How do I become an early morning exerciser?
January 25, 2014 7:40 PM   Subscribe

Have you gone from not exercising in the morning to regularly doing so, and enjoying it and feeling energetic? I would love to have your tips!

I do yoga almost daily (from home), and it's the intense, heart-pounding, sweaty kind, usually (so I need energy). Previously when my schedule was a lot freer I would naturally feel like doing yoga at one of two times: between 10 am and 1 pm, or between 4 and 6 pm.

Now that my schedule is busier, it's more practical to do yoga first thing in the morning and then get on with my day (by the way, I like to do yoga for at least one hour, sometimes up to 1.5 hours. I guess I could compromise on the time a little, but I'd rather not go under an hour on a regular basis).

So, the problem is I just don't feel energetic first thing in the morning! I am ok with actually waking up- if I go to bed at a reasonable hour I can get myself up early. And once I start doing yoga I feel ok. I can get through it and feel okay, but I am much less energetic than at the previously mentioned times.

I was wondering if there's a way to change myself to be more energetic in the morning? If so, how? Or is this some kind of natural body energy clock that would be hard or impossible to change, and if I want to go yoga in the early morning I just have to deal with this?

Also, if you have other suggestions for fitting in exercise that don't involve doing it first thing in the morning, that's welcomed too.

I'd prefer not to join a studio now as a member (in case that would be your suggestion)- not convenient for daily yoga, more money than I have now, and I did a teacher training so I know how to do it at home. I am certainly open to going to studio classes at times, but that probably doesn't apply to this question.

And I feel fine AFTER doing yoga in the morning, it's more that DURING I don't feel that energetic, as much as I would at other times.

Also keep in mind, one should not be eating 2 hours before doing yoga, unless it is a piece of fruit or something.

posted by bearette to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
We have a gym in the building at work that I used once or twice a week last year. This year, I'm not showering before heading to work, thereby forcing myself into the gym, if nothing else to shower. So far I've worked out everyday I've gone into the office. The forcing myself into the physical facility seems to work. There were a couple of times I walked in intending to just grab a shower and go to work, but ended up working out anyway.

Can you arrange your morning routine in some way to force you into a situation where yoga suddenly looks appealing?
posted by COD at 7:52 PM on January 25, 2014

I am over 50 years old. I have been trying for 30 years to be an early morning exerciser. Sadly, I will likely be the only one to tell you the truth. It cannot be done.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:01 PM on January 25, 2014 [21 favorites]

What if you make a deal with yourself that you can quit after 5 minutes if you like? (Knowing that once you get into it you won't want to quit).

Is there anything else you could do to make it pleasant? Put your mat in a sunny room, wear fuzzy yoga pants....
posted by bunderful at 8:01 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Like JohnnyGunn, I have to add that, sadly, you can't just become a morning exerciser. Just can't be done. You can exercise in the morning and get used to it, but it won't ever be as easy as exercising when your body is naturally at its peak.
posted by AboveTheFray at 8:08 PM on January 25, 2014

Here's an article from the NYTimes discussing the issue of morning exercise vs. evening/late afternoon. A pertinent excerpt:
“Most components (strength, power, speed) of athletic performance are worst in the early hours of the morning,” he wrote in an e-mail message. “Ratings of perceived exertion during exercise have generally been found to be highest in the early morning.”

If you exercise later in the day, your muscles are more flexible and stronger and your heart and lungs are more efficient, said Michael H. Smolensky, an expert in chronobiology, the study of the body clock.

“Is a heart rate of 140 in the morning indicative of the same level of workout cost as in the afternoon?” asked Dr. Smolensky, a visiting professor at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston.

“I would say no,” he added. “Exercise physiologists say you should be able to perform at the same level with a heart rate of 140 in the morning as in the afternoon or early evening. But chronobiologists say your capacity to generate and tolerate a higher heart rate is better later in the day.”

“In the afternoon and evening,” Dr. Smolensky said, “you are in a different biological state.”
posted by telegraph at 8:12 PM on January 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

I switched from working out in the afternoon to morning duty. My afternoon workouts were laze away two hour things of bullshitting and lifting and what not. After kids and such it's now get up at 5, eat a few chunks of pineapple or melon in the morning, head off and get there.

I work out with INTENSITY now. I lift hard and I lift fast. Intensity. is the key. I don't blather around as it's always the same 5 people there at the gym every morning and we all have headphones in.

I Row 3000 yards after that, and always try to do it faster. I'm back at 6:15 at the latest.;

I'm not sure how that translates to yoga.

Also I have seen far more gains from just the intensity of it that the hours I used to put in. I think intensity is the key.
posted by sanka at 8:12 PM on January 25, 2014

Sort of a sideways chime-in, but useful. Note that this may be a tad grosser than folks would expect to see's about bodily functions....fair warning......

You'll find it a lot more comfortable to exercise in the morning if you can get in the habit of a bowl movement right upon waking (i.e. before the workout). And that's not necessarily easy to achieve. The trick is consistency of schedule. Stay super consistent in sleep/wake/meal times for a week. And don't ignore/procrastinate/delay bowel movement (even for like a minute) even if it's not a workout day; your body will assume you want to wait till later as a rule, and will delay the urge the following day (have a look at this posting I made a couple days ago about the body's reaction to'll like it, it's yoga-ish!).

Speaking of which....the yoga will go much better if you can develop this habit, as well.
posted by Quisp Lover at 8:15 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

The only reason I have managed to become a morning exerciser is that my husband is one. I sleepwalk into my swimsuit and the car, take a nap on the way to the pool, and then the shock of the water finally wakes me up. I then typically get a good workout in. I guess I am nthing that you need to create something to force you into working out once you are awake - maybe a partner ?
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:17 PM on January 25, 2014

I can only work out in the early morning if it's an absolute necessity. (I would have suggested morning classes for this reason, but I see those are out.) Even when I do, I don't feel energetic right away.

