Help me get out of bed and to the gym.
December 14, 2005 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Mrs. DakotaPaul and I are having difficulties getting out of bed and to the gym in the morning. Can you help?

My wife and I used to be really good about getting out of bed at 5:30am to go to the gym for an hour. We like to go in the morning because we’re often busy after work, and the gym is packed at that time anyway. For the last several months, however, we’ve been hitting the snooze button until 7:00 (yes, we really do hit it that many times). It’s not that we don’t want to go to the gym – we like to stay active and in shape – it’s just sooooo nice to lie in a warm, comfy bed together. This is getting to be a real problem, though, because we’re gaining weight and feeling sluggish.

We’ve tried changing the alarm from radio to buzzer, and we’ve set it up across the bedroom so we have to get out of bet to shut it off. That hasn’t worked. How do you get yourself out of bed in the morning? Any tips or tricks to get yourself to wake up enough to decide that slipping back between those cozy flannel sheets is not an option?
posted by DakotaPaul to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One of the biggest boons to my willpower has been deciding that I can, in fact, do it. Recursive, but it works since once I have a few successes under my belt it's easier to believe. I backslid (and still do on occassion) when I decided not to bite my nails anymore but it worked, and works better and better the more I dedicate myself to it.

On the upside, in your case once you start to be in better health you'll have more energy and it'll come easier.

In the tips category can you put an alarm in the hallway for 5 min after the one in the room? At some point you just have to power through but if you're doing this while half-asleep perhaps that will help.
posted by phearlez at 9:18 AM on December 14, 2005

This is getting to be a real problem, though, because we’re gaining weight and feeling sluggish.

Sleeping in isn't such a bad idea because not getting the proper amount of sleep can cause weight gain. It is actually good that you sleep in. What is a problem is that neither of you seem to be getting to the gym. Think about going at a different time than in the morning or just invest in a treadmill or bowflex to make working out more convenient. Although bowflex is fairly expensive its a pretty good product.
posted by j-urb at 9:18 AM on December 14, 2005

If it's an option, get a thermostat which works on a timer. Set it so that your heat goes off about 2:30 AM. You won't even notice it while you sleep, honestly. But when you wake up and pad across your bedroom to turn off your alarm clock, you'll definitely notice it, and it'll shock you into a state of awakeness (yes that is a word, because I just made it one). Of course, this could totally work against you and you could race back to dive into the covers to escape the chilly air. Also, if the sheets were satin instead of flannel, you would so not want to get back in ;)

You could also set a coffee maker to start brewing at 5:00, if the smell of coffee is enticing to you.
posted by iconomy at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2005

Maybe you're bored with your current workout, and should try something new at the gym, or set some completely different goals for yourself (my sister, for example, has decided all of a sudden that she wants to be able to do the splits by a certain date). Keeping it fresh is a good way to keep it interesting and challenging.

Also, I find it helpful to lay out all my running clothes and shoes the night before. That way, when I wake up in the morning, they're just staring at me, silently pleading for me to put them on.
posted by unknowncommand at 9:37 AM on December 14, 2005

Staying motivated is hard. Getting out of a warm bed in the winter darkness is hard. And then actually working out at the gym is hard. Stacking three hard things together could be your problem.

I have personally found that the only way to keep exercising is to keep the number of hard things to a minimum. That means having a treadmill at home and using it for 45 minute cardio workouts, generally in the evening before dinner. If I go for a harder workout or attempt to do something else while on the treadmill like programming or reading it tends to kill motivation, likewise getting out of a warm bed or increasing the workout intensity too fast always results in big breaks in the routine.

I honestly think that finding an exercise routine which truly works over the long term is a huge challenge. People say the key is variation but I know many superbly fit people who always do the same damn thing, usually running or biking. So that ain't it. Likewise with any variable you can mention. It has taken me a long time (decades) to find a routine which works with my particular psychology. But I feel so much better after a gentle 45 minute cardio workout and that alone seems to be a sufficient motivator. It means foregoing the macho feeling of having really exerted oneself, which is a pleasure of its own, but it works for me. You may need to explore many different approaches to learn which work best for you.
posted by thayerg at 10:13 AM on December 14, 2005

This is something i've struggled with for a long time, and continue to. Most important thing I can do is go to bed at a decent hour. Makes it MUCH easier.

