When it comes to fitness, the early bird often does get the worm. Those who squeeze in a quick workout first thing typically adhere to their workout schedule better, have more energy, eat better throughout the day, and notice a boost in their mood. Those are some worms worth capturing!
It's hard to convince yourself to leave the safe confines of your warm bed when the alarm sounds at 5:30 a.m., but once you get into your groove with this morning workout, you'll be up and going without hesitation. If you push yourself through the challenge of the initial few days, it does get easier.
The Keys to Great Morning Training
Having made the effort to get up early, you may as well make the most of it. When you train first thing in the morning, you want to accomplish three things:
- Induce a hormonal spike so that your body is primed to build muscle and burn fat all day long.
- Jump-start your energy without causing lasting fatigue. You do not want to exhaust yourself so much that you want to crawl right back into bed.
- Do workouts that stimulate your mind—no hourlong repetitive sessions on the elliptical, please.
Position Yourself for Hormonal Optimization
These workouts are designed to improve your testosterone release, increase your resting metabolic rate, and ensure your cortisol level doesn't get too high. While cortisol is going to increase no matter what workout you do (as exercise is a stressor on the body), quick workouts will keep those levels in check. Even so, this workout should not drag on for longer than 30-45 minutes. And let's face it—who has more time than that in the mornings?
To improve your metabolic rate, focus on high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Research has shown that HIIT elevates the metabolism for hours after the workout, incinerating body fat as the day goes on. Perform the routine outlined below a few times per week to keep the fat burning consistently.
You want to optimize testosterone, as testosterone supports muscle building. If you're a woman, don't be scared. You do have small amounts of testosterone in your body, but you won't ever reach the release rates of a man. So put your fears of getting bulky to rest.
To keep testosterone elevated, you'll want to lift heavier weights and use the same HIIT training style. By combining free weights and high-intensity intervals, you achieve that metabolic boost you're looking for while applying a stimulus that will help build lean mass.
Jump-Start Your Energy
In order to stay energized after this workout rather than feeling drained, you want to do three things:
1. Perform a solid warm-up prior to the workout. First thing in the morning, your body is cold, your energy is low, and your bones may ache. You simply can't expect your body to go from 0-60 right away.
Spend 10 minutes or so getting your blood flowing beforehand. You will notice a difference in the energy you have for the workout and the rest of the day.
2. Keep your intervals short but intense. No need to do lengthy interval sessions. Perhaps if you were trying to deplete muscle glycogen for a ketogenic diet before your carb up, you would do such a thing, but to keep your hormones up, your energy high, and your body primed for muscle growth, you must keep the intervals short and snappy. Thirty seconds of intense exercise is plenty. You'll typically find that shorter intervals energize you—as long as you don't do too many—while longer intervals drain you.
3. Use your entire body. A full-body workout will get the blood flowing to all your tissues and encourage the higher energy level you're trying to create.
Stimulate Your Mind
If you hop on the treadmill for a jog as your morning sweat session, don't be surprised if your brain and your mind only focus on how tired you are or how dreadful the workout is. You can still check exercise off your to-do list, but you may not be feeling super energized the way you hoped for.
You need a workout that keeps you on your toes. That means changing your routine frequently and also adding movements that you've never done before and that require more focus and concentration. In short, do things that challenge you. Not only will you feel more alert and accomplished, but you'll be giving your brain a reason to wake up, too!
Now that we've made a case for morning workouts, let's get moving—coffee and breakfast await!
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- Tremblay, A., Simoneau, J.-A., and Bouchard, C. (1994). Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism 43(7), 814-818.
- Andrada, Rafael Timón, et al. (2007). Variations in urine excretion of steroid hormones after an acute session and after a 4-week programme of strength training. European Journal of Applied Physiology 99(1), 65-71.