Is Getting Up Early to Work Out A Good Idea?

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So a lot of people make themselves work out early in the morning because it’s easier to find time then to work than it is to work out towards the end of the day. It’s less likely something will come along to derail your workout, whether circumstance or flagging motivation following a busy day.

I will note that in my long fitness history I’ve tried both working out very early and working out in the evening. I personally find there’s a lot I need to do to prepare for and get to work each morning, and I’m not usually clear headed enough to efficiently do most morning workouts either way. Others’ mileage will obviously vary.

The reason I don’t just set the alarm and wake up earlier is because the negative effect of losing sleep is greater than the positive effect of a morning workout, even if bio-rhythmically I come correct and learn to wake up earlier (and I already wake up naturally around 6am).

What happens if the previous night runs long or I otherwise have trouble getting to sleep? Now I spend the following day sleep deprived, along with all the negative hormonal effects of not getting enough sleep. The resulting cortisol and loss of growth/recovery hormones is actually a key behind lacking training results, faster aging, aging in general, not to mention illness and other psychological/health problems.

It’s more worth it to me to fit a workout in after work during the early evening, and it helps that I’ve developed the discipline to consistently do those workouts. Now and then I am able to get in a productive 6am workout after having slept well, but I realize that cannot be a daily thing with my current schedule and lifestyle… plus some workouts are too long for 6am to be a sufficient starting time.

So this leads me to talk about a couple things:

This is one general issue I have with 5am personal trainer workout appointments. It’s one thing if you as a trainee (or you as a trainer) already get up naturally before that, and turn in early enough to guarantee a consistent 8 hours of sleep every night.

But what if you don’t, and you’re both mutually scheduling scheduling those workouts because that time seems to make more sense than other slots? Again, the damage to the trainee might outpace the benefits. And consider what it does to the trainer’s health if (s)he is already stretched thin, especially if they’re also working with evening clients. A lot of CPTs struggle with their health and stress, never minding their own training, because of the 5am and 8pm appointment lifestyle.

Some CPT’s like that lifestyle and handle it well, sure (especially if they have a solid bi-phasic sleep habit aka afternoon naps to supplement 4-6 hour sleep nights). But I’d posit that the overextended hours and their negative effects are a big reason many are eventually driven out of the business, whether they’re making suitable money or not.

Either way, as an individual… I think if you want to train for a new goal, start a new workout plan, or anything where you’re considering booking a new workout commitment… I’d be very wary about booking early workouts. If you lack available options at a more suitable time… maybe keep looking until you find or can create a situation during suitable hours.

Recovery matters, and if you interfere with your sleep, you’re interfering with your recovery… which eliminates the benefit of the very workout you’re scheduling time for, while creating a new problem in the progressive wear and tear of the workouts coupled with the consistent sleep deprivation.

Also, I realize CPT’s sell and take those 5am’s because clients and money are hard to come by, so they try to fit in anyone they can anywhere they can, everyone’s long term personal health be damned. If you as a CPT are in that boat, and you want a way out from that (I imagine many of you in this position do), consider diversifying your business: Group fitness, nutrition, corrective exercise, coaching other disciplines, supplemental athletic training, online coaching, etc.

If you need to hustle a side income or use credit to get additional training to be able to do those things, do it. Create for yourself a position where you can choose to work at 5am… not where you have to take those 5am’s to survive.

This mutual scenario is similar to the person who goes out and gets the 2nd or 3rd job instead of reviewing and cutting expenses… or vice versa, living on beans and cutting out necessities when they have the ability to do other work for money, etc (And if you’re both… then you’ve got problems and should be fixing your life instead of reading this).

Recognize if you’re taking those commitments because you haven’t done enough in some other end of your life or career to give yourself more options. Avoid robbing Peter to pay Paul, or robbing your health to meet your ambitions or drive your career.

Be smart and know your limits. Avoid situations that don’t respect them. And be sure to get enough sleep. It’s probably more important than getting that 5am workout or $30 appointment in after 4-6 hours sleep.

If you as a trainee are that hard up to find time to work out, where it’s either 5am or no workout at all… do some walking or create some other physical activity at work, and probably defer any fitness or race goals for now until you can make changes and carve out that time in your life at a reasonable hour for those pursuits. If your career is such that you’re logging constant 16 hour days at work or something, then something has to give on that end of your life because that’s not healthy (workout routine or not).

I’ve gone into various tricks I’m employed as a big city runner to sneak running into my workday and workweek. I’ve also employed numerous strength training plans that required a minimum of equipment or time. I’ve been as crunched for time as anyone, and have had to get creative to make some things happen. So don’t take what I’ve written as ivory tower mal-understanding of your situation. I’ve probably been in your situation.

Life is not easy. We often have to create time while still respecting our needs and limits as human beings. Finding that balance was the key to any success I’ve had. And it’s a driving factor behind a lot of what I share. I want to help the working class close the gap on their goals and ambitions, while still meeting the needs of their busy lives, and still having the space they need to recover and rest.

All of that said, unless you already wake up naturally without an alarm at 4am, I recommend you avoid scheduling workouts before your natural waking time. Look instead towards carving out time during your more reasonable non-working hours.

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