I also used to have a buddy i would have a to buy a 6pack of microbrew if either of us a missed a day we weren't suppose to. it adds up... :)
posted by joshgray at 10:13 AM on December 14, 2005

I've had this problem since I had to stop hitting the gym because of a surgery. It's been three weeks since I've had the okay to go back to regular workout and I haven't managed to get to the gym but once since then.

This coming Sunday night I'm going to lay out everything I need for the gym before I go to bed. I'm hoping that when I see it upon opening my eyes I'll feel really guilty about wanting to go back to bed.

Alternatively, is there someone outside your home that you could set a "date" with to hit the gym? I find I'm much more likely to follow through with plans if there is someone else I'm meeting.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:19 AM on December 14, 2005

silently pleading for me to put them on

Amen to that! The other thing that keeps me going is that the time on the machines at the gym (primarily the ellipticals) is dedicated free-reading time, which can otherwise be scarce.
posted by whatzit at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2005

Maybe try building some "warm comfy bed" time into your morning routine. Try setting your alarm for 5 am, and when it goes off, instead of hitting the snooze a bunch of times, reset the alarm for 5:30. That gives you 30 minutes of "snuggle time" before you actually have to get out of bed and hit the gym.
posted by boomchicka at 10:25 AM on December 14, 2005

Find something you can do at home, at least to get you back in the habit. Shovelglove is what's been working for me. Put the sledge next to the bed, put the CD with your workout music in the bedside clock radio, and just do it immediately when you get up.
posted by kindall at 10:27 AM on December 14, 2005

Matthew McConaughey says that the most important lesson is to tie your shoes, if you can get up and do that, you'll get to the gym.

It's something of a mantra with me now, because it works.
posted by willmize at 10:28 AM on December 14, 2005

1) When you get out of bed don't turn your alarm clock. Instead, do something else like taking off all your clothes, doing ten push ups, or washing your face. A lot of people develop this awful habit where as soon as the alarm clock goes off, they turn it off and go right back to sleep. The whole thing takes less than a minute. They get so good at it they can literally do it in their sleep. You can break this habit by not turning off the alarm clock right away, but training yourself to do something else first.

2) When you miss your morning work out then you have to make it up in the evening. Don't just shrug it off and say 'too bad'. This creates a psychological incentive for you to miss your morning workout since you get to sleep in and not work out. To break this loop, consider 'punishing' yourself by forcing yourself to work out in the evening, on the weekend, or heck, denying yourself desert.
posted by nixerman at 10:32 AM on December 14, 2005

Ya know, you might try taking apart the alarm clock and removing or otherwise disabling the snooze button. Then you can't turn off the alarm and go back to bed, unless you are willing to risk being late for work.

Of course, this may lead to you learning to just sleep through the alarm, which once learned, is a very bad skill to have and hard to get rid of.

Another option is to get a alarm that is just so damn loud that it causes a shot of adrenaline when you hear it. I have a Sonic Boom alarm clock. It's alarm goes as loud as 113 dB (120dB is the onset of pain) and it also flashes the lights and vibrates your pillow. I have it hooked up to a 60-Watt strobe light (for a strobe, 60 Watts is a *lot*) The first time I woke up with my head vibrating, a 113 dB siren and the lights flashing.... Well, it sure puts the "alarm" back into "alarm clock". However this probably isn't an option if you live in an apt or have other people in the house you don't want to wake.
posted by darkness at 10:53 AM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

Programmable thermostats are a really good idea for a lot of reasons (for example, it's nice to have a mindless device take care of turning down the heat during the weekday but making sure the house is warm when one comes home). They're not very expensive (here's one for $50), and your energy savings probably pay for the cost within a year. Fairly easy to install.

ExerciseFilter: If the thermostat is set so that the heat comes on (say) 30 minutes before you want to get up, and the target temperature is set to be warmer than normal (say, 75 F), then you'll find it's a lot easier to get out of bed (among other things, you'll want to dial down the target temperature a more normal 70 or so, so you aren't sweating).

