Unless you’re a natural born early bird, those morning workouts can feel like a torturous ordeal – and that’s before you’ve even made it into the gym.
But if it’s the only time you have in your day for exercising, then how do you make it work?
Get to bed early
It may sound obvious, but a decent amount of shut-eye is vital for your body to function well, particularly if you’re throwing workouts at it.
So what is the ideal amount of sleep? That varies from person to person, but chances are that if you’re feeling lacklustre and bleary-eyed during the day, then you’re probably not getting enough.
Ditch the TV and the electronics, suck on mug of sleepy tea and start counting those sheep.
To eat or not to eat?
Stuffing a quick pre-workout snack in your mouth can be a tough ask in the early hours, particularly if you’re in a rush, but if gains are your priority, then you’re definitely better off putting some fuel in the tank.
On the other hand, if shedding a few kilos is your main goal, then there is substantial research in support of fasted cardio – by exercising on an empty stomach, you’ll tap into those energy stores aka fat. However, other studies argue that this method is no more effective than simply limiting your calorific intake overall.
The best thing to do is listen to your body – do you feel faint during those early morning workouts on an empty stomach, or instead feel like you’re going to throw up that half a banana you just chowed down?
If you’ve rushing off to work, chances are you won’t have much time to dedicate to your workout – so hard and fast is definitely your best plan of action.
In support of this strategy is a 2016 study by McMaster University which found that 60 seconds of intense exertion proved as successful at improving health and fitness as three-quarters of an hour of moderate exercise.
If you haven’t tried HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) yet, these findings could be a reason to start.
Fuel your recovery
Of course, you’ve cooled down and stretched those muscles out but what next?
Put simply, a bowl of cornflakes just isn’t going to cut the mustard after your morning session. Go for something high in protein to help those muscles rebuild – the time-poor could grab a protein shake, while those with time for a sit-down meal could opt for eggs in one form or another or unsweetened greek yoghurt with berries.
But beware, once you’ve got that metabolism firing, you’re liking to feel hungry for the rest of the day, so make sure you have plenty of nutritious snacks close at hand to avoid undoing all your hard work.
Perfect your prep
Squeezing in that early morning workout requires a considerable amount of preparation – you need to pack your gym kit, your work clothes, any personal grooming products the night before for a start.
Then there is your food prep – you need to get your lunch packed and a few snacks thrown together, all ready to go first thing in the morning.
That requires a considerable amount of organisation so try and get as much done at the weekends – laundry, food shopping. Then get into action mode every night when you get home from work before you hit the couch and relax.
Are you an early morning exerciser?