How to Start a Morning Workout Routine

How to Start a Morning Workout Routine

For many, waking up at 4am for a morning workout sounds like pure evil. For others, starting the day off with a morning sweat session is the only way to go. Though not ideal for all, morning workouts are a great way to avoid crowded, afternoon gyms and start the day off in a healthy manner. Since waking up even earlier than normal is a somewhat painful experience, proper planning is important in creating a smooth transition from sleeping in to getting active.

Step 1: Figure out your morning schedule. The first step in starting a morning workout routine is estimating how much time you need. First, figure out all the necessary tasks to making a morning workout possible: the actual workout, showering, getting dressed, driving, eating and snoozing. Next, figure out the hard deadline you can’t miss in the morning; for most people, this would be the time they report into work. Give each task a set amount of time and work backwards from the hard deadline. This is an easy way to figure out when to wake up, when you need to be on the road to the gym and when you should be leaving the gym for work. Here’s an example:

  • Report time for work (hard deadline): 7:00am
    • snooze time: 10 minutes
    • eating breakfast: 10 minutes
    • getting dressed: 10 minutes
    • brushing teeth/using the bathroom: 10 minutes
    • drive to the gym: 5 minutes
    • exercising: 60 minutes
    • showering at the gym: 15 minutes
    • getting dressed into the work uniform: 10 minutes
    • shaving: 5 minutes
    • drive from the gym to work: 10 minutes
    • unforeseen issues: 15 minutes
    • total time needed: 2 hours, 40 minutes
  • Wake up time: 7:00am minus 2 hours, 40 minutes = 4:20am
    • wake up – 4:20am
    • snooze until – 4:30am
    • eat breakfast until – 4:40am
    • get dressed for the gym until – 4:50am
    • brush teeth/use bathroom until – 5:00am
    • drive to the gym until – 5:05am
    • exercise until – 6:05am
    • shower until – 6:20am
    • get dressed for work until – 6:30am
    • shave until – 6:35am
    • drive to work until – 6:45am
    • time left – 15 minutes for unforeseen issues (traffic, more snooze time, moving slower in the morning than you planned)

Step 2: Plan the night before. The above example illustrates how important planning the night before is. Any extra tasks you do in the morning cuts into valuable sleep time. Waking up at 4:20am is already painful enough. Failing to plan the night before pushes the alarm even earlier. Without planning the night before, waking up early becomes too painful, making a morning workout session more of a hassle than it’s worth. Here are a few things you can plan the night before to prolong the alarm for a few minutes:

  • pack all toiletries you’ll need at the gym to make yourself presentable for work:
    • toothbrush
    • razor (try shaving the night before if your facial hair doesn’t grow too fast)
    • body wash
    • shampoo
    • shower shoes
    • towel
  • pack all the food you need for the entire day
  • pack your clothes
    • layout your gym clothes
    • pack clothes to change into for work after you shower at the gym
  • place all bags in the car the night before

Step 3: Caffeine helps. If you need an extra kick in the morning, consider the almost endless caffeine products available on the market. Most preworkout supplements contain enough caffeine to give you a jolt of energy in the morning. For a cheaper and cleaner fix, consider caffeine pills which contain nothing but caffeine. For a more traditional route, set your coffee maker on a timer.

Step 4: Allow time to adjust. Changing your workout routine isn’t always comfortable. This is especially true when changing it involves waking up at 4:20 in the morning. Though this process will likely be painful at first, sticking to it long enough transforms it from an inconvenience into an long term habit.

Step 5: Get enough sleep. Most Americans don’t need extra morning habits because they already get far too little sleep. The Mayo Clinic recommends adults sleep 7-8 hours each night. Too little sleep makes waking up much more difficult. A successful morning workout starts with nighttime habits conducive to earlier bedtimes.

The Bottom Line

There is no best workout time. The best time for a workout is the time most convenient to you. A convenient time of the day makes exercise much easier to stick to on a regular and longterm basis. When exercise becomes part of a lifestyle rather than interfering with one, adherence becomes automatic rather than forced.

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