How (and Why) to Be a Morning Workout Person - Among Other Things

How (and Why) to Be a Morning Workout Person

As someone who breaks a sweat before the sun comes up, I’m often asked “How do you do it?”

Exercising in the morning is hard… Or is it?

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… Technically, it’s the process of not snoozing and getting your ass up and outta bed to get to your morning workout that’s the hard part.

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Before we get into it, I just want to preface: When I say morning workout, it can be anything. Movement in general — cardio, yoga or even one mile on the treadmill; it all makes a difference. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and guilt by setting your goals too high when you start. Ease into it — and give yourself some grace if this doesn’t come easy to you.

chicago soulcylce instructor hallie wilson wearing a pink and black nike pro bra

Admittedly, I haven’t always been a morning person. But it’s very likely that by the time you’re reading this, I’ve already gotten my sweat on twice (usually through teaching and yoga) — and eaten. Like, a lot.

Don’t be too impressed, though. I’m lucky that my daily schedule is unique — but it’s inevitable that I’ll be slipping back into a very lazy, mid-day coma/nap situation any minute now. (When will I wake up? One hour? Three hours? Can’t be sure…)

(Related: More on the strategies around my nap game in this post)

At least three times each week — like today — I’m up at 5:15 a.m. and on my way to one of Chicago’s four SoulCycle studios to teach a “rooster” class at 6 a.m.

LOL, okay. I snooze my ass through a few alarms and then I’m up and out the door.

As someone who breaks a sweat before sunrise, I’m often asked, “How do you do it?”

Mornings have become my jam. I’ve grown to love exercising and teaching at this time, and with valid reason: A  good workout sets the tone for your day — and like I tell my students, even just getting up and showing up is a successful start.

Here’s 10 reasons I love exercising in the morning:

  1. You’ll be less likely to skip your workout. Period.
  2. Suddenly, you have more time to yourself in the evening.
  3. You’ll feel the difference going into your day — physically and mentally.
  4. It leaves time for other priorities, like last-minute get-togethers or time with friends and family.
  5. You’ll get a head start on hydrating for the day, which will give you more mental clarity.
  6. It’s like an all-natural cup of coffee — you’ll feel more awake.
  7. Your metabolism will jump-start from the get-to.
  8. It will be easier to make better choices all day long, so you’ll meet your health and wellness goals sooner.
  9. You feel good about putting in more effort during a time in which most people aren’t even awake.
  10. Endorphins, endorphins, endorphins.

From the moment I wake up to when I’m walking out the door takes me around 10 minutes, usually less.

Here’s 10 real-talk tips for how I do it — as well as some advice from a few lovely ladies that answered with their input on morning workouts when I asked for it on Twitter last night.

  • Go to bed early-ish.

No brainer, right? This one is actually very hard for me — as I type this at 11:53 p.m.

I tend to lose track of time when I’m online doing blog work many evenings, but I know (through many, many mornings of rushed experience), that I just feel better, more capable and alert if I’ve had at least six hours of sleep.

That’s just me — most heath and fitness gurus will tell you that you need more.

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  • Set alarms. Plural. 

… And keep your phone or alarm clock away from your bed. No joke — I set, like, seven alarms. Annoying, but necessary. Know thyself and thy snooze habits. (I am le worst!)

Caroline, girl, I like your style.

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  • Organize your sh*t the night before.

Seriously, all of it. Pack your bag, prep your snacks, lay out your clothes, ice your coffee, whatever. You will not want to do this when your alarm goes off in the morning — having everything ready to go increases the likelihood that you’ll get up and get after it.

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  • Drink water as soon as you wake up.

Your body dehydrates when you sleep, because when else do you go hours without downing H2O? (Never, I hope. Right?)

Slamming a glass of the good stuff (water, guys) will make you feel more awake right off the bat. Seriously — I like to compare it to a balloon inflating… Can you picture it?

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  • Put some accountability in place.

Hire a trainer, buddy up with a girlfriend, or book into a group fitness class — that way, you’ll feel obligated to get up and show up on those days when you really don’t want to.

… Wise words from these two gals.

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  • Figure out how you need to fuel up beforehand.

Everyone is different on this, in all honestly, but I’ve found that I can push myself harder if I eat a small carbohydrate-rich snack (like a low-calorie waffle with a teaspoon of almond butter) and/or have a bit of caffeine before I start to sweat.

Trial and error, really, so just experiment to see what you can stomach for various kinds of exercise. For example: I know I can’t have highly acidic foods first thing in the morning. Gives me heartburn! Same goes for high-fiber foods, because, well… Yeah.

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  • Reward yourself for actually getting up and showing up. 

Truth: The darkest hour of my entire week is when my alarm goes off on that mother f’ing Monday morning when it’s still pitch-black outside. A girl’s gotta give herself something to look forward to.

Maybe it’s through your post-workout meal (which I’ll expand upon in the next point), but other ways to treat yo’self could be through an after-work mani-pedi. Or go ahead and grab a drink with your girlfriends. You’ve earned it, after all.

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  • Give your body what it needs for the rest of the day.

