exercise Allows You to Reach Your Fitness Goals Faster

As mentioned earlier, waking up early in the morning to exercise places a high priority on physical fitness. Whether you are aware of it or not, committing to something (in this case morning exercise) that requires sacrifice (in this case sleeping in) creates a compelling argument in your mind that says, “it better be worth it!”

Nobody wants to wake up early every morning to exercise if they aren’t going to see results. The sacrifice required will subconsciously prompt you to work harder, look for other ways to support your exercise results, and help you commit to the process over a longer period of time (hopefully for life!). A goal-oriented mindset is fostered by the sacrificial habit of morning exercise.

7. Exercise In the Morning and Love Your Life!

Do I even need to argue this one? You have created a strong habit of morning exercise, your metabolism is flowing, your body is looking and feeling better, you’re sleeping well at night, and your mind is as sharp as ever. Are you enjoying your new life yet?

Exercise has been touted as a cure for just about anything that ails you. Frequent colds? Exercise. Poor digestion? Exercise. Feel depressed? Exercise.

Exercise is a trigger that release endorphins, our built-in happiness drug. Here is an excellent video that highlights a few of the ways that establishing your regular exercise routine will make your life more enjoyable.

So, while it might not seem enjoyable to get out of the bed to exercise, you can be sure that it is worth it. Aside from all the benefits that come with being healthier, your brain is literally going to its “happy place” when you exercise. Why not start your day off that way?

But I Hate Morning Exercise!

The benefits of morning workouts are pretty evident, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy to become a morning exercise person if, well, you hate waking up in the morning. If it’s incredibly tough to drag yourself out of bed to do your morning workout, then try establishing a few “rules” that will help make the adjustment more likely to succeed:

Rule #1: Put Your Alarm Far Away

If you can reach your alarm clock while lying in bed then it’s too close!

If you have a hard time waking up in the morning, set a loud alarm and place it all the way on the other side of the room. A gentle buzz from a cell phone beside your bed won’t cut it. Force yourself to get up.

Rule #2: Keep Moving

Don’t go to the shower and don’t sit down for breakfast (or to check your email). Get a small bite to eat, put on your exercise clothes (which you laid out the night before), and get moving!

Rule #3: Give Yourself Something To Look Forward To

If you’re going to get up and do a workout you hate, you can only expect this morning routine to last for so long. Make sure that your morning workout is something you look forward to. Set your favorite TV show playing as you hit the stationary bike, put on your favorite running playlist, or turn on that audiobook you’re trying to make it through.

Need a “wake-up playlist”? Start with this one…

Rule #4: Don’t Skip The Warmup

You don’t need to spend 20 minutes stretching to get flexible, but you do need to limber up those muscles that are stiff from a night of sleep. Make sure to spend at least 5 or 10 minutes warming up with light movements before you ramp up the intensity.

Rule #5: Keep It Short

Who has 2 hours to spend exercising in the morning?

Not too many people, but nearly everyone can find 30 to 40 minutes if exercise is a priority. Whatever you do, make it short so that you have plenty of time to shower, eat breakfast, and get to work on time.

Final Point: Get Your Morning Exercise Nutrition On Point

One common complaint about morning exercise is the lack of clarity surrounding nutrition. Eat before your workout? Eat after? What to eat? Here are some morning exercise nutrition reminders to help sort it all out:

Eat Small Before Your Workout

Eat a small quantity of high-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, low-fat foods before your workout. A small apple, half of a banana, or even a little yogurt as your pre-exercise meal should be enough to fuel you without bogging you down.

Drink, Drink, Drink

Drink 1 cup of water as soon as you wake up, then keep drinking while you exercise.

Your body is dehydrated after sleeping all night. Drink 1 glass of water (250ml) before you begin your workout, and another glass for every 20 minutes you spend exercising. Sports drinks are only necessary if your workout is going to very intense or long in duration (i.e. 2 hours+), which we’ve already established is not the goal for most morning workouts.

Experiment

Experiment to see what you can stomach for various kinds of exercise. If you discover that you can’t stomach food at all, simply be sure to eat a little bit extra the night before (not a feast, just a little snack before bed). See what types of food, quantities, and timing provides you with the best energy for your workout without causing upset stomach.

Now You Can Feast

Eat immediately after your workout to refuel your body and prepare you for your day.

Lots of early morning exercisers complain of a ravenous appetite by mid-morning. If your post-workout breakfast never satisfies you, you’re not eating the right foods. A proper post-workout morning meal supplies ample amounts of calories, carbohydrates, protein, and some healthy fat.

Here’s my go-to green smoothie that is packed with all of the nutrients you need post-exercise. Again, some experimentation may required to find a balanced meal that works for you.

A Morning Exercise Challenge For You…

If you’re not a morning exerciser and you think you might be missing out, then I have a challenge for you…

Grab your calendar and schedule what time and what type of exercise you’re going to do in the mornings for the next week. If you can make it through one week of morning exercise then you can do it again (and do it – put it in the calendar!). Then do it again for the following week…and again…

How to wake up early and workout

Photo Credit: Assad Kevel

7 simple steps to make waking up and working out a sustainable habit for life.

In previous episodes of the podcast — namely, Designing Your Morning Ritual, and How to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick — I’ve talked about how much I love waking up and working out. The reasons for this are many, including the research-driven data that shows how exercising in the morning actually gives us MORE energy, as opposed to the widely touted myth that working out early drains us of energy.

Again, the reverse is true — though not for every one, at least for most of us — not only does working out in the morning help us become more energetic, it can actually set a powerful series of events in motion to help you create more productive days, weeks, months, and years for yourself.

Continue reading/listening and I’ll show you what I mean…

LISTEN // EP#43. How to wake up early and workout.

Listen to this podcast below or Listen on iTunes

READ // How to wake up early and workout.

The Endorphin Effect

If you wake up early and workout vigorously for a minimum of 45 minutes or more, then a naturally-produced chemical known as Endorphin begins to surge through your body, giving you a natural high (also known as “runner’s high). This chemical kicks into your body because it’s meant to mask the pain your putting your muscles through when you lift weights or do hard core cardio.

