Every morning at 5:30 a.m., I am confronted with the same groggy, horrific question: Are you going to succumb to the temptation of being a reasonable person and sleep for two more hours?
…or are you going to be a legitimate psychopath, climb out of bed into the darkness outside, and go get screamed at by a peppy Sculpt instructor in a room heated to 95 degrees?
The especially ironic thing about when I’m writing this—Thursday night—is that, this morning, I overslept through my alarm and missed my 6 a.m. class. Do as I say, not as I do.
Before I list a few ways that I’ve essentially manipulated myself into making this habitual, I just have to throw this out here: there are some people whose circadian rhythms just don’t allow for this.
I’d say it’s sheer willpower or ‘wanting it bad enough’ (and, to some extent, it is), but after living with some people like my college roommate Buns, I understand that some people are just night owls and can’t wake up before 8 a.m. That’s OK. If you know for a fact that that’s you and you LOVE your nightly workouts, then more power to you. As long as you’re moving your body and getting your sweat on, keep on with yo’ bad self.
There is nothing inherently better about a morning workout. It’s simply a matter of preference. I personally prefer them for my lifestyle right now for two reasons:
The important thing here is that part of the reason I have elected to do these really early workouts is not because I innately love waking up at 5:30—I don’t—but because I hate driving to a workout in rush hour traffic after work more.
Working out isn’t an option for me; it’s something I have to do to keep my endorphins high and temper my high-strung nature just a little bit. In short, waking up early and getting it over with is the lesser of two evils for me.
So, here’s the deal, starting with the basics.
Step one. Establish that exercising is a priority in the first place.
If you have a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude about exercise, this just flat-out won’t work. You have to really want it and really care. If you WANT to abandon the ‘take it or leave it’ attitude and you WANT it to be a priority, I’d say consider the fact that exercise is the quickest way to improve your life most significantly.
You’ll sleep better. You’ll be happier (seriously, endorphin rushes are so real). Whether you see results or not, you’ll honestly just feel better about yourself. A lack of confidence catalyzes most of the negative experiences in our lives, in my opinion, and this is a pretty easy solve for that.
One of my friends who got into Sculpt texted me a few weeks in and goes, “This is the most 'privileged white girl' thing I’ve ever said, but I feel like this is changing my life. My body doesn’t even look different yet, but I just feel so much better about myself.”
Now that I’ve been going consistently for half a year (I can’t believe it’s been that long already), I know I’ll never stop because I’ve become obsessed with the muscle definition it’s given me. It sounds superficial, but there’s nothing like feeling confident in your own body. (Now, if only I felt confident in my own SKIN—unfortunately, Sculpt can’t fix acne scarring.)
[Interested in acne scarring and skincare, too? I break down my optimal mix of high-end and drugstore skincare products here.]
That’s part of the challenge with getting started—you don’t know how much you’ll love exercising until you stick with it for a little while to see some semblance of results. Once you see them, you’ll probably never want to stop.
But that leads me to…
Step two. Find an exercise class or routine that you ACTUALLY really enjoy that offers morning sessions (almost all do).
This is a two-part jam: it’s important to find something you love because then you’ll (a) actually want to go and (b) feel obligated to since you’ll probably be paying for it.
There’s something about the psychology of spending money on exercise that makes it more of a compulsion. When it’s up to me to just go jog around outside at 6 a.m., I’m probably going to feel less pressure to get out there and suck it up than if I know my credit card got hit with the $140 charge for unlimited class membership the day before.
[Unsure how to budget around this? This post from February introduces basic budgeting and has a free downloadable spreadsheet to plug in your take-home pay. With a little finessing, you can probably find a way.]
When you pay for something, you feel more obligated to use it. If you can afford to implement an exercise routine that costs money, I’d honestly recommend doing so. Most gyms cost less than fitness studios (and some places like SoulCycle are entirely out of my budget) but having some skin in the game will increase your likelihood to make it to class.
When you take the time to find a class you actually like, you’ll probably start to run into the same people over and over again. This offers an accountability-adjacent effect where you feel like you’re part of a larger group.
I know some people have workout buddies, but to be honest, I’ve always felt that backfires because if they bail, so do you. You don’t really want your motivation and commitment to be dependent upon another person’s willpower.
But the 6 a.m. crowd in general is always the same—and it makes me happy, because most are bad-ass young women who work at top law firms and consulting groups who get up before their 12-hour grueling work day to come sweat it out. I’ve become good friends with a lot of them, and seeing their faces every morning gives me a sense of community that’s truly preferable to sleeping in.
There’s also an element of pressure. These are the girls who use the heaviest weights, do all their pushups on their toes instead of their knees, and never skip. I have gotten exponentially better and more competitive just from working out with those who are intense enough to wake up that early for class.
