How To Start Exercising First Thing In The Morning
Even if you’re getting up at the same time as you do the rest of the year, it’s probably a lot darker than usual when you wake, not to mention colder. It’s hard enough to contemplate unburrowing from your covers (there’s a reason those things are called comforters), let alone imagine yourself diving into an actual early-morning workout. If you want to start exercising first thing in the morning, a little high-energy workout can help wake you up in a big way.
Just a few minutes of light aerobic exercise can energize you and reduce chronic fatigue, according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE). That boost of energy can cut even your worst early-morning fatigue by more than 50%, says ACE. That means working out a little bit when you wake up can join forces with your coffee to give you a day-long boost. My personal training clients grumble about it, but they ultimately agree that workouts can be an energizing way to start the day.
If you’re still feeling protective of your sleep, that’s understandable — but according to the National Sleep Foundation, you sleep better after exercising in the morning. Using exercise to help yourself wake up can help on both sides of your day: getting you up in the morning and helping you fall asleep easier and deeper at night.
Even if early rising isn’t for you, you can build a relationship with your body that will help wake you up for the day to come. But if you do want to try for morning exercise, these seven workouts range from deep breathing to high-intensity sweating, letting you sink into your morning in whatever way feels best for you and your body.
1. Stay... In Bed
This might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes your body is screaming how tired it is too loudly to be ignored. If you know you need to get up anyway, take comfort in the fact that stretching your muscles can wake you up — and you can do that while you're still toasty in bed.
Start with the stretches that naturally feel good to you in the morning. Maybe it's bringing your arms over your head and rocking side-to-side or hugging your knees close to your chest. Whatever it is, let yourself spend about 15 seconds on each stretch.
For optimal waking-up purposes, add some glute stretches. Laying down on your back, keep one knee bent with your foot flat on the bed. Cross one ankle over that knee and thread your hands between your ankle and leg, hugging your bent leg toward you until your foot rises off the bed. Breathe deeply and you should feel the stretch in your glutes. Switch sides and keep breathing.
When you're ready to stand up, encourage yourself with a few gentle forward folds (let your body drip down toward the floor with your arms dangling, but don't pressure yourself to touch your fingers to your toes if they don't seem to want to). Then dip into quad stretches, using your bed as support while you hold up one foot behind your body to really wake up the fronts of your thighs.
2. Jump Around
Take a journey back to fifth-grade gym class, except this time without all the pressure and shaming and trauma. Bang out 30 seconds worth of jumping jacks. That's all it will take to get your heart rate jumping along with your body, and it has the added bonus of literally warming you up on those colder mornings.
If you physically can't jump or live above a sleeping neighbor, you can move your arms in the jumping jack motion. Instead of fully taking hops along with the exercise, you can give your knees a bit of bounce with each arm extension. It'll have a similar effect, but it'll be low-impact for your joints (and your downstairs neighbor can stay sleeping).
3. Hold A Plank
Here's a hack for when you really want to check your social media feed but don't want to lull yourself back to sleep. Set your phone on the floor and get into plank position. With your forearms braced on the ground with your elbow joint under your shoulders, make sure you're squeezing your quads and your glutes at the same time. That will help you keep your spine neutral (instead of dipping your hips to the floor or arching up toward the ceiling). Breathe through the static position and hold it for as long as it takes you to scroll through your morning dose of social media (or until you need to rest). Added bonus: You still have use of your hands while you're in forearm plank position, so you can still tap through boring Instagram stories when you need to.
4. Climb A Proverbial Mountain
If you really want to amp up your morning, mountain climbers might be fun for you. Brace your body in a pushup position (similar to plank position, but with your arms fully extended, your palms on the floor under your shoulders) and — gently at first — bring one knee up to your chest. As that knee is returning to starting position, switch legs so that you're driving your other knee up toward your chest. You can increase the pace of the exercise as you build a rhythm, or you can keep it slow and steady — whatever works best for your body. Try to get to 15 reps each leg, or if you're feeling super ambitious, try to keep going for a full minute. If holding yourself in a pushup position for that long seems daunting, you can use your bed to brace your hands. The inclined angle will help make the movement easier on your body, but still give you an energy boost.
5. Push It Up
What's an exercise list without some good old-fashioned pushups? The best part, though, is that they don't actually have to be old-fashioned. Again, you can use your bed as a brace. As long as you're keeping your spine neutral (your hips in line with your shoulders), performing pushups at an inclined angle by bracing your hands on your bed will make the exercise more accessible while also providing a nice challenge.
Whether you're doing full pushups or incline pushups, though, make sure your elbows aren't splaying all the way out. Instead, try to keep them tucked into your body, near your ribcage. If you're unaccustomed to pushups, doing a couple incline pushups sprinkled through the rest of your routine (two before brushing your teeth, two after, etc.) will wake you right up. If you already love them, try to bang out a couple full sets (whatever that means for your comfort level) before starting your day.
6. Combine All Of The Above
If you're super ambitious, you can take pieces of each of the above exercises — some stretching followed by jumping jacks, mountain climbers, planks, pushups — and perform 30 seconds of each. You can repeat as little or as much as you want. But even if you only go through one circuit, those couple of minutes will wake you up for sure. Have a favorite exercise not listed here? Throw it in the mix!
7. Hit The Gym
This option definitely isn't for everyone, especially if you're extremely not a morning person. But getting to the gym, as opposed to doing exercises at home, is helpful to actually force yourself to get up — if you'd rather not waste money on a class you slept through, for example.
A few best practices: Lay out your gym clothes, water bottle, keys, headphones, and whatever else you want to bring with you before bedtime. That way, there are fewer tasks for your brain to fumble through as you try to get yourself out the door.
Once you get to the gym, don't just drag sleepily through your regular workout; warm up with jumping jacks and box jumps or lunges and band pull-aparts. These moves recruit a lot of muscle mass and increase your heart rate, lending themselves to waking you up well. Once your body is warm, choose exercises that will give you an adrenaline boost. For many of my clients, that means squatting, overhead presses, or deadlifts. Whatever gets you excited will help give you energy, and that's really what you're after.
Whether you’re waking yourself up with heavy barbells or deep breathing, you deserve to start your morning feeling amazing. It might take a while to figure out what feels best for your body, and that’s OK. Feel free to experiment to find what works out for you so you can have the most enjoyable start to your day.