Side note: when you’re lifting weights, you’re basically ripping and tearing your muscle fibers… the reason why muscles actually grow in size isn’t because of the lifting of weights, it’s because of the eating of foods. When you tear up your muscle fibers in the gym, you need to put nutrition-dense foods back into your body in order to give them a reason to re-build… and if you want them to come back larger, it’s best to optimize your diet accordingly.

The Dopamine Effect

Now, once you’ve gotten out of the gym, you probably feel really good about yourself for having gotten up early and workout out. This then, gives you small doses of yet another naturally occurring chemical in your body, known as Dopamine, which gives you the feelings of positive reinforcement for having done a good job.

As The Day Goes On

Now you’re in your car and headed to work feeling like a champion. You already know that no one else in your peer group got up as early as you did to workout, so that just makes you feel even better. Whether that’s right or wrong is neither here nor there — but for a lot of us, it *is* true.

If you add a little morning meditation into the mix, that’s even better. And if you add a little visualization and gratitude action on top of that — well, then, you’ll *really* be setting yourself up for a kick-ass day.

Okay, I get it. So how do I get myself to wake up early and workout?

Now, back to waking up early and working out. How do you do it? Here are a few practical tips for making it happen.

1. Plan it out. Plan all your workouts BEFORE you step foot into the gym. Write it down, or get an app like Gym Buddy to keep you on track. Having plans and goals are crucial. Otherwise you’ll end up screwing around and leaving early.

2. Picture yourself doing tomorrow’s workout today. One of the things I do every night before going to bed is to whip out my phone and go over my workout routine for the following morning real quick before calling it a night. I envision myself CRUSHING it in the gym. Performing every exercise and hitting new personal records for each of them. Yes, it helps. And yes, it makes a difference. Currently, I’m keeping my workouts in an Evernote checklist titled “Dean’s Training Program: Week 2”. The tools I use change from time to time, but the process doesn’t.

3. Set it and forget it. Place your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you must physically get out of bed in order to shut that thing off.

4. Never hit the snooze button. “Just 5 more minutes” rarely ends up being just 5 minutes… Trust me, I know this from personal experience on more than one occasion. Do not let your mind trick your into hitting the snooze button. Avoid waking up two hours later and kicking yourself for missing a workout, and then allowing that guilt to have a negative impact on the rest of your entire day. It’s not worth it.

5. Jump out of bed like a machine. Sometimes I wake up with such force that I scare my poor wife out of her beauty sleep. You don’t need to jump right out of bed, but you DO need to feel as if you wanted to. Be robotic with it. Wake up and go. Don’t think about how little you slept last night. Don’t think about how many things you need to do today. As soon as your alarm goes off, get your body out of your bed and get moving.

6. Prep your pre-workout supplementation. I like to have a pre-workout drink before I go into the gym. And because it’s powdered, I put it in an empty shaker and place it next to my bed side table (right next to a bottled water) so that it’s ready to be consumed with my vitamins as soon as I get up in the morning. Wondering what I put in my pre workout drink? It varies, but it’s usually a powdered mix of caffeine, branch-chain amino acids, buffered creatine monohydrate, and arginine. Most all-in-one pre-workout powders will make you feel like an over-stimulated crack addict; so, if that’s not your thing, then I’d suggest buying each of the supplements separately (in powdered or tablet form) and creating something that’s just right for your own personal needs and unique body chemistry,

7. Prepare your attire the night before. I go to sleep with my gym clothes on. But I’m a dude, so that’s usually just a pair of sweats and a tank top. If you can’t do that, then pick out exactly what you need to wear to the gym the next morning and have it ready to go. If you go straight work after your workout, then bring your toiletries and work clothes with you. Most gyms have lockers. Hopefully yours is clean.

Quick recap: 7 steps to wake up early and workout

1. Plan it out

2. Envision tomorrow’s workout today

3. Set it and forget it (place your alarm clock far enough away from the bed so that you’ve got to physically get out of bed to turn it off… then STAY out of bed 🙂

4. NEVER hit the snooze button

5. Be robotic with it. Jump out of bed like a machine

6. Prepare your pre-workout supplementation for immediate consumption upon rising

7. Prepare your pre and post workout attire the night before

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5 guys who wake up at 4 a.m. to work out tell you how they do it

Squeezing in a workout before the rest of the world is even awake takes an extreme amount of willpower and dedication, and maybe a bit of insanity. But if you work at it, anyone can become an early riser, says Men’s Health sleep advisor W. Christopher Winter, M.D.

So learn from the masters. These six guys get up every morning at 4 a.m. to break a sweat. Here’s how they do it.

Picture Your Rivals

Name: John Burk

Location: Fort Stewart, Georgia

Occupation: Instructor at the Fort Stewart Noncommissioned Officer Academy and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Burk’s a former drill sergeant, but that doesn’t mean a 4 a.m. wakeup call comes easy. So Burk remembers an old military mantra to drag himself out of bed: “You may be tired or hurting, but there is someone somewhere training harder to kill you.’”

He then applies that saying to his current goals. Right now, the vet is training for a bodybuilding competition. “All I can see is this blank figure, this silhouette, and he’s training even harder than me to beat me on that stage,” he says.

Want more incentive to get out of bed and into the gym? Check out 6 Ways Your Health Suffers When You Skip Your Workouts.

Make It As Easy As Possible

Name: Richard Rees

Location: Fort Langley, British Columbia

Occupation: Executive director of Rees Family Services, a company that provides assistance for foster children and personal trainer at Rees Personal Training

Rees’ alarm clock goes off at 3:50 a.m., and he’s out the door on a run just minutes later.

His quick turnaround is due to the fact that his clothes, coffee, and breakfast are all ready when he wakes up. Even his socks and the coffee scooper are laid out waiting for him. He doesn’t need to think about anything.

The longer your to-do list in the morning, the easier it is to stay in bed, Rees says. So prepping every last detail the night before eliminates excuses.

(Prep one of these 5 High-Protein Breakfasts You Can Make Ahead to fuel up in no time.)

Remember How Crappy You Feel When You Miss a Workout

Name: Tom Carpenter

Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

Occupation: Executive at Waste Management and Ironman

There are a million excuses to not get out of bed—you’re tired, it looks like rain, you’re sore. But Carpenter says to ask yourself one question: Have you ever regretted a workout?

