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How to get out of bed for a 6 a.m. workout

Image description: Screenshot of an iphone screen with alarm set for 5:20 AM, black background, green “on” activated beside digital reading of 5:20 AM

Motivation. That’s probably the number one theme for anyone who struggles with working out. Yes, we deal with injury, weather, and interrupted routines. But how to get and stay motivated? That can be our undoing. Today I want to zero in on one really specific thing that people say they are not motivated to do: get up for an early morning workout.

Since shortly into the pandemic, I have been doing Superhero Workouts with fieldpoppy Cate’s amazing trainer, Alex of ABH Movement (I guess Alex now counts as my trainer too, since I’ve been working with her since May). These are one-hour live Zoom workouts, where Alex leads and a fluctuating number of us (usually somewhere between 8-15 these days) follow. Because we’re live, Alex can give us pointers on our form and we can ask questions or request alternatives. And I definitely work harder than I would if I had to make up my own workout and do it alone. My time of choice: 6 a.m. (MWF) or 6:30 a.m. (Tuesdays). On Saturdays it’s at 9:30 a.m., so that’s not a motivational challenge as far as the time is concerned. Thursdays it’s from 7:30-8:30 a.m., which is too late for me most days because of work. On MWF there is also a 9 a.m. class, and that draws its own regular crowd but I have never been. I like the early workout.

A few people told me flat-out that I would never see them at a 6 a.m. workout because that’s just way too early. I confess that as much as I love the early workouts, sometimes I need to give myself a pep talk to make it out of bed. The absolute best part of working out this early in the day is that by 7 a.m. (or 7:30 on Tuesdays) my workout is done! So how do I get out of bed for an early workout several times a week? Here are some of my strategies:

I get to bed early enough the night before…This sort of goes without saying but it’s key. If I don’t get at least (or close to) seven hours of sleep, I’m not likely to make it out of bed for the early workout. I set my alarm for 5:20 on the 6 a.m. workout days. That means I need to do my best to be sleeping by 10:30 at the latest.

I don’t get up right before the workout; give myself some time…Lots of people who have a 6 a.m. workout would probably get up at 5:50, especially if they don’t need to go anywhere. Even when I used to do swim training at 6 a.m. at the Y, I used to get up at 5:40 and just pull on my suit and my sweats and go. But now I have a different routine that involves hanging out with the kittens, feeding them, and perhaps meditating before the workout if there is 20 minutes of time. That means that by the time the workout starts I’m awake, not groggy. My usual wake-up time for the 6 a.m. workout: 5:20 a.m.

Have a pep talk ready for those days I don’t want to get out of bed…I have those mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed. But I also know myself. I’m the type of person who, once I am out of bed I’m ready to go. But if it’s raining, or snowing, or cold, or dark, or some combination of those things, then bed feels so cozy. The number one thing I tell myself is: “think of how good I’ll feel by 7 a.m. when I’m done my workout!” But I also tell myself: “I’m going to feel glad I got up within a few minutes of getting out of bed–really I will.” My pep talks aren’t of the style in Welcome to the Grind (have you seen that? -It’s a bit too earnest for me but I include a link here since some people find it really motivating and inspiring).

I work out with a group…That’s another thing that gets me going: “It’ll be fun to connect with the team.” Alex has great energy and really gets us going in the early morning, and I am starting to know some of the others (albeit in a very limited way because we’re Zooming) as well. Since I first tried group training I have come to appreciate its motivational magic. I feel the loss when I miss out on a group workout. I miss them. They notice I’m gone. Working out alone is rarely a replacement for a group workout, even though solo workouts always have their place in my training. It’s not just about accountability. It’s also about the energy of others. I love what Alex has created with the Virtual Superhero team and I always feel better not just for having done it, but while I am doing it.

I work out with friends... This is similar to working out with a group, but it’s more direct. On Tuesdays, a friend of mine whom I introduced to Alex’s workouts has started coming to the 6:30 class as well. When we touch base the night before to say we’re both doing the 6:30 class the next day, that’s basically enough to guarantee I’ll get out of bed for that workout. It’s not that much different from planning to meet a friend at the gym at 6:30 — you would not want to stand someone up that early in the morning (if ever!).

I take afternoon naps…I know naps are killers for some people, making it difficult for them to sleep at bedtime. But I learned the virtues of a power nap from my Dad, who used to come home from the office at lunch, eat, and then have a 10-minute nap before heading back to work. I usually go for a bit longer, but rarely longer than 30 minutes (I set a timer). It’s a great refresher that I can fit in now that I’m working at home. The kittens love it too (they always come and nap with me). And if I’m feeling tired from having been awake since 5:20, it’s gives me enough of a boost to feel good until bedtime without interfering with my ability to sleep at night.

I am flexible; sometimes I bail…I don’t always follow through with the early workouts. About once or twice a month, on those mornings when I got to bed too late or if I feel ache-y or if my body or mind needs more rest, I turn off my alarm, cancel my workout, and go back to sleep.

I should add that I’ve always been a morning person. I appreciate the quiet of an early morning. If we had to rate times of day from 1-10, where 10 is the time of day we love the most, I would rate 6-9 a.m. as a 10.

Those are my gentle strategies for getting out of bed for early morning workouts. How do you feel about early workouts? If you’re into them, how do you motivate yourself to get out of bed for them?

3 thoughts on “How to get out of bed for a 6 a.m. workout

  1. The time change and winter have collaborated to make early morning walks easier for me. I’m motivated to do them before my work-from-home shift starts, because the only other time I can walk outside with the sun up is during my lunch break. I’m hoping that by the time the sun is up long enough for evening walks again, I’ll have established the habit.

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