No matter how badly we want to squeeze in a morning workout, that 6 a.m. alarm never fails to catch us off guard. Even when we’re feeling rested it can be tough to get up and get going. So how do you actually get motivated to wake up for (and stick to) early morning workouts? We asked those who know best—Aaptiv trainers, coaches, and motivation experts. Here’s how they recommend getting into a morning exercise groove.
1. Create an A.M. Routine.
“It’s all about consistency and having a system when you wake up,” says Susie Lemmer, a running coach and personal trainer. “Just like you have a routine to get ready for work, establish a routine to get up and ready to go in the morning.”
You’ll want to experiment to figure out what works for you personally. Maybe it’s sleeping in your workout clothes the night before, then hopping out of bed and hitting the road. For others, it can help to have a little longer morning routine. Lemmer, for example, wakes up, puts on sunscreen, anti-chafe deodorant, and running clothes. “Then I get coffee, a light breakfast, do my warm-up stretches, put on my shoes, and head out the door,” she says. (Don’t skip your warm up—here’s the right way to warm up and cool down.)
2. Don’t Give Into the Snooze Game
The snooze button is the morning workout’s worst enemy. Pro tip: Move your alarm across the bedroom so you have to get out of bed to turn it off, recommends Dave Burgess, a Level 2 triathlon coach and former competitive triathlete. “I went through a period of getting up at an ungodly hour to train. Moving my alarm across the room took away 80 percent of the barrier to getting up.” Once you’re up, follow what Lemmer calls the “don’t sit down!” rule—and whatever you do, don’t get back in bed!
It can also help to label your iPhone alarm with a motivational message that reminds you why you’re getting up in the first place. When she has to get up for 5:30 a.m. swims, Aaptiv trainer and triathlete Rochelle Baxter says she sets her alarm to say inspirational phrases such as, ”Remember why you started and what your goals are” and “Put in that hard work to get results.”
3. Prep Your Breakfast
Decide what you’re going to eat and lay it out in your kitchen the night before. “This way I don’t waste time thinking about it in the early morning,” Baxter says. Not sure if you need to eat? It depends on your workout plan, Burgess says. “If you’re just going for an easy run (less than an hour) you don’t need anything—you have enough calories floating around in your glycogen stores that you’ll be fine,” he explains. If you have a HIIT workout or speed running workout, you might want to eat something light, such as a piece of toast with peanut butter. Coffee is, of course, optional but some studies suggest it can help exercise feel easier and more enjoyable.
4. Pick a Partner
A morning workout with a friend is not only more fun, but also provides an extra push of motivation to get out of bed, says Bobby Hoffman, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and author of Hack Your Motivation: Over 50 Science-based Strategies to Improve Performance. “The most effective way to get motivated in the morning is to have a workout partner because you will feel bad if you let down your partner,” he explains. And if you join a running group, you know you’re going to get some grief at the next outing if you skip it! Even if you don’t have a partner per se, you can still see going to the gym or yoga class as a social experience, and maybe even make some new a.m. workout buddies while you’re there, Hoffman says.
5. Reward Yourself With a Treat
“Self-consequation” is a fancy term for self-inflicted rewards or punishments, Hoffman says, and you can apply the concept to your desire to get up and go. Set a goal for yourself, and decide what the consequence—or reward—will be if you fail or succeed to reach it.
For example, if you don’t go to the gym at least three times in a week, use your willpower and penalize yourself by skipping dessert on Saturday night, Hoffman suggests. On the positive side, if you go to the gym three successive days, reward yourself with something meaningful, like a new piece of workout gear you’ve been eyeing. The only problem? It is easy to cheat on your own bet with yourself—that’s why Hoffman recommends social support (see #4!).
6. Sign Up For a Race
Let’s be real: When you’re just dragging yourself through early morning workout after early morning workout for the heck of it, it can get old. (Although Aaptiv’s variety of fun workouts can help!) The antidote: Sign up for a 5K or a 10K race, print out the registration, and tack it on your mirror, Burgess suggests. “It can be difficult to wake up and do something when you’re wondering ‘What for?’ but it can be much easier if you’ve registered (and paid!) for a race to get up and out the front door.”
7. Just Do It
Tell yourself that you’ll give the workout 10 to 15 minutes or just run to the end of the block and reassess, Burgess says. That’s about the amount of time it can take for endorphins to start flowing and to get in the groove. Then make an assessment: Is this still not feeling right? If it feels more like fatigue than tiredness, give yourself permission to stop. But that first few minutes may be just what you need to remember how good it can feel to get your workout in—while everyone else is still asleep!