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30 Nights to Becoming a Morning Workout Person

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    The Early Bird...Hits the Snooze Button?

    You set your alarm an hour earlier than usual, determined to override your anti-morning ways and become the elusive "morning workout person" you've always wanted to be. (You know, the one who seems to have her entire life together by 9 a.m.) But how often do you actually wake up when the alarm goes off, just as motivated to get to the gym as you were the night before? Answer: Not often. 

    But there's reason to strive for that "morning person" label: research shows those who wear it proudly are happier, more reliable and emotionally stable, have a lower risk of being stressed and overweight, and are better problem-solvers. Not to mention moving your workout to the early hours has been linked to increased fat burn, reduced unnecessary calorie consumption, lower blood pressure, and lower diabetes risk

    It's not an overnight transformation, though, and it can take a while to coach yourself into rising with the sun. That's why we've compiled a month's worth of tips and tricks to helping you slowly—but surely—become the morning workout person of your dreams. The main strategy: Move your bedtime and wake-up time up by 15 minutes each day until you reach your goal wake-up time, then hold on to that schedule until it sticks. Along the way, take note of how much sleep you need to function at 100. "Sleep need is like height. We are all different and it is, to a large degree, genetically determined," says Neil Stanley, Ph.D., a sleep expert who's studied the area for for 33 years. "Most people need between seven and nine hours to feel at their best, but some need more or less—whatever allows you to feel awake, alert, and focused during the day."

    Keep tabs on the hacks that work best for you, and use them to keep that morning grind going long past the 30-day mark.

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    Week 1: Start Small

    Most people roll out of bed with just enough time to do the necessary pre-work prep—and not a minute more. This week, inch up that alarm time by just 15 minutes each day—enough time to add a bite of wellness to your a.m. routine and slowly shift your internal clock without burning you out right off the bat. "If you wish to shift your sleep pattern one way or another, the important thing is to do it gradually," says Stanley. 

    A shift in wake-up time means your bedtime needs to move, too. Get your butt to bed 15 minutes earlier each day, too, to ensure you're getting enough snooze time to stay healthy. 

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    Day 1: Chug Some H2O

    At night, put a full glass or water bottle next to your bed. As soon as you hear that alarm in the morning, start sipping. Not only will you be (mostly) awake by the bottom of the glass, but you'll help rehydrate your body after hours of sleep. Bonus perk: One study found that downing some H2O first thing increases metabolic rate by 30 percent.

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    Day 2: Start with Mobility

    Even if your brain is screaming "Noooooo" when the alarm goes off, you can get your body on board with a.m. exercise by priming it with a little morning mobility. This in-bed morning mobility routine from Jen Esquer, physical therapist and Pilates instructor in Los Angeles, will get the blood flowing, wake up your brain, and turn your nervous system on for the day.

    "There's a reason we naturally want to stretch in the morning," says Esquer. "Your body has been locked up and stiff all night. The connective tissue covering the muscles (fascia) is highly innervated and responds well to stretch and movement, making this a great way to jump-start movement for the day."

    For extra credit, try her before-bed mobility routine before dozing off too: "A great way to decrease stress, lower cortisol levels, and prepare the body for rest is through diaphragmatic (belly) breathing," she says. "It releases myofascial tension throughout the body, increases oxygen to the muscles, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system—our rest and relaxation autonomic system—helping you relax for sleep."

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    Day 3: Do A.M. Yoga

    The hottest new yoga studio in town? Your bedroom. Roll out your mat at night so you can go move immediately into a morning flow the next day. This 15-minute energizing yoga routine is perfect for waking up your mind and body—and sneaking in a mini workout—all without disrupting your a.m. routine. Plus, it'll help you start your day in a de-stressed state and potentially promote better that night. (Those are just two of the amazing benefits of yoga, BTW.)

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    Day 4: Try Motivational Meditation

    Before you get out of bed, cue up a quickie meditation on your phone—but not just any meditation. Cherry-pick one that'll energize you and get you psyched to crush your goals. (Meditation does have workout perks, ICYMI.) Try the Waking Up, Motivation, or Focus meditations from the Headspace app or this meditation to boost mental and physical strength

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    Day 5: Pop Some Peppermint

    Popping a morning mint can do more than freshen your breath: One study found that the smell of peppermint can help boost mood and mental alertness, while another study suggests that ingesting peppermint can significantly improve exercise performance. Which is why celeb trainer Brett Hoebel, creator of 20 Minute Body, does it every morning.

