If you want to not only stick to but maintain a workout routine, resisting the urge to hit ‘snooze’ when that alarm wakes you up to sweat before work is your smartest strategy. Since many studies have proven the effectiveness of morning sweat sessions, most fitness professionals recommend rising with the sun instead of trying to convince yourself to hit the gym after a grueling 9-6 (or 7) workday. As fitness coach and expert Nadia Murdock explains, jumpstarting your day with fitness sets the tone for the next 24 hours. “Working out in the morning really helps to set a sense of mindfulness for the remainder of the day. You are less likely to make unhealthy choices if you start your day with exercise,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It also helps to rev up your metabolism and give you a long lasting burst of energy for the day ahead.”
Even so, becoming a pre-dawn CrossFitter, yogi, boxer or runner is a pipe-dream for most. But it doesn’t have to be. The key, according to experts, is giving yourself weekly goals that will ultimately form into a habit you can maintain. It takes three weeks to create a habit, so throw in an extra week for good measure and turn yourself into a morning fitness enthusiast in a month with this straightforward guide:
Week One: Create a Routine You Can Follow
The greatest hurdle between you and that 6am wake up call are excuses. When your bed is definitely warmer than the temperature outside, you’ll give in to any persuasion to hit ‘snooze.’ Murdock says during the first week of your challenge, you want to concentrate on removing any roadblocks that keep you from crossing the threshold. The more responsibility you have to fulfill in the A.M., the more likely you are to give up. “Lay out your clothes, prepare your breakfast, pack your gym bag and if you can even set a timer for your coffee,” she suggests.
Even if you don’t follow-through every single morning during this first 7-day stretch, fitness educator and founder of NYC-based Cardio Sweat Party, Michele Gordon says it’s most important to start small, but think big. Focus on completing two morning workouts, allowing you the inspiration and room to add on as the month continues. “Take notes for what worked and what didn’t. This is a good time to consult with a personal trainer on what workouts are best for you. Let him or her know you’re switching up your routine and you want to make morning workouts stick. Mornings are all about efficiency. Plan your workouts in advance so you can conquer the mornings strong,” she says.
Week Two: Go to Bed Earlier and Try New Things
Now that you’ve dipped your sneaker into the morning workout crowd, Gordon says it’s time to challenge yourself to add on another A.M. sweat. While you’re aiming for three workouts, start to identify other areas that will make getting out of bed easier than the week before. One no-brainer place to start is with your bedtime. After all, the later you stay up catching up on ‘one more’ Netflix show, the less sleep you’ll clock that night. And if you’re still exhausted when 7am rolls around? You definitely won’t be making it to that shadow boxing class. That’s why a double-whammy approach works during week two, according to Gordon: go to sleep 45 to 60 minutes earlier than you usually do and sign up for something new, checking in with your body each jab, cross, uppercut and hook. “For this week, try to do different types of workouts per session to not only cross-train, but also to see how you feel. Do you need to eat a little snack before? Do you need to warm-up longer? Did you enjoy running and yoga over weight training or vice-versa?” she proposes. “Make note of what worked and what didn’t for the future. Stick with what works and what gets you out of bed in the morning.”
Week Three: Depend On Your Fitness Buddies
This is a week where everything might feel like it’s coming together, as 21 days often translates into the formation of a habit. Since you can guest-estimate an easier time wiggling out of bed to hit a yoga class this week, add on another early wake-up call with a fourth workout. This week, Gordon encourages taking a social approach. For many people, the active community that surrounds them can single-handedly fuel their motivation to push harder, work out more, and believe in their goals. “It’s very helpful to find people or things that will hold you accountable. This could as simple as an app like Aaptiv or a Facebook Group to keep you motivated,” she shares. “Workout classes, running clubs, yoga studios, cycling clubs and more are all good ways to meet new people and stay on track towards making your morning workouts happen.”
Week Four: Take It Up a Notch
Welcome to the home stretch! At the end of this week, you’ll probably feel pretty proud of yourself —as you should be! Now is when you can take that regimen and habit you’ve formed and really nail it into your lifestyle. Gordon says if your body can take it, try to add a fifth morning workout. And because reflection is part of what will help you stay the course, she recommends getting candid about what you’ve learned through the challenge and how you’ve changed. “Do you notice how much more you get done during the day? Are you more productive? Energized? Enjoying the bragging rights of ‘I already worked out and it’s not even 9 a.m.,’” she questions.
If so, awesome. But guess what? It’s time to up the ante so you really reap the most rewards — and endorphins! — off of your workout. “If you used to wake up at 7 a.m., now aim for 6 a.m. or whatever works for you. Try to up the intensity of your workout. I’ve noticed that people who are starting to wake up early and sweat, get used to the waking up part and moving, but they’re still ‘too tired’ to actually push themselves hard,” she shares. “Do what you need to do to gear up so things outside of your control don’t stop you. You’ve geared up, you’ve woken up, you’ve worked out, you’ve found your tribe. Now’s the time to keep it up.”
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