[and yes, this is quite contrary advice to having the thermostat turn off the heat at 2:30 a.m.]
posted by WestCoaster at 10:58 AM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

What time are you getting to bed?
posted by Good Brain at 11:01 AM on December 14, 2005

I find getting out my exercise stuff, setting out my clothes/shoes/socks, putting the gym bag by the door, etc., just before going to bed, and while I'm doing that "talking" about it (aloud or in my head, whatever works) helps. "Okay, I'll hit the snooze button twice, then I'll get up and put my T-shirt and shorts on, then I'll put my socks and shoes on, then [whatever] and then I'll get in the car and drive to the gym," etc. This mental rehearsing in as much detail as I can muster while doing the physical preparation really helps me wake up with this on my mind with more resolve than if I haven't done it. I have also slept in my (clean) exercise clothes at times, which makes me feel really silly when I have to take them off not having gone to the gym.
posted by redheadeb at 11:41 AM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

posted by kc0dxh at 11:48 AM on December 14, 2005

Try putting a light on a timer. Set it to turn on about 10 minutes before your alarm clock goes off. It'll need to be fairly bright, around 75 or 100 watts.

It sounds like your morning sluggishness has coincided with winter's dark mornings. You've got to trick your body into thinking it's nice and sunny and time to get up.
posted by voidcontext at 12:02 PM on December 14, 2005

Are there any trainers at your gym who'll set up a super early appointment for you? I always find it easier to get to the gym if someone is waiting for me there who will be ticked if I don't show. This way you can also set some new goals, learn some new techniques to get you back on track for good.
posted by Sara Anne at 12:44 PM on December 14, 2005

I always find it easier to get to the gym if someone is waiting for me there who will be ticked if I don't show.

That is the only thing that works for me. I find that peer pressure and social expectations are much more powerful than my own motivation. It's an appointment that can't be missed, not an optional workout.

I also try to learn something while exercising. A morning yoga or swimming class will involve your mind as you learn new skills AND give you a workout. It's easier to look forward to than an hour of brainless pumping on the cardio machines.
posted by letitrain at 1:00 PM on December 14, 2005

Response by poster: Wow, lots of great ideas so far, all. Thanks!

On average, we go to bed around 10:00, so it's not like we're not getting enough sleep.

We've thought about getting a personal trainer so there's someone waiting there for us, but they're about $500 for six weeks and that's more than we can afford. Finding a friend to go with us might be hard. :-)

I'm liking the ideas about putting our gym clothes next to the bed, and I've heard that using light is a good way to get the brain going and wake up.

Thanks again, everybody. Keep 'em coming!
posted by DakotaPaul at 1:41 PM on December 14, 2005

Get (or train) a feline alarm clock and close the bedroom door; much harder to find the snooze button.
posted by rob511 at 3:32 PM on December 14, 2005

Response by poster: Heh, yeah our little kitties sure try to get us up. They're clawing at the bed and our toes at 4:30 every morning wanting to be fed. If they could just hold off for an hour...
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:06 PM on December 14, 2005

Tons of good ideas in there. The "turn off the heat at 2:30" is SUCH a bad idea. Yeah, you get a bit of a wakeup when you go to turn the alarm off, but then you're even MORE motivated to snuggle back into the warm bed. I agree with the person who suggested the opposite.

As for *forcing* yourself to get up - turn on the light as soon as your alarm goes off. Like, before turning off the alarm. FORCE yourself to be more awake before you turn off the alarm, so you can't just hit snooze and pass out again. I used to be HORRIBLE with the snooze button (I would do the same as you - snooze for an hour and a half EASILY, on a 5 minute snooze) and not only do you not get to the gym, you're really not getting any more useful sleep either because you're not going to get back into REM sleep in less than 5 minutes.
posted by antifuse at 1:53 AM on December 15, 2005

I suggested it because that's what I do, and it works for me. I even said that it might have the opposite of the desired effect in my comment, so there's really no need for you to repeat it. So there.

*moons antifuse*
posted by iconomy at 6:24 AM on December 15, 2005

A little late, but better than never.

Do you eat anything close to bedtime? I never believed it in the past, but now I know that food within an hour of bedtime makes me mud in the morning.

My foolproof solution for waking up is this:

Drink some water before going to bed. Just enough to make the morning pee a little more urgent, pushing you out of bed. Have a nice big glass of water waiting for you in the bathroom and chug it. The water chug gets the juices flowing for me - instant clarity and energy!

After spending the bulk of my life not being able to get out of bed, I now can by doing this. Pee can be a fabulous and fairly non-intrusive (in the sense that you are going to do it anyway) get-out-of-bed motivator!

I hope this helps.
posted by zerokey at 7:14 AM on December 16, 2005

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