Usually things go one of two ways when your alarm clock buzzes loudly and wakes you from your deep sleep.
- You spring out of bed ready to dominate the day.
- You hit snooze and prioritize a few extra minutes of sleep above all else.
If you look forward to working out in the morning, that first scenario might sound familiar (and consider yourself lucky). But if you dread the thought of trudging to the gym before the sun rises, these five steps could ease you into a more effective early morning workout.
1. DRINK WATER
If you’re the average American, you sleep about 6.8 hours per night, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. That’s a lot of time to go without drinking. You lose water with every exhale, so you’re slightly dehydrated when you wake up.
Studies show dehydration of as little as 2% of your body weight (that’s less than 3 pounds for a 140-pound person) can reduce exercise performance. To get the most out of your workout, consume plenty of water immediately upon waking and before exercise.
2. EAT BREAKFAST WITH PROTEIN AND CARBOHYDRATES
You’ll likely have gone more than seven hours without eating anything, so make sure to prime your workout with a breakfast or snack that’s rich in protein and carbohydrates. This will stabilize blood sugar and provide your muscles with the ideal fuel for intense exercise.
Carbs are your body’s favorite energy source for working out. Slow-digesting carbs like oatmeal, whole-grain toast or certain fruits (like apples, cherries and grapefruit) give your body a steady source of glucose, the simplified sugar that your muscles love.
Protein helps keep blood-sugar levels steady so you don’t crash during your workout and keeps you full. Eggs, Greek yogurt and whey protein shakes are convenient early morning choices.
(As for the third macronutrient — fat — choose carefully and don’t overdo it. A small handful of almonds or some sliced avocado is fine, whereas a greasy breakfast sandwich may send you sprinting to the bathroom between sets.)
3. RAISE YOUR BODY TEMPERATURE
Your body temperature drops slightly during sleep, so take a few extra minutes to raise your inner thermostat before working out. That’s where a thorough warmup routine that includes foam rolling, muscle activation and dynamic stretching comes in. As you raise your core temperature, you’ll increase blood flow to your muscles, lubricate your joints and spark the metabolic processes that deliver oxygen and energy substrates.
If time allows, you could also take a hot shower before leaving the house. Dress in layers on the way to the gym, and crank the heat in your car during fall and winter months.
4. GET YOUR SPINE RIGHT
If you wake up with a stiff back, you’re not alone. The discs between your vertebrae absorb fluid while you sleep, which can make your back feel tighter in the morning. A proper lower-back warmup is essential to help you move better and reduce the chance of injury, especially if you plan on doing squats, deadlifts or similar exercises that load the spine.
A healthy back needs a blend of mobility and stability. This starts with a strong core and mobile hips. A few yoga-inspired breathing exercises along with dynamic stretches for the glutes, quads, groin and hamstrings can help relieve tension in your back.
Try this sample lower-body warmup before your early bird workout:
- 90/90 Hip Lift: 5 deep breaths (make sure to inhale and exhale fully)
- Kneeling Glute Mobilization: 10 reps per side
- Lateral Lunge with Overhead Reach: 5 reps per side
- Walking Spiderman: 5 reps per side
5. REVIEW YOUR WORKOUT PLAN
There’s an old saying: “If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” This holds true for fitness because without a solid plan, you’ll struggle to make and measure your progress.
Before each workout, take a look over your plan and focus on your daily goal. Keep a workout notebook where you write down the exercises, sets, reps and weights you use. That way, you can make sure you do a little more each time to set foot in the gym.
Don’t head into the gym without a purpose. If you haven’t already, check out one of the manyworkouts featured on the blog.
SEIZE THE DAY
If all else fails, remember this: Few feelings are as satisfying as finishing a workout before most people even wake up.