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How I Turned Myself Into an Early Morning Exerciser

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As a health and fitness writer, I know the research: Morning exercisers are more likely to stick with their routines and reach their goals, getting natural light early in the day (like when you’re out for a sunrise run) can boost your mood and help you lose weight, and exercising too close to bed can harm your sleep. But that advice didn't apply to me, I thought. Not only was I a total night owl, but the few times I did work out in the morning I felt weak, tired, and sick all through my session—and the rest of the day. But recently, after being super busy at work and with friends, I found myself kept skipping my workouts. Something had to change, so I decided to give morning sessions another shot.   

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Since I hated a.m. exercise (and mornings in general), I eased myself in, slowly shifting my sleep hours, going to bed laughably early every night, and making time for personal projects in the morning to simply get myself used to being awake. Then I took the most drastic step: I quit drinking coffee. (Okay, okay, only for a little while.) My reasoning: If I couldn’t get myself dressed without a cup, I’d hardly be able to make it through a workout. I slowly eased off of my three-cup-a-day habit, eventually switching to decaf, and then to nothing. Not surprisingly, it was much easier to fall asleep at night, and as a result, easier to get up the next day. (I’ve since resumed drinking coffee, though in much lower quantities.)

Then, I started with a few circuit-training sessions a week. (My apartment building has a gym in the basement, so all I had to do was ride the elevator downstairs—that definitely helped.) But I found I needed a longer warm-up, so included plenty of foam rolling to wake my muscles up. Eventually, I added in morning jogs and treadmill sprint workouts. I took it easy on myself at first—cutting my pace and mileage targets and simply focusing on making it through 30 minutes. Pretty soon I was back at my previous speed and stamina levels.

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A little trial and error helped me figure out what my stomach could handle. If I ate nothing, I’d lose motivation halfway through a session, but if I ate cereal or even a whole banana, I’d want to vomit. My favorite pre-workout snack these days is, weirdly enough, a graham cracker and a big glass of water (whatever works, right?). I also found that (duh) I needed to eat a bigger, high-protein breakfast post-workout, or else I’d be ravenous well before noon.

Do I still fight the urge to hit snooze when my alarm goes off at 6:15? Sure, but I also can’t imagine going back to exercising at night. Switching things to the morning means I rarely miss a session, and I fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly than I used to. Plus, there’s nothing like running as the sun comes up over your city. The streets are quiet, the air is still fresh, and when I’ve put in my miles before 8 a.m., the day feels full of possibility. 

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