A Case for Morning Exercise.
>> Structure, blood flow and improved brain function <<
A few months ago I was reading Tom Rath’s book “Eat, Move, Sleep”.I really liked it as it was easy to understand, backed by research and actionable.
In chapter eight he presents the benefits of morning exercise, with his main focus on the 12-hour mood boost you get from 20 minutes of exercise in the morning. Studies confirmed this. Still, I was not convinced.
He mentioned he came up with every excuse possible and I did the same thing. You probably know what I’m talking about. Everybody comes up with excuses. An Early meeting, too tired, too cold outside for running.
Let me tell you, today is 44th day that I’m doing my morning exercise. In this article I’d like to show you –
- what my (ridiculous) excuse was and how I personally overcame it
- why the amount you do is not as important & what’s more important
- what I know think about morning exercise & what benefits there are
I hope you enjoy this article and it motivates you to start your morning exercise as well. Trust me it’s worth it. Let’s get started.
Why I didn’t want to do morning exercise & what my personal excuse was.
I love to move around, don’t get me wrong.
I also love to wake up early, which is why I’m trying to help other people do the same thing.
But somehow the combination of both, waking up early and moving around never convinced me. I love the idea of a slow morning, (the rest of our day is already fast enough LINK), brew coffee or tea and read. The system worked for me and I didn’t want to change it.
I thought that morning exercise will ruin this system and prevent me from having a slow morning.
How wrong I was.
Morning exercise doesn’t have to make your morning faster and it often helps you to make the rest of your day slower, but I will get to that in a minute.
Additionally, to my unwillingness to try morning exercise I also came up with excuses. Whenever I talk to my friends about diet, sleep or health in general, the always think that I don’t have any excuses. Unfortunately, that’s not true. I think everybody has excuses, some people have more, other people have less, but the important thing is how you deal with them.
Some people simply dismiss the excuses, while other people hold on to them like something precious.
My number one excuse I had for not working out in the morning was also the most stupid one: the outdoor temperature.
I love to exercise outdoors in fresh air, but since it was the beginning of winter when I read this book, it was freezing and dark in the morning, so there was no way I could exercise outside.
Too bad, no morning exercise for me.
In retrospect, when thinking about this I have to laugh at myself, because of what a stupid excuse that is. Don’t you agree?
Be that as it may, I got over it.
What mental shift I had that let me overcome this excuse.
Here I was several months ago, coming up with one of the most ridiculous excuses there is. However, life happens and I forgot about the morning exercise for a bit.
I consider myself rather fit and healthy and I exercised several times a week, so there also was no immediate need for morning exercise.
Needless to say, it would have benefitted me nonetheless.
A few weeks ago I somehow stumbled upon this topic again. It was probably while doing some research for my upcoming sleep course (stay tuned!), when I read an article on exercise and sleep, where morning exercise was mentioned.
The details are not important, but it got me thinking. I was thinking back to Tom Rath’s book and my excuses and inner resistance to morning exercise. It was only then that I realised how stupid all of this was.
I not only felt stupid, I felt like a traitor, imposter, and liar.
Here I was telling my friends, readers, and clients to just start something and experiment with it while at the same time I was unwilling to do the same. This really struck a nerve.
In another book I recently read, “The Ulitmate Introduction to NLP”, by Richard Bandler, he also wrote about how it is good to make yourself feel stupid about something you don’t want to or can’t do. He mentioned how one of his clients was addicted to chocolate, which was really detrimental to his health.
He told him to “sit the chocolate on a chair and look at it”. He should see how the chocolate was not only smarter than him but had more willpower as well. He said he needed to feel really stupid about chocolate in order to stop eating it. Ultimately this helped the client to overcome his addiction to chocolate.
Somehow it was the same for me. I felt so stupid and dishonest about my own inability to live up what I suggest to others.
To admit, it took some time to realise this, but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you get it and get started afterwards.
How I got started.
On the following morning after my revelation, I woke up and it felt like every cell in my body was resisting to get out of bed, because I knew, if I wouldn’t do my morning exercise, I couldn’t live with myself anymore.
I’m not sure if it’s a good thing to admit this in public, especially not as a health coach and writer, but it’s just the truth. Coaches and health experts always appear like all of their healthy habits came to them without effort and resistance, but that’s simply not the case.
It’s not love at first sight, but more of a growing into the relationship with your habits.
On that specific morning, I got up and thought about what am I going to do now. I decided to keep the exercise to a minimum so that not doing it would feel even worse.
I did 10 pushups & 10 squats and that was it.
Some people would hardly call this exercise and everybody who knows me and knows that I can do multiple sets of both of these exercises, would probably ask me why I’m exercising at all, as this won’t do any benefit.
I had these thoughts as well, but I dismissed them, because for me it wasn’t about how much exercise I was doing, but instead that I was exercising at all.
Why it isn’t important how much you do at first & what’s more important.
First of all it’s not important what other people think.
“Their opinion doesn’t matter because they don’t matter.”
It’s as simple as that. (Thank you Casey Neistat, for that!)
There is no rule that I had to do a full 1.5 hours workout in the morning and the only rules there are, are my own.
Second, for me, as I said, it wasn’t important how much exercise I did. I knew I could do more, but at the moment I just didn’t want to and that’s okay.
You and I & all of us we need to decide for ourselves, how much we want to do. Whether it comes to exercise, money or anything else. It’s your life, you need to decide.
