woman in exercise clothes stretching in morning sun

How to Get into the Habit of Working Out Early

Until a couple of years ago, I’d never thought I’d get into the habit of working out early in the morning. Frankly, I thought the 5:30 a.m. regulars at my CrossFit gym were insane.

That all changed the night before the Great American Eclipse in August 2017. My family went to our house to the country to watch, but I had to work. As a mama of 3 kids and 4 geriatric pets, I was pretty stoked for a quiet night alone at home.

I poured a glass of wine and (in a bold move) turned on the Golden State Killer episode of My Favorite Murder. Suffice it to say, It scared the crap out of me. I spent the whole night convinced a serial killer was outside my (second story) bedroom window.

I was still awake at 4:30 a.m., so I figured I might as well work out. After years of thinking the early birds at my gym were nuts, I was surprised by how great I felt. Before long, I was a regular at the early class.

Not everyone has a serial killer to motivate them, and I’d be lying if I said it was easy to wake up at 4:30 each day. It took a little work, but now I don’t think twice about early workouts. I credit micro habits with putting me on the right track.

What are Micro Habits?

Like any good habit, an early morning workout routine eventually becomes second nature.

That said, most people aren’t going to go from night owl to early bird right away. It takes time, effort, and grit to get there. This is where micro habits come in handy.

Micro habits are small actions that take very little effort to complete. Because they’re so simple, it can be easy to underestimate their power. With consistency, these micro habits snowball into bigger and more meaningful habits.

But what kinds of micro habits are useful for getting you out of bed and into the gym?

5 Micro Habits to Get into the Habit of Exercising Early

My resilience is pretty low at 4:30 a.m. I can find a way to turn just about any early morning surprise into an excuse to skip my workout.

I use micro habits to lower the chances of these early morning surprises. I think about factors that will make me feel more tired, or equipment that I may need to find so I’m not frantic in the mornings.

Here are a few micro habits that have helped me get into the habit of working out early.

1.     Check the internet.

You’ll waste less time in the morning if you consider variables that may affect your workout. If you’re a runner or a cyclist, you’ll want to check the weather and gear up accordingly. My workouts are mostly indoor, but I always look at the workout the night before to make sure I don’t need rope climbing socks, lifting shoes, or other special equipment.

I’m already on the internet in the evening anyway, so I do it then.

2.     Set out your clothes.

As I brush my teeth every night, I walk into my closet and pick out my workout clothes. I set my shorts, sports bra, tank, socks, and shoes on the edge of the bathtub, and I make sure I have a hair tie on the sink.

This nightly ritual gets me into the mindset to work out, and it also ensures that I won’t be stressed in the morning.

3.     Text a friend.

Have you read The Four Tendencies? If not, you totally should. In it, author Gretchen Rubin provides a great framework for understanding how to stick with your habits based on how you respond to internal and external expectations.

I’m what Rubin would refer to as an upholder. I’ll sometimes let myself down, but there’s no way I’ll leave a friend hanging. I already text my girlfriends a lot anyway, so I add one more each night to see who’s hitting the early class. This quick and simple action keeps me from turning off the alarm each morning.

4.     Put your keys in the same place every day.

I wouldn’t exactly say that I have my wits about me at 5 a.m., when it’s time to leave for the gym. In the beginning of my quest to become an early bird, I certainly had my share of “can’t find my keys, back to bed, oh darn!” mornings.

I’ve worked on the micro habit of setting my keys on the console inside my door every time I come home. This gets me out the door faster in the mornings, with the added benefit of making me more organized the rest of the day.

5.     Set the coffee pot.

I don’t need a massive coffee first thing in the morning, but I do need just a few sips to help me feel human. For this reason, I program my coffee pot to brew at 4 a.m. before heading up to bed.

It takes a bit of time to get into the habit of working out early, but micro habits like these make the process much easier. Try a couple out and see if they help get you out the door before the rooster crows. 

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