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    Day 6: Bump Up the Intensity

    Think you need to schlep to the gym and dedicate a full hour of sweat time? Not so much. Today, bang out a quickie at-home workout that's crazy intense. Perfect options:

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    Day 7: Make Your Bed

    If you already make your bed, congrats! You get a freebie day. But if you're a part of the 35 percent of adults ages 25 to 35 who don't, that's your quickie challenge task for this morning. Not only will making your bed help keep you from climbing back in, but it'll give you a productive start to the day. Plus, it can actually affect how you sleep the next night: People who make their beds every day report getting a good night's sleep more often than those who don't, according to a 2010 report by the National Sleep Foundation.

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    Week 2: Master Your Night Routine

    Mornings will be a lot less miserable if you set yourself up for success the night before. That's why this week is dedicated to optimizing your evenings for better mornings. Make these little tweaks to your bedtime routine to get even better at seizing the day. 

    The basics: "Avoid bright light, exercise, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and exercise near bedtime," says Jocelyn Cheng, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center—Sleep Center. "Make sure your sleep environment is dark, cool, and quiet."

    As for your sleep/wake times? Once you've hit your desired wake-up time (ex: enough time to get to a 7 a.m. yoga class or to squeeze in a morning run), you can keep your bedtime and wake-up time consistent. If you're still adjusting, keep in mind that you shouldn't push your wake-up time too far forward: "When you find it very difficult to wake, it might be because you've found the 'limit' of your flexibility," says Stanley. Force your sleep schedule to change more, and you may suffer from daytime consequences (sleepiness, grogginess, increased appetite, etc.). 

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    Day 8: Ditch Night Workouts

    To truly commit to the morning person lifestyle, you have to cut the cord with your nighttime workout habit. The occasional happy hour workout is NBD, but if you make evening sweat sessions a regular thing, you'll likely find it hard to get up at your usual time in the morning. Still feeling antsy at night? Try a before-bed stretch to wind down and chill out before hitting the sack.

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    Day 9: Visualize It

    Celeb trainer and Lifted creator Holly Rilinger had to train herself to be a morning person—and she swears by visualization to do it. Before you go to bed, close your eyes and visualize how your morning will go. What time will you wake up, and what will your alarm be? How will you feel? What's your first action task? Think through your a.m. routine (the best possible version of it), and fill in as many details as possible—that'll help you truly believe it, which is the real key to success. (Here's more on how to tap into visualization to crush all your goals.)

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    Day 10: Make a "GO" List

    Even if you're getting better at human-ing in the morning, that just-woke-up brain fog is very real. To hijack your mind into productivity mode, make a "GO" list that you'll have ready with action items first thing in the morning.

    How it works: Before bed, write down a list of three to five things you're going to crush the next day—something immediate like your workout, something big like a big project at work, or something small like scheduling a doctor's appointment. When your alarm goes off, roll over and scan it to remind yourself why you should get out of bed and seize the day, stat. (Don't believe it? Just look at trainer Adam Rosante, who swears by the practice.) 

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    Day 11: Prep Your Coffee

    If you're one of the very many people who only get out of bed for coffee (*praise hands emoji*), then having your java ready and waiting could be the key to snooze-proof mornings. How? Make homemade cold brew (it's easier than you think), let it sit in the fridge overnight, and enjoy ASAP hot or cold in the a.m. 

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    Day 12: Prep Your Outfit

    Yep, it's a classic, but this go-to seriously works. In the morning, picking out leggings and a top can feel harder than doing the actual workout. Lay your outfit out ahead of time—first-day-of-school style—and just watch how it gets you out the door even faster. 

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    Day 13: Prep Your Breakfast

    Cut breakfast prep completely out of your morning routine by making it at night instead. We love Quaker® Overnight Oats for a super-easy breakfast option. Just add milk at night and it'll be ready when you wake up.

