You plan a workout for the evening, but then something comes up—a happy hour, a deadline for work, or maybe even a Tinder date. And there goes your exercise for the day. If this keeps happening to you, there’s a logical solution: shift your workout schedule to the morning.
But that’s easier said then done. When you’re barely awake and have to choose between working out and staying in bed for another hour, there’s a good chance the snooze button will win. So how is it that some people manage to get up for 5:30 a.m. workouts like it’s no big deal? We picked the brains of trainers and nutritionists for lifestyle changes you can make to help you become the person who wants to rise and grind.
Eat right the night before
The foods you eat the evening before an a.m. sweat session will impact how you feel when you hit the gym. “If you scarfed down mom’s leftover meatloaf and garlic bread at 9 o’clock last night, chances are you’re going to wake up feeling exactly like that—a sluggish loaf of meat,” says Noah Neiman, master trainer at Barry’s Bootcamp in New York City. Make it a point to eat lean protein, veggies, and healthy fats so you wake up feeling replenished, not tired and gross. Just be sure to finish up at least 90 minutes before you hit the hay, says Leslie Bonci, RD, founder of Active Eating Advice and the director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “This gives your stomach some time to digest the food so it’s not having a fiesta while you’re trying to take a siesta.”
Coax yourself to bed earlier
It’ll be easier to get out of bed in the morning if you’ve logged your expert-recommended 7 to 8 hours, so you need to hack your body’s internal wakefulness clock. What does that mean exactly? “The body has an internal circadian rhythm that if you do your best not to disrupt, it makes waking up in the morning much easier,” explains Joe Holder, Nike+ Trainer, Nike Run Coach and coach at S10 Training in New York City. Translation: Limit cell phone, computer, and TV use before bedtime so the blue light that they emit doesn’t affect your zzz’s.
Find something to look forward to
Excitement will help get you up and out; it can be something as simple as a new playlist. “Your body is a highly adaptable machine that responds to the stimulus you present it,” says Neiman. “If you can self-motivate, which is always the strongest form of motivation, and just get to the gym or start your workout every morning, your body will adapt, making it much easier to routinely break that a.m. sweat.” You could also try snacking on melatonin-rich foods like walnuts and cherries before bed, suggests Bonci. In a 2013 research review, melatonin—a naturally occurring hormone that sets sleep-wave cycles—helped people fall asleep faster.
Have an a.m. workout buddy
Ask around—you probably have a friend who either already gets up in the morning to work out, or wants to start doing it. Make plans to meet her at the gym or a class, which will hold you accountable. “You’ll be far less likely to bail when you know someone is waiting for you, and you’ll even get the benefit of social interaction, regardless of how quick or sweaty it might be,” says Liz Barnet, head strength instructor at Uplift Studios in New York City.
Set up your morning ahead of time
The less you have to think about when the alarm goes off, the better. “Lay out your shoes and clothes in the evening,” says Kristin McGee, celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. “Have a pre-made pre-exercise snack ready to go and set the coffee pot to start brewing at the same time as your alarm.” (We love this overnight oats recipe.) Once you’re out of bed, everything is ready for you.