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8 Tips for Working Out in the Morning Without Being Miserable

Posted by Alex FitzGerald on

I'm Alex, Brave Co-founder and morning workout person.

Before you dismiss me as the rise-and-grind type who has always been dialed in to morning workouts, hear me out. At one point the idea of a morning workout sounded ridiculous. Rather than try it, I clung to an attitude of jealous contempt for anyone who could hit their performance peak while I was desperately waiting for my French press to steep.  I've slowly adopted a morning workout routine because it helps me be more consistent about exercising and makes me feel better all day long but it certainly didn’t come naturally. 

I’m going to share the tips that helped me adopt a consistent morning workout routine. In my experimentation, I found that success hinges on two key elements the routine.

 

  • Removing options for skipping the workout. There is a somewhat controversial theory of decision making called decision fatigue that posits “a human’s ability to make decisions can get worse after making many decisions, as their brain will be more fatigued.” While the theory is unproven I tend to believe it because of my own experience with building a routine. As I set out to make a habit of morning exercise, I observed that every necessary decision leading up to the start of my exercise was a potential fail point. I failed before I ever got started when I didn’t go to bed early enough. Then I failed many times right at the doorstep of success when I sat there in my workout clothes deciding which workout I would do that morning. The more decisions I made in the course of my routine the more opportunity I had for making the wrong decision. I found more success when I was able to shift many decisions from the morning to the night before, here at Brave we call this “doing your tomorrow self a solid”. Decisions I had to make in the morning became habit, so I wasn’t deciding, I was simply doing. Now my morning routine is almost mechanical as if the track to success is laid out before me and all I have to do is move along it.
  • Saving time. Pulling off a morning workout is a race against the clock. While work from home has eased the pressure to be somewhere by 9 AM sharp, it remains true that we have a world of responsibilities waiting for us at the end of our morning workout. If you can complete a morning workout with the efficiency of an F1 race team, you can sleep more and fit more workouts into a life filled with unpredictable circumstances. Using a race analogy, there are many corners in your morning routine; wake up, breakfast, commute, etc. Each has the potential to slow you down but with the right approach, you can accelerate through these corners and be on time to handle your responsibilities.
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    8 tips for working out in the morning

    This is a list of tactics that will help you remove obstacles, overcome inertia, save time, and feel alert so you can perform as well as you do in the evening. That said, the most important element of any routine is consistency. It was hard as hell at the beginning but it gets easier every time that alarm sounds at 6:30 AM. Keep trying and don't be too hard on yourself when you skip a day.

     

      1. Schedule your bedtime. I'm in bed by 11:00 PM so I can get 7 hours of sleep even if I struggle to fall asleep right away. It’s fundamental that you be to be properly rested to peak early in the morning.
      2. Set a special AM workout alarm. I have a 6:30 alarm with a unique sound that I turn on when I'm working out the next morning. That sound (I can hear it now) puts me in the mindset for a workout.
      3. Plan your workout routine the night before. Don’t make yourself think too much about the workout before you get into it. Once you start sweating everything gets easier but those moments before you begin are difficult and the most likely fail-point of your routine. If you’re going to the gym, plan your routine down to the set. I use the routines provided by @dailywodz and Jim Stoppani when going to the gym so I don’t spend valuable time and mental energy thinking about what to do next, I just get into it. If you’re running or cycling, plan your route out ahead of time so in the morning all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. 
      4. Do your tomorrow self a solid. Anticipate the difficulty you’re apt to experience early in your new routine and reach out a hand to help your tomorrow self. Consider doing the following the night before so have less to do and less to decide tomorrow morning. 
        1. Lay out your workout clothes
        2. Plan morning logistics like taking the kids to school
        3. Make breakfast in a to-go container that will be ready to eat
        4. Collect your vitamins and medications into daily-dose compartments
      5. Opt for group classes. The key to working out in the morning is eliminating excuses for staying in bed. When I schedule a group class, I'm financially committed to showing up which makes it more difficult (although not impossible as I have proven) to excuse staying in bed and missing class. Once I'm in the class and break a sweat I'm socially pressured to see it through to the end. Group classes are a great support as you get used to your new morning routine. As the routine gets easier you can remove the training wheels and try self-motivating through the workout. Even now, I find group classes are a great way to get back into a routine if I’ve fallen out because of travel or some other reason. Another great way to leverage social commitment to you benefit is planning a morning run or workout with a buddy. Together you can hold each other responsible for showing up.
      6. Caffeinate quickly. I love cappuccinos as much as the next New Yorker but not before a morning workout. Hot coffee takes too long to make and way too long to drink. I opt for an inexpensive powdered caffeine drink like Amino Energy that I can drink quickly. Like an F1 car going around a track, you have to nail every corner for a top time. You’re fighting the clock when you work out in the morning and need to sharpen each moment of the routine. Caffenation is a critical corner of your routine so do it quickly and with plenty of volume so you can come out at full speed.
      7. DO NOT check your email. It's easy for me to get sucked into a seemingly urgent email thread from last night that requires my immediate attention. This tendency of mine was another fail-point in my morning routine until I read this from a clever productivity expert, “email is a to-do list made by other people”. Making a small exception for emails from Brave, your inbox is filled with other people’s priorities and those priorities will not align with your goal of working out in the morning. The only people prioritizing your morning workout are yourself or your personal trainer (if you’re fortunate enough to have one) and you aren’t going to find emails from him or her in your inbox tomorrow morning. Now I wait until after my workout to turn my work brain on. If you even peek at your emails, you are opening the door to a flood of potential excuses for skipping your workout. Prioritize your health and guard your mornings from the intrusion of outsider’s priorities. 
      8. Fuel up with protein and carbs... after the workout. I do not eat before my morning workouts because it saves valuable time and I find I perform better on an empty stomach. After my morning workout though, I’m starving well before lunch rolls around so breakfast is a critical corner in my morning routine. You’ll want to round this corner quickly and with enough fuel to accelerate through the first half of your workday. After I'm through I need plenty of protein and carbs to keep me sharp throughout the day. Naturally, I eat Brave from my subscription box. Check out Triathlete, Ella Smith’s blog, “What to Eat After Your Run” for more guidance from an expert.

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