There's good reason to rise and grind. Here's how you can make the habit stick.
Photography by William Klein
There's a reason the word 'exercise' is so often followed by the word 'routine': When it comes to fitness, we're creatures of habit. But there is ample research to support the idea that change can bring significant benefits to your body. And you can train yourself to accept change. Yoga-averse? Cardio-phobic? You don't have to be. See our first in this series: Yes, You Can Learn To Love A Workout. And read below for the simple ways to embrace the morning session.
Your alarm goes off and the voice in your head says, “Just five more minutes.” For the next 30 minutes, you play the snooze game until it’s official: You no longer have time to work out.
“Many of our clients complain of not being able to drag themselves out of bed in the morning,” says Amy Lao, M.S., National Manager, Equinox Fitness Training Institute. “But there’s less distraction in the morning, so once you get into a routine, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.” Plus, working out in the morning gives you an unparalleled sense of accomplishment and pumps you up for the rest of the day.
There’s also a host of health benefits to hitting the gym at the start of your day. “Exercise helps with mental acuity, making you sharper and more focused,” says Lao. Good news if you have a big meeting or project to tackle. And morning exercisers are more likely to make healthy choices throughout the day, says Lao. Read: You'll bypass the office candy bowl. Working out in the morning also helps rev your metabolism and keeps you burning calories all day.
Night owls are not necessarily doomed. “With the right strategies, anyone can become an early riser,” says Lao. Here, her tips for learning to love a morning sweat session.
1. (Gradually) go to bed earlier
From your ideal wake-up time, count back seven or eight hours, which is the amount sleep experts recommend to feel well-rested (and stave off problems like weight gain, diabetes and cancer). If you tend to stay up late, start going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach your ideal bedtime. In other words, don’t expect to fall asleep at 10 p.m. if you usually hit the sack at midnight. The key is to work up to your goal gradually.
2. Have a bedtime snack
If you're getting seven or eight hours of sleep and are still waking up tired in the morning, it could be because you have low blood sugar levels, says Angela Ginn, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Wake up with more energy by eating a tablespoon of unsweetened almond butter before you go to sleep to help stabilize your blood sugar overnight.
3. Plan your workout
Before you go to bed, make sure everything you need for the next day is ready. Channel your inner grade school student and lay out your gym clothes. It’s also a good idea to plan your workout: Write down exactly what you want to do—whether it’s take a class or run 10 miles—so you’ll be getting up with a purpose.
4. Do not hit snooze
Most of us set our alarms with a snooze buffer zone. Whether yours is 10 minutes or an hour, commit to giving it up and rising as soon as your alarm goes off. That way, you can spend that time actually sleeping—instead of groggily coming in out of dreams and enduring a mental battle with yourself to get up.
5. Ease into it
In the beginning, your goal is to simply get to the gym and do something, whether it’s a little resistance training or a quick jog on the treadmill. Research shows that it’s better to work out a little consistently than go hard and fall off the wagon a few days later.
Photography by William Klein