When I was a freshman in college I abhorred 9am classes. I made sure to register early each semester after that to avoid “early” mornings. But when I started my career as a corporate banker, 8am was NOT an optional start time. So I woke up at the ungodly hour of 7:30am, brushed my teeth, threw on a suit, and high-tailed it to work. Clearly, this left no time for morning fitness. So I pledged to hit the gym everyday after work. And I did! (on days that I didn’t have to work late…or attend a networking event… or meet up for happy hour… or go on a date…).
So I consistently worked out 2-3 nights a week. And as my early twenties metabolism started slowing down, I started to look a bit like the pear-shaped senior bankers on my floor. And I realized that if I didn’t work out in the morning, it probably wasn’t gonna happen.
So, how do you train yourself to be an early bird?
1. Treat your workouts like work!
Have you ever had an important meeting scheduled with a client, boss, or colleague and said to yourself, “Eh, I’m kinda tired today. Think I’ll skip this meeting and make it up tomorrow.”
Probably not! And if you have, you’re probably no longer employed! But of course you wouldn’t skip an important work meeting because you’re tired. You also probably wouldn’t go to the bar and get hammered the night before closing a big deal. So why would you let your health and fitness suffer for the same excuses?
Whether you commit to hitting the gym 3, 4, or 5 days a week, make recurring appointments in your calendar for your workouts. I block off 2 hours of my day Monday-Friday and have it saved in my google calendar. There’s something very powerful about seeing that block of time in your day ahead of data analysis, team meetings, and client calls. Make your fitness your most important client, and you’ll never skip an early morning workout again!
2. Make friends at the gym
Whether you workout at an Equinox, LA Fitness, or a CrossFit® box, become acquainted with the other brave souls who have left the comfort of their beds to get after it. It doesn’t have to be a full blown conversation. But a head nod, thumbs up, or asking for a spot are simple ways to turn strange and tired faces into familiar smiling ones. Having friendly faces to look forward to can help turn the early morning grind into a social event to look forward to everyday. And over time, you may even develop a genuine bromance!
3. Create a simple, repeatable warmup
When it’s early, our bodies need a little more time to get fired up after being in a restful state. If you live within a mile of your gym, jog or run there. If you’re within 2-3 miles, hop on a bike. I run a mile with my dog every morning and start almost every session with 10 minutes on the rowing machine. Rowing hits every muscle group south of your neck! But 3-5 minutes is fine enough for most people to get warm. Here’s a quick general warm up that takes about 3-5 minutes:
20 jumping jacks
15 air squats
10 mountain climbers
If you’re doing a more advanced workout (like weightlifting), here’s a quick one to do with an empty barbell:
10 muscle clean
10 front squats
10 overhead press
10 snatch balance
Obviously, there are more movement specific warm ups you can (and should) do, but these are quick and easy to do when your brain hasn’t fully turned on yet!
Morning workout survival kit
4. Just do it
Waking up early sucks. But being overweight and unhealthy sucks even more. So suck it up and get after it!
Oh and remember how I used to dread 9am classes? Now that I’m a trainer and soon-to-be gym owner, I wake up everyday at 4am… and I love it!