A couple of years ago, I made the switch from working out mainly at night to exercising mainly in the morning. Now I am up and at ’em pretty early most days of the week to either teach classes, train clients, or work out on my own.

It is definitely nice to stay in bed longer some days, but then I know I’m postponing my workout until later in the day when other commitments tend to get in the way: traffic, being too tired after work, needing to get things done at home, a friend calling to go to happy hour, etc. Getting to the gym can be hard enough, and I find that there are simply fewer obstacles at 6am! Plus, my morning workouts energize me for the day and help me be more consistent overall.

Since I am frequently asked to share the things that helped me establish a routine and start regularly exercising before the sun comes up, I am going to provide you with a few of my personal strategies and insights today.

My #1 Tip for Becoming a Morning Workout Person… Plus 8 Additional Strategies

I’ve seen many friends and clients just decide then and there that they want to become morning workout people. They get excited, they tell everyone they going to give it a try, and then what do they do? They go home and set their alarm clocks for 5:30am the next day… when they are used to waking up two hours later at 7:30.

In my opinion, jumping right into a drastically earlier wake up call can actually be a huge setback. Just like I would never recommend that a client jump into barbell back squats if they’ve never squatted with dumbbells before, I really don’t recommend the big leap in schedule differences either. That 5:30am wakeup call will most likely seem pretty terrible, especially if bedtime isn’t adjusted on the other end.

My number one tip for how to become a morning workout person is to actually just take a few weeks to adjust to a new wakeup time, without the workout included. Every night, try to go to bed 5-15 minutes earlier than the night before, and set your alarm the next morning for 5-15 minutes earlier than normal. This will help you gradually get your sleep patterns consistent. For many, it’s not the waking up earlier that’s the tough part, but rather the going to bed earlier… consistently.

Here’s an example of what this might look like for someone who currently goes to bed at 11:30pm and wakes up at 7:30am, with a target total sleep time of eight hours per night:

Week 1

  • Monday: Wake up at 7:30am like usual, bedtime at 11:20pm.
  • Tuesday: Wake up at 7:20am, bedtime at 11:10pm.
  • Wednesday: Wake up at 7:10am, bedtime at 11:00pm.
  • Thursday: Wake up at 7:00am, bedtime at 10:50pm.
  • Friday: Wake up at 6:50am, bedtime at 10:40pm.

Week 2

  • Monday: Wake up at 6:40am, bedtime at 10:30pm.
  • Tuesday: Wake up at 6:30am, bedtime at 10:20pm.
  • Wednesday: Wake up at 6:20am, bedtime at 10:10pm.
  • Thursday: Wake up at 6:10am, bedtime at 10:00pm.
  • Friday: Wake up at 6:00am, bedtime at 9:50pm.

Week 3

  • Monday: Wake up at 5:50am, bedtime at 9:40pm.
  • Tuesday: Wake up at 5:40 am, bedtime at 9:30pm.
  • Wednesday: Wake up at 5:30am. Then go to bed again at 9:30pm.
  • Thursday: Repeat 5:30am wakeup, bedtime at 9:30pm.
  • Friday: Repeat 5:30am wakeup.

Now this is not an exact science, so definitely adjust for your own schedule. Maybe you shoot for seven or nine hours of sleep. That’s fine! Maybe you try 15 minute increments, but you do them for a week at a time instead of switching it up every day (ie bedtime at 11:15 for the 7:15 wakeup during week 1, bedtime at 11 for the 7am wakeup during week 2, etc.). That’s fine! Work your own specifics in, and maneuver it in the way that is the most likely to give you a successful outcome. Try not to sleep too late on the weekends as to not derail your sleep progress during the week. Finally, use any extra morning time to be productive or do some of the things that you tend to do toward the end of the day, especially if you are still exercising at the end of the day during this adjusting period. Clean, throw a load of laundry in, journal, get to work early, meditate, sit and read during a leisurely breakfast, you pick! You might find that starting your morning in these ways can actually be quite nice.

Sunday Breakfast

Once your sleep schedule becomes a little more consistent, then give the AM workouts a go. Here’s where some of my other morning workout strategies might help you maintain your early to rise habit for the long haul:

