Why You Should Be Working Out First Thing in the Morning
During high school and college I grew to despise my alarm clock.
As a swimmer my alarm clock went 5-alarm crazy at 4:45am four days a week, at which point I would shuffle to the pool (all too often through a bleak Canadian winter) with my teammates where we would swim up and down the black line for a couple hours before heading off to school.
One of the best feelings of my life was the first Monday morning after I left the sport where my alarm went off, and as the confusion passed, I realized that I could guilt-free go right back to sleep.
A funny thing has happened since then.
With no one to tell me what time to get up I soon learned to respect the early morning workout, and to be honest, while I don’t miss the awful sound the alarm made (and I don’t get up at the ungodly hour of 4ish AM), I have grown to appreciate the early morning workouts a lot more.
The key to a successful workout program is finding a time and schedule for your workouts that allow for the highest percentage of completed sessions.
While it’s easy to fixate on finding the best supplements, or the coolest-looking workout gear, the real game changer when it comes to results in the gym isn’t something you pick up at GNC or will find in the forum of a bodybuilding website.
It’s picking and sticking to a time where you are most likely to be consistent with attending to the gym. Depending on your schedule this might mean not being able to go to the gym until late at night, or mid-afternoon, or during peak hours during the after-work rush.
Whatever your schedule, here are 8 reasons you should choose to workout first thing in the morning:
Early morning workouts tend to encourage better eating habits later in the day. Exercise is one of those keystone habits that seeps into other areas of your life. After a good workout you tend to lean on better food choices to compliment the healthy physical decision you have already made.
Early morning workouts remove the sense of “Ugh, I still have to…” that plagues many of us late in the day when we are bushed and the last thing we want to do is go to the gym. Get it out of the way early, and you can focus the rest of the day without the nagging sense you still have something to do later.
Early morning workouts give you a better chance at having a killer workout. Think about it, at the end of the day you are mentally and physically worn down and your willpower is bordering on depleted. In the AM you are fresh, mostly awake, and mentally you are more energetic than at the end of a long workday.
Early morning workouts tend to come with more gym space. If you are one of the brave souls who go to the gym right after work for the 5–6:30pm frenzy you are well acquainted with the line-ups and craziness that the gym assumes during this time. In the mornings it’s a much different pace. Less waits, less people, and a quicker and more efficient workout.
Early morning workouts get your day off to a great start. The sensation of having accomplished something early in the day is a fantastic way to get your day going. (Want another easier one? Make your bed each day. Seriously. The little hit of dopamine that comes with completing what seems like such a benign task can help propel your day.) When your workout is done and over with, you can’t help but feel a little more stoked to take on the rest of the day.
Early morning workouts means that you are less likely to bail on the gym. When you make going to the gym part of your daily morning routine your workout program becomes habit. And when it becomes habit, well, the gains and improvements start to happen on auto-pilot. And the easiest way to get the habitual gym sessions going is to attach it to something you are already doing. By piggy-backing the gym to something you are already doing — “When I do this, I do that” it makes the habit easier to install (this is called intention implementations, something I discuss in this thorough guide to workout motivation).
Early morning workouts make getting up easier. Your body is a hilariously smart piece of machinery. Once you get into the swing of getting up and working out at a specific time your body begins to anticipate waking up at a specific time. This makes it much easier to wake up, as your body is already priming for what is to come by adjusting the circadian rhythm and endocrine system in anticipation of waking up. (Additionally, morning exercise typically helps you get to bed earlier at night.)
Early morning workouts make you mentally sharper. If you’ve ever struggled with a creative task, and then gone for a run and had the answer hit you while on mile 4 you know what I am talking about. Exercise has been shown to boost brain function both short term (up to 4–10 hours) and long term (adding moderate exercise pushes back cognitive decline by 10–15 years in even middle aged people). Getting that early morning sesh in means that you are not only helping out your brain big time in the long run, but your decision making and mental output will greatly benefit for the rest of the day as well.
At the end of the day it doesn’t really make that much of a difference what time you hit the gym.
What matters most is that you are going.
If that means hitting the gym at 1am, than so be it.
But if you’ve got the consistency and routine part down, consider hitting the gym in the mornings so that you can propel yourself physically and mentally through the rest of your day.
Olivier Poirier-Leroy writes at YourWorkoutBook.com. He also writes for USA Swimming, SwimSwam Magazine, STACK, and others.
This post was originally posted over at YourWorkoutBook.com.