When you work out early, you are far less likely to make those spur of the moment, irrational decisions and you have more time to plan out your day.
The difference between high achievers and quitters is simply that those who achieve put daily habits that give them an edge into their lives. It is the consistency of those habits that makes the difference. One of the most profound daily habits that you can incorporate into your schedule is to start your day with a quick morning workout.
If, within thirty to sixty minutes of waking up, you can get in some cardio or interval training that will get you breathing and your blood oxygenating, you will be able to achieve more during your day, you’ll be able to think better, it will improve your mood by releasing endorphins and provide a whole host of other physiological, emotional and psychological benefits.
So, why put your body through the ordeal of getting up early, when you can easily squeeze that training session in after work? Here are 7 compelling reasons:
Studies have shown that even a little bit of exercise, such as a twenty minute walk, produces tremendous health benefits. It doesn’t need to be the toughest workout of your life. You can ease into your day with a gentle exercise session and still receive very tangible benefits. Studies have also shown that children who get a little bit of exercise before school will show demonstrable improvement in their grades.
Getting out of bed in the morning doesn’t come easy to many of us. Mind over mattress syndrome hits all of us. We may feel groggy and not with it for the first few minutes after waking – and we have an overwhelming desire to turn over and pull the blankets over our head. Yet, by being tough with ourselves, and pulling those blankets away, we will feel a whole lot better in the long run.
Like anything, practice makes it easier. And, if you’ve been getting by with the excuse that you’re just not a morning person, forget it – it is possible to reprogram your body clock. It simply takes a little perseverance. Stick with it for 21 days and you’ll be in the early morning workout habit.
As you are getting into the early morning workout habit during that first three weeks, allow your body to graduate to the new routine. You might set you alarm clock to 30 minutes prior to your normal time to rise during the first seven days. Then move it back by a further 15 minutes the second week. Go back another fifteen minutes in week 3, so that you are now getting up a full hour earlier than you were before.
You can also graduate the intensity of your workouts. Start with a fairly light routine in Week One, ramping up the intensity, until by Week 3 you are training at the same levels as you were before you switched to morning workouts.
On the way to your training session, think about your goals for that day. This is a great time, before the rush of the day comes, to smell the flowers and meditate on what needs to happen for you to have a great day. You should also think about the coming exercise session and what you need to do to make it a successful workout.
During this time, it is also important that you breathe properly. Take in a long, deep breath through your nose until the lungs are completely full and your chest is inflated. Hold this breath for 5 full seconds. Now, allow the breath to slowly leave your body. Think about expanding and compressing the diaphragm as if it were an accordion on every inward and outward breath.
Should you eat before your early morning workout? If you are trying to increase your strength and muscle size, then the answer is a resounding YES. The reason is that you need to provide your body with fuel to power you through your training session. And you want that fuel to be the most efficient source possible.
So, you definitely want to have carbohydrates, unsaturated fats and proteins. If you don’t eat before your early morning workout, you are not going to be able to perform at your maximum. That means that you won’t be able to stimulate sufficient muscle growth.
What about when your focus is on cardio in the morning? Perhaps your focus is on fat loss or simply on improving your cardiovascular fitness. Does it make sense, in that case, to work out on an empty stomach?
The concept of training on an empty stomach has gained a lot of popularity over recent years. The general idea is that because you are in a fasted state you are able to tap into your fat stores for energy to compensate for the lack of glucose or glycogen available to the muscle cells.
There is not a lot of scientific evidence, however, to support that thesis. However, that doesn’t mean that we should write working out in a fasted state out completely. It shouldn’t, though, be used by people who have naturally high levels of cortisol.
These people will naturally store extra body-fat around their middle. Working out on an empty stomach will push their cortisol levels even higher, compounding their fat gain issues.
People who don’t have naturally elevated cortisol levels, and are not overly stressed, can potentially use empty stomach morning cardio as a tool to burn additional body fat. You should be within about 20 pounds of your ideal body weight. However, there are a couple of provisos:
Note: Complete as a circuit with no rest between each exercise. Rest for two minutes between circuits. Work up to three circuits.
Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer who lives in New Zealand with his wife, Shelley, and two daughters. For the last decade, Steve has taught literacy to Middle School students. He also runs a fitness boot camp for pre-teens.
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