Learn to Love Your Morning Workout—Once and for All
Set Your Alarm on Weekends
Becoming a morning person doesn't just happen overnight. "Some of what makes a 'morning person' is biological," says Janet K. Kennedy, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and founder of NYC Sleep Doctor. "But habits also play a big role in how our energy fluctuates throughout the day." Start by sticking to a sleep schedule—that means (ugh) waking up at the same time on weekends too. "It can take a few weeks to start feeling more energetic in the morning, but consistency is the key," says Kennedy.
Phone a Friend
Let's be real: Finding a friend to help keep us accountable is often the only thing getting us to 6 a.m. spin. Noam Tamir, owner of TS Fitness in New York, always recommends that his early-bird clients buddy up to make the idea of being in the gym before the sun a little less intimidating.
Be Ready for Any Weather
As the days shorten and the temps drop, dragging yourself out of a warm and cozy bed to make your morning workout becomes less and less appealing. Daniel Lucas, co-founder of Nimble Fitness, suggests being ready with the right gear. Don't let a little rain stop you from crushing your a.m. goals—keep a cozy running fleece and rain-proof jacket at the door for unexpected morning surprises. (Upgrade your wardrobe with these Must-Have Workout Clothes to Take You Into Fall.)
Goldilocks Your Dinner
To maximize energy, it's important to go to bed just full enough but never stuffed, according to Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of NY Nutrition Group. "Carbo-loading at dinnertime can make you feel more sluggish and tired in the morning, as your body has to work hard throughout the night to digest everything properly, affecting your overall quality of sleep," she says. "On the flip side, skimping at supper means you won't have enough energy reserves for your morning sweat session." Shoot for lean protein like chicken or fish, a half a cup of cooked whole grains, and at least one cup of veggies.
Unleash Your Inner Stylist
Just like you used to do as a kid, laying out your outfit before you hit the hay takes one more item off of your morning to-do list. Plus, you decrease your chances of forgetting to throw a real bra in your gym bag to change into before work. Embarrassing!
Staring at screens right before bed is a major sleep no-no (the blue light your iPhone emits screws with your internal clock). That's why Tamir recommends putting the phone away and turning off the tablet at least an hour before bed to let yourself unwind.
Listen to Your Body
According to Kennedy, it's not about the amount of hours your head is on the pillow, it's about the quality of the sleep you're getting while it's there. "Forcing yourself to go to bed early when you aren't ready to sleep is likely to backfire," she says. "If you aren't ready to sleep, you are more likely to feel stressed. And that stress will make it harder to fall asleep." If you're wired at bedtime, unplug and unwind with some chamomile tea. You'll be catching Zzz's in no time. (Or check out these Affordable Products for a Better Night's Sleep.)
When that alarm does go off at an ungodly hour, don't you dare hit the snooze. "The sleep you get when you snooze the alarm is not good quality and it can leave you feeling groggy," says Kennedy. Just set your alarm for the time you actually have to get up and stick to it. (Having trouble getting up? Try one of the 6 Get-Out-of-Bed Morning Motivators!)
Cozy Up with Joe
A cup of coffee actually does more for your morning workout than just jolting you awake: "It can also help burn more fat during exercise," says Moskovitz. Set your coffee pot timer to start brewing 10 minutes before your alarm goes off and you won't give a second thought to hitting snooze.
Snack for Breakfast
While some of us can get away with working out on an empty stomach in the wee hours, we're not all built that way, says Moskovitz. If you need something, grab an easily digestible and energizing snack like a whole grain cereal bar or even just a glass of OJ, which will give your body a little bit of juice.
Slow It Down for 5
One of the worst parts about dragging yourself out of bed unnaturally early is feeling rushed and stressed. So Tamir recommends slowing things down a little. "Give yourself time to do some meditation," he says. "Just five to 10 minutes of getting in a relaxed position and letting your mind go blank gives you great energy."
A cold shower is a surefire way to shock you into alertness. Can't get yourself to do it? Compromise! "Turning the temperature a bit colder for the last 30 seconds will get you wide awake," says Tamir.