As a Certified Personal Trainer with a slim physique, people always seem shocked when they find out I used to weigh nearly 100 pounds more than I do now, or that I ever had a hard time sticking with exercise. Yet indeed I did (read: My weight loss story). This fall, I celebrate 10 years of starting my fitness journey, which resulted in a dramatic weight loss and a new, healthier lifestyle.
I’ve been able to successfully stick with exercise this time around because I’ve set a regular time to workout and am faithful and consistent with it. For me, that time is the early morning. In fact, I credit this as the #1 reason for my success. I get up over an hour earlier and do it before work.
But get this: The reason I exercise in the morning is NOT that I’m a morning person. I am not naturally a morning person. Yet it works for me.
Do I wake up excited, like I can’t wait to hit the gym? Do I hit the ground running, bursting with energy? In other words, do I feel like working out? Honestly, no. I don’t feel like doing anything other than hitting the snooze button and rolling over.
It’s not a matter of waking up and saying, hmmm, do I feel like working out today? Because if I did that I’d never get started! No, I have a pre-set schedule and I’ve learned to simply follow it, there’s no deciding or debating. I do enjoy exercise once I get going though, and I’m always glad I did it.
I’m certainly not saying it has to be the morning for you. Many people enjoy working out after work; it’s a great stress reliever. It doesn’t matter what time, it matters that you DO it.
But stay with me here for a moment while I make the case for morning exercise.
Here are five surprising benefits I experienced with exercising in the morning, and how they propelled me to success:
Simply put: It gets done
As a mom, as a professional, at some point during the day something unexpected either with work or family always seems to come up that affects my schedule. (Sound familiar?)
But by working out in the early morning, I do it, get it done, and it’s out of the way. No matter what else the day throws out at me, my workout is already finished.
Plus, it’s much easier to workout after a night’s sleep than waiting until the end of a long day when you’re exhausted. How many of us start out with the best of intentions to get things done after work, but then collapse on the couch? If you exercise in the morning, you’re less likely to skip your workout and can stay on schedule.
It’s a peaceful, beautiful way to start to the day.
In the early morning, it’s quiet, and no one else is up yet. It’s my “me” time, and I came to cherish it. I didn’t realize how much I needed that until I started doing it.
While I started on the treadmill at first, eventually I took my workout outdoors for power walking or cycling. And that added something wonderful: Every day, a beautiful new sunrise! It was there all along, yet I’d never truly experienced it. I either slept through it, or I was too busy doing a hundred other morning things to go outdoors.
Seeing the star-filled night sky turn into a different brilliant canvas painted by nature each day became a kind of spiritual experience for me. It’s a powerful visual that each day is a new beginning full of possibilities. It helped me become more calm, centered, creative, optimistic and refreshed.
Being out at dawn you’ll also probably see some wildlife. I’ve seen foxes cross the road; lots of deer, including a snow-white albino; bunnies racing alongside me; and songbirds of every color glide by.
And, physically it feels more comfortable for exercise because you’re avoiding the heat of the day in the summer, and the depressingly early darkness of a winter evening.
It’s a treat for all your senses. What a beautiful way to start the day!
Note: If you’re outdoors pre-dawn, be sure to wear light colors and reflective gear; and use safety lights made for runners and cyclists.
It will fire up your metabolism
You burn more calories throughout the day when you do a morning workout than you would if you did an evening workout at a similar intensity. It’s due to a principle called EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This is how your body can continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished exercising. You’ll use this to your advantage with a morning workout!
Exercise puts you in a good mood and increases your energy
When you exercise before work, you’ll feel less stressed on the job. Exercise is a well-known mood booster. It increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, triggering the release of endorphins and serotonin, the “feel good” hormones, helping reduce stress and anxiety.
You’ll also start the day with a feeling of accomplishment, knowing you crushed your workout.
It helps you wake up
By now you might be thinking: All that sounds good — but how am I going to feel awake enough to exercise first thing in the morning?
What I discovered is that exercise HELPS me wake up. It takes me a while to get going in the morning, so I get up at least an hour before I exercise so I can start to feel somewhat human. But I don’t necessarily wait until I feel fully awake to get started. Once you begin moving, your body will start to wake up and you’ll feel energy begin to kick in. For me, it can take the first 10-15 minutes of my hour-long workout for this to happen, and sometimes longer. But it always does happen.
In time, morning exercise became like coffee for me. On days that I don’t work out first thing, I feel sluggish and out of sorts. Your body really starts to crave that movement. It needs it. We were made to move.
Tips to make it easier to work out in the morning
- Yes, you do have to go to bed earlier to make this work.
- Set a daily alarm. Get up immediately, don’t hit snooze.
- Set out your exercise clothes and accessories the night before.
- Also, plan your work outfit and make lunches the night before, and anything else you can do ahead to get out the door on time.
- Create your training plan ahead of time and stick to it. Don’t wait to decide that morning when you’re tired.
- If you’re not a morning person, get up early enough to give yourself time to become alert. Have your coffee. During this time, I unload the dishwasher, fold laundry, or do other simple tasks that keep me moving but don’t require mental energy that I don’t yet have.
- Have a small pre-exercise meal to fuel you without feeling heavy.
- Drink plenty of water upon arising, and during and after your workout.
- Catch an early class on the way to work, if that works for you better than exercising at home.
- Walking the dog is a great way to get a morning walk in.
- Do what you can. Even just 10 minutes will benefit you and is better than nothing.
Do what works for YOU
Is morning or evening the best time to exercise? The answer is simple: The best time of day to work out is the time that you will do.
Set a time that works for you, and whether that’s morning, noon or night — be consistent with it. Stick to it. Schedule it, like it’s an important meeting. It needs to have that kind of priority.
In order for exercise to work, you need to get it done. And if you do it first thing, it always is.
For more on this topic, grab a copy of my free eBook, “6 Secrets to Winning at Exercise (Even if You’ve Always Failed!).