The answer is probably no. 

You’ll definitely be sorry you skipped a workout, though. “If I miss a workout, I’m in a bad mood,” says Carpenter. Thinking about that may just be enough to outweigh the pros of sleeping for an extra hour. 

And you don’t even need to go anywhere. You can get a great total-body workout in the comfort of your own home with Bodyweight Cardio Burners, a cutting-edge fitness DVD that packs three intense 20-minute workouts that require zero equipment.

Think about Tomorrow

Name: Joseph Eazor

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Occupation: CEO of EarthLink, an Internet service provider and Ironman

When Eazor wakes up early to train for 140.7-mile Ironman races, he thinks about the long-term benefits. Sure, devoting early mornings to training will make him faster and stronger. But they’ll also make race day more bearable—maybe even enjoyable, he says. It’s the difference between crossing the finish line with a smile or a grimace on his face.

So remind yourself of the end result—the whole reason you’re doing this. Whether it’s keeping up with your kids in the backyard, going shirtless at the beach, or running your first 5K without getting winded, imagine exactly how you’ll feel in the moment that you conquer your goal.

RELATED: 10 Things All Busy, Successful Men Do

Have a Bedtime Routine

Name: Craig Ballantyne

Location: Denver, Colorado; and Toronto, Ontario

Occupation: Certified Turbulence Trainer and author of Turbulence Training

Getting up early starts the night before. Ballantyne recommends setting an alarm to go off an hour before the time you want to hit the hay. 

Use those 60 minutes to wind down. Stop looking at electronics, make tomorrow’s lunch, or read a book. The goal: Get your mind to shut up so you can go down for a full night’s sleep. 

If you’re still buzzing with ideas or to-do lists, dump it all onto a pad of paper, Ballantyne says. Writing out what’s on your mind will help clear your head.

We think about it. And maybe even set the alarm with the expectation of a sunrise run, but most of us don’t exercise early, despite our best intentions. Yet the 69 percent of exercisers who work out after noon might be missing out on some key benefits of moving in the morning.

Exercise physiologists say any time of day is valuable for a workout as long as you do it, but the fact is, few do. Only one-fifth of Americans get the recommended amounts of aerobic and strength training, according to the Centers for Disease Control, although nearly half do at least 10 minutes of daily aerobic training. “The majority of people seem to work out later in the day because that’s when they think they have time,” says Dr. Marialice Kern, chair of the department of kinesiology at San Francisco State University (SFSU) and a morning exerciser. More of us waking up to work out might help move the numbers.

There is no better way to start your day than knowing you have done something amazing for yourself.

Getting up and out earlier in the morning makes sure that a workout happens. Twenty competitive women runners surveyed by NBC News BETTER said that morning workouts are more likely to happen before the events of the day thwart the best-laid plans. Marie Wickham, a masters runner who has raced 25 New York City Marathons, says “it is much easier to keep to a morning schedule. You very seldom have early morning conflicts to cancel your run.”

6 Things to Do This Morning to Be More Productive

July 7, 201700:57

Rising with the sun requires a few tricks at first: fitness blogger Ashley Pitt, who teaches a 6 a.m. Bodypump class in Oakland, CA, suggests having workout buddies or a pre-paid class, putting your clothes out the night before and going to bed a bit earlier.

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If you are loathe to leave home in the wee hours, playing a (high-tech) game might help: Dr. Marialice Kern’s lab at SFSU has found players of virtual reality games, such as “Thrill of Fight” expend a ton of energy and push their oxygen use. Not a gamer? All you need is an online or DVD workout, an exercise bike or a treadmill at home. Use the early morning quiet to create a training plan that challenges you to go longer, harder or use more resistance every week.

No matter what you do, here are nine reasons to kick-start an early morning routine, which can be “life-changing,” says Pitt.

1. Lose fat. Researchers in Japan have found that fat oxidation occurs if exercisers work out before breakfast. There’s only good to be said for fat oxidation, the process by which large lipid (i.e. fat) molecules break down, which, in addition to being the kind of weight loss most people want, may also reduce type 2 diabetes. One Belgian study found that eating a high-caloric diet had no effect on fasting exercisers but caused those who worked out after eating to gain weight (good news for those of us who like to have our cake and exercise too). Exercising before breakfast mimics the fasting state and can help kick start weight loss. If you have low blood sugar, eat a banana or a small energy bar 10-15 minutes before exercise.

2. Make (and keep) friends. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland found that finding a new exercise companion increased the amount of exercise people did. And this amount increased even more when their workout buddy was emotionally supportive. What’s the secret? “Peer pressure! My friends run before work,” says New York-based runner Laura Di Marino. For many, exercising with friends in the morning allows time to catch up, while joining a new workout group expands social circles. In New York, the local running teams are responsible for several marriages and children.

3. See more wildlife and nature. There’s a reason birdwatchers and fishermen get out early: Birds really are out there catching worms. Rabbits, raccoons, hawks, jays, cardinals, egrets and herons also are foraging in parks and streets at dawn. I’ve seen a red fox cross the street before an early morning 5k in Maplewood, NJ, and two sea otters surface next to a heron on an 8 a.m. vacation run in the Marin Headlands in California.

4. Best chance, first chance. If you have kids or other folks who depend on you throughout the day, morning is your best bet for doing something on your own. “Morning workouts tend to be completed by those who prefer to check exercise off their list for the day before the rest of the daily to-do’s, children’s needs, busy gym or decrease in motivation hit them,” says Heather Milton, senior exercise physiologist at New York University’s performance lab. Many of the women we surveyed are busy parents. “When the kids were young, it was a nice, quiet thinking time before the chaos of the day,” said two-time Olympic trials marathoner Jennifer Latham of Grinnell, Iowa. “I can sneak out of my house and get in a workout before anyone else wakes up and misses me,” said Jennifer Lepori, from Ramsey, NJ.

5. Nicer, calmer, better. “I’m a much better mom, teacher, and wife when I get up first thing,” added Lepori. “Running early allows you to take care of yourself so you can then take care of everything else in a better state of mind and health,” said 2016 Paralympian Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt. And science backs up that sentiment. Exercise releases endorphins, known as the feel-good hormones, and reduces stress and anxiety levels.

