Confession: I don’t love the gym. I’m not even a particularly great morning person. Despite that, last year I went from never working out to getting my butt to the gym at least four times a week. How? By embracing the 6 a.m. workout, and adopting various hacks to make it work for me.
Exercising early in the morning may sound daunting, but the benefits have been scientifically proven time and time again. According to various studies, AM workouts actually burn more fat, lower blood pressure, help you build more muscle, and leave you feeling energetic all day long.
That said, being realistic about your schedule and abilities is the first step to success. No, you don’t have to join Mark Wahlberg’s 4 a.m. Workout Club, but making the effort to get healthy before you start your workday can have an amazing impact on your body and mind. If you’re ready to give it a go, these five tips should help get you there.
Prep at night
It sounds simple, but preparing everything you’ll need the night before can really increase your success rate. Lay out your workout clothes (or throw them in your gym bag), fill up your water bottle (don’t forget to pop it in the fridge), and pack everything you’ll need for the day, like a change of clothes or your office gear, before going to bed. Think of it this way: The more you can get done in advance, the longer you’ll be able to sleep in. Plus, rolling out of bed early is challenging enough — you don’t need to be adding extra steps to your morning to-do list.
Pay attention to music
Believe it or not, the right playlist can make all the difference. As Dr. Costas Karageorghis explains in his book, Applying Music in Exercise and Sport, a well-chosen soundtrack can help get you in the zone, and stay there. That’s because music has very real psychological and physiological effects on us humans. Simply put: Tracks with the correct tempo can help enhance motivation, enjoyment, and overall performance as you exercise.
Dr. Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and author of This Is Your Brain On Music, broke down the fitness-music connection for Huffington Post, revealing there are two possible benefits. “Either music acts as a distractor (and distractors are known to modulate pain levels)… or music acts as a mood enhancer (because the release of endogenous mu-opioids and other mood-enhancing chemicals raises the pain threshold).” Either way, it’s a win-win.
Whatever your preferred genre may be, try to pick faster-paced beats and, if possible, match your tunes to the intensity of your routine, starting with something slower and building up the pace.
Put down your phone
This may be one of the hardest habits to break, but do not use your phone while working out. Smart devices have already become such a major part of our lives (according to The Telegraph, adults in the UK now spend more than a day each week on their phones), so why add to your screen time while working towards your fitness goals?
Quickly checking your Instagram feed between reps can soon turn into social media hijacking your entire workout. Instead, drop your device(s) in your bag before you start. If your phone is your music player and you need to keep it on you, store it in your pocket or a workout belt and don’t. touch. it. The easiest way to avoid temptation? Pick up an iPod — yes, they still exist — and place your phone out of sight, and out of mind.
Get your routine in order
Eliminate the guesswork and maximize your efficiency by preparing your routine ahead of time. Bonus: You’ll be done faster and feel more accomplished.
Just like preparing your clothes the night before, getting your routine lined up in your mind will help you slay. Need to double check how to do an exercise properly? Hit YouTube the day before and avoid frustration in the moment. Unsure what that new trending move is all about? Do your research and try it out before it’s go time. That way you can feel confident, get in, get it done, and get to your day like a boss.
Remember to kick things off with a few stretches to get your mobility going and wake up your body, then follow that up with a routine that suits your fitness level, goals, and time frame. HIIT is always a great option, as it will keep you mindful and moving. Which is great when it’s dark out and doing repetitive training is likely to put you right back to sleep.
Embrace the power of four
Like with any major task, breaking it down into smaller, more manageable portions can set you on the path to success. Embrace the power of four (minutes) and trick your brain by feeling accomplished repeatedly — every four minutes, to be exact.
Say you want to devote 12 minutes to a particular exercise. That can be turned into three mini pushes of four minutes each, which is, rather conveniently, about the length of one song.
Checking the timer on a machine or looking at your watch can really psych you out and leave you obsessing over each second, making the exercise feel neverending. Breaking it down into smaller segments means you’d be counting down from three instead of 12, which can replenish your motivation to keep going and #crushit.
Finally, try not to stress about your results or any number on a scale. The fact that you kicked off your day on a high note, focusing on your body and mind, is the only result you need.