For me, the key is to take advantage of my early-morning autopilot. I get all my stuff ready the night before so I can get dressed and prepared right away, and by the time I'm fully awake I'm ready to go and it's easier to just do the workout than crawl back into bed.

Never, never, NEVER hit the snooze button on a morning when you plan to exercise. Don't even consider it. Once you hit snooze, you can't recover. If you can, put your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get up to turn it off.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:54 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

You have to find 'extremely compelling reason(s)'. For me, it was that my favorite instructor switched his schedule to 6 a.m. workouts (it's a high intensity interval class). There is a monetary penalty for no-shows, which both sucks and helps. I am always there even though I still HATE getting up at 5 to get there (I'm a night owl). I have tried other classes, including yoga, which I do regularly in the evenings, in the morning, and I found them hard to get through and never stuck with it. And I never had success working out on my own at that hour. I'm always able to sleep-negotiate my scheduling with myself.
posted by xiaolongbao at 9:19 PM on January 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with the advice to make it a habit and then let the sleep-addled autopilot do the work for you.

I also focus on the mental benefits of exercising first thing - it makes me more awake and alert in the early morning, puts me in a good mood for the start of the day and I know that when I come home in the evening I can just chill out safe in the knowledge that I've already done my exercise for the day.
posted by neilb449 at 11:57 PM on January 25, 2014

I'm kind of in the same boat and would definitely agree it's a really difficult problem.

I've found the thing that helps me most is focusing purely on the next step. So when you're lying in bed don't think about doing yoga; just focus on getting up and putting the right clothing on. Also try and remember that because you've failed to do it x times this week doesn't mean it isn't valuable or worthwhile to try and do it tomorrow. My brain always pulls that one.
posted by Erberus at 3:24 AM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have really struggled with this and similar goals. I've found two things to work:

1. Vigorous exercise really energizes me (after the exercise is over), so I have reframed how I think about the morning workout. It's no longer about dragging myself out of bed, but about giving myself a good start to the day. If you can psyche yourself up to it, that's great!

2. Try to make it a habit first. I usually have to do something for three weeks before it feels like routine for me, so I set a goal to workout in the mornings and promised myself a reward at the end of three weeks if I worked out every time I told myself I would. Usually by the end of the third week it no longer seems like a chore!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:24 AM on January 26, 2014

I'm a morning runner! I used to be a night runner but had to switch last summer due to a job. Anyway, it still sucks. especially on FREEZING cold mornings. But I remind myself that I always feel better after I run, and any missed workout is something I have to be accountable for.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:15 AM on January 26, 2014

I have an acquaintance who would get herself to get up early in the morning to go running by sleeping in her running clothes. So then she would feel silly getting up and changing into other clothes without having gone running first.

For me, I really like getting up early to exercise but am not currently in the habit. I was in the routine of getting up around 6 am or a bit before then a year or two ago. I think sometimes having a walk to the gym was good to sort of warm up a bit and wake up a bit before getting to the gym. I also just liked that getting up early meant I had the exercise box checked off before beginning my day - there was something motivating about this because I knew there was a higher chance that I wouldn't go through with the workout if I put it off until after work.

All in all, I am not sure exactly why I was so good about getting up and working out early in the morning, but I think that it had something to do with forcing myself to get into the routine at first, then liking the routine, and having a schedule where it was logical to maintain that routine if I wanted to get the exercise in. (currently I am a student with no real set schedule to speak of, so I have way less incentive to get up at 6 am. . .)
posted by thesnowyslaps at 6:30 AM on January 26, 2014

In my experience, planning the night before and then leaving the house is key. At least, it's mission critical if you are trying to cultivate this habit. You say you can't afford and don't want a studio membership. In that case, can you do yoga in a nearby park? Obviously this is only an option if it isn't polary vortexy where you are. If indoors is a requirement, maybe you could find a morning yoga buddy to come over. Waking up and getting ready is the hardest part. If you toss on your yoga clothes and immediately leave the house (or answer the door for your yoga friend), you will be working out before you realize you are awake!

Automated music and coffeemakers help me too.
posted by pazazygeek at 6:54 AM on January 26, 2014

I tried and couldn't do it, no way.

Also, if you have other suggestions for fitting in exercise that don't involve doing it first thing in the morning, that's welcomed too.

When I had a 9-5 schedule, the best time/place for me was immediately after work, at a gym situated directly on my route home. Great to get it out of the way before I had a chance to put my feet up. I kept a locker with essentials so I could go out afterwards if I wanted, and when I was going straight home I'd just shower there.

Maybe you could get a gig teaching yoga at a studio or even at the Y? During a class you'd obviously have to attend to students, but maybe you could get free classes for yourself on other days (a lot of studios in my area trade teaching time for class time).

(Sun salutations are the limit of my yogic knowledge, and doing 5-10 of them, slowly, in the morning does actually energize me.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:23 AM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Caffeine. I switched from evening to morning workouts about 10 years ago and it was brutal, but it's the only way I can squeeze it into my day. I make a cup of coffee and start doing yoga as it cools, and I sip it every time there's a brief rest in the program. Watching the sun rise is a nice reward, too. If it's going to be a tough morning I take half a Vivarin as soon as my alarm clock goes off, before I even get out of bed.
posted by Mendl at 12:02 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Easter in Wallonia or Northern France?   |   Help me help my retired mom find a part-time job! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.