6. The Goldilocks effect. In the summer later outdoor workouts are too hot, or in the winter too dark, in much of the United States. Mornings are usually just right. Plus, as Latham points out, sunrise runs avoid the need to slather on all that extra sunscreen.

7. A good addiction. “It is a good way to get in a habit, because you always associate the workout with getting up,” says NYU’s Milton. And forming that habit doesn’t take as long as you think. According to a published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, on average, it takes 2 months, or 66 days, for a habit to become automatic.

Soak in that sunrise and then go ahead and brag — you deserve it! John Brecher

8. Instabragging rights. A sunrise is always magical so go ahead and snap that pic and tag that #beautifulsunrise or #morningworkout. Posting your workout pics may hold you accountable in the weeks ahead — and prove inspiring to your friends who double-tap in response. After all, no one will begrudge the brag. You did something great!

9. End-of-day accounting. If you crawl into bed after a long, difficult day feeling unaccomplished, if all else fails, your early morning workout will be the one thing on the list got done today. Or, in the words of fitness coach and blogger Susie Lemmer, the reasons “all boil down to the fact that there is no better way to start your day than knowing you have done something amazing for yourself.”

“I’m glad you’re recording this, because I want to go on record: Morning people do not exist,” booms Brogan Graham, the gregarious cofounder of the free morning exercise movement the November Project. With upward of 20,000 members in dozens of worldwide “tribes,” as they’re called, the November Project has nearly become synonymous with mornings. Convincing people to wake up before the sun, and often in subfreezing temperatures, was no picnic, contends Graham.

“I’m glad you’re recording this, because I want to go on record: Morning people do not exist.”

Waking up early objectively sucks. It’s hard for everyone. But there is a reason why, despite its daybreak call time, the November Project has grown so dramatically: Working out in the morning is special—dare we say magical. “A lot of it is an experience,” says Graham. “The a.m. is such an alien time. By the time the sun comes up, you feel like you stole something from the city.”

Listen, we know you’ve heard that morning running is good for you—early bird gets the worm and all that. There is so much more to it, though. Researchers are discovering that, in ways big and small, exercising first thing is significantly better for the mind and body.

For example, running in the morning, as opposed to any other time of day, is more effective at lowering your blood pressure, and inducing longer, more beneficial sleep cycles the next night, according to a study published in Vascular Health and Risk Management. Run first thing on an empty stomach, and you could burn 20 percent more fat than exercising later in the day without eating, and reduce p.m. food cravings while you’re at it. Researchers have also found that morning runners finish their day with more total physical activity, regardless of their weight. As Newton put it, a body in motion remains in motion.

If nothing else, being a morning runner puts you on a schedule. “Consistency is the most important thing in running, and a.m. running is consistent running,” says trail-running coach David Roche, who encourages many of his athletes to transition to a.m. training. “Mornings are much more predictable; there are fewer obstacles.” What’s more, a 2012 review from Tunisian researchers found that exercise performed at the same time of day produced greater physiological adaptations—in other words, sticking to a morning schedule can make you fitter.

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We get that all of these selling points won’t make the actual crack-of-dawn wake-up easier. Getting up early requires Herculean willpower, and that ungodly alarm never quite loses its sting. The upshot? There has never been a better time to develop (or improve) your morning running routine than right now. We’re at the start of a brand new decade, and with that can come more commitment to changing up your overall routine.

To boost your drive even more, we spoke with exercise scientists, coaches, pros, and average running joes to put together this definitive guide to owning your morning. Use the advice, and you’ll build an efficient, productive, fulfilling a.m. routine that will help you generate genuine excitement for the best part of waking up early—getting to run. And perhaps that’s all that’s kept you from making the morning habit stick.

Ryan Snook

Roll Out of Bed

“Before I started running, if I got out of bed before noon, it was early,” says ultrarunner Dean Karnazes, who famously “picked up” the sport on his 30th birthday. He now wakes up around 3:30 a.m. and likes to run a marathon before breakfast. While the following hacks won’t transform you into Karnazes, they can help you throw back the covers and hit the streets—and maybe even be psyched to do so.

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Let that light shine in. Three main factors affect your chronotype, or your natural sleep-wake schedule, says Kristin Eckel-Mahan, Ph.D., a University of Texas researcher who specializes in circadian rhythms: age, genetics, and light. You can change only one of those. Among the best ways to naturally wake up and gradually shift your chronotype earlier is to expose yourself to natural light. The body evolved to sleep and wake with the sun, and by letting the sunrise pour into your room—or by using a light-simulating alarm clock—you’ll be able to rise with (more) ease.

Best Alarm Clocks for Runners

Philips Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock amazon.com $49.99 $41.24 (18% off) Hammacher Wake Up Clock hammacher.com $79.95 hOmeLabs Alarm Clock amazon.com $29.99 $14.99 (50% off) Lumie Bodyclock Active 250 Wake-Up Light amazon.com $125.10

Don’t hit snooze. That extra rest you think you’re getting actually keeps you in a not-quite-awake, not-quite-asleep state—the worst of both worlds. Instead, put your alarm clock across the room, and force yourself to get up on the first bell. Four-time USATF trail-running national champion Megan Roche, who would wake up at 3 a.m. to run while juggling medical school and training, says her rule is to never, ever snooze. “No matter how tired she was,” says husband David Roche, “she would never hit it. If you know that option is open, you’re going to take it.”

Ignore your electronic BF. “The phone is a major problem for morning runs,” says Mario Fraioli, running coach and author of The Morning Shakeout. “I have athletes who say they want to run at 7, but actually run at 7:20 because they’re on their phones for 20 minutes.” Issue yourself a challenge: The second you wake up, stash your phone under your pillow. Leave it there while you’re getting dressed, making coffee, warming up. Take it on your run if you must, but don’t go scrolling until you’re back. Checking email—or at least Insta—can be your reward when you’re done.

Grab liquid courage. Hydrating before you run is a given, but instead of standing at the sink and chugging a glass of plain H2O, get creative. Prep some ice water with fresh-squeezed lemon, or a hot tea with a hit of ginger or cayenne. Whatever sounds refreshing or energizing to you.

