I hate mornings and I hate sweating, so the early morning, before-work trip to the gym seemed impossible. But when I started training for a triathlon this summer, I was forced into two-a-day workouts, which meant that I needed to get to the gym before work. After much trial-and-error, I settled into a system that actually makes me look forward to mornings workouts (usually), and collected a few items that makes it easier for me to simply grab my gym bag and go. For those of us trying to get back into an exercise routine for the new year (and stick to it this time!), I hope these are helpful.
Some favorites that live in my gym bag: Gym-shower friendly toiletries / Travel-size, cordless hair straightener / Pre-workout breakfast / Compact version of your favorite fragrance / Ready-to-go makeup / Just like what you used for college dorm showers / Travel hair dryer
1. Prepare the night before. Make it so that you just wake up, throw on your workout clothes, grab your bag and walk out the door. Keep a list of what you need to pack ahead for morning workouts, so you can quickly get ready the night before. Lay out your workout clothes (including shoes), decide on pre and/or post-workout breakfast, pack your lunch and choose your clothes for the office. If possible, keep duplicate or travel size toiletries in your bag.
2. Prioritize sleep. You’re not doing yourself any favors by swapping sleep for exercise—try to go to bed early enough that you still get a decent rest. I find that putting away my phone and having a cup of tea helps me get into bedtime mode.
3. Practice critical visualization. Along with imagining yourself successfully waking up, getting ready, and going to the gym, also imagine yourself facing and overcoming challenges. For example: You wake up tired or don’t feel like leaving your bed, but flip on the lights and get dressed anyway, because you’ll be so proud of yourself after.
4. Make sure you don’t hit snooze. I’ll move my alarm across the room or change it to an upbeat song that will really wake me up.
5. Don’t shower the night before. If you know that you’ll have to give yourself extra time to shower, you might as well get sweaty beforehand.
6. Make it a date. I tend to keep my workout commitments when I know someone is expecting me to show up (read: will give me crap if I don’t). It can be a friend, co-worker, or someone in your fitness class (or as I call them, soon-to-be friends!)*.
7. Have a goal in mind. I started morning workouts when I was training for my first triathalon. The thought that “If I skip this workout, I’ll really regret it on race day!” got me out of bed (pretty much) every time. Make a SMART goal: specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time bound. For example, “By the end of the month, I want to run ___ miles/dead lift ___ pounds/plank for ___ seconds/get through a whole class without extra rests.”
8. Consider taking a class. Instructors will push you harder than you might push yourself, especially early in the morning. Also, making gym time more social can also make it more enjoyable.
9. Ease into it. Trying to dive into doing morning workouts five days a week will quickly lead to burnout, as will doing more than you’re ready for. Start small (one morning a week, and/or a fairly easy workout) and build up for best results.
10. Reward yourself. I usually don’t buy coffee in the morning, but after I workout, I’ll buy myself coffee. It makes me look forward to getting out of bed and working out, getting me one step closer to making morning workouts a habit.
*Here’s how I’ve approached the accountability-with-an-acquaintance technique. Step 1: Go to the same class a few times. Be friendly and say hello to a few of your fellow workout warriors. Step 2: After a few times (maybe 3-5), hopefully you’ve graduated to small talk and first-name basis with at lease one person. Step 3: Say something like “I really love this class, but mornings are so tough! Would you want to keep each other accountable to show up? Maybe shoot each other a text the night before to make sure we’ll both be here?”