12 Tips No One Will Tell You Before Switching to Morning Workouts

Like many people, I've become a morning person not by choice but by necessity. My new job requires a longer commute that takes night workouts out of the picture. I've always preferred working out in the mornings anyways, but to fit it in now, I need to wake up at 5 a.m. and be at the gym by 5:30. This coming from a girl who, two short months ago, was lucky to wake up by 9 a.m.

A 5 a.m. wake-up call is mostly terrible, but somehow I've made it to my third week without quitting. (Not that I don't take a day off here and there, because wow, 5 a.m. is early.) I know this is a cliché, but if I can do it, truly, honestly, anyone can. If you're in the same boat, here's what I've learned so far about making early morning workouts happen. Results may vary.

The Night Before
Getty | Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

The Night Before

  1. Get everything done as soon as you get home. Maybe you have more self-control, but the moment I flop down to watch Netflix, I'm done with chores for the night. The solution I've found is to stay upright and moving until everything's finished. Get dinner going right when you get home, prep tomorrow's lunch while dinner cooks, and set out your clothes before putting on your pajamas. You might not have any energy left at the end of a workday, but you do have momentum; use it to check off your nightly to-do list, then start to relax.
  2. Yes, you have to lay out all your clothes (and everything else). Look, I hate getting this tip, I hate doing it, and I hate that it works. Before shifting my schedule, the dread of choosing clothes or packing lunch in the morning could keep me in bed for an extra 15 minutes. Having it all, and I mean all, laid out the night before — gym clothes, work clothes, lunch — has been a game changer. It makes things immeasurably easier in the morning.
  1. Get under the covers as soon as you're done with your nightly checklist. I used to fall asleep fully clothed on top of the covers because I was too tired to even get under them. My tip is to unmake the bed and get under the blankets as soon as you're ready to unwind with Netflix, Instagram, a book — whatever. Put in your retainer. Turn off as many lights as you can. When you start nodding off, you're all ready for sleep. Just put everything down and shut your eyes.
  2. Move your bedtime forward incrementally. I've heard this works, but I personally have a hard time making it happen. I think it's still worth a shot, though. You can start as slow as you want. I'll sometimes challenge myself to go to bed just one or two minutes earlier than the night before.
  3. Make it so you have no choice but to work out. This is like backing yourself into a corner every morning. If you prep your workout gear the night before, for example, it's more of a hassle to unpack than it is to put it all on and go. One tough morning, the only thing that got me out of bed was the thought that I had to wash my hair that day, and I didn't want to do it without working out first.
In the Morning
Getty | Geber86

In the Morning

  1. Do whatever you need to do to get out of bed. This is what it all comes down to, and it'll involve some trial and error. I know some people who put their alarm clock or phone across the room so they have to literally get up to turn it off, or they set cheerful phrases for their alarm titles. Neither of those have worked for me; I just have to repeat, "Get up, it'll be worth it!" to myself over and over.
  2. Find your "sweet spot" alarm. Experiment to see how long it takes for you to actually get up after your alarm rings. If you need to hit snooze once or twice, build that time into the routine. If I'm getting up at 5:15 a.m., I set my alarm for 5, knowing that I'll need another few minutes to doze. If you're a serial snooze-pusher, try setting an alarm for the last possible minute. Knowing that you have no time to waste can be the push you need to get out of bed.
  1. Make yourself as comfortable as possible when you're getting ready. Do things to tell your body, "Hey, it's OK that we're awake right now." If it's cold in your house, pull on a warm coat before you brush your teeth. If you're too tired to stand up, sit down while you put your clothes on. Play music. Make this early morning as enjoyable for yourself as you can.
  2. Once you're up, don't stop moving. This is where I really struggle. I'll get out of bed, brush my teeth, make my bed, and — this is the fatal mistake — sit down to check my phone. I lost 15 minutes doing this yesterday morning. Again, use your momentum. Once you're standing and moving around, don't stop until you're out the door.
  3. Eat a small breakfast, if it helps. I used to love having a banana with peanut butter before a morning workout. I've been playing around with intermittent fasting recently, though, and have found that I feel a lot better during a workout when I don't eat beforehand. Do whatever feels right for you. (And if you opt for eating, remember to choose only the best pre-workout foods.)
Last Thing . . .
Getty | Claudia Burlotti

Last Thing . . .

  1. Piggyback on top of other changes if you can. I moved and started a new job, which jump-started my new routine, but it doesn't have to be that major. Switch up your breakfast foods, take a different route to work, leave a couple of minutes earlier. I found that messing with my old routine made it easier to change my workout and wake-up schedule. Schedules can be paralyzing and feel impossible to change; making small shifts can get you moving again.
  1. Decide why working out is a priority for you. Getting up early every day is hard. If you're making this commitment, there's a reason for it. It might be short-term, like feeling good for the rest of the day; it might be long-term, like losing weight or training for a marathon; it might be a mix of both. Identify your reason, hold on to it, think about it often. Those positive, motivational thoughts will coalesce into a solid sense of discipline, and that's ultimately what'll get you out of bed in the morning.