Loosen Up

“My warmup is non-negotiable,” says Michael Olzinski, a triathlete coach at Purple Patch Fitness. “Just five minutes breaks the little fascial connections that get made overnight.” Coach David Roche agrees: “Warming up is good for all running, but especially morning running. Even if you have to cut minutes off your run, it’s worth it to have a routine that doesn’t leave you super stale when you start. You reduce injury risk, and psychologically, you finish and you’re like, ‘I’m ready to run,’ ” he says. “It’s almost a Pavlovian response.”

Here, five easy moves that Olzinski and Roche recommend:

  1. Walk around: It may sound simple, but it’s important. Shake the cobwebs off and really let your nerves and muscles switch on, says Olzinski.
  2. Prime the calves: While Olzinski sips coffee, he’ll bounce on his toes and do calf raises to wake up stiff ankles and the Achilles.
  3. Lunge: Roche says a lunge matrix is one of the best things you can do before heading out the door. It activates your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, provides a dynamic stretch, and if you do it consistently, it will build strength. Stand upright, and lunge forward 10 times, alternating legs. Repeat, this time performing a trunk twist. Go again, and lean side-to-side, arms in goal-post position. Finally, do 10 backward lunges, alternating legs. (Note: Return to a standing position after each rep—this is not a walking lunge.)
  4. Add a balance challenge: Don’t bend over or sit down to put on your shoes. Instead, balance on one leg while lacing up the opposite foot. This will activate your body’s small stabilizing muscles.
  5. Swing those legs: As soon as you step out the door, find a tree or railing to lean against and do 10 swings with each leg front-to-back, then 10 side-to-side. This loosens the hip joint and creaky tendons.

Need more help getting your body ready? Try the warmup in the video below:

Let Music Set the Mood

“On the days that I’m dragging, music gets me out the door,” says pro ultrarunner and Western States 100-mile winner Timothy Olson. Research has shown that music can increase work output, improve exercise performance, delay fatigue, and, of course, boost your mood. And if waking up to run one morning feels particularly unbearable, a playlist could be the perfect antidote—one small thing to look forward to that helps coax you out of a warm bed. “Podcasts and music can be a helpful tool to not feel lonely and purposeless super early in the morning,” says Roche.

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We polled all of our sources—athletes, coaches, and scientists alike—on their favorite morning run songs for warming up, powering through the workout, and cooling down. The result is the energetic, rocking playlist at right. Download it for tomorrow’s run, and we promise it will be worth waking up for.

Need a new way to listen to your favorite tunes? These are some of our favorite headphones to run with.

Top Pick Powerbeats Pro Totally Wireless Earphones

The Powerbeats Pro is the complete package—both well-rounded as wireless sport headphones and literally a large box that contains the earbuds and an additional 15 hours of juice. Not that you’re likely to need it; the buds last for 9 hours on a single charge. Bluetooth pairing is immediate with an iPhone and a 5-minute quick charge delivers 90 minutes of playback. They’re rated IPX4 so they’ll withstand a rainstorm (but not submersion), and despite their large appearance, the buds keep a low enough profile to be comfortable with a hat and sunglasses.

Best Wire-Connected ‘Buds JBL Reflect Mini 2.0

There’s a lot to like in these popular ear buds: The buds form a tight seal in your ears and don’t move after you’ve started to trot. The downside for outdoor runners is the lack of ambient sound, which also isolates your tunes from the outside world. The connecting wire between the buds is lightweight and hardly noticeable mid-run, and the Reflect Mini 2 connected via Bluetooth fast and, outdoors, it stayed connected up to 100 feet away. The earbuds also sport reflective cables for nighttime visibility, an IPX5 water-resistant rating, and an impressive 10 hours of battery life.

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Best Battery Life Jaybird Tarah Bluetooth Wireless Sport Headphones

The Tarah Pro’s biggest selling point is its claimed 14-hour battery life. We got 12 to 14 hours during testing, but there’s more to like about these ultra-optimized earbuds. Our music sounded clear and crisp, with an even balance of bass and treble. Ambient noise was minimal because of the in-ear fit—you might hear a diesel truck, but a Prius could sneak up on you if you’re not aware. The small, overlooked details like the cinch that keeps excess cord from bouncing around and the magnetic earbud backs, which snap the buds together when they’re around your neck so you don’t lose them on the trail, make these even better.

Budget Buy Soundcore Spirit Sports Earbuds

The Anker Spirit SweatGuard didn’t excel at any one thing, but it did everything Assistant Digital Editor Jessica Coulon asked of it—for $33, that’s not bad. She liked the sound quality better than her wired Skullcandy earbuds, although Coulon said the Anker buds could have benefited from more bass. Once positioned in her ears, the buds mostly stayed in place, although the connecting cord would occasionally snag on her hair or clothing. An IPX7 waterproof rating and 8 hours of battery life round out the best budget buds we could find.

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Best For Awareness AfterShokz Air Open-Ear Wireless Bone Conduction Headphones

For road runners who aren’t comfortable jamming an earbud into their ear as cars whiz past, there’s the Aftershokz Trekz Air. These headphones use bone conduction technology to transfer sound through your cheekbones, leaving your ears open to hear potential hazards before they sneak up on you. The headband is lighter and slimmer than the previous model, which allows you to wear sunglasses with the headphones. A 6-hour battery life and a sweat-resistant IP55 rating puts the Trekz Air on-par with truly wireless buds of a similar price—you’re losing an in-ear headphone’s full sound, but gaining total awareness.

AfterShokz

Ryan Snook

Do the First Meal Right

Post–morning run, treat yourself to a generous, healthy, delicious breakfast. Why: Studies show that those who eat a big morning meal generally eat less throughout the day than those who forgo breakfast. Refueling after a run is also vital; skip it, and your body is deprived of essential nutrients to build fitness, and your energy tanks. Plus, a mouthwatering breakfast creates the reward response in your brain that leads to more morning running.

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The ideal meal, says Stephanie Howe Violett, a champion ultrarunner who holds a Ph.D. in nutrition, has carbs to replenish fuel, protein to build muscle, fat to help absorption, and flavor because…duh. Use her mix-and-match chart at right to nail it all.

Erin Benner

To Win the a.m., Ace the p.m.

How you feel in the morning is a direct result of all the decisions you made the previous night. Adopt these small habits, and becoming an early runner will be worlds easier.

