Whether it's been because it's depressingly dark or because its too cold to bear taking off the covers so early, a 6am wake-up time to get my butt to the gym has been my white whale. But I begrudgingly filtered through a bunch of different methods, finally stumbling on an odd combination of elements that have proven successful for me. Will they be the very set of circumstances you've also been seeking to transform yourself into an early morning gym rat?
There are early morning gym people — the people who understand that staying healthy is worth getting up early for. The kind of people who motivate themselves to pump out a lot of bicep curls before the sun has risen for enviably toned arms (I'm looking at you, Michelle Obama). And then there's me. My spirit's in the right place, but my body is rarely in the place I want it to be early in the morning: At the gym on the treadmill. Though it's still early in the new year and there's plenty of time to fail with this resolution, I've so far found the way to make it to the gym as early as I'd like:
What You Need
- A serious thermos (or any effective consumer insulated liquid carrier)
- Workout clothes
- Smart phone
- Pad and paper
1. Keep a (good) thermos near your bed filled with your favorite caffeine
Now I don't recommend pounding back a couple of cans of energy drinks the moment you wake up to try and get yourself out of bed to go to the gym. But according to some scientific studies, drinking caffeine before a workout has been shown to increase how many calories you burn. For me, it's been the most effective tool against anti-gym grogginess yet. I fill my thermos with earl gray tea before I go to sleep and simply take some sips (along with some sips of water) as I try to wake up. (Side note: Drinking hot tea in bed on a cold morning is so sumptuous, as well. I feel like I'm on an episode of Downton Abbey now.)
2. Make sure your bedroom temperature is set to "able to throw the covers off"
Because I'm vain and convinced that heaters dry the air out and cause wrinkles, I like to sleep in a bedroom with low heat (if any) and a pile of blankets (a snuggly cat also helps). It makes for a cozy in-the-bed sleeping experience, believe me. But waking up — and facing the task of throwing the covers off and moving around in the world — becomes a Herculean task when you wake up in a room with an air temperature closer to the surface of Pluto.
My solution? I keep a space heater within reach so that when I wake up to start sipping on that sweet caffeine-laced earl gray, I can switch that heater on max to transform my bedroom into an environment more closely approximating a Bikram yoga studio before having to twist my own arm to leave my cozy bed.
3. Keep your workout clothes within reach
Pretty self-explanatory. Laying out your workout clothes the night before and within bed reach makes it easier to get on, and cutting out any challenges so early in the morning is important. Alternative idea: Wear clean (not tight) workout clothes to bed (though you might leave off the running shoes) so you cut out even having to get dressed in the morning.
4. Do a mind-stimulating task on your phone — or reach for a book
A rousing digital card game of FreeCell on my phone has been my recent poison of choice with the delightful effect of shaking the cobwebs off enough to know that getting to the gym is going to be better for me in the long run than staying spooned next to my cat. Some days I read the latest Lenny newsletter. And on days I'm really trying to be obnoxiously good (and have managed to keep the smart phone out of reach of my bed so it's not the first thing I reach for in the morning), I grab a book from my bedside stack.
5. Have a pad and paper near you just in case
Sometimes it's work worries/thoughts that flood in the moment consciousness switches on for the day. Even if I do manage to peel myself from bed, I've been known to switch on my laptop to punch a little work out while it's fresh in my mind. But, by keeping a pad and paper near me I can quickly jot down my ideas so I can get them out of my head, on to paper and out of the way of my goal of making it to the gym.
6. Know that just getting there means you've won the day
Another big thing for me has been taking expectations of how hard I "should" be working out off the table. Before I settled on this series of successful steps, the first few thoughts in the morning after waking up were usually me playing the "Rocky" theme song in my head and trying to motivate myself to really go work out hard. I'd imagine running extra fast on the treadmill in my mind, or think about how many reps of some exercise I was going to do. I was doing this in an attempt to pump myself up...but really it just had the effect of feeling like way too much to take on so early in the morning.
A sign on the front door at the gym I used to go to in Austin had in really big letters in a motivating color and font something along the lines of "Just getting here is half the battle!" or "Getting here means you've won!" I don't remember the exact phrasing. But as corny as it was, it really stayed with me because it's true. Just getting to the gym early IS a win by itself, and it's the first goal I focus on in the morning, not thinking ahead to how many squats I'd like to do for the day. Then, once I get to the gym and start moving, motivation comes much easier.
7. Have a "treat" at the ready
For me it's getting to catch up on a podcast. I'm a huge podcast junkie. So knowing that once I get to the gym I can catch up on an episode or two is a big motivator for me. If that doesn't sound like your thing, maybe consider having a treat ready for you by the time you get back from the gym, like a healthy but yummy breakfast, or a spa-like shower experience or even another (perhaps slower consumed) cup of coffee. It's made a big difference in me actually enjoying the gym.
How do YOU motivate yourself to get to the gym (or to running path or to work) as early as you'd like? Share in the comments below!