This is a guest post from Dan Chabert, an entrepreneur from Denmark who loves to run. He competes in ultramarathon distance running events. When not racing, he stays busy managing his websites, Runnerclick, Nicershoes and Monica’s Health Magazine. He also loves to travel the world together with his wife.
New year’s is one of my favorite times of the year simply because I’m a nerd who absolutely loves goal-setting and self-improvement. Sure, many people loathe this time of year because many of us swear that we’re going to make some sweeping change in our lives — only to completely falter and stop before January even ends — but there are some people out there who use this time of year to their advantage and actually enact some positive change. Without question, many people swear that they’re going to start exercising regularly in the new year, but if you haven’t exercised regularly anytime in the recent past — or even more, if you’ve never exercised before — getting started becomes incredibly intimidating.
I’ve been a regular morning exerciser — and specifically, a runner — for nearly all of my adult life now. I’ve learned a lot in the process and have made many changes along the way, and one of the best things I’ve done was grant myself some flexibility. I’ll do whatever I can to make my morning exercise happen, but if life intervenes, I don’t dwell on it. Instead, I’ll commit to trying my best again the next opportunity I have. I encourage you to remember that it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Do the very best you can today. If your morning exercise doesn’t happen as you envisioned, don’t beat yourself up over it. Try again at your next opportunity.
Below, I’m happy to share with you some of my tried-and-true practices and tips for making morning exercise a regular habit. I talk about my practices particularly related to running, but I think that my tips are transferable to any type of morning exercise. Be your own best advocate, and give yourself the permission to try morning exercise. It may be tough, it may be the most uncomfortable you’ve been in a long time, but it may also be wonderful and it may literally change your life, as it did mine. You won’t know until you see for yourself.
Before you go to bed at night
Create some alarms. Perhaps this goes without saying, but if you’re not accustomed to waking up earlier than usual to go (or lift weights, or walk, or whatever it is you’re doing), you can’t expect to simply rely on your body to awaken you at the right time. Don’t leave your wake-up to chance, and instead set an alarm (or a few) to help get you out of bed at the right time. Also — and this is key! — remember to set your alarm for the correct time of day (A.M. versus P.M.). I’ve learned that one from experience, unfortunately.
Make your morning seamless before you go to bed. You probably will want to maximize your sleep time, so one of the best ways you can do that is by preparing your morning before you go to bed. I always put my clothes out (everything I’ll be wearing, from the hat on my head to the ), ensure all my technology is charged (such as my GPS watch and my headlamp), and I’ll sometimes even prepare my pre-workout provisions, such as a banana and a cup of tea, so that I can grab everything and go as soon as I awaken in the morning. I know some people who swear by actually going to bed in their workout clothes, too, so that when their alarm goes off, all they have to do is roll out of bed and get going. Trial and error will teach you where your gaps are in your preparation, but that is to be expected.
Once you’re in bed, go to sleep. It can be really tough to do, but once you’re in bed and are anticipating an early morning wakeup, just go to sleep and don’t waste time scrolling through social media. Even if you think you just want to “check” your social media accounts, I bet you’ll spend more time than you realize on everything, and unfortunately, that time cuts into your sleep time and leaves you shortchanged. When you’re trying to get used to waking up in the early morning hours to exercise, do everything you can to ensure that you still get enough sleep each night, and you might even want to consider slowly moving up your bedtime each night to accommodate for your earlier-than-usual wakeups. One of the best ways to get enough sleep is to minimize the time you spend online before bed. It’s a tough habit to break — again, speaking from experience — but it’s really important.
Wake-up! Time to exercise!
Stay off social media until after your . Just like I mentioned before, aimlessly scrolling through social media takes up more time than you think, and if you’re committing yourself to an early morning workout, you don’t want to lose your precious time. Don’t check stuff until after you’ve completed your workout for the day. If you must, look at the weather so you know that you’ve dressed accordingly, but nothing else. I promise you that social media can wait!
Meet-up with a friend. It can be far easier to roll out of bed in the morning when you know you’ll be meeting a friend to sweat. You don’t want to be that person who leaves their friend hanging, do you? Particularly if you’re going to be exercising outdoors in the early morning hours, having a friend do it with you can make you feel safer, too; just remember to still take all the usual safety precautions, such as making sure you’re dressed in a way that motorists can see you. I bet you’ll find that working out with a friend makes the sweat session fly by, too.
Have patience. If you’re not used to working out in the morning — or even working out at all — it might not feel too great at first. You might feel grumpy about it and think that the time you’re spending and the sacrifices you’re making aren’t worth it. I promise you though that just like with any habit you want to create, time will make it better and eventually even somewhat “second nature” to you. When was the last time you tried to do something brand-new-to-you for the first time? Chances are that it didn’t go smoothly your first go of it. So, too, is it with morning exercise. Time and experience will teach you what you need to do, all the steps you need to take, to make it a seamless part of your life, but it’s unrealistic to think that it’ll be perfect from the get-go. Grant yourself some patience and flexibility and know that getting into a morning exercise routine is absolutely worth it: for you, for your health, and for your mental and physical well-being.
The new year is a great time to remind ourselves how important it is that we take care of ourselves. It’s so important that we be our own biggest advocates — that we look out for ourselves and commit ourselves to self-care and self-love, just as we commit ourselves to caring for our loved ones in our lives — and establishing a regular exercise routine is an excellent way of practicing self-care and self-love. Recent studies show that people’s motivation levels are at their highest levels in the morning hours, which makes sense, if you think about it. Take advantage of this biological trait, and use it to your advantage as you work toward making morning exercise a habit.