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    Day 14: Unplug an Hour Before Bed

    How often do you settle into bed right on time... and then fall down an Instagram black hole for 45 minutes before actually getting some shut-eye? That seemingly-innocent habit is seriously wrecking your sleep. A 2016 study found that, while all screen use is associated with worse and less sleep, increased screen time right before bed is associated with poor sleep quality and taking a longer time to enter REM. Blame the blue light emitted by your digital screens—it messes with your body's natural levels of melatonin (the hormone that helps your body link darkness with sleep), disrupting your circadian rhythm and keeping your brain awake, according to the National Sleep Foundation

    Tonight, ditch scrolling, streaming, and swiping at least an hour before bed, and see how it affects your sleep quality and the amount of time it takes you to nod off. (More get-to-sleep hacks right here.)

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    Week 3: Kick It Up a Notch

    You've officially been at it for two weeks now—so there's no need to baby your brain and body into getting out of bed. These techniques fire up your morning with a little more intensity. Now, you won't just tolerate mornings, you'll totally crush them.

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    Day 15: Take a Cold Shower

    Rinsing off pre-workout might seem counterintuitive, but the blast of cold water can really wake you up, says Nike trainer Joe Holder, who does it every damn day. (ICYDK, you should also blast yourself with icy water post-workout, too.) Can't be convinced to take the plunge? Splash your face for a similar awakening effect. 

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    Day 16: Do a Workout You Love

    Treat yourself to a workout you already love—whether that's a solo morning yoga sesh, an energized dance cardio class, or some quality time in the ring. Getting out of bed is a whole lot easier if it's for something you're *genuinely* looking forward to. 

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    Day 17: Light It Up

    Instead of taking your diet back to the Paleolithic era, bring your alarm clock. Dr. Cheng says light is a strong environmental cue, so exposing yourself to bright light—like, err, the sun—first thing in the morning can help train your circadian rhythm (a part of the brain that responds to light and dark signals to tell your body it's time to wake up or wind down, according to the National Sleep Foundation). When your eyes are exposed to light, it signals the body to get going by doing things like raising body temperature and producing hormones like cortisol.

    If you're not into such a harsh wakeup, you can also invest in a light-based alarm clock, like the BEDDI Glow or the Philips Wake-up Light, download a light alarm app for your phone, or (depending on your wake-up time and window situation) leave your curtains open for a more gentle sunrise wake-up.  

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    Day 18: Buddy Up

    Peer pressure isn't always a bad thing. Make a promise to sweat with a friend in the a.m., and you'll be held accountable for making it to that morning workout. (Just one of the many benefits of having a workout buddy.) To up the ante, agree on a "punishment" if you happen to oversleep or ditch. (Ex: the next happy hour or post-workout smoothie is on you.) 

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    Day 19: Cue Up Your Motivation

    Whether it's a kickass motivational quote, an inspirational photo (the last time you crossed a marathon finish line), or a countdown clock app that reminds you of an approaching goal deadline, have something (either physical or digital) to remind you why you're waking up to #werk. (Dwayne Johnson fan? The Rock Clock app will do just the trick.)

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    Day 20: Try Something New

    If your usual gym routine is a (literal) snooze, it's no wonder you're tempted to sleep through it. Today, schedule a new workout you've been dying to try. (After all, there are serious benefits to trying new things.) The excitement of a sparkly new sweat sesh will have you hopping out of bed like it's Christmas morning. 

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    Day 21: Optimize Your Bedroom

    Channel your inner domestic goddess and turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. For starters, find your ideal temp: "Our body temperature fluctuates throughout the day on a circadian cycle, which in humans is about 24 hours," says Dr. Cheng. "Your body temperature will drop in the evening, near bedtime, so keeping room temperature on the cooler side can assist with sleep."

    Stanley suggests having the room temp at about 60 to 65°F (depending on personal preference, bedding, and whether you sleep with a partner) as well as having "the biggest, most comfortable bed you can afford." (Hey, #treatyoself.)

    And, again, no devices, says Stanley. (That means TVs, tablets, phones, everything.) Go the extra mile and put your phone outside your room while you sleep. Not only will that prevent any pre-bed scrolling, but the lure of checking for calls, texts, and Instagram likes might just be the thing to get you out of bed.

