The 10-Minute Rule for Fitness Success

(U.S. Army/Spc. Ryan Lucas)

Some days, we wake up wrestling with the persistent urge to remain comfortably in bed rather than begin the day, whether it's training, work, school or any other commitment. The alarm goes off. The covers are warm. But something deep inside you compels you to rise and confront the challenge -- except it is not motivation.

No one is consistently motivated to kick off every single day with a workout. Motivation alone can only carry you so far, but the habits forged in the moments of motivation can become the building blocks of discipline. This discipline evolves into a reliable tool that propels you forward even when you do not feel like doing something.

When faced with an early morning workout and not feeling it, consider this: Get up, get dressed, and do your workout's warm-up routine. The feeling of accomplishment that follows, knowing you have conquered the initial struggle, can be a powerful motivator for the rest of your day.

Adopt the 10-Minute Rule

Commit to at least 10 minutes of exercise to gauge your motivation; nothing difficult, just the warm-up section of your workout. This 10-minute period can help with your workout intention, and it can either get you moving or drive you toward something easier, allowing for a more gradual but beneficial session.

I call this easier option "the placeholder workout." You stay in the habit of getting up and meeting the daily standard, but with a different focus, such as cardio instead of lifting or stretching and mobility instead of running. If you're unsure about committing to a workout session, let the warm-up guide your decision-making. This decision can steer you in one of two directions:

1. Continue as planned. Here you push yourself because the warm-up might wake you up and get the juices flowing -- which is all you need to change your mindset. 

2. Instead of going 100%, pull back. Go for a less intense session, ensuring you still accomplish something. Easy cardio, a walk, a stretch or a mobility day are great options when taking it down a notch and focusing on recovery. Remember: Adjusting your workout to your current energy level is OK. The important thing is that you are still moving and staying consistent with your morning fitness habit.

Eventually, after employing the 10-minute rule, you realize that all it will take to "feel like working out" is a 10-minute warm-up. The best part about these two outcomes is that they make it unlikely that you will go back to bed and skip the workout altogether. 

Creating a morning fitness habit is not easy, and maintaining it requires effort. Unfortunately, ending a good habit like this is way too easy, as all it takes is a few mornings of sleeping in and skipping the morning workout.

Ways to Keep Moving

(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Erin Baxter)

When the inner voice tempts you, but you're not entirely up for a high-intensity workout, here are several activities you might consider keeping your morning workout streak alive:

Gentle stretching or light yoga

Ease into the day with a gentle stretch routine, focusing on your larger muscle groups. This can alleviate the stiffness and prepare your body for more vigorous activity later.

See Stretch and Move More.

Walking or jogging

A morning walk or a light jog can pump blood without overwhelming you. These activities in the morning can help you start the day with some morning sunshine, help set your circadian rhythms and enjoy a sunrise and the morning air. 

See Walk More


Simple exercises such as push-ups, squats and lunges can provide a solid workout without equipment or high intensity. Get more done with less and start the day off feeling like you did something. 

See Try Calisthenics

Biking, the elliptical machine, rower, swimming

These nonimpact cardio options are excellent when joints are stiff, and the last thing you want to feel is the impact of walking or running. Take 20 minutes and move for maximum distance. See whether you can beat that distance, so on other days, you can make a change to the routine without skipping the routine. 

Try Non-Impact Options

By incorporating these options into your routine, you will maintain the habit of staying active, even when the intensity may vary. Be willing to give yourself a break when you feel you need one, as you will feel better doing something easier than going hard-core or skipping the workout altogether.

4 Steps to Maintaining Discipline

1. Embrace the power of habit
Something is better than nothing. Cultivating habits during periods of high motivation can lead to lasting discipline, which will support you in maintaining your exercise routine even on less-motivated days. 

See The Proven Method to Build Habits

2. 10-minute rule
If you are unsure about morning workouts, commit to a 10-minute warm-up. Typically, this is all you need to get going. But even if you skip this, find 10 minutes throughout your day and walk, stretch, or do push-ups and squats. A 10-minute walk after breakfast, lunch and dinner will help you more than you may realize mentally and physically.

3. Overcome the mental battle
Everyone experiences internal resistance when training early in the morning. By simply getting up, getting dressed and starting your warm-up, you can conquer those initial doubts and increase your chances of completing your workout. 

You have also added a scoop of mental toughness with this consistent behavior. 4 Stages of Mental Toughness.

4. Your options are clear after 10 minutes
Once you start your warm-up, recognize two options. If you feel energized, you can proceed with your planned high-intensity workout or adjust to a lower intensity to ensure you remain active and maintain your routine.

Navigate the challenges of maintaining motivation and discover essential tools to build lasting discipline. Check out the Fitness Section and uncover hundreds of articles on tactical fitness, as well as health and wellness principles, designed to elevate your fitness routine and create an unbreakable mindset.

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