Making the Habit - Morning Workouts: a #InOneYear Project Update
The making of a habit, they say, is about 30 days. I have been waking up early (between 5am and 5:30am) and meeting a friend at the gym nearly every day for the past month plus, and I must say it is now just sort of habit that I wake up in the 5am hour. Was it easy? Nope. Did it happen over night? Not even close. It has taken and still takes every single one of those days.
I have struggled with being a morning workout person for years, but it is key for my consistency. Once I find myself back in the habit, things just sort of gel. The struggle has been that I would stay up too late and not be prepared to get out the door so I end up falling behind schedule and just saying to heck with it, hit snooze and wake up in a rush to make it to work. Forget the after work workout - that never happens either due to mental fatigue or physical fatigue.
I know that morning workouts sound like a dream for some and a nightmare for others, however sometimes the morning hours are the only hours to get it done consistently and with purpose. Here are some tips on how to shift your workouts to the morning if that is what will work best for you and your goals.
Having the accountability to my friend that I will meet her at o'dark thirty in the morning at the gym to swim laps in the outside pool or to do cardio and strength is a bonus, a luxury I know. Not everyone has a workout buddy but honestly we end up doing our own things most mornings, but are just accountable to each other that we get it done. If I no-show it doesn't impact my friend or her workout, but she checks in on me and sees where I am. Likewise, if I am out there on the treadmill and I do not see her or her check in text, I ping her to see whats up. Knowing that I have to say I am skipping my workout to someone is a level of accountability that keeps me in check and a reminder to tune in with myself to see why I am thinking about skipping. Is it a valid reason or is it due to my lack of preparedness?
As time has gone on, I am able to see quickly that the days I have skipped were all due to my body adjusting to the earlier hours, the cumulative fatigue of a body back into training, and overall just figuring it out. All in all they were still by my choice.
At the start I made it maybe 2 or 3 days a week. Then a few weeks later it was 3 or 4 days a week. Now it is 5 days a week unless I am travelling.
In the fast paced world we live in we want things now. No, scratch that - we want things 5 minutes ago. When we set out to make a habit such as this - a complete change in our routine and daily schedule, we would love to flip some switch and magically be morning people. I hate to tell you but it will not happen that way.
Be gentle with yourself through this process. Being gentle with yourself is not the same as not caring about if you succeed or not, nor is it approval to go ahead and succumb to the difficulty when it hits you - being gentle means not to beat yourself up over it, as well as to start from the beginning, the real beginning, in this process and decide from day 1 what it is that you can realistically commit to each week.
Think in terms of minutes not hours. In consistency, not workouts. In the process, not results.
Which leads us into the next tip...
Baby Steps at First
It took me about a month before I was doing a real workout of any sort. The rest of the time I had just worked on building the habit. I would wake up, do my home things and then head to the gym even if that meant that I had time for a 15 minute stretch or only 10 minutes in the hot tub, or a 20 minute swim of easy laps, or a short treadmill run, or even just to shower and get ready for work... the habit I was building was the ACTION of getting up and out the door in time to do a workout and get to work, consistently.
So when at first my goal was just to get to the gym, over time it progressed to include longer workout attempts and then finally, only after the habit was built and my normal is to get to the gym by 6am - then I started to work on a real workout plan.
I like the KISS method - keeping it stoooopidly simple. As I have mentioned before in other blog posts, we have to understand our underlying psychology to know how to work with it for our success, not fight against it to our failure.
Our brains like us to keep doing the same thing, because we are alive and the brain equates our survival with us keeping on the track we are on. Once we start to change things, the brain recognizes these changes as potential threats to survival. If we make gradual and small changes, we grow and the brain adapts. If we make many large changes all at once, the brain will find a way to sabotage in an act of preservation.
Obviously this means give yourself some time to build the habit.
Allow Time for Change
Right about now is a great time to start working on the habit you want to adopt, especially if it is a great departure from your everyday norm.
Ultimately I want to be at the gym or in my workout (if at home) by 5am by the time the new year rolls around. Given that I am starting from a 7am wake up norm, and now a 5am wake up norm.. this is going to require some time to adjust and find what works for me to be successful every single day.
Adjust Bed Time Not Only Wake Time
This sounds like a no-brainer, but the reality is that we can only do so much if we are burning the candle at both ends. Spend either late nights or early mornings, but to attempt both for a period of time will result in mental and physical fatigue.
Determine what your hard stop bedtime is in order to still be functional in the morning. For me it is currently 9pm headed to bed, in bed and ready for sleep by 10pm, for my 5am wake up.
Determine how long you need for home things before your workout. For me - it is brush teeth, walk dogs, feed dogs, grab food bag and workout bag and drive 30 minutes to the gym. I cannot spare more than 1 hour from wake to workout, so for me that means having my work clothes in my gym bag, my food and sports nutrition prepped and bagged ready to grab, the dog food ready to go, my work gear (i.e. computer, work bag, etc.) by the door, and my workout gear laid out ready to throw on as I am unable to sleep in workout clothes, I know I am weird!, however if you can many people find this to be very beneficial.
If any one of the above is not done by the time I go to sleep, I risk being delayed.
Remember WHY you are doing this
Most importantly - why are you doing this? A big goal? To have a more balanced home life with family, work and sport? To create "me" time?
Whatever your why is - put it in your phone alarm so that when it goes off at rediculous o'clock you see the reminder of what gives you the energy to push forward.
If you are super consistent with lunch time or evening workouts, then there is no need to switch the routine. For me, I have found that the morning hours allow me to get everything done before I step foot at work. This means no stress over missed workouts, no looming WOD over my head - once it is done it is done and I can focus on recovery and the rest of the day!
Here is to health and consistency, and remember #InOneYear you will look back on today and smile because of how you took control and started the habits that created the you you have always wanted to be!