October 09, 2021 10 min read

Getting up early in the morning is a piece of advice that’s found almost everywhere, all the time. Even if you don’t subscribe to hustle culture, it can’t be denied that the early bird gets the worm—so, what if that early bird worked out as well?

An early morning workout routine is both one of the most difficult habits to create, and one of the most beneficial. It’s going to energize you, allow you to sleep better, and boost your mood and productivity throughout the entire day. It might take some grit—especially if you’re always keen on sleeping in—but a morning workout is something that everyone should try a few at least a few times.

Fewer Demotivators

The most difficult thing about getting up and working out is finding the motivation to do it. However, once you’re already up and going, there’s a lot less distraction and excuses that get in your way.

Clock and weights on wooden background.

If you have to drive to the gym, traffic becomes a much smaller issue. Once you’re at the gym, you likely won’t have to wait for any stations to get freed up. Fewer responsibilities in the morning mean more time to work out. It’s also cooler in the morning, so your workouts will feel a lot better.

A Healthier Diet and Healthy Lifestyle

Getting up and working out in the morning has been shown to lead to better wellness in terms of eating healthier. A lot of this is in the mindset, but being active in the early hours will help you make better decisions about what you eat throughout the entire day—not just breakfast.

Overall, this leads to a better quality of life. This factor is especially useful if you’re aiming for weight loss since better food choices will also come with better appetite control. Those who work out in the morning also have better blood glucose control.

Energy, Focus, and Mood

Those who work out in the early morning also have more energy throughout the day. This can sound counterintuitive, but some morning exertion will do you a lot of good. This extra energy is also tied to improved focus and an improved mood over the rest of the day. For example, cardio has been shown to release a lot of endorphins. If you’re looking for a productivity hack, a morning workout is definitely a good way to go.

The Early Morning Exercise

Before going into the exercises, some warming up is a good idea. Especially if you’re doing this workout first thing in the morning, your muscles are going to be pretty stiff. The good news is that you already probably do some form of stretching when you wake up—even if it’s just raising your arms up behind your head and yawning.

Incorporating some more stretches will have the benefit of both warming you up, and getting you ready for the upcoming exertion. Even if you forgo the workout entirely, morning stretches will be great for your overall mobility and flexibility.

1. Push-Ups

The push-up is popular for a reason. It relies on a simple movement that can prove to be challenging, especially if you perform more advanced variations. Push-ups hit both the upper body and the abdominals, including the chest, arms, shoulders, and core. Even your glutes are engaged to keep you stable through the movement.

The amount you should do will depend on your fitness level and your goals. The key is to push yourself hard while still leaving enough energy in the tank to perform the other exercises. If it’s your first time going through this workout, aim for 10 to 15 push-ups if you’re reasonably fit.

  1. Get down on the floor with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your feet should be hip-width apart, your body in a perfectly straight line. In the starting position, your elbows should be almost locked out, but not quite.
  2. Engaging your core and glutes, slowly bend your elbows until your elbows are at least at 90-degree angles. Pause at the bottom of the movement.
  3. Slowly reverse the motion, pressing through your hands as you contract your pectorals and returning to the starting position.

2. Burpees

Burpees are one of the best bodyweight exercises to get you working up a sweat. A combination of a push-up and a jump, they work pretty much every major muscle group in the body and they’re guaranteed to wake you up in the dawn hours.

  1. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands by your sides. Initiate the movement by crouching down and placing your hands in front of you with elbows locked. Kick your feet back so that you’re in a high plank position.
  2. Bend your elbows to enter into a push-up, and reverse the movement.
  3. Once you’re getting back into the standing position, explosively push through your feet and jump up, reaching towards the ceiling.

3. Lunges

Lunges can be weighted or simply done with your body weight, but the benefits are the same. They’re a great lower body exercise that also engages your core in order to maintain balance.

Young African man doing the crescent lunge pose at home

  1. Begin with your feet hip-width apart, looking straight ahead with your chest up.
  2. Taking one foot, take a large step forward while maintaining a straight back.
  3. You’ll then want to bend your forward knee so that it’s at a 90-degree angle, with your knee right above your foot. Your back knee should be just above the floor.
  4. Reverse the movement and repeat for the other side.

4. Crunches

A popular exercise in gym classes everywhere, crunches are a great way to develop your abdominal muscles. Since they’re a bodyweight movement, you can do them as soon as you get out of bed.

Just make sure to do them properly to avoid any neck pain.

  1. Lying down on your back, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lock your hands behind your head.
  2. Engaging the abs, raise your upper body off the ground, and try bringing your elbows to your knees.

5. Jumping Jacks

Another popular gym class workout, jumping jacks are going to work up a sweat, much like the burpees we looked at above. And getting your heart rate up is going to wake you up and get you in the zone to tackle the rest of your day.

  1. With your feet shoulder-width apart and hands by your sides, look straight ahead and maintain a straight back.
  2. Jumping up, bring your arms up and above in an arc, simultaneously bringing out your feet. When you land again, you should be in a star shape.
  3. Jump again, this time bringing your hands back to your sides and your feet back together. Continue for several reps.

How to Wake Up Early for a Sweat Session

This all looks great on paper, as many things do, but tomorrow at 6 am is going to be an entirely different story—at least if you don’t prepare. Whether you’re a morning person or not, a lot of it is going to come down to the mindset that you set for yourself. However, that mindset can come easier if you also put in some groundwork to get you going in the morning.

One of the keys to success is to take things one step at a time, instead of going all in. If you’ve never woken up before 7 am, you’re probably not going to be hitting new PRs at 6 in the morning. At least not yet. We’ve pulled together some other tips to get you started on your journey to being the early bird.

