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Let’s talk about working out in the morning before work. For those of us who do it or who have done it, it’s life-changing. And for those of us who have never done it, it seems almost crazy. I’m going to give you some insight and information on why working out in the morning is awesome, with a little science thrown in too. But first, a story …
Last week, my little sister-in-law (Dave’s younger sister), who lives in Santa Cruz, came to stay with us for three nights. She is in her first job fresh out of college, and she needed to be in Oakland for some meetings, so we were happy to have her. During her visit, I brought her along with me to my early morning BODYPUMP class I teach on Tuesday, which starts at 6 a.m. She was a total trooper, and woke up early with her alarm and was waiting for me in the kitchen ready to go by 5:25 a.m., just like I asked her to.
What was funny was the discussion we had in the car on the way to the gym (which happens to be 20 minutes from my house and not super convenient). She asked me if there would be anybody there. And while she was kind of joking, in a way, she wasn’t. As a college student and a young professional, she has always gone to the gym after work in the evening, and that’s in her nature. Like most people, she has energy in the evening, and likes to go exercise after she is fully awake and done with her other responsibilities for the day. I get it, because I used to do it exclusively that way too. (And I’m an anomaly, because I actually work out in both the morning and the evening these days, depending on the day and my group fitness teaching schedule. But that’s neither here nor there.)
When we got to the gym that Tuesday morning and walked in, she was surprised to see nearly every cardio machine full and a packed cycle class taking place — all at 5:45 a.m. We used the foam rollers, then headed into the group fitness studio and people began filling that room too — all 40 of them. The workout was great, and we all had a good sweat, and after the class, I saw the glow on everyone who attended. They knew their sweat session was complete for the day, they had exercise-induced endorphins, and they were revved up to take on their day. It’s a beautiful thing.
Benefits of working out in the morning
My conversation with my dear little sis-in-law made me realize that sometimes, if you don’t really know WHY to do something that’s not easy at first, you can avoid it. So I wanted to give you all some background on the decision to get that workout done first thing in the morning, because you may find that it can improve some things in your life that evening workouts cannot. Here we go …
1. It will get easier over time as your brain changes
The first thing I like people to know about working out first thing in the morning is that it will get easier. When we start to learn a new habit, we are actually changing pathways in our brain. With repetition, those pathways get clearer and we’re able to do it with less and less struggle as time goes on. When you start working out in the morning first thing, you are literally changing your brain and creating new neuro-associations. That’s powerful.
At first, perhaps the first three to four weeks, you may feel like a zombie. It may feel ridiculous to get up at 6 a.m. or earlier and head to the gym or head out on a run or head to your basement for a workout video. And you won’t like it. But if you put one foot in front of the other and keep up the habit, it will TOTALLY become second nature. I promise! You’ll crave it. It will become part of you. Just ask the 40 people who come to my BODYPUMP classes on Tuesday mornings at 6 a.m. They roll out of bed, grab their gym bag and make it to class with very little effort. It’s ingrained in their brains.
2. It will help you to sleep better at night
This is something that I knew helped with my own body, and then was completely affirmed when reading Shawn Stevenson’s book “Sleep Smarter.” Because of the way our natural hormones work, you have a rush of cortisol (stress hormone) in the early morning after you wake up. If you exercise at this time, you can take advantage of this rush of cortisol, and then it will lower throughout the day, before the melatonin comes into play to get you to sleep at night. However, if you work out after work or in the evening, you are actually forcing a spike in cortisol that may not be naturally occurring in your body. That evening workout could delay the melatonin, and thus delay you getting into a deep sleep at night.
So yes a morning workout, helps you capitalize on your natural hormones and sleep better. And we all need sleep. (That’s something I’ve written all about here, so don’t miss it.)
3. No projects or new plans can get in the way of it
How many times have you had your afternoon workout plans derailed by a new project at work, a flat tire, or a family commitment that came out of left field? Probably a lot. It’s so much easier for the cards to get stacked up against you as the day goes on. And it makes getting to the gym on a regular cadence in the evening a struggle. However, if you work out first thing in the morning, it’s less likely that something can get in the way. You do the movement, you get cleaned up and you get on with your day. It’s amazing. You can even book a social activity for the weeknight if you want to.
