Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, nutritionist, trainer, exercise physiologist or astrophysicist. I'm just a fat and fit girl typing away. I don't care when you exercise, just sharing my personal experience!
A few people have asked me how I can possibly drag myself out of bed before work to exercise in the morning. Is it insanity? Am I a morning bird? Am I one of those freaks who can thrive without sleep?
Uh, no, no and no.
The first few times I heard my alarm go off during the 5am hour, I felt like I wanted to DIE. I know it sounds melodramatic, but really – my entire body was revolting against getting up so early in the morning. But I did it. One morning, then the next, then an off day, then the next. Per my psychologist bestie, according to research, “it takes as little as 10 days and as many 4 weeks to establish a new habit. It has to do with the amount of repetition. It's all about establishing neuronal connections, the more reinforcement the faster it develops.”
I simply established a habit. Do I hate the habit in theory most mornings? Yep. Do I do it anyway? Yep. (For more on transitioning into forming a habit, take a look at this great post over on the Zenhabits blog). The good news? It does get easier.
Why I work out in the morning:
- It's the only time it would fit in my schedule. I think I worked out twice at night before realizing that I couldn't get everything done in the day that I needed or wanted to. My schedule: 7am: Wake up, shower, eat breakfast; 8:30am-5:30pm Work; 6pm Get home, make dinner; 7pm any consulting work, emails, bills, tv, etc; 9pm write blog post; 10:30pm bed (hopefully). This is on a good day. Other days there are volunteer commitments, working late, social functions, etc. The best way for me to have my workouts uninterrupted by these “extras” was to get the workout done first thing in the morning. Even still, this means going to sleep earlier so I can wake up earlier, which in turn means I've cut WAY back on TV. Shows axed so far this year from my DVR: American Idol, Dancing With the Stars, Gray's Anatomy, Real Housewives (of Anywhere), Millionaire Matchmaker. Yes, I have a reality TV addiction.
- Less crowded at the gym=more machines available and less to feel self-consious about: Peak hours at the gym are between 4pm-8pm at night. Lots of people, lots of machines in use, and lots of self-consciousness at first if it's a new environment. Working out in the morning, I see the regulars every day, there are always plenty of machines and weights available, and there is simply no fashion show. Even though you shouldn't be self-conscious at the gym, I know it's something many of us struggle with. Remove that obstacle by going earlier in the day.
- Skip the late-night endorphins: When I work out at night (doing the Just Dance 2 game, for example) I get hyped up with energy. My muscles are warm, the blood is flowing and I'm feeling good. Personally, I don't want that feeling right before I try to go to sleep- I have enough trouble with insomnia already.
- Get the blood flowing before work: Because of said point above about endorphins and blood flow, I can jump right into work without having to “wake up” first. I'm sure my boss appreciates that, and I feel much more productive in those first couple of hours in the morning.
- Accomplish something awesome before 7am: Seriously- the feeling when you get back in your car and realize that before many of your co-workers or friends have even gotten out of bed, you did 1 selfish and awesome thing for yourself. 🙂 It's an addictive feeling.
I recently read even more good news when it comes to habit forming and exercise- according to the American Council on Exercise, those who participate in physical activity in the morning are more successful at making exercise a habit. (Source) I didn't know this when I first started exercising in the morning before work, but it totally makes sense to me now.