Visualize

Although you’re going to need to physically get up and work out, your mind is going to the thing that actually convinces you to get out of your warm bed. We often speak of visualizing success, and a morning routine is a perfect way to see it in action.

For one, before going to bed, you should actually think of waking up tomorrow morning as soon as your alarm rings and going to train. This can also be done literally the night before—set your alarm in reoccurring one-minute increments for 5 to 10 minutes, and literally go lie in your bed. Every time the alarm rings, get out of bed. This will help you associate the sound of your alarm with the need to get up and get moving.

Writing down your “why” can also be a powerful tool in the young early bird’s arsenal. Are you trying to lose weight? Gain muscle? Impress someone? Get over a breakup? Find your motivation (or motivations), keep them clear and succinct, and then write them down. This will be your reason for waking up and training when everyone else is still asleep.

Prepare

It’s often said that preparation is the key to success, and that’s no less true in this case. This can take many forms, but you literally just want to make getting up and moving as easy as possible for yourself. For example, place workout clothes and running shoes close by and ready to go. As soon as you wake up, change into them, and get going. If you want, you can combine this with the alarm trick the night before to further condition your half-asleep brain.

Food can also be a big part of preparation. While you might not necessarily be eating before you workout in the morning, there’s a lot of coffee makers that you can preprogram to start making coffee at a certain time. If you sleep in, enjoy the cold coffee. Even preparing a good playlist can be the factor that gets you away from scrolling on your phone to squatting.

Preparing a tasty breakfast the night before can also be a good motivating factor. After all, you’re on the tail end of an 8 hour fast so you’re going to be hungry—especially after a workout. The tastier (and easier to prepare) the food is, the more you’ve got to look forward to.

Be Realistic

This follows from our first point: take things one step at a time. Sure—you may find the motivation to do a high-intensity (HIIT) workout one morning, or maybe even several mornings in a row. But this isn’t a recipe for long-term success. The initial motivating factor and mindset will waver, and when that happens, you’re going to have to rely purely on discipline.

The fiery energy of making several dramatic and immediate life changes might feel good, but you’re going to burn out eventually. And we’re not saying that a heavy workout plan in the morning is impossible, but that you’ll have much more success if you work up to this ideal. Building good habits step by step is the best way to also build discipline and willpower.

Motivation is fantastic for giving you a push, but only your mindset will keep you going through more difficult exercise routines. Not only is it important to have realistic wake-up and workout goals, but to also have precise goals. It helps to write them down and slowly build them up over time.

This will allow you to track your progression and iron out any kinks in your plan. In the end, this will be another motivating factor and a way to build discipline. It’s good to aim for the stars, but the journey is just as (if not more) important.

Consistency is Key

This point is especially important in the early days of building a habit—more so when it’s a habit as hard to build (and keep) as working out in the early morning hours. When building any habit, it’s often easier to do something 100% of the time rather than even 70% of the time.

Everyone can always find an excuse either to do something or not to do something and in the early days of habit-forming, pushing away these excuses no matter what is a good plan for long-term success. This isn’t to say that you don’t deserve breaks or cheat days, or that you should never go out for fear of not being able to work out in the morning.

Rather, you need to stick to your goal consistently if you want to succeed in it, otherwise, the temptation to sleep in will always be lurking in the slightest inconvenience, masked as a legitimate excuse. If you tell yourself that you need to get up and work out every day, then stick to that plan. If you want to do this only between Monday and Friday, your unit of measurement for success will be weeks instead of days.

In some ways, this can be more difficult, since a daily goal will compound from day to day, but a Monday to Friday goal will only compound on a week to week basis. Maintaining consistency is also great for keeping track of your sleep. Not only will this help you get enough sleep more consistently (eight hours is what most people should shoot for), but you’ll also be able to plan to wake up while you’re in your lightest sleep.

Different apps, smartwatches, and bands can help with this if you want to take a more scientific approach.

The Question of Alarm Clocks

Your mind might be important in getting you physically moving, but it’s most likely going to be the alarm that wakes up your mind. There are a few ways to go about this, and most of them depend on the individual.

One way to ensure that your alarm actually gets you out of bed is to use one that makes you work to turn it off or hit the snooze button.

There are many different apps for this or even physical alarms that make you perform some kind of action or puzzle to turn them off. This definitely sounds annoying, but that’s the point. If you have to wake up enough to solve some arithmetic, then you’re likely going to be awake enough to convince yourself to get out of bed.

Another way of going about this is to put your regular alarm somewhere far away, but where you can still hear it. For example, place your phone on the other side of the room and you’ll be forced to get out of bed to turn it off. And others still have more success with less masochistic methods of getting up. Maybe the answer for you is an alarm that gently gets you out of your slumber, slowly bringing you out of bed.

This is obviously much less jarring, and your head will definitely thank you for it. But of course, there’s always the chance of sleeping through it if you’re a heavy sleeper.

Get Moving

And of course, once you’re up, get moving immediately. If you’ve prepared and placed your workout gear close to your bed, then you’re already ahead of the game. Many people also have success in chugging a glass of water as soon as they get up.

In many ways, the advice to start moving as soon as possible is circular—we are, after all, trying to figure out how to make getting up and moving much easier. However, it really does come down to “just doing it,” and neither overthinking nor looking for excuses.

Early morning workouts are one of the best lifestyle changes anyone can make.

They improve your quality of sleep, the quality of your day, and everything in between. And the first step will be tomorrow morning.


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