Guest Blog Post by Ultra Marathoner Dan Chabert
I don’t think I’ve ever known someone who has complained about having too much time on her (or his) hands. Practically everyone I know leads a life that is filled to the brim with obligations related to career and family, if not also so much more. It’s not surprising then that many people feel like they don’t have “time” to exercise or to lead a healthy lifestyle because they feel like they’re barely staying afloat with all their existing obligations, so it becomes inconceivable to them to take on yet another duty.
Here’s the thing, though: we have to take care of our bodies. Pragmatically speaking, if we don’t take care of our bodies, who will? It can be problematic to liken our very complex and extraordinary bodies to pieces of machinery, but imagine that your body is a luxury vehicle. The vehicle will operate if you put sub-par gasoline into it, but it won’t run as well as it could. If you don’t keep the interior of the car well-kept, you’ll likely feel a little dismayed every time you ride in it because you don’t like what you see. On the other hand, if you take a little time every day or every week to clean the inside, you’ll likely feel happy when you’re cruising around town. Likewise, if you spend a little extra money and put the premium gasoline into your car, you’ll notice that it runs a bit more smoothly, which makes it a more enjoyable ride. So, too, is it with your body: you can operate on a sub-par diet and without exercise, but it isn’t a great existence if you do. If, however, you spend a little time every day and every week taking care of yourself – eating healthily and exercising – your body will operate better and unsurprisingly, you’ll feel fantastic.
I’ve been a runner for most of my adult life now, and I know that more often than not, the hardest step to take when you’re beginning an exercise routine is the first one – literally. We so often get down and out and spiral into darkness, thinking that we’ll never be able to do XYZ that we don’t even give ourselves the opportunity to try. You can take control of your health starting immediately, and the benefits you’ll reap will transpire just as quickly.
Below, I’ll describe some of my tried and true strategies to develop a morning exercise habit. I’ll couch my descriptions in running, since that’s what I know best, but my tips are applicable to virtually any exercise routine out there. Here’s how I have successfully exercised nearly every morning for the past near-decade:
Set alarms – many of them, if necessary. Especially when you’re getting started with exercising in the morning, you don’t want to leave your wake-up to chance. Set however many alarms you need, put your alarm out of reach of your bed (necessitating that you actually get up to turn it off), and when the damn thing goes off in the morning, do not hit snooze! Plus, remember to set your alarm for A.M. instead of P.M. I’ve unfortunately made that mistake before.
Prep your morning before you go to bed. Leave nothing to chance in the morning. Lay out everything you’ll need to complete your exercise routine – your clothes, your keys (if you’re leaving your home), your breakfast, everything. You don’t want to lose time to scrambling around looking for your left shoe (or anything else, for the matter). I even know people who will sleep in their workout gear so they can get up and get moving in the morning. If you need your caffeine fix first thing in the morning, consider even setting your coffeemaker to begin brewing in the early a.m. hours so your cup of joe will be ready first thing.
Don’t waste time on social media; just go to bed! If you’re getting up early to exercise each morning, sleep takes on an even greater importance in your life. Too often, many of us (myself included) get into bed exhausted and ready to fall asleep … only to be sucked into the vortex of the internet, cat videos, and other meaningless traps on social media. Cut yourself off from technology for at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and if you need something to lull yourself to sleep, consider reading a book or listening to relaxing music. Consider also moving your bedtime up a little each night, even by as few as 15 minutes, to help slowly accommodate for your earlier-than-usual wakeup.
In the a.m.
It might be unpleasant at first, but it’ll get better. Think back to the last time you did something for the very first time. I’d bet that it wasn’t easy or necessarily enjoyable on the first few goes, right? If you’ve never woken up early to exercise, expect there to be a learning curve, and when you feel groggy and wonder why you’re doing this to yourself, remember that you’ve decided to take ownership of your health and that it’s worth it! If it takes you a few mornings to get into the groove – to get beyond the snooze button – that’s ok! Don’t write off morning exercise as an impossibility if it doesn’t go swimmingly the first few times. Even if you start out by running for just a few minutes, it’s better than the alternative (nothing). You’ll figure things out as you go, but if nothing else, at the very least, give yourself the opportunity to try.
Abstain from the social media vortex pre-workout. Social media can be a great motivator, but it can also be a huge distraction and a relentless procrastination device. Just as I advised above about simply going to bed at night, when you wake up early to exercise, simply exercise – stay off your phone. Looking at the news, your social media apps, responding to emails: all of that can wait until after you’ve completed your workout for the day. Remember, too, that “just checking” things can quickly derail a workout opportunity, since more often than not, “just checking” can easily become a 30-minute-plus affair. Just don’t do it.
Get a buddy! Morning workouts can be tough, but just like many other things in life, exercising in the predawn hours is often more fun with a buddy. Find a friend who has similar goals as you, and hold each other accountable to showing up each day. Having another person present, especially if you’re exercising outdoors when it’s dark and few people are out, can also help buoy your safety, as there is some strength in numbers. Plus, realistically, when you exercise with a friend, the time flies by, and you still get the added benefit of seeing someone you care about and catching up with him or her, albeit over a good sweat instead of a good cocktail or meal!
Taking care of ourselves is something that all of us obviously need to do, but when we have so many other obligations on our plate, finding the time to do so can be pretty challenging. It’s worth mentioning that we have to remind ourselves to make our own health a priority because again: if we don’t take care of our bodies, then who will? You may find that working out in the morning energizes you for the rest of the day, and studies have even shown that people’s motivation levels are the highest in the morning, so it all but behooves you to give morning exercise a fair shot. It may not be easy at first, but with some trial and error, I’m confident that you’ll streamline a process that works for you.
About the Author
Writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan Chabert is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com, monicashealthmag.com & nicershoes.com and he has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.