Health and Wellness
April 2017

Own the A.M.

Why morning workouts rule—and how to make them a habit.

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As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm—or, in this case, the awesome workout. There are a multitude of science-backed reasons to exercise first thing in the morning: lower stress, higher energy, even the ability to ward off weight gain after over indulging at dinner the night before. Morning workouts can lead to a more restful night’s sleep and lower blood pressure.

Of course, working out at any time of the day is better than not working out at all, and not everyone’s schedule can accommodate a morning gym session. But if you’re on the fence and need a push to throw off the covers and elevate your heart rate, Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute experts Adam Friedman and Robert Reames tell you how.

Why Work Out in the Morning

More fat burning potential. A recent study found that doing a cardiovascular workout on an empty stomach can force the body to burn more fat than it would after a meal. “It gets your body to utilize fat for fuel,” says Friedman. “The research is really good on this,” adds Reames. “That’s the best time to do it, in the morning.”

Fewer excuses. It’s easier to hit the gym in the early morning, when you don’t have errands, last-minute work, or happy hour pulling you away. “I work with a lot of really busy people, and most of them work out in the morning because they get it over with,” says Reames.  “Stuff comes up during the day. If you’re running a business, if you have a family, there are a lot of things that can alter your workout time if you wait.”

More consistency. It’s easier to stick to an exercise plan if you’re doing it at the same time every day—say, 7 a.m.—than a variable time like whenever you leave the office. “You’re less likely to have life show up and distract you from working out,” Friedman says. Also, be sure to set reminders or alarms in your phone to bring your session front of mind.

A revved up metabolism. While exercising at any time of day will speed up your metabolism, “you really get a jump start to your metabolism with a morning workout,” Reames says. “Do HIIT training or cardio in the morning, and you have hours of benefit that carry you throughout your day. You’re kick-starting the engine of life.”

How to Become a Morning Workout Person

Banish blue light. Set yourself up for early morning success by powering down well before you hit the hay. “Shut down your computer and phone, get rid of all blue light an hour before you go to bed,” says Friedman.

Get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours per night for adults. That means “you’ve got to get to bed early,” Reames says. “If you want to work out at 6 a.m. and you go to bed at 2, that’s not happening.” Try sticking to a strict sleep schedule so you can keep your body’s sleep-wake cycle consistent. This means going to bed and waking up a the same time everyday. Your diet also effects how you sleep, so watch your intake before bed and stay clear of nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.

Let yourself adjust. You’re not going to go from hitting the snooze button to bounding out of bed overnight, and that’s okay. “The good news about working out in the morning, you will adjust,” says Friedman. “It takes a couple of weeks. It can be really difficult for people to make that change if they haven’t done it before, but they can change their circadian rhythms over the course of a few weeks. It will get easier and easier.”

Make a date. You’re less likely to hit the snooze button if you make plans to meet someone at the gym. “Get someone to hold you accountable, whether it’s a workout partner or a trainer appointment or a group class that starts at a certain time.” Friedman says. Also, be sure to set reminders and alerts on your phone to make sure your session is front of mind when you wake up.

If necessary, fuel up. If you’re wary of working out on an empty stomach, try a snack. “Be clear about what you need in your stomach beforehand,” Friedman says. “Maybe you need that cup of coffee or a little bit of something easily digestible, like some whey protein powder and water, or a small piece of fruit.” Having something in your system will help keep your energy post-workout and into your day. Try preparing your snack the night before so that it’s ready to go when you are.

Keep it simple and have a plan. It’s smart to have a  plan for when you get to the gym so you maximize your gym time. Gold’s Gym fitness institute expert Adam Friedham recently shared with Self.com a 10-minute strength circuit that will power up your day.

Pack your bag. Keep your gym bag by the door. Lay out your gym clothes the night before, or maybe sleep in your gym shirt if it means that you’ll rise amped to work out. “I pack my car at nigh so I don’t have to do all that loading in the morning,” Reames says. “That way I can maximize my sleep, and in the morning I’m ready to rock.”