I've always been a self-proclaimed gym rat. But for years, my workout routine was as follows: get home from work, wolf down dinner while simultaneously changing into spandex, then beeline it to the gym before it closed. Consequently, I had a negligible social life and almost no down time. Plus, my workouts suffered because I was forced to rush through them and felt permanently exhausted.
Then one night, I was yawning mid-rep and decided I was sick of this life. What if, instead, I set my alarm at the crack of dawn for 6am workouts from here on out? Would it be worth it, let alone doable?
The "doable" part I realized would be on me, but professionals say the rise-and-sweat is definitely worth it. "If you're the kind of person who can get up in the morning for a productive workout, I highly recommend it," says NYC-based personal trainer and nutritional coach Theo Lusardi. "Post-workout, your body has an oxygen debt called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) that causes it to burn extra calories for several hours after. When you work out in the morning, you reap those benefits all day. But when you exercise at night before bed, you lose a lot of that effect because your heart rate and metabolism plummet while you sleep."
So, I set that alarm, and six years later, morning workouts are still my do-or-die. I'm not saying it's easy, or that I don't want to light my phone on fire every time it DING-DING-DINGs when it's still dark out. But on top of scientific efficacy, AM sweat sessions can be more efficient because when you're not drained, you're less likely to bail early. You'll make healthier choices throughout the day as to not negate the good things you accomplished at sun-up. You have more "you" time in general. The pro list totally outweighs the cons.
If you're looking to make morning exercise your thing, I give you my full support, as well as a few tried-and-true personal tips for success:
Prep the night before
The hardest part of a morning workout isn't the workout -- it's emerging from the comfort of your warm duvet burrito and forcing your body out the door. That's why it's key to take a little time the night before to set yourself up for success. For example, lay out your gym clothes and sneakers. Fill up your water bottle and pop it in the fridge. Make sure your iPod is charged up and ready with a kick-ass playlist. Determine that it's a leg/arm/chest/cardio day so you have a plan of attack upon arrival. This way, when you wake up at 6am knowing you don't have to scramble around for your Nikes, you'll be less likely to grunt and roll over back into REM.
OK, hear me out. Getting up to work out is like ripping off a Band-Aid -- it hurts like hell briefly, but overall it's worth it.
For instance, I live directly across the street from my gym and set my blood-curdling alarm for a half-hour BEFORE my treadmill ETA. I allot myself time to hit snooze once; then, I crank the dimmer switch to my overhead light on full blast. Yup, it's about as awful as it sounds and I usually whine about it, but I'm definitely not going back to sleep when hundreds of watts are accosting my corneas. To pump myself up, I also blast Ludacris (sometimes Taylor Swift) on my walk over; if you like to have a pre-workout protein shake, put your headphones in while you make it.
By the time you make it to the gym, you'll be completely (eh, 90%) awake and ready for beast mode.