Pull back your bedtime. Perhaps the single most important part of getting up early is going to bed early. “A lot of folks trying to develop a morning running routine neglect that part,” says coach Mario Fraioli. “As you start to get up earlier, you will get tired earlier, and listening to that cue is essential.” In essence, becoming a morning runner is less about forcing yourself awake and more about listening to when your body needs to hit the hay.

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Try melatonin—but early evening. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body that induces drowsiness and regulates the wake-sleep cycle. Recently, over-the-counter supplements have gained popularity among those who have trouble falling asleep but don’t want to commit to a prescription sleeping aid. Kristin Eckel-Mahan recommends that instead of popping melatonin right before bed, like you would a sleeping pill, take it earlier in the evening, which will work to more effectively adjust your body clock. “To shift your chronotype, this is a much better mechanism,” she says.

Ban blue light. You’ve heard it a thousand times: no phones for at least 30 minutes before bed. That’s not just because checking work email can stress you out, but also because the blue light is signaling to your brain, and thus the rest of your body, that it’s time to be active. “The central pacemaker in the brain is primarily determined by the light-dark cycle and is extremely light-responsive,” says Eckel-Mahan. “Abnormal light ex­posure will misalign your clock.”

Eat dinner early (and don’t eat again). Each cell, tissue, and organ in the body has its own internal clock that produces its own biological rhythm, and in a perfect world, all of these clocks will be in sync. Just like bright lights signal to your brain that it’s time to wake up, food tells the metabolic organs that it’s time for activity. That midnight snack you think is harmless (you’re a runner, after all), is actually telling your liver and kidneys, for example, that it’s time to go. “Generally you want your food intake to match your activity phase,” says Eckel-Mahan. “That keeps your clocks aligned.” What’s more, she adds, eating during your body’s rest phase, and thus misaligning your clocks, is thought to promote obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.

Don’t bring work home with you. It’s the advice of innumerable productivity manuals and self-help guides: Get your hardest work done first thing in the morning, when your mind is typically sharpest and willpower strongest. And your morning run could also benefit from it. If you put off your hardest work till the evening, bringing that baggage home with you, it’s a recipe for stressed sleep. Plus, front-loading your work and running in the morning (which is shown to improve concentration and memory) can create a positive feedback loop: run early, feel great, nail your big project, tend to smaller things in the afternoon, come home clear-headed, fall asleep early, repeat.

How to Make Mornings Stick

Reward yourself: Treating yourself to something you enjoy after the run—like the day’s first scroll through Instagram, your favorite podcast, or a delicious breakfast—will actually develop neurological pathways that associate the early morning run with said reward. Soon, those same Pavlovian pathways activate whether you give yourself the reward or not. It’s like your brain learning to subconsciously motivate itself.

Let yourself go slow: For those used to running in the afternoon or evening, the body’s early sluggishness might be disheartening at first. “My one piece of advice,” says coach John Honerkamp, “is focus on effort, not pace. The body is slow-moving in the morning, and it needs to get used to it.” The surest way to abandon your new morning routine is trying to PR every day. “It doesn’t mean you’re not getting fitter. Getting out the door is the important thing.”

Give it three weeks: Before the November Project became a national fitness sensation, founder Brogan Graham was tasked with convincing friends, acquaintances, and strangers to wake up before the sun. One time is easy—it’s novel and thrilling. But how do you make it a habit? “Make a goal of more than one morning,” Graham says. “Your first time is going to suck. The second one you’ll have a better understanding. And the third, you’ll be looking forward to getting up.”

Think about future you: Recall when you first started running. Maybe your ankles hurt, your lungs burned. Yet you persisted, and looking back now, you’re better for it. Take this same outlook for developing a morning routine right now: You’ll be so glad you did. “I always regret not going on my morning runs,” says Honerkamp. “But I never regret doing it.”

18 Ways to Get Motivated for Morning Workouts

Forget the snooze button; it’s time to wake up and get your sweat on! Multiple studies have shown that morning workouts can lead to eating better, feeling more awake, and having an overall healthier day. But let’s face it—working out isn’t always the easiest task to take on, especially when you have to peel your eyes open and be up before the sun. So, how do you change that? There are some painless ways to trick yourself into making an A.M. routine easier; check ’em out below and then get to work on these best ab exercises for women!

1

HAVE A GOOD PLAYLIST

Whether you’re going for a run, hopping on the bike, or pumping some iron, a workout playlist is always a must! Studies have shown that energizing music can heighten your performance and keep your energy up. Choose a music genre that will make you forget what time it is and boost those exercise endorphins.

2

PREP YOUR JAVA THE NIGHT BEFORE

Drinking a black coffee first thing is a great way to start your healthy routine. Instead of taking any unnatural pre-workout supplements filled with ingredients that no one can pronounce, coffee is a simple, healthful option. Make it the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight; in the morning, drop in a few ice cubes. Not only will coffee boost your energy, it also speeds up metabolism and helps aid fat loss. This is a cold brew that is sure to wake you up!

3

SPLASH YOURSELF

When the alarm is going off and you have to drag yourself out of bed, there’s only one thing to do before crawling back in bed—splash your face with cold water. This is an automatic wake up that will get you started and ready for the day.

4

FIND A BUDDY

Everything is more fun when you have a friend to do it with! Find someone to go on runs with, carpool to the gym with, and talk about your progression. It’s easier to have a friend helping you become fit by encouraging each other to keep going—especially on those days that you just feel like saying no. Buddying up and getting social is also one of the overall how to be happier in life!

5

PLAN YOUR OUTFIT

Forget the excuse that you don’t have enough time in the morning! Set out what you’re going to wear for your workout the night before (and to work!) and save yourself from all the fuss. Rather than wasting time rummaging through your closet, having an outfit laid out will make it easier to get dressed and go.

DON’T MISS: health food gifts for fashion lovers

6

HAVE SNACKS PREPARED

If you’re the type of person who knows they can’t start a workout without some fuel in them (because then all you’ll think about is food), make a small snack that will satisfy any cravings. This way, you can actually focus on your workout and it will leave you in less of a starvation mode so that you can control your post-workout appetite! And make sure to keep away from these worst “healthy” cereals.

