Morning workouts are not for everyone, but as a preferred early riser, I can tell you that the benefits far outweigh the difficulties of creating an early morning habit of training.
Some argue it is a morning person or night owl type of issue and it is. People who prefer to wake up earlier tend to enjoy the early morning workouts versus those who have high productive hours after 10pm. It can be a struggle at first if you are a night owl, but you can train your body to get used to the early morning PT / run. The military does this to thousands of recruits every year! Here is a list of reasons why and a few reasons why early morning workouts are helpful in many areas of your life – not just fitness: 1 – Wake up – Start Moving – Start Accomplishing Things. You will find that if the first thing you do in the morning, before other members in your family are awake, is a quick 20-30 minute workout, you will be more awake and have greater productivity in the rest of your morning hours. “Getting more done by 9am than most people all day” is not just a phrase in old Army commercial, it is the truth. Mentally you will also be in a mood of achievement compared to missing the workout or just getting supped up on caffeine. Setting the tone for the day first thing in the morning will prove to be an enhancement in all that you do at work, home, and school.
2 – Physiologically you will burn more calories through the day. If you start your calorie burn first thing in the morning, your body will keep burning calories at a higher rate due to your increased early morning activity (lifting, running, biking, swimming, other).
3 – Interferes with less in your day. Not much is going on first thing in the morning. Working out at 5am or 6am will interfere with much less activities in your day. If your schedule has a 5pm or 6pm workout in it, after a long stressful day it is a great idea to work off some steam and exercise the mind and body. However, life can get in the way between 5pm and 7pm. From traffic, commutes, kids sports, school events, after work events, to major projects that force you to work through the evening, all of these have a way of interrupting the most disciplined and well intentioned exercisers.
4 – Build Mental Toughness. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable is the foolproof method to build your mental toughness and discipline. Waking up for a deep sleep in a warm and comfortable bed takes discipline to hop out of bed and start training. But every day you break the bonds of comfort to pursue your fitness and health goals, you are also creating a never quit attitude and the mental and physical discipline and dependability that will make life easier. Really!
5 – IF you are not a “morning person”… If your most productive hours are from 10pm until 1-2am, you might be a night owl. The early morning wake up to train is something you will have to take slowly and eventually push the bed time back before midnight at least if you want to get things done from the hours of 5am to 8am. Depending upon your schedule, this transition can take as little as a few weeks to a few months if your schedule requires a 5-6am workout / wake up period. A few recommendations is to keep your alarm clock in another area not close to your bed so you have to stand up to turn it off. Wake up with crunches. Even while still in bed you can do 20 crunches, reverse crunches, and left and right crunches and that will get the blood moving so you wake up better. Add in a few squats and pushups and it will be difficult to get back in bed and you are on your way!
Performance Issues – If you are planning a challenging workout full of high repetitions calisthenics, sprints, weight training, you may find that first thing in the morning when your blood sugar levels are at their lowest and you may not perform as well. You may need to eat something to boost your energy levels for high intensity workouts for the mornings. Normally if you do harder or more intense workouts later in the day, you will have a few meals in you and your energy levels will be higher naturally. However, if you practice early morning workouts with some smart nutrition ideas for quick energy before, during and after, you can get your body to perform at high levels.
Personally, I have found that you can do about 20-30 minutes of higher intensity workouts first thing in the morning but you will need to supplement with some type of sports drink or fruit (carbs) to keep going at that pace. However, simply dropping it a notch and doing some easy paced cardio activity can have great fat burning benefits at this time if that is a goal.
Regardless of when you exercise, to goal is to just get it done whenever it fits into your day. Whether you are an AM person or a PM person, or choose to get the workouts done in spurts throughout the day, just get moving and the results and health benefits will follow.