Saturday, July 20, 2013

10 Tips for Motivating Yourself to Exercise in the Morning: A Personal Pilot Study

This past week, I performed a pilot, proof-of-concept study... on myself.  The following is an abstract of this study, following my advisor's formula for a good, scientific introduction.  

Introduction
(general problem) Fitness is an important part of who I am; however, I sometimes struggle in motivating myself to get to the gym.  (focused problem) Specifically, two weeks ago, I did not step foot in the gym the entire week because I would come home and want to rest after a long day at work.  (what is known) Evening workouts were not working for me.  In the past, I had tried morning workouts, but in the morning, I would always value sleep over the gym.  I simply am not a morning person.  (what is unknown) It was unknown whether I could make morning workouts a habit.  Therefore, the purpose of this pilot study was to determine whether I could wake up and perform a morning workout all 5 workdays in a single week.  I hypothesized that given a few modifications to my approach, I would be able to succeed in morning workouts for a week.

Methods
This pilot study was carried out from Monday, July 15 to Friday, July 19.  Preparations for each morning workout began the night before.  When getting ready for bed, rather than changing into my pajamas, I slept in my workout clothes (shorts, sports bra, tank top).  I laid out my brand new, custom-designed Reebok RealFlex Strength training shoes, with socks next to my shoes.  I made sure my water bottle was filled and in the refrigerator.  I transferred my keys and entry card to my gym bag and placed my gym bag on the kitchen table.  Being a habitual snooze-presser in the morning, I set my alarm for 5:50am, to allow myself the luxury of pressing snooze only once.  I made sure to get to bed by 10:30pm so that I could get a full night of sleep.  I planned out my morning workout the night before so that I could be efficient with my time in the gym.  I told people about my experiment to enhance my commitment to success.  Most importantly, I did not allow excuses.


Results
Each day, my alarm went off at 5:50am.  I pressed snooze once and got out of bed at 6:00am.  I brushed my teeth, put on my gym shoes, pulled back my hair, grabbed my water bottle and gym bag, and headed to the gym.  I was in the gym by 6:15am (there is a gym in our apartment complex).  I exercised until 7:00am, at which time I returned to my apartment, showered, got ready, ate breakfast, left for work by 7:40am, and got to work at about 8:00am.  

Monday- strength conditioning with a lot of lunges/squats
Tuesday- 5k run outside
Wednesday- total body strength conditioning with light free weights
Thursday- 25 laps swimming
Friday- upper body strength conditioning

Discussion
The results of this pilot study support my hypothesis and provide proof that I am able to succeed in completing morning workouts.  In contrast to my previous attempts at morning workouts, the modifications I made this time worked.  In particular, key tricks for me included sleeping in my gym clothes, being realistic with myself about what time I needed to get up, staying consistent in the time I got up, and not allowing any excuses (even when I went to bed late).  Perhaps even more impressive was that I was able to convince myself to wake up and get out of bed while my husband continued to sleep (and on a couple occasions was still in bed when I got back from the gym).  Although he did not join me, he asked me each day how my workout went and would tell me he was impressed.  His encouragement was helpful.  It was also helpful to tell other people about my experiment- once I told somebody else, I felt like I had to commit to my morning workout so to not let them down or go back on my word.          

I noticed that I am much slower (in terms of running speed) and weaker (in terms of weights) than during my evening workouts, but that is to be expected.  I did not eat prior to my workouts, which was a mistake.  During my 5k run on Tuesday morning, I felt a little lightheaded a couple times, likely due to not eating (and the rising heat outside).  In the future, I should make an effort to eat at least little something prior to exercising (like a banana). 

I noticed myself feeling like the morning moved very slowly at work- 9:30am felt like it should have been noon.  I started getting hungry for lunch at 10:30am, despite having a full breakfast.  In the evenings, I think I felt more tired than normal because I was getting up earlier.  It did feel good knowing that after a long day working I did not have to come home and convince myself to go to the gym; I could simply come home and relax.  I also did not feel pressured to end my workday at a particular time; this was beneficial because in these next couple months, I may have a few longer work days than normal as everyone tries to finish projects for an abstract deadline in the beginning of September.

In conclusion, this pilot study was a success, and I was able to complete 5 consecutive morning workouts.  I can't say I've become a morning exerciser (or a morning person in general) or that I love morning workouts, but I've taken a step in the right direction.  Future studies will include a longer time point to determine whether I can make morning workouts a part of my daily routine.  I aspire to become the type of person who enjoys morning workouts.

What are your tips on how to become a morning exerciser?