I have little choice when it comes to waking up early in the morning. After all, I have an energetic 3-year-old who doesn’t understand the meaning of, “Go back to sleep!”
But an early morning workout? I don’t think so. It’s too dark outside, my bones are too tired and my bed is far too comfortable for that kind of behavior.
But maybe an early-morning workout routine is worth a second look. I caught up with personal trainer and health coach Laura Williams to find out how we can trick ourselves into exercising in the darkness of morning and how it can actually be as beneficial as your early riser friends say.
Devise a reward system
Guilty pleasures are an excellent way to create exercise motivation, even when you have none. For instance, Williams suggests that you subscribe to a magazine that you only let yourself read at the gym, or listen to a favorite podcast only when you’re on a morning run. “This type of reward system works two ways,” she says. “If you don’t exercise, you’re denying yourself something you love. But if you do, you’re receiving a reward that will help solidify your new program.”
Grab a buddy
Nothing beats a workout partner for exercise motivation and accountability. “You’ve probably heard it before — if you know your friend is waiting for you at 5:30 in the morning, you’re less likely to bail on your workout because you don’t want to leave her hanging,” explains Williams.
Pay a trainer
Even if your friends are as unmotivated as you, you can still find the accountability of a workout partner by paying a personal trainer for an early morning session. You’re less likely to skip out on the appointment if you’ve paid for it, right? According to Williams, “This method is particularly effective if your trainer’s guidelines require a 24-hour notice of cancellation, because if you don’t show up, you’ll lose your money on the session.”
Take a photo as proof
Social media is well known for its role in ego trips, but you can use this to your motivational advantage. “Instagram proof of your early morning workout, and watch the likes roll in,” exclaims Williams. Social media also offers the opportunity for accountability at a distance — in other words, if you find an online “workout buddy,” he or she can hold you accountable if you don’t post your proof every morning.
Make a list and check it twice
“Change your internal conversation about early morning workouts,” suggests Williams. “Write down all the positive things you gain from waking up to exercise, like quiet roads, an energizing start to your day or greater morning productivity.” Post your list on your mirror, and keep adding additional pros as you settle into your new morning routine.
Create a mantra
Finally, never underestimate the power of a good mantra. Repeat a powerful phrase over and over until you have the energy to pull yourself out of bed. “Create the mantra from one of the reasons on your list, so that your powerful phrase is personalized to your goals and personality,” says Williams.
And remember, you’ll likely fail to get up once or twice. That’s OK, and it’s no reason to give up your health habits. Once you create a routine that works for you, the failures will occur less regularly and you’ll be on your way to better health.
A version of this story was published March 2014.
Before you go, stock up on our favorite workout recovery essentials: