How To: Make Early Morning Workouts Happen

You probably think I’m crazy for thinking I can convince you to set your alarm for 5 am to wake up and go to the gym. But just hear me out.

I have started working out early in the morning at least 1 time a week, for one reason or the other. If I have something going on that night and I know it won’t happen otherwise, then I’ll suck it up and hit the gym before the sun comes up. Or even thinks about coming up…

I’m not going to sit here and pretend this is an easy thing to incorporate into your daily routine, but it can be done. It just takes a little bit of commitment and determination. And adequate sleep.

Here we go:

1) Go to bed early. Duh. This is one of the most important steps. If I know I’m waking up for a 5:30 or 6:00 am workout, you bet your bottom dollar I have my butt in bed by 9:30-10 pm the night before. It’s not going to be worth it if you only got 3 hours of sleep and you’re too exhausted to even move your limbs. Going to bed at 10 and waking up at 5 gives you 7 hours of sleep, which is plenty. Make it a point to get to bed at a decent time and you may even feel rested when your alarm goes off.

But just in case you’re not feeling rested…

2) Set multiple alarms. Regardless of how much sleep you got, you still might not feel motivated enough to climb out of your warm, cozy bed. Especially when it’s still pitch black out and no one else is awake yet. This is where multiple alarms comes in handy. Set the first one about 10 minutes before you really need to be out of bed. This gives you time to accept the fact that sleeping time is over. I suggest turning the lamp at your bedside on, so you can still close your eyes until your next alarm goes off, but the light will slowly wake you up. Or you could just get the pain over with and hop up when the first alarm goes off. Kinda like ripping off a bandaid. Quick and painless. Ish.

One step further..

3) Set motivational titles for your alarms. I know most phones (including the iPhone) allow you to do this. I set my alarms to say various things, such as “move laundry to dryer”, “take banana bread out of oven”, etc. But my morning workout alarms look a little something like this. “Rise and shine! You can do this! *arm flexing emoji*” or “Workout time!” Then the last one if I still haven’t moved… “OKAY SERIOUSLY GET UP LAZY BUM!!!” Or insert a motivational quote that might be a little more inspiring. You know, whatever works for ya.

This one is optional, but necessary for some:

4) Find a workout buddy. Having a partner in crime when you’re doing just about anything is more motivating, right? Especially for many people when it comes to exercise. I personally prefer to workout alone, because I think of it as my “me” time. It’s my stress reliever and I enjoy plugging in my headphones, blasting some Taylor Swift Pandora, and doing my own thing. But if that’s not you, and 6 ams will be literally impossible if you don’t have someone holding you accountable for getting out of bed, then find someone equally crazy who wants to make these early workouts a thing. Together you will crush it.

Okay, you’ve made it to the gym! Congrats! Now what?

5) Start slow with a warm-up. This one isn’t rocket science. Whether it’s taking a few laps around the track or a five minute speed walk on the treadmill before you burst into sprints, give your body a few minutes to realize that this really is happening at 5:30 am. Then fully embrace it and have an awesome workout.

Next step?

6) Pump. Up. Jams. Studies have shown that listening to music during exercise can actually boost endurance levels up to 15%. So find a Pandora playlist that speaks to you or create your own on your iPod/phone. I love country music, but I cannot workout to it. It doesn’t get me fired up. I prefer something like a “rap & hip-hop workout playlist”, “rap strength training”, or something a little peppier (if that’s a word), like “Taylor Swift Shake It Off playlist”. Ideally, songs should be between 120 and 140 bpm to maximize the endurance-boosting benefits. If listening to music can boost endurance and make exercise seem more like a fun activity than a chore, then by all means, turn it up and get moving.

7) Engage in something you enjoy. If you absolutely hate going to the gym solo to do cardio and lift weights, then chances are you’re not gonna wake up extra early to do it. So, find an alternative. Sign up for workout classes if your gym offers them, or go on walks/bike rides/runs on a trail close-by with a friend, do hot yoga or even Jazzercise! Find a type of exercise you actually find pleasure from doing; otherwise, working out will always feel like a chore and you’ll never want to make it a priority. Especially early in the morning.

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Last but not least:

8) Quit making excuses. I can think of a million reasons why I “wouldn’t have time” to workout on a daily basis. I’m not saying that we aren’t all busy people. We are – I get that. Especially people who are working full time, have kids to drive all over creation in the evenings, cook dinner for everyone, etc. But almost everyone has at least 30 minutes of free time during the day that they could get a little bit of extra physical activity. I’m sure there are 30 minutes of the day you spend doing something totally unproductive, such as scrolling through social media or watching TV. Why not start your day with a workout? I know the waking up part sounds miserable, and maybe even the working out part, but believe me when I tell you – I LOVE IT. Here’s why: 1) It wakes me up. 2) It boosts my mood right off the bat; there’s something so motivating about being surrounded by tons of other people who also made the conscious decision to be at the gym instead of sleeping through the morning. 3) It is crossed off my to-do list for the day before the day has really even begun. (However, do not use this as an excuse to be sedentary for the rest of the day – try to sneak a few walks in too!) 4) It allows to me to get other things accomplished after work, such as getting groceries or running errands. And 5) It gets me one step closer to my goal – to maintain and improve my health on a daily basis.

If your health is important to you, then you have to find a way to make time for exercise. Whether that is at night or early in the morning, it doesn’t matter. JUST DO IT.

So, are you sold yet? Just give it a shot, and don’t knock it ’til you try it – you might be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to wake up and go once you get accustomed to it. The natural mood boost first thing in the morning sets the tone for your whole day, and I almost guarantee you will notice a difference. Your coworkers might too! Plus, you will likely feel more energized throughout the day than you usually do. So you can cut back on your expensive espresso drinks at Starbucks; you’re welcome.

Try it at least once and see what you think! Good luck!


‘Tis the season to eat pumpkin, fa la la la la, la la la la. I am fully capitalizing on pumpkin season this year and am trying to incorporate it in any way that I can. This year I finally discovered the genius idea of freezing leftover pumpkin puree to add to various recipes and this has helped me use it more often! I have been throwing it in cookies, breads, and smoothies, to name a few, but my favorite use was in these amazing pancakes I’m about to share with you. GET EXCITED. This is just a tiny little change from my original protein pancake recipe (which is in my cook book), but instead of using 1 whole banana, you use 1/2 a banana and ~1/2 cup thawed pumpkin puree. I will list the recipe for you again so you can try this while pumpkin season is still in full force.

Pumpkin Protein Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups quick oats
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder of choice
  • 1/2 ripe mashed banana
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup almond (or skim) milk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Dash of pumpkin pie spice
  • Top with PB2 and chopped walnuts (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until it forms a smooth batter. (It will be a little thick – that’s okay.)
  2. Cook on a griddle until golden brown.

3. Add toppings as desired.

Here we have 3 delicious pumpkin pancakes topped with 2 tbsp of PB2, chopped walnuts, and a small drizzle of light syrup!


The great thing about these pancakes is that they are great even left over. Cook them all at once immediately after you make the batter, and store the leftover, cooked pancakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Other topping ideas: bananas, vanilla Greek yogurt, peanut butter, honey, hemp or chia seeds – the possibilities are endless!

Seriously, I suggest you try these. ASAP. You will love them!!! PS: don’t forget that breakfast is most delicious at dinner. 😉

GET YOUR AM WORKOUT + POST-WORKOUT PROTEIN PANCAKE ON!

eat well. live well. be happy. 

Shanna, RD, LD

#wellnessforthewin

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