So You Want to Become a Morning Workout Person—Here’s How

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Working out in the morning sounds great in theory, but becomes a little less…appealing the first time your alarm goes off before the sun peeks out. We get it: It’s hard to psych yourself up for early exercise when your bed feels extra cozy and you know you’ve got a packed day ahead of you.

There’s nothing inherently better about a morning workout, and if you find yourself short on sleep, it’s probably wise to prioritize your shuteye over a trip to the gym, Anita Shelgikar, MD, professor of neurology at the University of Michigan Medical School and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, tells SELF. But getting your workout done and dusted—before your schedule has the opportunity to derail it—can be pretty awesome too. And the mood-boosting benefits of a morning workout can simply make the rest of your day feel a little brighter as well.

We know it can be tricky to make this a regular habit, so we tapped fitness and sleep experts for some practical tips to help you make it happen. Keep reading for all the intel you need to make your early-bird dreams a reality.

1. Commit to a consistent wake-up time.

Let’s start with the hardest part of all this: Getting your butt out of bed. To do this without feeling terribly zombie-like, stick to a set (earlier) wake-up call, sleep specialist W. Christopher Winter, MD, neurologist and author of The Sleep Solution, tells SELF. This applies to the days you want to work out in the morning and those that you don’t.

If you keep your wake-up time consistent, then your brain will eventually understand that’s when your day starts so “it can start to plan out everything your body has to do,” Dr. Winter explains. As a result, you should start to feel more alert even when it’s early.

Consider it a monthly challenge, Dr. Winter says. For the next few weeks, try to wake up at the same time each day, including weekends. That can help you get on a schedule. (Of course, this timing looks different for everyone, depending on things like your work schedule, childcare situation, or other responsibilities.) Once your body is acclimated, you may be able to add in a little wiggle room—maybe waking up an hour later every so often. Just try to stick to your regular schedule the majority of the time, especially if you want to make morning workouts a consistent thing.

2. Prep a little treat for yourself the night before.

There’s something about the smell of coffee that gives lots of people a boost, so if the sound of your alarm doesn’t quite do it for you, maybe a delicious aroma will. Preprogram your coffee pot to start brewing before your first alarm. Or if your machine doesn’t have that feature, get it set up the night before by loading up your grinds or popping a new K-cup into your Keurig for an easier caffeine fix in the morning.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to jazz up your cup if that provides extra incentive. Katherine Kelly, CPT, an instructor at F45, a functional training gym in New York City, tells SELF that black coffee just doesn’t cut it for her, so she treats herself to a latte as a way to make a morning workout even more alluring.

Not a coffee person? Pick another type of beverage (or pre-workout snack) that jolts and entices you. Sarah Gruba, certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and Les Mills National Trainer in Texas, is a big fan of Celsius energy drinks. She makes sure her fridge is stocked with them and then grabs one to sip on as she heads out the door for early gym sessions.

3. Flip on a bunch of lights as soon as you wake up.

Fun fact: The biggest factor that regulates your circadian rhythm (your body’s 24-hour internal clock that guides your feelings of alertness and sleepiness) is light, says Dr. Shelgikar. Exposing yourself to brightness sends a signal to your brain that it is indeed time to rise and shine, she explains, making you feel more awake and ready to get moving.

So try to get a big dose of light as soon as you can after your alarm goes off. Natural is best, says Dr. Shelgikar—fling open the curtains, or consider “smart blinds” that you can open from bed (or preprogram to do so) via an app on your phone. The catch: Depending on where you live and the time of year, it may still be dark outside when you’re supposed to get up.

The good news is, you can achieve a similar effect by turning on lights inside your home. Dr. Shelgikar recommends those that are at least 10,000 lux (a measure of how strong a light is, which you can sometimes find listed on its box), but really, any overhead option in your living space will do the job, she says. And the same tip applies here: Consider setting up smart bulbs so you can easily turn them on or preprogram them to light up as your alarm goes off.

4. Make plans with a friend you can’t wait to catch up with.

Morning workouts are a lot more fun—and easier to haul your ass to—when they double as social time. “It’s something to look forward to,” says Dr. Shelgikar. See if you can enlist a buddy to join you for those crack-of-dawn sessions, especially one you otherwise might not get to spend much time with (say, if your busy evenings make get-togethers tough to schedule). Together you can hype yourselves up to stick with a routine, support each other in your goals, and create positive associations with exercise that’ll keep you coming back consistently.