When I skip, I experience this weird fear that they’ll notice I’m not there. Very effective in overcoming the temptation.
I remember a few weeks ago I opted to get an extra hour of sleep and skip class, and I was in a genuinely irritable, pissy mood all morning because it totally threw off my mojo. Weirdly enough, without that morning start with my 20ish sweaty compatriots, I felt a little lonely and off-kilter.
It’s funny how quickly something that once seemed impossible has become such an integral and enjoyable part of my day.
Annnnnnnd that’s where we get to:
Step three. Suck it up for the first couple weeks to make it a habit. Once it’s part of your routine, you won’t think twice.
Sometimes there’s literally no hack for day one. It’s just dragging yourself out of bed and making yourself go. There are plenty of small tricks you can employ here (the most common being ‘lay out your clothes the night before’), but to be honest, when your alarm goes off at 5:30 for the first time, you won’t give a single shit that your exercise outfit is laying on the ground by the door. Not a single one.
Sure, it’ll stare up at you in shame and disgust as you blow past it on your way to work, but it’s not going to actually affect your behavior.
You just have to decide the night before that you’re going—no excuses—and force it.
But let me tell you, usually once or twice is enough to make you realize, Hey, this is actually pretty great. Each time after that is less of a hurdle.
Sure, some days are worse than others if you’re dehydrated or exhausted, and those days I’d recommend skipping—but mostly, it’s the first time or two that takes the most sheer grit to just do it. (Cue vintage Nike ad.)
I remember during the first week I started going at 6 a.m. I literally said out loud to myself in my pitch black, cold room (it was December at the time), “Quit being a little bitch and get up.”
There’s something oddly empowering about talking shit to yourself. Like, don’t be a baby. Just get the F up and go. People do much harder stuff much earlier, every single day.
It’ll take a week or so to actually make it a HABIT, but once you step out of your studio or gym at 7 a.m. to the quiet, chilly morning air with your workout behind you, I promise, you’ll be HOOKED.
There’s nothing wrong with rewarding yourself, either. So,
Step four. Treat and incentivize yourself.
Mine is with coffee. There’s a Starbucks next to the Mockingbird studio and a Houndstooth Coffee (boutique shop) next to the Henderson studio, so after I go to morning class, I walk next door and get an iced coffee. The amount of times that THAT has been the reason I’ve gotten out of bed? More times than I’d like to admit.
This (obviously) gets pricey, but I buy coffee nearly every day anyway, so this didn’t really introduce any new significant financial burden. I’m not even sure what else would incentivize YOU, personally, but the coffee shop stop afterward always puts that perfect cap on the morning before I have to go get ready for work.
It’s some quality “me” time (like, two hours’ worth) before I have to step foot into my job. It makes a difference.
Some people are into juice bars and acai bowls. That’d probably be too expensive to do every single time, but if you’re only working out in the morning 2-3 times per week, you could probably swing a green juice each time.
Luckily, most fitness studios and gyms are located near places like that (thanks, strategic marketers and product placement) so they usually make it as convenient as possible for you to give them your money. Lucky us.
And if the idea of working out that early without coffee is horrendous to you, I'd suggest buying cold brew from the store (I like that Stok brand) and bringing it to class with your water bottle. I'm basic and #BrandLoyalAF so I love this reusable cold cup from Starbucks, linked here for $24 on Amazon.
Lastly, remember that fitness is a marathon, not a sprint.
I’d be nothing without a good exercise pun. Ellie and I always talk about how counterintuitive it is to get down on yourself for skipping a workout. As effective as calling yourself a 'little bitch' to get out of bed is, be gentle with yourself. If you need to skip or fitness doesn’t come easily, do not feel guilty. Don’t feel bad about it. Just keep trying.
Your body is an incredible thing that works hard for you day in and day out. Treat yourself to a workout (in the morning, if you want) and think of it as giving back to something that does so much for you. If you go from couch potato status to working out 6 days a week, you’re probably going to burn yourself out. There’s no reason to introduce that crazy pressure into the equation.
I like Sculpt because it makes me feel strong and confident. Plus, the community is bomb. It’s the highlight of my day. That’s why I want to teach—to give that same feeling of confidence and inner peace with yourself to other people.
You can try CorePower if you have one near you. OrangeTheory is another popular one, so are SoulCycle and CycleBar. If you feel noncommittal, try ClassPass and go to a bunch of different ones in your town, and you’ll probably notice you look forward to one more than the others. I like the consistency of the same place, people, and workout, so I opted for CorePower.
You CAN do this. I promise, nothing will improve your mindset and self-esteem more than introducing regular exercise into the equation.
Thanks for reading.
All things beauty.