8 New Ways to Become and Stay a Morning Exerciser

SHAPE magazine
Healthy Living
December 5, 2012

by Jessica Smith for SHAPE.com

Working out in the morning sounds great: It's one thing off your to-do list, it energizes you for the day, you may catch some amazing sunrises, and, of course, you're less likely to blow it off. "People who work out in the early morning tend to stay more consistent because there are less obstacles at 6:00 a.m. than there are at 6:00 p.m.," says Chris Freytag, a national fitness expert and American Council on Exercise board member.

All well and good, but if actually waking up that early-and then sticking to routine for good-is still an obstacle for you, follow these simple tips, and you'll be up and running (or lifting, or swimming, or…you get the point) on a regular basis in no time.

1. Be specific when you sweat:
Don't just say, "I am going to work out tomorrow morning." Create an organized plan of action, pinpointing exactly what type of workout you will do at what time, says Patricia Friberg, a certified personal trainer and creator of the Power 4 Pink DVD. Your only task in the morning should be to get out of bed and get moving, so spend a few minutes on Sunday writing out your weekly workouts, strategizing around your schedule. For example, if you have to be in the office early on Tuesday for a meeting, maybe a quick 15-minute at-home workout is best. This is also a great way to be sure you're balancing your cardio and strength days.

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2. Get up and go with H2O: Java is the first thing most people think of (and reach for) when they want a jolt in the morning, but it's not the best choice for the lasting energy you need to give it your all throughout your gym sesh. Leave the coffee for after your workout and have two glasses of water instead, suggests Tamal Dodge, a certified yoga instructor and star of the DVD Element: Yoga for Energy & Relaxation. Agua helps alkalize your body and provides energy that will sustain and motivate you to get through your a.m. routine, he says.

3. Really reward yourself:
A little somethin'-somethin' for every two weeks you work out-say, a manicure or new yoga top-can help motivate you to stick to a consistent fitness routine, Freytag says. To make an early wake-up time just to hit the gym even more appealing, she suggests promising yourself a bigger reward if you meet a long-term goal. "I love a fun competition and this is a way to create a little competition with yourself," Freytag explains. Maybe you decide to aim to run a half-marathon within six months, and if you cross that finish line, you'll take that cruise to the Bahamas that you've been dreaming of. And in this case, all that running will help you rock your bikini.

4. Upgrade your alarm clock: Having a shrill, eardrum-busting bleat jerk you out of a dream isn't the most pleasant pre-workout routine. So instead of using your phone's alarm to wake you up, use it to arouse you in a more natural way. The Philips Wake-Up Light HF3550 syncs to your iPhone and combines natural sound (choose from eight options, including birds and the ocean) with light, which is an environmental stimulus for regulating circadian cycles and helps signal to your body that it's time to wake up, says Karen Armstrong, a certified Pilates instructor and creator of the InControl Pelvic Exercises for Women DVD. The light gradually changes to mimic a sunrise and gently coax you to consciousness so you're in a good mood and ready to exercise.

5. Stay in your PJs: When it's too much effort to drive to the gym or even put on your sneakers and step out the door for a walk, stay inside. Pop in a workout DVD, try a simple at-home circuit routine, or just turn up your favorite playlist and start shaking those hips! You can even exercise in bed.

RELATED: The Best Fat-Loss Workout of All Time

6. Make it fast: There's no rule that says you have to exercise for 30 minutes (or more) at a time to get in a great workout; in fact, more research supports the idea that shorter workouts spread out throughout the day can be just as beneficial. The key is keeping things short and to the point and giving your all the entire time. You definitely have time for this seven-minute routine, or blast calories in 10 minutes in the morning and, if your schedule allows, repeat the routine again midday and at night.

7. Do something you love: Classes that require studying usually aren't fun; classes that require sweating? Sign us up! The high energy, music, and movement of a group class, whether it's spin, kickbox, Zumba, or something else, may be all you need to jump-start your day, says Emily Naim, a certified dance fitness instructor and star of the DVD Dance off the Inches: Latin Cardio Party. And even when you've found a group you like, continue to try other classes, she says, to spice things up and keep you coming back for more, no matter how early the session is.

8. Nail the details: A few little things may be all you need to start looking forward to morning workouts. Skip the sweats and pick out your cutest, most energizing gym garb in bright colors to help boost your mood and inspire you to attack those dumbbells. If you work out at home or will return, set the timer on your coffee maker to brew your favorite flavored joe at the end of your session. And don't overlook the power of the perfect playlist.

More on SHAPE:
6 Moves for Slimmer Hips and Thighs
The Truth About Food Combining
The 4 New Body Types

Eight tips to help make rising and sweating with the sun second nature.
Eight tips to help make rising and sweating with the sun second nature.

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