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    Week 4: Become a "Lifer"

    There are no excuses now—you're officially on your way to being a morning person. Keep it up this last week to solidify your routine and figure out which before-bed and first-thing to-dos work best for you. Now that you've harnessed the power of daybreak, you'll be an a.m. person for life.

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    Day 22: Make a 1-on-1 Training Appointment

    What's scarier than the wrath of a friend who's been ditched for an a.m. workout? The wrath of a personal trainer if you skip your training session. Even if you've never worked with one before, make an appointment for a private sesh at your gym (or even have one come to your home, using a service like Thumbtack or Trainerize.me). That way you won't even consider sleeping through your workout—if you do, you can bet a burpee punishment will be waiting.

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    Day 23: Do a Screen-Free Evening

    Thought going screen-free for an hour before bed was hard? Now try the entire evening. Cut the cord around 6 p.m. (or whenever you get home for the evening) and discover what lies outside of your Netflix queue. You can use that time to fine-tune your wind-down practice and pinpoint which activity best quiets your mind: "Stress, anxiety, and worry are the enemies of good sleep," says Dr. Cheng. "Essentially, the perquisite for a good night's sleep is a quiet mind. You can't fall asleep if your mind is racing." A good place to start is by practicing some #selfcare, and there are plenty of ideas right here.

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    Day 24: Master Your Sleep Cycle

    Having trouble mastering your wake-up time? Check your sleep cycle.  "[Using] a sleep cycle tracking app can give you a rough but unprecise estimate of how much time you stay in bed, and can be useful for [telling you] the total sleep time you need to function during the day," says Dr. Cheng. Check the stats on your wearable, like an Apple Watch or Fitbit, or download the Sleep Cycle app to help you adjust accordingly. 

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    Day 25: Make Music Your Alarm

    Trainer Kaisa Keranen (possibly the most badass fit human ever) wakes up every morning to three alarms set to R. Kelly's "Bump 'n' Grind." Decide which song gives you the best pump-up feels and set it as your alarm, so you'll dance (not drop) out of bed. Bonus: Have it lead into a playlist that’s just the right length for you to get ready and out the door each morning. It'll help keep you on track to hit the gym—no excuses.

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    Day 26: Bribe Yourself

    Whether it's a pricey post-workout smoothie or a fancy latte, give yourself a juicy little incentive to get out of bed and crush your workout. Even better, plan a bigger present, like the pair of Lululemons you've been eyeing or a five-class pack at your favorite boutique studio, for when you've officially hit the 30-day mark. After all, reward is a much better motivator than punishment, says Jin Han, M.D., assistant professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Baylor School of Medicine.

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    Day 27: Wake Up Early—Even On Your Rest Day

    Work on consistency by rising-and-shining even without a workout planned. "The most effective change that people can make is to have a regular, fixed wake-up time every day," says Stanley. "Your body starts making preparations for waking approximately 90 minutes prior. If your brain knows when you're going to wake up and this is a routine, it can prepare so that you hit the ground running."

    In other words, set your alarm for the same time every day. If you're not sweating, you can use the extra minutes to meditate, read, grab coffee with a friend, or even do some rest-day recovery work

  • Day 28: Put Your $$$ Where Your Mouth Is

    A good way to get your butt out of bed? Put some cash on the line. Use an app like StickK to declare your goal, make a Commitment Contract with yourself, and even put money on the line. (StickK reports that financial stakes increase your chances of success by up to 3x.)

    If apps aren't your style, sign up for a class that docks you for skipping. Or, go old-school and make a bet with friends or family that will force you to pony up. 

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    Day 29: Set a Schedule

    Instead of waking up and winging it, have a schedule to make morning workouts feel non-negotiable. Create a schedule to go with your workout goals, and lock in your mornings for the forseeable future. (Not sure where to start? Here's what experts agree is the perfect week of workouts.)

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    Day 30: Sign Up for a Challenge

    Now that you're basically a master at morning workouts, it’s time to give yourself a goal. Sign up for that half marathon, obstacle course race, weight lifting competition, or other fitness challenge you've been dreaming of. Into the 30-day-challenge concept? Keep it going with these options: 

 

Lauren Mazzo

Lauren Mazzo is a digital assistant editor for Shape and Fitness. She's an Ithaca College alumna, a Rochester, NY, native and an NYC transplant.  More →

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