Post-workout is when the real meal goes down — be smart, but don’t skimp assuming you’ll “undo your entire workout.” Think of it as refueling your body.

(Related: How becoming a fitness instructor has changed my life)

After this class in particular, I take myself out to my favorite nearby breakfast spot for a (big ass) almond milk latte and an egg white burrito. With cheese. And avocado.

If you’re ravenous by mid-morning, you’re probably not eating (1) enough or (2) the right mix of proteins, healthy fats and carbs.

Morning workouts ensure your metabolism will be en feugo for the day. I should note, though: Don’t feel guilty if you can’t squeeze a quick sweat sesh in until after work — you rock for getting there when you can.

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  • Make it a habit.

Rinse and repeat. Cultivate some consistency!

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Lastly — and this is important — don’t beat yourself up if it’s hard for you to get into this habit. Some days, your body will just need to rest; that’s okay and completely normal. At the end of the day, setting mini milestones to simply move every day will make a difference.

For those of you who are already reaping the benefits of getting your sweat on first thing in the morning, please feel free to share your tips, tricks and success stories in the comments below.

Join the Convo:

  • Sueforfood

    There’s plenty of medical and psychological evidence re: benefits to the early to bed, early to rise lifestyle. I consider myself fortunate that I wake without alarms in the 5-6 am range. I do fall asleep usually no later than 9pm most nights, getting 7-8 hours nightly. I love my early morning walks or yoga classes. When I was younger, this was definitely not the case! (I’m 61)

    • I wish I had your natural alarm clock capabilities, Sue! I do love an early morning yoga class too… Nothing better than sinking back into child’s pose to start the day.

      • Sueforfood

        Maybe someday you will- as I mentioned I;m 61, so menopause does have some benefits. I used to be a night owl in my 20-30’s- worked in restaurants had a blast partying after closing :-).

  • Azanah Khadduri

    Do you think its possible for someone who has to be out the door at 6:40 am to workout in the mornings? I have always wanted to, but I have never figured out how to fit it into my routine anywhere other than in the evenings. Thanks!

    • I do, yes, I think it just depends on how much you feel like you want to accomplish before you go. And how much it impacts your day (i.e. if you able to go to bed early enough that you won’t be exhausted).

      There are a ton of in-home/workout DVDs and YouTube channels you can do — exercises range from 7 minute ab routines to 20 or 30 minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts you can do from the comfort of you own home. There’s a lot of bloggers that will create plans for you, too!

      In my opinion, as long as you get your heart-rate pumpin’, it counts. Even if it’s just three sets of (1) pushups, (2) planks or crunches and (3) some sort of cardio burst — like mountain climbers or burpees. That would take you 10 minutes and then you can gradually work your way up.

      If there’s a group exercise studio near you, too, look into class times! I hope that helps. x

  • Dana Mannarino

    I SO needed this. I want to do a 7am class on Friday. Getting out of bed is so damn hard – this was so helpful, Hal! Xx

    Pink Champagne Problems

    • Get thee to SoulCycle, girl! You’ll feel so good when you’re done AND when you leave work Friday afternoon. I bet I can guess whose class. ; )

  • This advice is GOLD. I need to start cultivating good habits! It is a choice to hit snooze, and I’m making the wrong one! Time to set a bed time!
    –Roxanne
    Glass of Glam

    • It’s okay to snooze sometimes, though… I try not to let myself feel guilty on the days I can “sleep in” and actually do versus getting up and being productive. Sometimes a girl just needs to rest!

  • Morning workouts are my favorite! I’m a morning person which helps, but I also find that I’m too tired in the morning to think of a million excuses NOT to go, which I definitely do as the day progresses and things come up, so I’ve learned if I don’t go in the morning, I won’t go at all. And it sets my tone for the entire day! Even if I have an unproductive day work wise, I feel better knowing I got my ass out of bed and got my work out in by 7 am. Also… 21 days to make it a habit is a real thing! A few solid weeks in a row of the same routine is key.

    • Ha, I love that! Too tired to think of excuses is a perfect way to get out the door. Congrats on making it a routine!

  • Madeline Mihaly

    I just started teaching a 6am SPIN class on tuesday mornings (as well as a 6:30pm) on Tuesday evenings, along with my full time job. Generally, I am an evening gym goer, as I lift heavy and like to be more awake/have more food in before I go. BUT – as much as it is hard to get up, I do really enjoy teaching my Tuesday classes and am definitely in a better mood all day!

    xo, Maddy
    http://cassidylou.com/

    • Couldn’t agree more. I often joke with my students that if I didn’t have to be there, I wouldn’t; but the truth is I am addicted to that post-workout feeling. It’s so worth dragging your ass out of bed!

  • Morning exercise is the best!! I usually take my tea in a thermos and head out for a 30-45 minute power walk along the waterfront and it’s my favourite way to start the day. I work from home (or a coffee shop or the library) and don’t have a traditional commute so getting out for a walk first thing really starts my day off on the right track. Sometimes I put on a playlist or podcast but other times I like just chilling and listening to the city wake up. Personally I do my “main” workout around lunch time but my early morning walk is what I look forward to the most. I love these tips and the format of this blog post, Hallie – keep it up!

