10 Great Ways to Maintain Motivation and Improve Results from Morning Workouts
By Christopher Cudworth
Getting up early to work out is both a science and an art. Having conducted many failed experiments in the science and art of morning workouts in a hundred ways, here are guidelines gleaned from successful strategies that now drive the fervor. See you on the early morning roads!
The Science of morning workouts
The science part comes from being ready to work out early in the day. Preparation is key because when you roll out of bed you can’t afford to be chasing down socks or shoes or biking gear like helmets or lights. The science of getting ready is in knowing what you need and setting it out the night before.
The Art of morning workouts
The art of early morning workouts has to do with motivation. It is easy in the closing hours of day to imagine yourself getting up at 5:15 a.m. to run or ride or swim. But when the alarm goes off and you roll over to turn it off, that warm and cozy bed holds you in its clutches. At times it seems impossible to escape.
That is when the art of motivation is so critical to your success as an early morning workout person. What follows are helpful hints to build that motivation into your brain structure.
The Tricks of the Trade
There are a few tricks to consider in getting yourself up and out of bed every day.
#1. Have an event lined up that keeps you motivated.
You don’t have to be a big time racer to get motivated for early morning workouts. Yet it does help to have a ride or run or race on your calendar. Preferable it’s a little bit of a test of your fitness, or a commitment you’ve made to others in terms of a fund raiser or a friendly commitment to ride a century or run a half marathon or marathon. That way, when you roll over in bed there is a little voice that says, “Ah ah aahhhhh. No going back to sleep. You’ve got a commitment to keep.”
#2. Look at yourself in the mirror the night before.
Since most of us are not walking around in perfect shape or peak fitness all the time, you can really gain motivation by looking in the mirror each night before you go to bed. That way you say to yourself, “I really need to get up and work out tomorrow, because I need it.” It also works the other way around. If you’re on a fitness roll and can see the results in the mirror, there’s no better motivation in the world.
The former is admittedly negative reinforcement while the latter is positive. While we’d all likely Jones on choosing our fitness rather than working so hard for it, it’s best to be realistic about where you are. Turn the negative of body image into positive motivation and be sure not let your guard down if you’re looking and feeling great. One sudden injury or too many skipped morning workouts puts anyone back in the negative results bucket.
#3. Keep a chronicle of your workouts, and vary your routine.
Give yourself gratification in recording your workouts somehow. Use your smartphone, computer or plain old handwritten journal, but whatever you do, write that workout down after you’ve gotten up to work out in the morning. That early affirmation is a great way to start the day.
Make sure however that you don’t fall into a rut with your morning workouts. If you’re getting up early every day to work out, be sure you go “hard day-easy day” to allow recovery. Also, if you put in a hard speed workout or a long weight session, your body actually needs two days to recover. The “day after the day lag rule” (Marty Liquori) always applies. Don’t injure your self by coming back too quick after a hard workout, and vary your pace, weights, routine and keep track so you don’t forget. That’s what workout journals are for.
#4. Have a workout partner. Even if it’s that person in the reflection.
Some people just do better when they meet up with another person to train. That’s especially important if you are an early riser. Knowing your buddy is jogging in place down the corner waiting for you can get you out the door each day and on time.
If you’re a morning loner with no choice but to work out on your own, it can really help to have a mirror nearby in which to check your form or give you feedback on the fact that you’re up and at it. Take advantage of the internal narcissist.
I like to run or ride past a long set of windows on an office building where the reflection shows me how I’m doing in terms of running and riding form. In a way, it’s also like you’re no longer alone.
#5. Reward yourself
After you’ve gotten up to workout at 5:00, go buy something good and healthy to eat on the way to work or whatever calls you next in your day. Don’t erase the benefits of an early workout by loading up on calories, but a slightly sweetened hot or cold iced tea is good, or a sip of good coffee and some fruit can start you off right to feeling good about yourself all day.
#6. Be reasonable. And realistic.
It may not be possible to get up every day of the week to work out early in the morning. Be forgiving if your body demands rest. There’s no sense making yourself sick by getting so overtired you catch a cold. Plus, you may have commitments that need to be met. The unsettled feeling you get when there are 10 things asking for your time and you’re ignoring them all in favor of a four-mile run is not good for your head. Better to clean up some of the obligatory clutter and do a better quality workout the next day than to drag along unrealistically hoping your problems and commitments will go away. Flush those feelings and move on.
#7. Go to bed on time, and on schedule.
Getting your body into a rhythm that enables you to work out early in the morning requires discipline in habit and in spirit. If you’re getting up at 5:00 a.m. tomorrow you likely need to get to bed by 10 a.m. to get a basic 7 hours of sleep. That means no sloughing around the couch while The Daily Show runs through its paces. Because if you allow yourself to stay up too late the morning hours and your wakeup alarm will feel like it arrived too early. Then it’s too late to recover and too late to change.
#8. Be safe.
There are other practical considerations as well, such as having safe routes for early workouts. That means safety in terms of actual movement and safety for women or men who workout where threat of physical harm from strangers is possible. While the numbers of women runners continues to increase, safety is still a top priority especially for women. That’s why a treadmill or a bike trainer can be a better alternative than hitting the roads or parks in the dark. A health club is the ideal place for women and men who want to work out in a controlled environment. It’s not for everybody, but for many it is the ultimate safe venue for fitness any time of day.
#9. Be Amazing.
Surprise and amaze yourself. When you get your body into a groove of early morning workouts it will cease to feel early at all, and you’ll amaze even yourself how good it feels to get up when the rest of the world is asleep. Often you have the streets to yourself, and only a few fellow souls out there doing their best to keep in shape.
But when it comes to quality workouts, there is no physical or mental reason to back off or feel as if you can’t perform your best just because you are up early. The body needs to adapt to early morning performance because that is when races often take place. So don’t save the “hard stuff” for later in the day. Go hard and get fast! That mental and physical rehearsal will serve you well come race day.
#10. Be Yourself
If your partners are forcing you to go too hard or too easy on your morning workouts, be yourself. It does you no good to get up that early in the morning and be stressed or not satisfied by your efforts. Be honest with yourself by being honest with your partners if you’re feeling at odds with your program. Perhaps you compromise by doing half the workout with them and moving on by yourself.
If you’re working out alone as is often the case, it also pays to be honest with yourself on each day’s effort. Feel great? Let it rip. No so sharp? Go slower or shorter and live to train another day.
You’re in it for the long term even if you’re getting up early to get a head start. On your program. On your day. On your goals. On your life.
Early is good if you can make it work. Now get out there and shine.