Here’s a secret I don’t usually tell people: I became a morning-workout person entirely by accident.
That’s right—I’ve smugly accepted the praise and admiration of my peers who say “I could never do that” for years without ever admitting that I never once had to muster the willpower to change my entire routine for the sake of fitness.
I lucked into my morning workout routine by accident: early in my 20s, I worked in New York City for a company that was based in England, and in order to make sure we all had enough overlapping hours in the office, we were required to arrive between 8 and 8:30 a.m., unusually early for a media company, where rolling in around 10 a.m. is far more normal. When I left the job, I was faced with a choice: keep waking up at 6:45 and make the most of it, or reclaim my lost two hours of sleep?
It turns out, I chose wisely.
Working out in the morning is the answer to every excuse for skipping an exercise class. You have to work late? You forgot it was your co-worker’s birthday and everyone is going for drinks? You made a last-minute Tinder match? You’re just so, so tired and need to go veg on the couch? Go for it—you already worked out today! Over the years, these are the tips I’ve discovered for maintaining my workout routine, and they’ll help you get into the rhythm too
A failure to plan is a plan for failure.
You have to know your timing pretty exactly to make a morning workout a success, and it can take a few tries to get it right. For me, the perfect morning class is a 7 or 7:15 a.m. start within a 10 minute walk from my apartment. I can only do a 7:30 class if it’s around the corner because I like come home afterwards to shower and get ready, and I’m not usually awake enough at 6 a.m. to make a 6:30 a.m. class. If you’re fine getting ready at the gym, broaden your choices to include classes that are close to your office, pack your gym bag thoughtfully and make sure to choose a location with a real bathroom/locker room if you know you’ll need it. Be realistic about what you need to make it happen and set yourself up for success.
Choose your classes wisely.
Some classes are definitely a better bet for a morning workout than others. If you’re not super high-energy in the morning or get light-headed if you haven’t eaten (I’m not usually hungry the second I wake up so I’m often working out on an empty stomach) then that super-intense CrossFit-style class might not be what your body needs. Start with an energizing Vinyasa flow or a machine Pilates class that works your body but doesn’t actually require you to be upright or particularly coordinated to shake off the sleep slowly, and mix in more energized class options as you get accustomed to your new routine.
If you fall down, work your way back up.
There are definitely weeks where I’ve been too tired or going out too much to make my morning workouts, and getting back into the swing of things isn’t easy. I like to restart over a healthy weekend, when my time is more my own and I can guarantee I’ll get to bed at a reasonable hour. Even if I don’t work out until later in the day, I wake up at 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and put on my workout clothes, and by Monday I don’t even think twice about getting out of bed at 6:45 a.m.. If you’ve really fallen off, start by adjusting your sleep—go to bed 15 minutes earlier every night for a week until you’ve built that 60-90 minutes you need back into your morning.