How to Become a Morning Workout Person (and Actually Stick With It)

There are several benefits of working out in the morning—here's how to shift your exercise schedule with a few simple strategies.

Photo: Yeji Kim

Just as the best type of exercise is the one that you actually enjoy doing, ultimately, the best time to exercise—whether that's afternoon, evening, or morning—is whenever works best with your schedule and lifestyle. Because let's be honest, figuring out how to start working out is hard enough without having to rework your entire routine. That said, if you've been wondering if there's one time of day that's best for exercising, there are some undeniable pros of working out in the morning.

The Benefits of Working Out in the Morning

Surveys show that you're more likely to stick with a morning workout or exercise program than one later in the day, when you'll likely be distracted by other responsibilities or have time to come up with excuses to skip your fitness session. Research has also found that exercise can help improve mood and sense of well-being by increasing feel-good neurotransmitters like endorphins, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Physical activity also been shown to boost cognitive functioning like memory, attention, concentration, and learning. Needless to say, a sweat session is a great way to begin each day, especially before work or school when you want to be in top mental form. Morning workouts can also help you beat the heat of summer. And if you're participating in any type of fitness event, start times are almost always in the morning. If you want to compete at your optimal level, it's wise to get used to morning workouts.

So how do you start working out in the morning without dreading it? Experts have their favorite tips for turning the morning into your preferred time of day to move. Read up and get ready to set your alarm for a few hours earlier than usual.

1. Get enough sleep.

This should be a no-brainer, but if you don't log the sleep you need, you're not going to feel like getting up in the morning, let alone tackling a morning workout. While you should shoot for seven to eight hours of sleep every night, making the switch overnight isn't easy. That's why Jonathan Jordan, a NASM certified personal trainer personal trainer and nutrition coach in San Francisco, tells his clients to add just 30 minutes at a time to their bedtime routine. So if you're usually in bed around 11 p.m., start making a conscious effort to get in bed at 10:30. "Even if you lie quietly in bed and do a little deep breathing or meditation until you fall asleep, it can help," he says.

2. Get good quality sleep.

It's not just the amount of sleep you get that matters—sleep quality is important too. One rule Jordan employs with his clients: Adopt a 30- to 60-minute device blackout period before bed. During this time, abandon your use of phones, computers, and light-emitting devices. "Clients who do this [tend to] sleep better, have more energy, and report less stress, better diet, and even better digestion," he says. Also helpful for ensuring deep, uninterrupted sleep is to make your sleep environment as cool, dark, and quiet as possible. Temperature, ambient light, and ambient noise are all environmental factors that can disrupt a sound night's sleep—but that you do have some control over.

3. Wake up 15 minutes earlier at a time.

How appealing does it sound to wake up (at least) an hour earlier just to work hard? Probably not much. So start small. Could you wake up 15 minutes earlier and squeeze in a quick workout (like this 15-minute stairs workout) or a round of full-body stretches? Probably.

Get used to doing this for a week or two before moving your wake-up time up another 15 minutes. Repeat until you're up with enough time to log the exercise you want. Progressing slowly will help you adapt to that earlier wake-up call, says Jennie Gall, former owner of Relevé Pilates Studio in Ripon, Calif.

4. Prep your workout stuff the night before.

Set out your workout clothes, sneakers, gym bag, and whatever else you need for your morning workout the night before. This is the best way to give your future self a helping hand, save some time in the morning, and avoid forgetting anything—especially if you're a little foggy when you wake up.

5. Set an alarm across the room

Leaving your alarm clock next to your bed makes it all too easy to hit the snooze button. But if you place it across the room, you'll be forced to get up to turn it off. The extra benefit of doing this if your smartphone is your alarm is that keeps you far away from your phone all night. You'll sleep better.

6. Drink your morning caffeine.

Permission granted to sip that cup of coffee or tea before exercising. Keep your serving to one 8-ounce cup and avoid tons of add-ins like cane sugar and artificial sweeteners. "In moderation, caffeine is widely recognized and safe for sipping pre-workout," Jordan says. In fact, research even suggests that caffeine can aid fitness performance.

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