7

HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE

Drink water before you go to bed, when you wake up, and during your workout. Water will keep you hydrated and energized to get you along. Eight 8-ounces glasses are recommended each day; but if you’re getting a good sweat on, that means to eventually drink more!

8

GET TO BED!

Getting yourself to sleep is a major part of the success of your morning workout. You’ll feel a big difference between getting eight hours as opposed to only five or six. Try to keep to going to bed at the same time each night and limiting the number of distractions (like your phone or TV) going on around you.

9

MOVE YOUR ALARM CLOCK

Set your alarm clock (or phone) so it’s away from your bed; this way, so when it goes off, you have no other option but to get up and turn off the alarm. Instead of going back to bed, stretch your body and start your morning routine. Tip: change the tone of your alarm clock to some music that’ll pump you up to get your energy going right off the bat!

10

START SLOW BUT STEADY

If you’re not used to getting up early in the morning for a workout, start slow and go for light jogs or some movement on the elliptical. Get your body used to moving that early so that it starts to feel like you’ve always been doing it. Eventually, you’ll start feeling more awake and ready to challenge yourself. Just like there are lots of bad habits that make you fat, there are good habits that make you thin over time!

11

TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT

Instead of sticking to the same routine each day, set up something new to do a few times a week. You can start looking forward to trying out these new workouts—and maybe even find what fits you best and that you can’t wait to wake up and do!

12

LOOK FORWARD TO BREAKFAST

Make a post-workout breakfast that makes the sweat all worth it! Go for something full of nutrients like avocado on Ezekiel toast, a veggie omelet, or a morning smoothie. Avoid a breakfast high in sugar and simple carbs (i.e. cereal), and stick to ones with a good protein intake and healthy fat (eggs and avocado or oatmeal and chia seeds).

RELATED: 100+ healthy breakfast ideas that help you lose weight and stay slim.

13

MAKE FRIENDS

If you start going to the same studio or gym, find a familiar face that you see often. You can catch up on what’s going on and look forward to hearing what’s new the next time you seem them.

14

PEP TALKS

Keep reminding yourself how good you’re going to feel after and how amazing your body will look if you keep it up. You are your best motivation! If you need some A-list inspo, how about finding out how Goldie Hawn stays slim at 70?

15

THINK ABOUT IT

During your workout, keep your mind on what you’re doing and not what you have going on the rest of the day. And when you’re not in workout mode, think about all the amazing benefits that are going to come out of creating a morning workout routine. This could lead to you eating cleaner, feeling more awake, and living an overall healthier lifestyle.

16

…BUT DON’T OVERTHINK

There are some days you’re going to wake up more tired than other days—and that’s okay. Take a day off, if and when you need it. Pushing yourself too hard can lead to injuries, stress, and exhaustion. It’s worth it to listen to yourself and your body’s needs!

17

SET A GOAL

Make a calendar of where you want to be in the next few weeks, months, and years. Not just for your goal weight, but your entire life. Make small changes that turn into big ones as the time goes on. Keep track of it and on the days that you feel down, show yourself how far you’ve come and what amazing things you can accomplish!

18

REWARD YOURSELF

If you’ve been consistently waking up each morning and reaching the goals you’ve set for yourself, you deserve a reward for all the hard work! Buy a new workout top or tickets to a band you’ve been anxious to go see. And if you are eating healthier too—we think you will be!—then make sure you follow these cheat meal tips!

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You could call me the opposite of a morning person: I hit snooze a minimum of four times (to wake up at the very last minute possible and then rush to get ready), can’t function until I have my almond milk latte, and am a total grump until my system’s up and running. So the idea of a pre-work fitness routine never felt feasible.

But, in the name of interesting journalism, I volunteered myself (surrendered my body, rather) to work out in the a.m. for an entire week. That’s not to say my decision was made purely in the name of torture—there are reputedly serious benefits that come with exercising first thing.

“Exercising in the morning burns more fat than later in the day.”

For starters, “if you exercise in the morning after fasting all night, you’re going to burn the carbohydrates and sugars stored in your muscles and liver,” says George Welch, MD, a cardiologist with Manhattan Cardiology. “Once you’re done burning that up, you burn fat—that’s why exercising in the morning burns more fat than later in the day.”

Studies have also shown that the a.m. sweat sesh can boost your metabolism—which is always a welcome bonus. Once I understood the science, the only questions that remained were: Could I actually fit in my preferred grueling fitness classes before office hours? And—most importantly—would it give me more energy throughout the day? I decided to find out.

Keep reading to see what happened during my week of a.m. workouts—and what I learned by the time it was over.

Photo: Stocksy/Ann Sophie Fjelloe Jenson

Getting into the groove

My week starts with a bang: Barry’s Bootcamp, Monday, 7:10 a.m. (Can’t question my commitment, right?)

Of course, since my eyes almost never open before 8 o’clock in the morning (except to hit the snooze button), it feels like a Sisyphean task to get up—let alone do sprints on an incline and a ton of weight work—at this ungodly hour. One thing that helps? Having a friend meet me there.

I make it to the treadmill—albeit in a sleepy daze—and feel as if my legs won’t be able to endure the crazy intervals that are about to be asked of me. But after the warm-up, I quickly make my way into the first sprint—8 mph, mind you—and I’m fully awake (er, my body is, at least).

It definitely feels harder to move my legs than usual.

Compared to my typical workout time, it definitely feels harder to move my legs than usual. And I find out from Dr. Welch that my sluggish start isn’t uncommon. Morning workouts might be great for your metabolism, but they aren’t peak performance time for other parts of your body: “You’re least likely to injure yourself later in the day since your muscles are more acclimated,” he tells me. “Your body’s at its most efficient between 3 and 6 p.m., as your temperature rises your muscles warm up.” Makes sense, considering my gams resembled cement.

They get me through the class though, and I actually feel like a million bucks for the rest of the day. When I get home, I leisurely walk my dogs through the park, which is a nice change: Usually, I’m rushing to the gym and can’t spend as much quality time with my pups or my S.O. (so major perks there).

The next morning, I decide to run in Central Park on my own—which means there’s no paid-for class or workout buddy holding me accountable. When my alarm goes off, I really want to skip exercising in favor of more sleep—but I get up for the sake of this story. (I guess I had something counting on me—hi, editor!)

