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.
Why should you work out early?
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:
- It’s a great opportunity to get a head start on your day. There are no distractions, and you’ll be hours ahead of everyone else.
- It gets your metabolism rolling – early morning workouts increase hormonal activity, kicking your metabolism into high gear. The combination of food and exercise will get your metabolism rolling all day long, burning fat constantly.
- You have a better chance of making healthier food choices throughout the day. When you work out early, you are far less likely to make those spur of the moment, irrational decisions. Studies have shown that after a workout people are more inclined to make the mental connection between effort spent and how all of that hard work could be negated by a poor nutritional choice. In addition, when you get into the early morning habit, you have more time to plan your day. This makes it more likely for you to pre plan your meals; even take a packed lunch with you to work.
- It increases alertness and helps you sleep better at night.
- It overcomes distractions. As the day wears on, you are likely to come up with more and more excuses as to why you can’t work out.
- It is cooler. Working out in the middle of the day can be extra tough when the temperatures are soaring. The early morning option will allow you to generate more strength and intensity.
- You will feel great knowing that you have taken the time to maintain your body as your first priority of the day.
- You won’t have the weight of the coming workout hanging over you. Often when people train in the evening, they come to dread their workouts. This can happen because they are so exhausted at the end of the day that, even the thought of walking into the gym, can be headache inducing. Getting it done early is such a smarter way to go.
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.
Early morning workout tips
- Plan the night before what you are going to do the next morning. It’s usually a good idea to start with something that is going to get your heart moving, in order to fully wake you up. If you’re training at home, things like crunches, push-ups, wall sits and planks are good. Whatever you are doing, make sure that you have it planned before you fall asleep. You should also lay out your workout gear so that it will be right there in the morning, ready to slip into.
- Choose an energizing alarm tone. You want it to get you out of sleep mode. Why not set it to your favorite song – you know that one that you just can’t help but move to? You don’t want angelic tunes that are going to put your right back to sleep.
- Keep playing energetic music the whole way through your workout. Studies have shown that people who work out to their favorite music are able to burn more calories in an hour than those who don’t.
- Do NOT hit Snooze on you alarm. No matter what your mind is telling you, the snooze button simply cannot be an option. It’s too easy to just keep on hitting it. Once you hear that song you have to wake up.
- Splash water, drink water. Once your feet hit the floor, head straight for the bathroom and splash water on your face. Then make your way to the kitchen and pour yourself a tall glass of water. Water not only provides precious hydration, it actually makes you more alert and more awake. Once you start drinking water, your whole body will receive the message that you are not going back to sleep.
Breakfast before the workout: yes or no?
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:
- Make sure that you are supplementing well with such compounds as branch chain amino acids, creatine and vitamins.
- Don’t be performing an overly stressful workout. Go with a non- weight bearing exercise that is easier on the body, but still gets the heart rate up.
- Reserve your fasted early morning cardio sessions for cardio that is in your fat burning zone. That zone should be about 65% of your maximum heart rate. This will allow you to burn more fat in the time that you are working out. Cut down the time a little bit, also.
Simple early morning workout at home
Note: Complete as a circuit with no rest between each exercise. Rest for two minutes between circuits. Work up to three circuits.
Wide stance squats
- Spread your legs fairly wide with the toes pointing forward.
- Sit back and down into the lowest position possible. Keep the knees from going over the toes. Keeping the head in line, squeeze the hips forward to power back up to a standing position. Exhale as you push up.
Archer push up
- Assume a regular push up position, except that you spread your hands out wide with fingers pointing slightly outwards.
- From a top push up position, go down on one side so that your arm is stretched out like an archer. One arm should be bent at the elbow while the other forms a straight line with the shoulder. Exhale as you push up each time.
- Set yourself up against a wall, with tailbone and shoulders touching the wall and your legs bent at a 90 degree angle.
- Elevate the heels off the ground to flex the calves, hold for a second and then come back down.
Floating X plank
- Assume a plank position with all your limbs spread out and fingers pointing out.
- Lift your body and bend your elbows slightly to increase the pressure on the outer pecs. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Resist the urge to push towards your back side. Keep your body in line and your core tight.
- Stand with one step forward and the other back in a wide lunge position.
- Drop directly down to bring the rear knee to just off the ground. Focus on feeling the weight on the front quadriceps. Keep the front leg at 90 degrees. Exhale as you push straight back up.
Judo push up
- Assume a push up position with your butt high in the air.
- Keeping the elbows in tight, lower yourself down to swoop your head between your arms. Do not round your back.
- Swoop up into a cobra position with your arms straight and your chest and head directed upward.
- Lower yourself back down, following the same path to return to the start position. Keep your elbows in tight throughout the movement. Work to get a full range of motion, as if you were going under a barbed wire as you swoop down.