Let’s be honest, training first thing in the morning is never going to be anyone’s ideal way to begin the day. It’s really easy to hit the snooze button and postpone the workout until after work. But who wants to workout after a long day at the office and then sitting in traffic?
There is never a perfect time to workout.
For those few who conquer the siren’s enchanting call for more sleep and fight their way to the gym, these few warriors realize they consistently have a greater capacity to balance the demands of work, people and their health.
If you’re still struggling to find a perfect time to get to the gym and haven’t figured out the four hour work week yet, then training first thing in the morning may be your best bet. If you’re contemplating the early morning workout, this advice could help you out.
1. Adjust for energy demands
First thing, if you’re going to begin working out upon waking, you need to allow time for your body to adjust its internal circadian rhythm or your natural 24-hour sleep/wake cycle.
This is where consistency plays a vital role in fitness and goal management. The brain and body adapt and respond well to a balanced routine of stressors. It is when the timing pattern of our workout becomes erratic that elicits a negative response to a positive stressor like exercise.
If you’re going to make the early morning workout your routine, then waking up at least an hour before training is your best bet for your body to adjust to a new the circadian rhythm.
The goal is to ensure the body has enough time to be gradually stimulated and prepared to exert the optimum amount of energy both neurologically and hormonally during the workout.
When it comes to making adjustments to the workout, functional movements like squatting and deadlifting have a very high metabolic demand on the body. When you begin a morning exercise routine, make sure you take into account the effect large movements have on a tired body.
When planning out your workout, take more time in the beginning to incorporate stretching and warmup using proper dynamic movement preps before rushing into multi-joint exercises. The risk of injuries is at the highest when you’re not firing on all cylinders. High metabolic exercises are excellent for improving performance, body composition and creating a longer caloric burn rate, but if we’re not vigilant in allowing the body to adjust to new routines or recover from the demand and fatigue placed on the central nervous system, we’ll find ourselves pressing the snooze button again and again.
Whether you’re beginning to exercise in the morning or in the evening, take into consideration how exercise can drain your mental, physical and emotional energy if there are inconsistencies in our sleep, nutrition or workout patterns.
2. Plan to be prepared
Secondly, making a routine to prepare the night before ensures we’re placing our best foot forward and limits any distractions from our goals.
Any time there is change in routine any little “thing” can become a stumbling block to success, and inconsistencies in planning will always lead to failure.
Workout preparation doesn’t begin in the parking lot outside of the gym nor do sleep cycles begin when we close our eyes at night.
There’s plenty of research indicating how sensory input from our electronic devices alter our brain from being able to naturally fall asleep at night and how altered sleep cycle effect our daily energy levels. The same can be said for our workout. If we’re going to workout in the early morning, there needs to be a routine of preparation at night.
Here are a few preparation steps to consider before lying down in bed to ensure the best environment is in place for us to continue moving once the alarm goes off at 5 a.m.
- Have work attire already picked out and ready to either take with you or lying out to slip on without hesitation
- Prepare workout attire in a gym bag or on the kitchen table to grab as you walk out of the door
- Have your car keys, wallet, purse and phone all together in a central location close to walking out the door
- If you’re lucky and your gym has a personal locker service available you may want to add it to your membership so you can keep everything at the gym
- Set the alarm clock to a playlist that has high energy to get you singing and moving quicker
- You may want to invest in a personal trainer for accountability or who would be willing to send you automatic wake up texts to get you into the gym
- Take a cool wake-up shower to revitalize the body, not necessarily for bathing just to shake off the sleep
My advice? Don’t leave your health up to chance. Making it to the gym at any time of the day will be a challenge. Being prepared leaves less room for excuses to divert your actions from your fitness goals.
3. To eat or not to eat
With only an hour to spare, eating is a toss-up. This is where you have to listen to your body. You want to ensure you have enough stored glycogen from the night before. If not, it is prudent to have a small meal of protein and carbs easily accessible as you walk out of the door. By the time you brush your teeth, shower, make coffee and drive to the gym, you should be closing in on an hour. A quick protein shake or greek yogurt should be sufficient to have in the stomach as you work up a sweat. The great thing about early morning workouts is you get to have two breakfasts.
After training, the goal for any type of post-workout meal is to have something to stop the catabolic (muscle loss) effects of training and to prevent any possible immune system suppression.
To recap, remember these ten tips to successfully build a morning workout routine:
- You should ideally be awake for an hour before your workout
- Turn electronic devices off an hour before sleeping
- A refreshing shower and music is a key upon waking
- Prepare the night before to limit excuses
- Place keys, phones, wallets or purses together to grab and go
- Stretching and a Dynamic Movement Prep is vital to your warmup
- Consider placing big lifts later in your routine for safety purposes
- Consider grabbing protein shake and fruit for fuel
- Consider a personal trainer for accountability
- Limit inconsistencies and stumbling blocks
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About the author
This content has been written or reviewed by a member of the Baylor Scott & White Health medical staff.
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