How to Master the Work-Morning Workout

Morning Work Out

“You are crazy.”

That’s what most people say when they find out I wake up at 5 a.m. and hit the gym before work four days per week. (And probably what you’re thinking now.)

So why do I do it?

Aside from the fact that it makes me feel productive first thing in the morning (and ensures I get first access to the lone bathroom in my tiny Chicago apartment,) starting your morning early has long been known as a key to success – especially when you start it at the gym.

A couple years ago, Yahoo! Finance chronicled the life of 20 CEOs. More than 70 percent of business leaders surveyed made time to exercise in the morning – even if it meant waking up at 4:30 a.m. to beat the kids’ alarm clocks. As Forbes also reported, this time in the morning can enable you to map out your day and be mentally ahead of what’s to come. Plus, people who exercise regularly feel better about having a work-life balance, and getting it done in the morning ensures your workout won’t be jeopardized by something that happens during the day.

I’m no fitness expert – and trust me, I have my good days and my bad. There are days when I pop out of bed, and days like this morning, where I debate crawling back into my PJs until the moment I walk out the door. But after six years of trying to master the morning workout habit, I’ve garnered a few insider tips for the 5 a.m. workout novice.

  1. It won’t happen overnight. I’ll never forget one of my first industry lunches as a young PR pro, when a woman at my table divulged that she hits the gym every morning before work. “How??” I blurted out, a dreary-eyed 23-year-old who had more than enough trouble getting up at 7 a.m. “It took years,” she answered. And it’s true. It’s not you – it’s the mornings. It’s hard, and it’s going to be hard for a little while. But the more you do it, the easier it will get – I promise!
  1. Set a schedule. Every week, I take a look at my schedule and figure out when I’m going to get my workout in. Some weeks, I base it on a morning class I want to take – others, a business trip. When I plan a super hard workout, I give myself the next morning off to be sore (and sleep in!) Planning ahead ensures you have no excuses.
  1. Be accountable. Even now, as I write this post, I realize that by sharing my workout routine with all of you that I’m officially held to it. When I wake up tomorrow morning and want to sleep in, this blog post is just one more reason I’ll get out of bed. Sharing your commitment to working out with those around you – whether family, friends or coworkers – will make you feel like you have to stick to it.
  1. Reward yourself. When I work out two or more days in a row, I entitle myself to a treat in the morning – whether a Starbucks latte or my favorite-ever Peanut Butter Banana Power Smoothie. But if I didn’t work out that day or if I had the previous day off, I forbid myself from a morning indulgence. Why? Because the second or third day you get up in a row is always the hardest, and promising yourself a short-term reward can be just the extra boost you need to make it out of bed.
  1. Find a buddy. Teaming up with someone who has your same fitness ambitions will only help your commitment to morning fitness. This can be a friend you meet at the gym every morning, a group of coworkers you challenge to spin class (we did it here in Chicago!) or a virtual buddy system where you and a friend exchange motivational texts when you wake up. Feeling like you’re in it with someone else will only motivate you more (and ensure you don’t bail.)

If you’re also a 5 a.m. workout junkie, I’d love to hear your tips. And if you’re not, I’ve been known to volunteer to send my fellow Zenoids a motiviational morning tweet. You can find me @jackiekohlhag.

Steve Earl
Steve Earl

Rarely up that early but I know someone else who is...! Cycling to work is my morning exercise and there's usually enough wind in my face (and persistent danger) to wake me up properly.