How to make that morning workout routine a reality – it’s easier than you think

Many people would like to exercise at the crack of dawn, but lose motivation when it comes to getting out of bed. Here are some easy tips to help turn yourself into an early riser

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 6:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 August, 2017, 6:30pm

You’d probably love to be one of those people who consistently exercise after work. But life gets in the way – kids, work, social commitments – and before you know it, your daily fitness routine goes out the window. A morning workout routine seems like the obvious answer, but how do you actually do it?

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You can turn yourself into an early riser. But not overnight. “You have to adjust gradually,” says Dianne Augelli, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

“The body can take an hour or less of [sleep schedule] change,” Augelli says. So, if you normally go to sleep at midnight and get up at 8am, you will not feel rested if you suddenly switch your bedtime to 9pm and get up at 5am.

You probably won’t be able to make yourself go to sleep that early anyway, Augelli says. “You can’t force yourself to fall asleep. Sleep doesn’t work that way. But you can begrudgingly force yourself to wake up,” she says.

The American Sleep Association recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults. You might fall asleep at midnight and get up at 5am, and that’s no good. In fact, Augelli says mortality increases when adults habitually get fewer than six hours’ sleep a night.

Instead, Augelli says you should change your sleep schedule by 30 minutes at a time. Start going to sleep at 11.30pm and getting up at 7.30am. Do that for about a week and then roll back another 30 minutes. Do that for about a week and then roll back yet another 30 minutes. Repeat until you land at your desired wake-up time without needing an afternoon nap that day.

Weekend cycles should stay fairly close – within an hour or two – to the weekday cycle. “Our bodies don’t know what a weekend is. It’s a social construct, not a biological one,” Augelli says.

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1. Keep the bedroom cool and dark.

2. No coffee within eight hours of bedtime.

3. No alcohol within a couple of hours of bedtime. Alcohol puts us to sleep faster but then messes with our “sleep architecture”, reducing or even preventing the deepest, most restorative types of sleep. It also may increase the need to use the bathroom throughout the night.

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4. No large meals within two to three hours of bedtime.

5. Shower before bed to cool the body.

6. No screen time of any kind within one to two hours of bedtime.

7. No working, reading or emailing within an hour of bedtime.

8. Turn on bright lights in the morning right as you wake up.

Five ways to motivate yourself to get up

1.Do something you enjoy.Daily gym-goer Melissa Westman-Cherry says that when she started working out a little over a decade ago, she chose evening Zumba classes. She needed a class that felt playful in addition to being physically strenuous. “It was a really fun class, and it got me into a routine,” she says. These days, when she’s not in class, she enjoys catching up on TV shows when on the treadmill.

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2. Work up to it. It wasn’t until Westman-Cherry, 46, had established a consistent workout habit that she switched her workouts from evenings to mornings. “I think it would be hard to go from not working out at all to working out at 5am every day,” she says. Now she gets up at 4.40am every day and is at the gym by 5am. Her routine is so set that her dogs don’t even get out of bed when she leaves before sunrise. They know to wait until 7am for their walk.

Exercise has to become a part of your lifestyle the same way that brushing your teeth is a daily routine.
Art Weltman

3. Remove the obstacles. The Washington resident doesn’t necessarily consider herself a morning person, but getting her workout done early is the only way to fit it in. She makes sure she sets out her clothes, water and car keys the night before. “There’s a sense of pride in having accomplished so much so early in the morning,” she says.

4. Look for outside motivation . Accountability and peer support can also help, says Leslie Swift, 48, a daily exerciser in the Washington area. “If other people can get themselves out of bed, then so can I,” says Swift, who attends boot camps and spin classes in the mornings. Her other motivators are that first delicious, energising cup of coffee with just enough milk to give her fuel for the workout, and the high she feels during and after a hard workout.

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Becky Schechter, a 38-year-old Washington resident, says she does best when someone else designs her strength-training routine, which is why she does a morning boot camp twice a week when she’s not running. That said, the working mother of two always makes sure she has a backup plan if it rains, such as old boot camp routines she can do in the comfort of her home.

5. Make consistency a priority. “Exercise has to become a part of your lifestyle the same way that brushing your teeth is a daily routine,” says Art Weltman, professor and chair of the department of kinesiology at the University of Virginia. Weltman says exercising regularly has many benefits, including preventing diabetes and osteoporosis, maintaining strength and a healthy weight, and improving mood and mental wellness.

Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day, five times a week. This is better than doing 150 minutes straight on the weekends. Spreading the workouts across the week helps to prevent injury and means the brain is fed natural antidepressants on a regular basis. Can’t string together 30 minutes at a time? Just split it up.