I knock out about 3 miles and feel half-asleep the entire time. I also notice that my speed is pretty slow (at least, compared to what it was on the treadmill yesterday). But I’m glad I get it over with. Having a studio class booked is much more motivating in terms of waking up, so even though the workout is harder, I feel like Barry’s is more effective in actually getting me out of bed.

Photo: Stocksy/Jojo Jovanovic

The struggle is real

On Wednesday, I mix it up with a 7:30 a.m. HIIT workout: The Fhitting Room, which is notoriously one of NYC’s toughest workouts (alongside Barry’s). I’m tired and don’t really want to get up early again for a serious sweat sesh, but the risk of losing $38 draws my body to the studio despite my grogginess. And, much to my utmost horror, the workout starts with high knees. I’m awake in no time.

It always bewilders me to leave a grueling fitness class at the time I’m usually rolling out of my cozy slumber, but it also makes me feel like an absolute superwoman. I mean, I just did a ton of burpees and jump squats when, initially, my body was telling me to keep sleeping—it’s a miracle. Or is it just my hormones?

Even though I’m waking up earlier than usual, I’m not sleepy after working out.

“It gets thrown around a lot that your endorphins are higher earlier in the morning,” says Veronica Jaw, an MD at One Medical. Though there hasn’t been much research to back this up, I can attest that my post-sweat high is pretty solid. I’m also surprised about my energy levels so far throughout the week—even though I’m waking up earlier than usual, I’m not sleepy after working out, and the afternoon slump doesn’t hit me as hard. I even stay up a little later—normally I’m asleep by 11 p.m.

But just when I thought my conversion was a foregone conclusion, the struggle set in. Thursday comes around; I fully intend on doing something more chill—AKA yoga—but once my alarm goes off, I literally can’t get up. My legs are killing me, I’m so tired, and I feel physically incapable of another workout. I sit this one out and get an extra hour of sleep instead. There’s some guilt in my mind, but I have to listen to my body (happily).

Throughout the day, I realize that skipping exercise is a brilliant decision—I definitely need the recovery time. (It’s essential, after all.) I book a hot yoga class for the following day. It’s at 7 a.m., which is extra early, IMO, but I know I can use the ultra-sweaty stretching that comes with vinyasa flow. In a wobbly state, I make it to Y7 on Friday—manage to even knock out a crow pose—and feel great afterwards. Oh, and doubly so since the week is over.

Photo: Stocksy/Liliya Ronikova

Am I now a morning workout person?

Real talk: This past week was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my entire life. I turned my whole schedule upside down in the name of fitness—and my body feels amazing, I’m incredibly proud, and was able to actually relax and have more of a social life after work.

Is this going to be my life now? Has a week of a.m. workouts turned me into an up-and-at-em exercise gal? Well, here’s the thing: I book Barry’s Bootcamp for the following Monday at 7:10 in the morning. My alarm goes off at 6:45—and my body tells me “no thanks.” I cancel instead, knowing that I can totally sleep for another hour. The intention was there! But does this mean my rise-and-grind days are over?

“Do what feels good to you.”

TBD. For now, Dr. Jaw says, “It makes sense to do what feels good to you—some people really cannot get out of bed, and I don’t think they should change their habits to get in some sort of benefits. What you’re going to stick with and what works with your schedule—whatever turns it into a habit—works best.” Think I’ll follow doctor’s orders on this one.

And what feels good to me is moving my body after sitting at my desk all day. So, while it’s nice to get my sweat sesh over with in the morning, sleeping in is also so fun. I’ll probably just mix it up more often—and never under-appreciate weekends, when I’m in charge of my own schedule.

Originally published on September 4, 2017; updated on July 29, 2018.

Whether it’s in the morning or not, can a healthy dose of fear improve your workouts? And for some pointers, these are the 4 exercise moves a trainer would never do.

How I Finally Mastered the Morning Workout

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All through high school and college, I adored the idea of the morning workout. Getting my endorphin fix in before a stressful day, homework, and that afternoon slump that makes an afternoon or evening workout seem impossible? Count me in. Unfortunately, wanting to work out in the morning and actually doing so were two different things. Dragging myself out of bed on time to get ready for the day used to feel like a struggle; getting up even earlier to fit in a workout proved to be nearly impossible.

In high school, team practices kept my workouts in the afternoon, but in college I had the flexibility to head to the gym in the morning—assuming I could get myself out of bed on time. If I didn’t, my flexible student schedule left plenty of time for me to go for a run or a yoga class later in the day. It wasn’t until I graduated and joined the working world that morning workouts became a near necessity: I’d get stuck at the office and miss my workout class, or the sun would set before I could get my running shoes on, or a day of endless emails and work-related stress took all the energy I’d use in my workout. I knew I needed to start working out in the morning, but I couldn’t force myself out of bed at that early hour consistently, even with the help of my sunrise alarm clock.

My eventual (and shockingly easy) solution came in November, with the end of daylight saving time. The week before, as I contemplated yet another missed opportunity to head to the gym before work, I realized that the end of daylight saving time came with an hour of extra sleep—an hour I could use to my advantage.

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The morning after daylight saving time ended, I set my alarm an hour earlier than usual. (6 a.m., in my case.) Used to waking (barely) at 7, with the time change, I didn’t feel a difference in my internal body clock when I woke at 6 a.m. in the non-daylight saving time world. That night, I went to sleep at 10 p.m.—what felt like 11 to my body—to maintain the sleep pattern I’d had during daylight saving time.

When Monday arrived, I woke bright and early, feeling like I was awake at 7 instead of 6, and made it to my spin class with plenty of time to spare. After a week or so, waking up before sunrise felt natural. I clung to my new, shifted sleep schedule, and by the time daylight saving time began again the following March, I’d finally gotten used to waking earlier.

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My little morning workout trick may not work for everyone, but if you’re desperate to shift to working out in the morning and everything else you’ve tried hasn’t worked, it’s worth a shot—and with daylight saving time coming to an end on November 3, your opportunity is coming up. With the busiest part of the holiday season approaching, starting a consistent morning workout routine this weekend could set you up for fitness (and stress-reducing) success during November and December and beyond.

Wake up and workout

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