    • I love that! I live right near the lake in Chicago and will walk to the studio instead of taking a cab when it’s nice out. What podcasts are you loving right now?

      • Lady Lovin’ – often laugh out loud funny, really feels like you’re listening in on a conversation with your girlfriends
        Up & Vanished – if you liked Serial you’ll like this, it’s true crime about the disappearance of a beauty queen in Georgia about 10 years ago and all the weird stuff that happens when the podcaster starts looking into it!

  • Nanu

    Wow I LOVED this post! You are freaking hilarious and motivated me so much! Thank you for the wonderful ideas. I’m a bit overweight and picked up excersing again a few weeks ago, along with a leaner diet. Also I’m so not a morning person it hurts. I have a 9-6pm job (I live in Argentina) and do at-home HIIT workouts in the evening but this past week I squeezed a few morning workouts and damn I loved it! I felt amazing! Your advice is brilliant, especially when you talk about setting mini goals. I’m going to give your tips a go this week, wish me luck! Also, you misstyped the word “fuego” in the “Give your body what it needs for the rest of the day” section, just fyi 🙂
    Lots of love from Argentina and thank you SO much again! Loving the blog re-do <3

    • Thanks for your tip! Really proud of you for adopting so much progress. Please report back soon to share what you keep learning through your diet and exercise plan — and I’ll continue to share mine. x

  • Kat Preller

    This is actually so helpful, I’ll absolutely try it. Now I only need to get myself actually out of bed …

    undefine-d.blogspot.com

    • That’s the hard part… But it’s over within 60 seconds! Slam a glass of water or jump up and down immediately to get your blood flowing. It WORKS!

  • I made morning workouts a habit last year and I love it. As a Mom, it’s so important to have time to myself and this is how I make it happen. Preparing EVERYTHING the night before is key as well as having the motivation in place to go. For me, getting ready in peace is heavenly and I try to have the best toiletries and “treat” myself with nice shampoo, etc. It makes the entire process enjoyable and something for myself vs something I have to do!

    • Couldn’t agree more. I love the tip about having the best toiletries to treat yourself — I’m all about self-care when it comes to beauty buys. x H

  • Egg white burritos w/ cheese, avocado and spinach are my go-to! (sprinkle of hot sauce!) I wrote a similar post last year; I love morning workouts – they really do set the tone for the day! Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you Hallie for a great post! I just know I will be coming back to your tips again and again. I am a morning person but struggle with morning workouts; I get too caught up in worrying the night before. (What if my alarm doesn’t go off? What if I forgot to pack something?) These things are great motivation!

  • Elle

    Love love this post lady!! Morning workouts are my jam when I get in the routine of going. I feel on top of the world when I go to the 5:45am Soul Cycle class!
    xo elle // https://splashofpreppy.com

  • Love love this post! The only way I work out is if I go in the morning… but man is it hard 🙈 and these tips are perfect

    xx Caroline
    http://www.whenwear.com

  • Mary Fremeau

    loove this! can you please tell me about your Nikes in the first pic?! I. need. them!!
    xxoo
    Mary
    http://www.BelleOnTrend.com

  • I wish I had the discipline (and schedule) to do morning workouts. Or that I had done them when I had more flexibility. I’m a teacher with two small children so would have to wake up around 5am to workout, shower, and get ready on time. I get that some people can do that but that’s definitely not me!

    Right now my kids are waking up somewhere between 6-7am, so I’m hoping in the summer I can maybe get up earlier (hahaha) or figure out some sort of consistent workout schedule!

  • Natalie Costa

    I really appreciate the insights in this post, but all I can think as I read is: Yes, this is all very applicable to people who don’t have small children. Small child? No alarm clock necessary. Also unnecessary: Forcing yourself to go to bed early (see comment before re: the built-in alarm clock that is a one year old). Finding the motivation? The gym might be my only interaction with other adults that day. I WILL BE THERE. Just adding another perspective. 🙂

  • Alexandra Bellerose

    Awesome post! I work a traditional 9-5 job so I’m usually an after work gym goer, but when I’ve worked out on mornings I love having it out of the way! Trying to find more 6am classes near me to get into a routine. Great tips!

  • Loved this post! Every Sunday I mentally go through my schedule for the week and pre-plan the mornings I plan on working out. I treat it as any other appointment I may have and if that means staying in the night before, then thats what I do. So much of it is mental!

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  • beautyby_lucia

    This post was really nice and covered mostly everything. For me, if I pack everything and even prepare my spoon and mug for my morning coffee…lol…will get me excited to get up and see how much faster I got ready with all my preparations 😀 it might sound stupid but it helps me!

  • Kristine

    BIG ass almond milk latte and breakfast sando always! I love the “You’ll feel the difference going into your day — physically and mentally” because it makes a HUGE difference in your energy, your outlook, your mindset, your attitude towards others/conflict, everything. Loved this post!

  • Renee

    These are good tips. Accountability was what got me into the habit of AM workouts 7 years ago, and I still love them to this day!

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