  • Schedule it in. Just like you would put social obligations, appointments, etc. into your planner, schedule your workouts too.
  • Have a plan. Know what you will do at the gym ahead of time. This way you don’t have to think about it when it’s so early and your brain isn’t awake yet. Be specific. If it’s leg day, what lower body exercises are you going to do? If you are looking for someone to take the thinking out of it for you, let me help!
  • Set your clothes out the night before. Digging through dresser drawers in the dark? No thanks.
  • Pack your bags the night before. This includes your lunch, your change of clothes for work if you get ready at the gym, and/or anything you might be bringing with you that morning. This will prevent the need to run around in the morning.
  •  Move your alarm clock. If you are guilty of hitting snooze or just shutting off your alarm, I recommend physically moving your clock across the room. This will force you to get up and out of bed to turn the alarm off, and sometimes that is all it takes. I find that this tip is especially helpful for those cold and dark winter mornings you don’t feel like getting up!
  • Find a morning workout buddy. I think the buddy up concept really can apply to any time of day! You are more likely to be accountable to someone else than you are to yourself. Make a date, and show up. Bonus: grab breakfast or a smoothie together afterwards!
  • Pump yourself up. Keep your favorite songs handy in the car. Blast them as you drive to the gym to get psyched for your workout. Make sure you have a good playlist ready to go too!
  • Be flexible with yourself. There are going to be nights you don’t sleep well or mornings where staying in bed is the right choice for you. Be adaptable, and don’t beat yourself up about it. Don’t forget that you need to be well rested in order to get a good workout in.

Puma Ignite XT

Of course, there is no golden rule that says working out in the morning is any better or more effective than working out at night. There are pros and cons to both. I find my body takes longer to warm up in the morning, but I ultimately have more energy for my workouts than when I leave them for the end of the day. However, there were many days in my corporate 9-5 job where I would anticipate a stressful day ahead at work and leave my workout until later so I’d have a healthy way to blow off some steam.

I think your best bet is to decide what is easier for you to stick with long term. Just remember that as always, what is right for one person isn’t necessarily optimal for someone else.

Oh yeah, and one more thing. Just because someone works out in the morning doesn’t mean they are a morning person… because coffee and because don’t talk to me and because I still need to ease into the rest of my day. 🙂

Hope these tips help!

  1. I LOVE working out in the morning. That way, there is NO excuse. I enjoy going to bed early although I know NOTHING about pop culture! Everyone at the gym is so friendly in the morning and we have such a nice community. It’s almost like an “underground” community! We are up when it’s dark! Everyone is so positive and when we start our day at work, we’ve already got the blood and endorphins flowing!

    • The morning crowd is definitely an underground community! And the morning workouts help with nighttime excuses for sure. 🙂 Sometimes though, I’ll save my workout for later if it works better with my schedule or I want to blow off some steam. Or if I didn’t get a good night’s sleep and would be too tired. But the majority of the time, morning it is!

  2. If I didn’t work so damn early I would workout in the morning every day! Well, that and I teach at least a few days after work, haha as a compromise, I plan my workouts during my lunch break at least 2 days a week. I literally schedule it in my calendar so people can’t schedule meetings during that time. This way, I don’t have to wake up crazy early, I don’t have to drag myself to the gym after work AND I always end up having a better workout since I know I only have a short amount of time to do it. It took me a while to prefer this schedule, but now I love it!

    • Totally makes sense! Even though I personally am more of a morning workout person, it doesn’t make sense for everyone to be. Sounds like you’ve found your groove with lunchtime workouts! Nice to run in to you last week during one of them too 😉

  3. Great article, Athena! I love that you gave a sample schedule, too. So helpful. I’m definitely going to direct people to this page when they ask me how I get up in the morning : )

    Your tips re: packing your bags, laying out your clothes, and having a plan really resonate with me. If I don’t do these things, I have a MUCH harder time getting up. I think a big part of it is that when I wake up early and have thoughts of not wanting to get out of bed, I instantly think, “well…. I’ve done so much already, between packing my bag, making my breakfast, making a smoothie, getting the coffee maker ready….”. By the time I’m done running through a few of the things in my head, I’m up! I also think it’s really useful, like you said, to get up early on your other weekday mornings and try to use the time to get things done. That way, it doesn’t feel like you only get up early as “punishment” for workouts. Sorry this is so long… it’s just something that interests me : )

  4. Morning workouts are the way to go! I’m never motivated to workout in the evening after work. Although I haven’t been doing them so much lately, just too tired this far along in pregnancy! I’ve been doing 5 minute workouts and walks in the evening when I can.

  5. Great post, Athena! I have almost always been a morning workout person, but then again I’m a morning person in general. I tend to wake up early no matter how late I stay up, so I much prefer to go to bed earlier so that I feel rested. For me though, my energy really tanks in the evening, and any evening workouts I do are always at about half of the quality of my morning sessions. Even when we go to NBGNO events, I have a much harder time with those workouts than I would if I did them earlier in the day. I don’t know if it’s a mental thing or not, but I’ll stick with the mornings anyway!

    • Thanks, Steph! I’m totally with you on the NBGNO workouts. I am always thankful for the energy of the event and other fitness peeps like you to keep me motivated and working hard there!

      Miss you, hope you are doing well!

  6. Nice read here! I’m a morning person. No matter how late I stayed up, that doesn’t matter. My body always wake up early. But sometimes, I feel lazy working out. I know it’s best to workout in the morning because when I do, I feel energized the whole day.

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