Don’t have an eager (or willing) friend nearby? You can always make a new one: Attend the same group fitness class regularly—it can help you find a sense of camaraderie and accountability. For example, Gruba teaches a 6 a.m. class on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and her early-morning regulars have forged a tight-knit bond. They’ll set up equipment for one another and send check-in texts if they notice someone is missing. “It’s really become more of a community effort,” she tells SELF.

5. Ease into the morning with a chill routine.

Thanks to the loads of “GRWM for the gym” videos on TikTok, there’s a misconception that you have to be super disciplined the minute your alarm goes off if you want to work out in the morning. It’s all about “don’t waste any time; get up and get going,” Kelly says.

Thing is, that type of intensity prevents a lot of people from even giving it a shot, she explains. A more approachable way to think about it: Start your day with a relaxing ritual. For Kelly, that’s drinking coffee while watching her favorite YouTube videos for about 15 to 20 minutes before willing herself to exercise. “I am not a morning person,” explains Kelly, who nevertheless works out early as a way to fit it into her busy schedule. “When I know that the first things I get to do in the morning [are things] I really enjoy—they’re just fun to me, they’re not hard—it makes me want to get out of bed.”

Think about a chill activity that soothes you, whether that’s scrolling cooking videos, cuddling with your pup, or doodling in a coloring book, and make that the first item on your a.m. docket before you even think about lacing up your sneakers. Sure, you’ll have to wake up a few minutes earlier, but knowing something enjoyable awaits will make climbing out of bed, and ultimately sticking to your workout plans, a lot more doable.

6. Keep it realistic—which may mean opting for shorter workouts.

If the thought of a daunting workout—whether that’s an hour-long spin class, a five-mile run, or a hot yoga session—is enough to keep you hiding under the covers, make things less intimidating by planning for shorter workouts that actually gel with your schedule. Remember: You don’t have to sweat it out for a certain amount of time for it to “count” as a workout—even brief bursts of movement can provide awesome physical and mental benefits.

To get the most bang for your buck, look for short classes or plan routines—like a 30-minute HIIT class, or a 20-minute full-body strength session—that will have you working hard without sacrificing tons of your precious morning time. This approach can spell the difference between being up at 5:30 versus 6, says Gruba. And knowing you don’t have to get up quite as early can make the habit that much easier to stick to.

7. And try to make your workouts a little cozier too.

If the thought of putting on tight exercise clothes first thing is enough to quash your motivation altogether, make your workout feel cozy—way more appealing—by dressing in ultra-comfy attire. Think: that super soft hoodie or those luxe velour sweatpants. This is another method Kelly relies on to make her early morning workouts happen.

“By just changing what I’m wearing, I change my whole attitude,” she says. Instead of pulling on form-fitting or compressive gear for a morning run, for example, she swaps it for a baggy sweatshirt instead, which she says automatically makes her feel happy and relaxed. “If I know I’m gonna feel nice and warm and cozy, then this run is going to be fun,” Kelly says. “It’s not going to be intimidating.”

And remember: Just because everyone else in spin class wears bike shorts, or your whole running group dons compression pants, it doesn’t mean you need to follow suit. “You can just wear what feels comfortable for you,” Kelly says.

8. Book a nonrefundable workout class.

If you’ve put your hard-earned money into a workout class, chances are you’re going to make sure you get to it. Gruba’s gym charges a no-show fee for folks who sign up for one and then bail, and she says that monetary incentive helps a lot of members stick to their a.m. plans. After all, no one likes to feel like they just flushed dollars down the drain.

To up the ante, consider booking a session with a personal trainer, if you can swing it and feel like you would benefit from it, Gruba adds. The cost will likely be higher than a group fitness class, making it that much more difficult to cancel your plans. Plus, hiring a trainer is a great way to improve your exercise form, work toward specific goals, and overall stay motivated since you know someone else is counting on you—and you alone—to show up.

9. Plan a delicious post-workout meal or snack you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Knowing that a satisfying and special meal is waiting for you at the end of your workout can provide the boost you need to commit to an a.m. session. This is a big motivator for Gruba, who likes to visit the bagel shop next to her gym after a workout. The key here is that the bagels would be a hassle to access if Gruba didn’t go to the gym, in which case she’d likely just have a ho-hum at-home breakfast, like cereal or a protein bar. “It’s always a nice treat getting to go and try the bagel of the month,” she says.

Use this trick by planning on a yummy post-workout breakfast or snack. Bonus points if it’s something you probably wouldn’t be able to get if you skipped your morning session—the amazing egg sandwiches from the cafe by your gym, say, or the delicious smoothies at the place near the end of your running route, or even a homemade scramble that you wouldn’t have time to make if you slept in.


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