Plus a 20-minute at-home routine to help you rise and shine.
First things first: The key to waking up and working out before you start your day is getting a good night’s sleep. In fact, when it comes to choosing between fitting in a workout or getting enough sleep, I always recommend sleep. Why? There could be a correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain. Even if you are exercising regularly, doing it at the expense of adequate sleep will prevent you from reaping the full benefits of your workouts.
Here are just three reasons you need to make sleep a priority:
1. Sleep helps you eat less and prevent cravings.
Think about it: When you’re tired, don’t you crave more sugary, high-fat foods? Researchers from Columbia University found that women who slept for only four hours ate an extra 329 calories and 31 grams of fat the next day! And it doesn’t take that much more rest to make a difference either. One study published in the journal Appetite found that an additional one and a half hours of sleep could be enough to reduce cravings for calorie-packed, high-fat foods by as much as 62 percent.
2. Sleep can promote weight loss.
In addition to benefiting your diet, sleep can aid directly in weight loss. And we’re not just talking about vanity pounds either—a lack of sleep could be causing you to gain or maintain dangerous visceral fat. A study published in the journal Sleep found that subjects who slept five hours (or less) per night gained more abdominal fat than those who got between six to seven hours. And research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that when subjects slept for only four and a half hours over four nights, their fat cells’ ability to respond to insulin dropped by 30 percent.
3. Sleep makes you stronger.
If you are working out regularly, sleep is when your body repairs itself and builds strong, metabolically active muscle. While every body is different, some athletes need as much as 10 hours for adequate recovery. If getting fit is an important goal, make sure sleep is equally important. Muscles may be trained in the gym, but they are built in your bed!
Convinced yet? Good! So before you even start trying to wake up earlier to work out, focus first on logging enough hours of shut-eye. Sure, it’s tough to get to bed early, but it’s worth it if you want to see results and improve your health. Since everyone’s needs vary, slowly adjust your sleep hours until you feel you’ve found the right amount of rest. Try heading to bed 15 minutes earlier each week until you wake up feeling fully rested (translation: not wanting to hit that snooze button over and over).
OK, now that you know how important it is to prioritize sleep, here are three tips to help you wake up and work out before the day gets away from you.
1. Set up your workout the night before.
When that alarm goes off, the last thing you want to do is try to figure out what workout you should do and for how long. Determine the night before (even better, plan your week or month out in advance) what you’ll do, where and how long it will last. Are you planning to hit the gym? Run outside? Head down to the basement to do an exercise video? What happens if it’s raining, sleeting or snowing? Will there be enough time to shower and get to work? Do you have all the equipment and time you need to fit all this in? Take some time to think over your exercise strategy for the morning, and make sure you have the right equipment and enough time to make it a successful session. Having a specific plan in place means all you need to do is get up and get going when you’re groggy and bleary eyed at the crack of dawn.
2. Sleep in your workout wear (or keep it right beside your bed!).
Similar to tip number one, continue to make it easy to simply roll out of bed and get on with your workout by prepping your clothes, too. It may sound silly, but trying to search for your gear or find matching socks in the early, dark morning hours provides more excuses to sleep in. The good news is so many exercise outfits are now cozy enough that you can sleep comfortably in most of them! But if you prefer to sleep in your pj’s, lay out your attire (include all essentials like socks, shoes and underthings, too) the night before, and leave them right beside the bed.
3. Bribe yourself!
Listen, sometimes we all need a little extra incentive when it comes to getting something done that we aren’t all that excited about (especially at 5:30 a.m.). It’s not surprising research shows that we’re more motivated to do something when we’re rewarded, so don’t be afraid to incentivize your morning workout program. Whether it’s treating yourself to a gourmet cup of coffee on your way to work after your morning session or scheduling a massage at the end of the month, pick a few key “treats” that you know will motivate you to get moving (just avoid using a doughnut as your “carrot” every time, or that workout will be worthless).
Working out at home is another great way to avoid skipping exercise, especially if the gym is packed in the mornings or your run gets rained out. When you want to try exercising at home, check out my 20-minute “Rise and Shine” routine that’s designed to help you wake up and work out—no complicated moves or equipment necessary.
Need a little more structure and guidance when it comes to your morning routine? Check out our “Walk On: 21 Day Weight Loss Plan!” This jump-free workout program has everything you need to start (and stick with) regular exercise—even in the early morning! One reviewer even told us: “Anything that can get me out of bed early in the morning has to be good, and I willingly get up for this!”
Tell me, do you work out in the mornings? What’s helped you stick with a regular a.m. routine? I’d love to hear what works for you; please share your best tips with us in the comments below!