I am undoubtedly a morning person. Given the choice between doing a task at 6am and 10pm, I would nearly always opt for the crack of dawn (accept when it comes to morning raves – after one very unsatisfactory experience, I’ve put those in my hate-abase for life). By 9pm, I’m barely able to stumble to the bathroom to brush my teeth, let alone engage my brain and body in any kind of exertion.
However, even with my inclination towards the early hours, I have to admit morning workouts in the winter are tough. Darkness and freezing temperatures are hardly enticing, especially when the alternative is staying warm in bed, or loitering around on the sofa with toast and tea before work.
Given the fact I’m allergic to evening activity, however, I basically HAVE to do my workouts in the morning. And, whether it’s because you’re an evening sloth, work long hours or have a busy social life, you may well be in the same boat.
So how do I manage it? Here are a few tips I’ve learnt from my pre-work fitness sessions…
Go to bed earlier
No-brainer right? If your alarm is set for 5.45am, you can’t stick to your normal bedtime routine – but this fact seems to be lost on a surprising amount of people.
Personally, I’m in bed by 10pm (see the previously mentioned sloth phase that kicks in at 8pm). Some people might think that’s laughable, but whatever your normal bedtime, you definitely need to adjust it so that you’re still getting a full night when you adopt your new wake-up routine.
There have been approx. 2 million studies on how getting enough sleep makes you less stressed, less hungry and more beautiful (or something like that), so assuming you can sacrifice sleep as part of your workout regime just doesn’t cut it.
Prep your stuff beforehand
I’m dishing out this piece of advice like I ALWAYS stick to it (sadly I don’t), but leaving the house at 6.30am is immeasurably easier if I’ve prepped the night before. Plus, my work outfits are a hundred times better if I don’t choose them in 3 seconds while stumbling around in the dark – and I never risk accidentally forgetting to bring knickers (truly the worst).
The evening before a dawn workout, I pack a bag with my work clothes for the next day, makeup, protein powder, toiletries etc, and also lay out my gym clothes so that the amount of decisions I need to make in the morning are ridiculously minimal.
Don’t give yourself time to think
Leading on from my previous point, there is a lot to be said for morning workouts in that you literally don’t have time to talk yourself out of it.
If I’m heading to the gym in the evening, I’ll probably come up with a thousand excuses for not going while I sit at my desk all afternoon. On the other hand when my alarm goes off first thing, I don’t even let myself consider the possibility of not going to my class or the gym – it’s as mandatory as going to work, not optional.
I’ve wanged on a lot here about the importance of making exercise a habit, but it’s so true. Once rolling out of bed and straight to the gym becomes habitual, the struggle is drastically reduced.
Try a scheduled class
There are two big benefits to booking a morning class rather than trying to drag yourself out for a run or to the gym. Firstly, the fact it starts at a strict time means you absolutely cannot “just have another 10 minutes in bed” – you have to get up and moving.
Secondly, motivation can be difficult on cold winter mornings, but if you have an instructor shouting at you then you’re far less likely to simply lie on the mats listening to Rihanna and doing the occasional sit up than you would alone in the gym.
Get someone else on board
One thing that has made a big difference in my morning motivation is persuading my husband to get up and head to the gym at the same time (separate gyms, we’re not that annoying).
It means he no longer lies in bed grumbling while I try (and fail) to silently get ready for the gym; and it also means if I’m having a ‘meh’ day he’s more likely to motivate me to get out of the door.
If you have a partner or flatmate who can adopt your routine with you, it’s really helpful. An alternative would be to promise to meet a friend at the gym or get an early morning running buddy – you’ll feel dead guilty if you don’t make it, which means extra resolve to get out of the door.
Look on it positively
If you see exercising first thing as the ultimate hardship then you’re always going to end up groaning at the sound of your alarm.
But, if you think of the positive aspects – arriving at your desk feeling like you’ve already achieved something, enjoying a hearty breakfast to reward your efforts and most importantly, having your evenings free to see friends/cook elaborate dinners/ lie down watching Netflix for four hours, then you will see early morning exercise as one of the most savvy things you can do.