How to Start an Early Morning Workout Routine

I've always dabbled with the idea and reality of being an early morning "workout person." However, I've never been able to make it stick. I've always been an early riser, but the idea of impact in the early morning has never been intriguing. I prefer to take my mornings slow, drink coffee, watch the news. I'd plan to get my workout in at some other time in the day. Learning to start an early morning workout routine is not easy, even for a morning person.

Until we had a kid. With a kid, fitting in anything instantly becomes more challenging. Showering and unloading the dishwasher are hard enough, how the hell am I going to workout too?! I have created elaborate schedules for our day. Workouts would either be tucked into naptime or after bedtime or when my husband came home. You know what happened? That day our daughter wouldn't nap or would nap for 50% of the time she normally does. I would have an exhausting day and the idea of doing anything more than putting dishes away sounded tiring. My husband would come home and have an after hours call. The workout did not happen.

Why is it so Hard to Start an Early Morning Workout Routine

While I certainly have found ways to workout with a newborn who's now a toddler, it was never a consistent routine. As a planner and low-key control freak, I needed some sort of predictability in my days. Any given week, I'd manage to fit in some workouts. BUT it'd be a little of this squeezed in there and some of that squeezed in here. If I hadn't worked out by the evening, it weighed on my mind that I still needed to get that in.

Why didn't I just switch to early morning workouts from the start? Well...those newborns and/or toddlers don't always stick to the sleeping schedule or daily schedule you've designed in your brain. They also get sick, they get fussy, and they can be needy. While we've been lucky our daughter's sleep has been mostly consistent, she LOVES to wake up early. Generally, that's like 6-6:30am. Sometimes it's 5:30 (though this is less). Sometimes it's a glorious 7:15am like today. I'd plan mornings to get up at 5:30am and workout, and either she'd also decide to get up or I'd come up with an excuse.

My husband is here as well, and he's 10000% capable of getting her ready in the morning. But if I'm here and available, I felt we should both be getting her ready, packing her lunch for daycare, getting her morning milk, etc. Was it fair to have one person do all of that? I'm sure there's a compromise we could have made, but we do it together. With the early mornings, that meant getting her ready early.

There are also excuses that would somehow creep up when my alarm would go off. "I didn't sleep well," "I'll workout later," "It's too hot/cold/ etc."

Recently, I was talking with a colleague from a different department who has consistently gotten up at a ridiculous hour for years to workout first thing in the morning. I'm pretty sure she's up at 4:30am. While she doesn't have little ones at home, she has a hectic work schedule that can start as early as 5:30am depending on how many fires she has to put out. She makes exercise a priority because she knows how she'll feel if she doesn't. I started to think this whole morning exercise thing is going to work. I'm going to make it work. She definitely inspired me.

Why start an early morning workout routine

On that note, I don't take on many things or do anything without first thinking about "why." When I work with patients, I am sure to give the "why" behind the exercises I prescribe. I don't like to do anything that doesn't somehow add value to my life. My "why" for starting an early workout routine is to benefit myself and those around me. An early morning workout ensures that I get some form of exercise in a day, but why does that matter? Well...funny you should ask. Personally for me, exercise (specifically exercise in the morning), does the following:

  1. Increased energy
  2. Decreased bloating (this sounds weird, but I just feel better)
    • My clothes feel like they fit better when I exercise in the morning
  3. Less back pain overall
  4. Better mood
  5. Feel productive
    • Even if that's all I do that day other than chase a toddler, at least I feel like I did that one other thing.

Doing it in the morning basically ensures that no other life thing (or myself) is going to get in the way of staying healthy. Except for maybe the tiny little human who still occasionally does her own thing.

How to start an early morning workout routine

It's taken 19 months of our daughter's life, but I think I finally found the secret sauce. At least my secret sauce. Maybe what helped me finally get into an early morning workout routine can help you too.

Get Everything Ready the Night Before

  • Lunches
    • This saved me. I was leaving lunches for the morning, and this takes a decent amount of time to put everything together. I'd think I didn't have enough time to workout and get everything packed. In the morning all we have to do is throw the food in the bags with an ice pack
  • Workout Clothes
    • I set my workout clothes out in our bathroom: pants, shirt, sports bra, socks. My workout shoes are already in the basement waiting for me.
  • Work Clothes
    • I tend to rotate similar outfits throughout the week, but just having them set out makes one less thing to think about
  • Baby/ Toddler Stuff
    • I have our daughter's diaper bag set to go, sippy cups labeled, and lunch packed (my husband totally helps here, I just make sure it's all done)
  • Breakfast
    • Sometimes I'll have something ready to go, but this is usually quick in the morning anyways, so I don't think this is mandatory.

Start Small

  • If you're new to morning exercise, telling yourself you're going to get up at 4:30am or 5:00am and run 10 miles may be a bit much and lead to excuses to stay in bed. Start with 10-20 minutes of an easier activity and build on that.

Workout Cued Up

  • I do a lot of workouts with a local studio that has created a digital studio and expanded it since COVID. It is awesome. I try to pick a workout the night before and have it ready to go on my laptop.
    • If you don't do virtual, maybe have an idea in your head of what you're going to do so it's one less thing to figure out in the morning.

Add it to your Calendar

  • For some reason, seeing "workout" pop-up on my phone at 5am after my alarm goes off at 4:50am is motivating

Try a New or Virtual Class

  • Finding something new and novel to start with may motivate you more to get out of bed. Maybe there's a new yoga or pilates class you've wanted to try (scheduling is obviously easier if virtual).

Sleep Well

  • This probably goes without saying, but getting 7-8 hours of sleep is absolutely key to not only get you up in the morning but get you going. It's too easy to press snooze if you went to bed late.

Do Something you Enjoy

  • Again, this will make it more motivating to get your butt out of bed. If you hate running and have to drag yourself to do it, the likelihood of getting up early to do it probably isn't great.
    • I like to run, but the idea of all that pounding so early in the morning is not enticing. I enjoy lifting weights and the classes I do are typically 20-30 minutes. I'm more consistent when I plan on that vs. running.
morning workout routine

Hopefully those tips can help get you started on your journey towards becoming an early morning workout-er? I don't think that's a word, but you know what I mean.

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