The thing that was more important for me was consistency. What good is it to work out for 2 hours in the morning, only to not being able to do it on the next day.
I don’t say that taking a pause isn’t good, on contrary, it’s often even necessary, but I personally wanted to find a morning exercise routine I could do every morning. Not every second or third morning.
Again, you have to find what works for you. You can still be consistent if you exercise every second day or every third day, you just need to experiment with this.
My personal suggestion is that if you want to make exercise a constant part of your life, try to exercise every single day. If you only exercise every second or third day it’s too easy to say: “I’ll to it tomorrow, it still within the 3-day range.”. If you commit to exercising every day, you can’t do that.
The best results usually come when you consistently exercise every single day. Even if you don’t do much volume at first, it’s often more important to build the consistency first.
At the moment my morning exercise looks like this:
- 20 pushups.
- 20 squats.
- 10 rear leg raises on each side.
- 10 calf raises on each side.
I’m planning to increase the amount now from week to week and in a couple of weeks I’m going out for a run and do some strength exercises in a park while the sun rises!
What I know think about morning exercise, what benefits there are and how you can start.
There are still days on which I don’t want to exercise in the morning, but those days get less and less (especially since the sun rises earlier). Most of the time I’m looking forward to my morning exercise.
It also showed me that my previous morning routine lacked something. I can’t explain it, but now it feels just so much better.
Every morning when I wake up I know exactly what I’m going to do, which is amazing. I don’t have any reason to stay in bed and think about what I’m going to do. This is not only great because it gets me started earlier, but it also is one decision less during the day, that won’t contribute to decision fatigue.
There are dozens of morning routine- and morning ritual posts out there, so if you want to you can read plenty of them. I read many of them, but I don’t want to be this article another one of these.
I’m not going to tell you to exercise in the morning, I can just tell you what it has done for me and why I will continue.
First of all there is the sense of achievement in the morning. Even if I would only do five pushups, I know afterwards that I’ve done them. It’s like this admirals speech about making your bed in the morning.
I combine making my bed and morning exercise and already have two achievements right after waking up.
Secondly, since exercise is already crossed off your list, you don’t have to worry about it later in the day. I believe that there are many people that want to exercise, but simply don’t find the time later in the day. Maybe in the evening they feel bad that they didn’t exercise.
Morning exercise solves this issue. Since I already did exercise in the morning, I don’t have to worry about when to fit in my exercise during the day. This takes a huge load of my mind, which is amazing. It also enables me to take the rest of my day slower, as there is no exercise pressure.
This will be even better if I increase the volume of my morning exercise.
The third benefit I’d like to mention is that exercise gets the blood flowing and according to studies improves your brain function, for example, your memory skills.
To be honest, the studies say that “regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping”, is associated with the improved brain functions.
You probably won’t break a sweat by doing 5 pushups in the morning, but you’ll get there. Use this as additional motivation for morning exercise. Not only will it lift your mood, but it will also improve your brain function, which will be very useful at work.
There are probably other benefits, but I’m not going to list them here. I’d rather address the issue on how you can start.
Of course, you are the only one that can start, but maybe the following couple of questions will help you with this.
1. What is the reason why you don’t exercise in the morning. (My jobs starts early.)
2. What’s the REAL reason you don’t do it? (An early job is not a real reason, other people have early jobs as well. Is it maybe that you feel tired in the morning because you stay up late watching TV?)
3. What do you think will happen if you exercise every morning for 10 minutes? (Better mood, better concentration, and focus?)
4. How could you start to exercise in the morning?
I think the important thing is to find the REAL reason why you don’t exercise in the morning. My reason was the outdoor temperature, but my REAL reason was my fear of losing my slow morning.
As I already said I don’t want this to be another of those posts “X things you should do before 8 am” because I don’t know you. Maybe you work night shifts and get home at 8 in the morning or you help you kids pack their lunch and take them to school, so telling you what to do before 8 am would not be really helpful for you.
Instead, I’m going to tell you what I learned and maybe that will spark some of your personal ideas on how you can use this.
1. Give your day a structure. I’m still struggling with this, but I realised it’s one of the most important things for me. Whenever I wake up in the morning and I know exactly what I’m going to do (not only in regards to exercise but also in regards to other areas, for example, work), I feel great.
It gives me more energy and decision power during the rest of the day when I need it for more important decisions.
2. Get your blood flowing in the morning, it really helps. I remember one occasion when I was going for a 15-minute run in the morning. I believe it was a single occurrence, but I still remember it, because I felt so good afterwards.
You don’t have to go for a run. You don’t have to do pushups. Walk around your block or to the market and get something for breakfast (if you eat breakfast).
3. Volume is rarely as important as consistency. It doesn’t matter if you start with one minute of exercise in the morning, but it does matter whether you stick to that one minute. You’ll see this everywhere.
Bruce Lee said it. “I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.”
Aristotle said it: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
And Elon Musk said it: “Persistence is very important. You should never give up until you’re forced to give up.”
For me, morning exercise is not only something that I do to stay healthy, it’s also something that helps me to give structure to my day & gets my blood going, improving my mood and mental skills.
Additionally, morning exercise acts as a personal reminder to be consistent in whatever it is I’d like to do, which is really amazing and helps me in all areas of my life.
Maybe it can help you too.