April 2016 Expert Answers

Our experts answer your fitness questions.

Morning exercise

Q | The only time I have available to exercise is first thing in the morning — but I’m not a morning person! Any tips to help me get going? 

A | As a D.C.-based personal trainer, Erika Elko has gotten good at inspiring busy political and corporate clients to work out at the crack of dawn — which is about the only time they can squeeze it in. She says becoming a morning exerciser boils down to two key things: removing obstacles and inserting positive triggers. With that in mind, she offers the following tips:

  • Adjust your sleep schedule. Begin shifting toward an earlier bedtime in gradual, 15-minute increments. For example, if you usually go to bed at midnight, go to bed at 11:45 for a few nights, then 11:30, and so on.
  • Reduce your late-day caffeine intake. Stop drinking caffeine by midafternoon so your body won’t be wired when you’re trying to fall asleep. Some people metabolize caffeine faster than others, so experiment to see what caffeine cutoff time works best for you.
  • Lay out your workout clothes the night before. “If you’re going to eliminate one morning obstacle, make it wondering what you’re going to wear,” Elko suggests.
  • Build in accountability. Signing up for a morning group fitness class or scheduling a workout with a friend can give you some additional compulsion to show up.

Even with these supports, adjusting to morning workouts may take some effort, but Elko says it’s worth it: “That morning kick-start sets you up for better energy and a better daily routine. Once you start feeling the difference it makes in your life, you’re going to want to make it a priority.”

This article originally appeared as “Expert Answers” in the April 2016 issue, with two another piece on following dietary regimens and “cheat days”. To read the full article, subscribe here.

Mike Plunkett is a Washington, D.C.–based fitness columnist.

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