I developed a solid and consistent workout routine/regime while I was in graduate school. Each semester I would consider my class schedule, internships, and other school related commitments and choose a class time that worked best around these things. I generally found that I was able to perform best in school and in the gym if I used my workouts as a way to break up my day. For example, I would attend classes 10:00 a.m. to approximately 1:00 p.m and then take a 1:15 p.m. class, before showering off quickly and running to a study session or internship, whatever it was that that day had in store.
After graduation and at the beginning of my career, I had dreaded the idea of needing to wake up earlier than I had to in order to get to the office on time. I was required to get into the office by 9:00 a.m., and even that somehow proved much more difficult than getting to class at 10:00 a.m. throughout school. I new I needed to keep my workouts in my schedule and experimented with a few different times of day until I found what worked best for me. First, I was determined to still fit in a mid-day workout. During school I loved knowing that as soon as my morning work was complete I'd be able to hit the gym to sweat and decompress before continuing on with my day. I really wanted to make this happen during work days as well. However, I soon learned that in the working world schedules didn't always go as planned and that there was no way I could guarantee making my 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. classes. I then decided I would take class after work instead, as a way to transition from my work day to my "me time." Again, I learned that even at the close of business hours things didn't always go as planned and I was frequently forced to miss my evening classes due to last minute meetings or work related projects. I realized that if I wanted to guarantee that my workouts would happen Monday through Friday, I needed to do it on my time and the only time I felt my job didn't control - the early morning hours.
One Sunday night I decided that the next day would be the day that I started my new morning routine. I pledged to myself that I would attend a class starting between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. each day that work week. I also decided that I would attend each morning class at a gym/studio that would penalize me with a cancellation or no-show fee if I did not attend. I knew that to really follow through, I needed a little extra motivation from outside forces. Being accountable to something other than myself meant no excuses come morning.
To soften the blow I packed my gym bag (including my clothes to wear to work Monday) Sunday night, as well as laid out my gym clothes and my pre-workout snack. I set my iPhone alarm to 5:45 a.m., to a song that would wake me up and energize me in the morning (Katy Perry - Roar) and climbed into bed early. I even left my blinds in my bedroom open in the hopes that the sunlight would help wake me up.
I would be lying if I said that the first morning, and many subsequent mornings thereafter, were easy. I'd hit snooze, have an internal debate if my workout or my sleep was really more important for my health and try and re-arrange my schedule to see if and when I could move my workout that day. However, day after day I dragged myself out of bed, soldiered on through my day, got home from work, re-packed my gym bag and laid out my clothes and continued this routine. They say it takes twenty-one days to develop a habit. In my mind it was the most important to make it through those first three weeks.
In the first year or two of this routine I have to admit that I have planned more than a handful of morning workouts that I haven't quite made it to.For a period of time I became an expert at coming up with creative excuses for myself, and to get out of late cancellation fees at the gyms I attended. One day, however, something changed. I truly started to realize that on the days where I skipped those morning workouts I regretted it for the rest of the day. I realized that starting my day at the gym set a tone for the day that I could not create from my apartment or on the subway on the way into the office. Beyond the mental shift that occurred, the power of habit really helped me fall into this routine, fall in love with this routine, and manages to still keep me on track today. Every Sunday night I prepare for the next day by packing my gym bag (with my work clothes), lay out my gym clothes, and set my alarm for 5:45 a.m. with the same song that originally and still ignites the fire I need to get out of bed every morning. Each weeknight is the same. I found what works for me and I'm sticking to it.