I am not a morning person. I set three alarms every day because I hit snooze in my sleep. I struggle to get out of bed after seven hours of shut-eye. Mornings are hectic enough! Why add exercise to the mix?
Well, I’ve secretly always wanted to be one of those gym goddesses, working out first thing in the morning, fresh-faced and pre-coffee. Plus, I made it a New Year’s resolution—back in 2014. Finally, I was curious enough to see how exercise in the morning would affect my internal clock. What would my energy level be like throughout the day? What about my sleep quality at night? Here’s what happened.
Day 1: Sunday
To prepare for my early morning workout, I take down three glasses of wine on Saturday night. To no one’s surprise, I still sleep right through my 5:30 alarm on Sunday morning. I realize my transformation to early morning goddess will take serious determination. I go to the gym later in the day, as I usually would on a Sunday. I go to bed at 10:30 p.m., and set my alarms for 5:30 a.m., 5:40 a.m., and 5:45 a.m.
Lesson learned: No alcohol the night before a morning workout.
Day 2: Monday
I wake up to my first alarm at 5:30 a.m. alert, but not quite ready to leave my cozy pillow fortress. By 5:50, I am committed to getting out of bed. I groggily fumble around for workout clothes. So this is how the other half lives, I think to myself when I arrive at the gym. Post-workout, I feel great initially. However, by 10 a.m. I am ready to nap and by lunchtime I am ravenous. I fall asleep easily that night.
Lesson learned: Lay out workout clothes the night before.
Day 3: Tuesday
I try something new. Instead of setting three alarms and hitting snooze, I set a single alarm for 5:45 a.m. I want to teach my body that the alarm is nonnegotiable. I still snooze for 15 minutes, but quickly slip into the clothes I laid out the night before. I realize that it makes no difference if I get to the gym half an hour later, and I decide that 6 a.m. is a more realistic wake-up call for me. It may sound trivial, but for a snooze-button addict like myself, those extra 15 minutes make it easier to get up.
Lesson learned: Develop a realistic morning routine that works with your schedule.
Day 4: Wednesday
I rise at 6 a.m. without hitting snooze. I am a champion for sleepy people everywhere! The front desk receptionist at my gym comments on my early morning presence lately. I explain my experiment to her. She wishes me luck, and I tell her I will see her tomorrow. The next time I am tempted to hit snooze, I will think of her. I am unusually energetic throughout the day.
Lesson learned: Find a friend to hold you accountable for your morning workouts.
Day 5: Thursday
Waking up, getting dressed and leaving my house in 20 minutes feels like second nature. I have more energy during the day and sleep easier at night. The one major difference between exercising in the evening and in the morning is that previously, I would map out my workout during the day. I now began visualizing my workouts before bed. The Nike Training app is a favorite of mine.
Lesson learned: Plan your workout routine the night before.
Day 6: Friday
I wake up on time but am so sore that I make Friday a rest day. I think of the front desk receptionist cheering for me and feel slightly guilty, but I go back to sleep anyway.
Lesson learned: Listen to your body.
Day 7: Saturday
As much as I desire to be an early morning gym goddess, my heart just isn’t in it on the weekends. I wake up at my usual 8 a.m. and head to the gym.
Lesson learned: Be honest about your weekend plans to exercise in the morning.
Overall, this week taught me how to ditch my three-alarm habit, create and stick to a realistic morning routine that fits with my schedule, and how to plan ahead for my workouts. There will be some off days, but that’s just part of creating an early morning fitness schedule that works in real life.