Take it from me — that feeling you have AFTER your morning workout will stay with you all day. You’ll know you did something great for your body, and you’ll be able to be thankful for it through whatever the rest of your day hands you. On the flip side, you get those endorphins after an evening workout too, but they don’t get to stay with you as long until the day ends. Make ’em last!
4. It helps you to make healthier choices all day
True story: If you work out in the morning, it sets the tone for a healthy day. If you know you already got your sweat session done, you will probably be riding high and interested in eating fruits and veggies and staying hydrated. It’s top of mind. You may even be able to say no to those chips in the lunch-room that you don’t really want anyway. I’m not sure of the science behind this point, but I know it to be true with my own body, so we’ll go with it.
While I love the energy of an evening group fitness crowd and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing workouts at night, I have seen the benefits first hand of a regular morning workout routine, and want you to know that you may too. (Please note: Movement is important, so if you can’t do it in the morning, don’t sweat it, do it when you can … as always, I’m just giving you the info.) And here are some healthy pre- and post-workout nutrition choices …
Tips for how to work out in the early morning
And here’s how you can be successful at it …
- Do it every weekday. It’s SO much easier to get used to waking up early to work out if you have your body do it each day. I used to be adamant about my 5:30 a.m. wake-up, and that was the time that I was most consistent for my mornings. Once again, because of my teaching schedule, that’s a little different now, but I know I operate best with the same workout and wake-up times each day.
- Pack your things the night before. Pick out your outfit, pack your bag and have it all ready for you so you don’t have to waste any time in the morning. I actually put my sneakers and gym bag in my car the night before, so I can roll down to the garage in my socks and head out. (But yes, I put my shoes on before I drive, don’t report me 🙂 !)
- Find a workout buddy. There’s nothing quite like knowing that your friend has set up your spot in the group fitness room in the darkness of morning and you need to be there to fill it. Many of the people in my early morning classes become friends, because you share a community with like-minded early risers, and it’s very powerful. Convince someone else to do it with you, and you’ll be so happy you did.
- Plan your pre-workout nutrition. Unless you’re doing fasted cardio, I like to think that a little something to eat before a workout is a good idea to give your body more energy to push harder. You can eat half of a Premier Protein bar, a banana with almond butter or even a Greek yogurt with berries. Something quick. Get it down about 30 minutes before your workout if possible.
- Plan your post-workout nutrition. Then, after your workout, have your recovery nutrition on the ready. You’ll always find me with a protein shake waiting for me in the car after my workouts, and that revives me, refuels my muscles and holds me over until I shower and have a chance to sit down to a full breakfast. Premier Protein offers ready-to-go single-serve cartons (more than 24 vitamins and minerals in these) as well as protein powder to mix with water (or smoothies) for this too, and they are tasty! I like all the flavors, because they are creamy and honestly taste like a treat. Dave’s favorite is chocolate, and I’d probably go with banana, because banana. With 30 grams of protein, it’s just what your muscles need to repair, especially after a resistance session like BODYPUMP. (Make sure you get enough protein throughout the day too.)
- Streamline your morning to-do list. Get as much done as you can the night before that will prepare you for a fast get-ready after your workout. That means packing your lunch, making sure your family is all set with their food for the day (if you have others relying on you), having your workout outfit ironed, and if you can, try to schedule your work meetings or calls to start a little later to give yourself some wiggle time. It’s not fun to feel super rushed after your great gym sesh, so the more you can clear out of the way, the better.
- Go to bed earlier. Just because you switch to morning workouts doesn’t mean you should skimp on sleep. Count back from the time that you’re going to wake up by eight hours, then make sure you are in our bed at that time. For me, I am in bed no later than 9:45 p.m. on the nights when I’m planning to wake up for my early session. Sleep is key!
I have to say that working out in the morning can really change your days. You feel so good when it’s done that you are often more energetic, positive and motivated with everything else that comes your way.
Whenever you choose to move is totally up to you, but knowledge is power, so I hope you enjoyed my thoughts! And remember, the day is yours!
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Premier Protein. I received compensation and free product, but all opinions and words are totally my own. Thanks for reading!
Questions of the day
Do you work out in the morning? What’s your morning routine?
Do you know someone who should become your gym buddy? Ask them!