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Just as the best exercises are the ones you enjoy doing, the best time to exercise—whether that’s a mid-day, evening, or morning workout—is whenever works with your schedule. Figuring out how to start working out is hard enough without having to rework your entire routine. That said, there is one time of day that seems to have a leg up for exercising, and that’s the morning.
Surveys show that you’re more likely to stick with a morning workout or exercise program than one later in the day, when you’ll probably be distracted by other responsibilities or have time to come up with excuses to skip your sweat session. Other research reveals that people who are exposed to morning light are more likely to have a lower body mass index. Not to mention, of course, that morning workouts can help you beat the heat of summer. And if you’re participating in any type of fitness event, start times are almost always in the morning. If you want to compete at your optimal level, it’s wise to get used to morning workouts.
So how do you do it? Experts have their favorite tips for making the morning your preferred time of day to exercise. Read up, and get ready to set your alarm for a few hours earlier than usual.
Log a good night’s sleep
This should be a no-brainer, but if you don’t log the sleep you need, you’re not going to feel like getting up in the morning, let alone tackling a morning workout. While you should shoot for seven to eight hours of sleep, making the switch overnight isn’t always easy, which is why Jonathan Jordan, a personal trainer and nutrition coach in San Francisco, works with his clients to add 30 minutes at a time to their bedtime routine. “Even if you lie quietly in bed and do a little deep breathing or meditation until you fall asleep, it can help,” he says.
Bump up your sleep quality
It’s not just the quantity of sleep that matters; quality does, too. One rule Jordan employs with his clients? Adopt a 30- to 60-minute device blackout period before bed. During this time, abandon your use of phones, computers, and light-emitting devices. “Clients who do this sleep better, have more energy, and report less stress, better diet, and even better digestion,” he says.
Related: 6 Ways to Exercise at Home (When the Gym Is Crazy Crowded)
Take baby steps
How appealing does it sound to wake up an hour earlier just to exercise? Probably not much. Yet could you wake up 15 minutes earlier and squeeze in a quick workout? Probably so.
Get used to doing this for a week or two before moving your wake-up time up 15 minutes again. Repeat until you’re up with enough time to log the exercise you want. Progressing slowly will help you adapt to that earlier wake-up call better, says Jennie Gall, owner of Relevé Pilates Studio in Ripon, California.
Prep your stuff
Set out your workout clothes, gym bag, and whatever else you need for your morning workout the night before. “This minimizes the chance of forgetting things and saves time in the morning,” says Michael Huey, athletic trainer and founder and CEO of He-Fluence in Safety Harbor, Florida.
Set an alarm across the room
Leave that alarm clock beside your bed, and it’s all too easy to hit the snooze button. But if you place it across the room, you’ll have to get up to turn it off. The extra benefit of doing this if your smartphone is your alarm? “It’ll help you stay off your phone late at night,” Gall says. Translation? You’ll sleep better.
Down some caffeine
Permission granted to sip that cup of coffee before exercising, as long as you stick with just one eight-ounce serving and avoid unhealthy add-ins like cream, cane sugar, and artificial sweeteners. “In moderation, caffeine is widely recognized and safe for sipping pre-workout,” Jordan says. In fact, studies even suggest that caffeine can aid fitness performance.