Can exercising first thing transform your fitness regime? We found out...

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Struggling to fit in fitness ? You’re not alone. With kids, work and friends all requiring attention on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that exercise can slip to the bottom of the to-do list. The solution? If dinner making, homework, socialising and well, sleep(!) are taking over your evenings, the mornings could hold the key for giving your body and mind the best of headstarts. “Shifting your body clock is going to be a challenge, but it is totally worth it,” says trainer  Zanna van Dijk , who has just launched her second plant-based recipe book . “I find that working out first thing in the morning is the best time for me. I get it done before the stress of work kicks in and I start my day on the right foot. Plus, it makes me less likely to back out of an evening gym session as my workload builds up.”

“However it isn't as easy as waking up one day and deciding you’re going to be a morning person,” she cautions. “There is definitely a transitional period where your body is like ‘WTF is going on!’ However, this passes in a week or two and soon you’ll be smashing 6am gym sessions.”

Want your morning workouts to work for you? Here are a few easy yet effective ways to shift your fitness plan from PM to AM.

Be kind to morning you

Waking up early can feel cruel, so be as kind as possible to future you by laying down the groundwork as early as possible. “Becoming a morning person starts the day before,” says Matt Curley, Strength & Conditioning Coach at Pure Sports Medicine . What words of wisdom can help take the work out of your workout? “It’s important to reduce your caffeine intake after 2pm, (including green tea) and switch to decaf options,” recommends Matt. “Intense training in the evening should be avoided as it delays the onset of deep sleep, along with alcohol,” he adds, with the latter also negatively impacting on sleep quality too. “Turning off laptops and avoiding using your mobile phone after 9pm will also help your brain wind down. Getting into a regular routine before bed will help you to drift off quicker too, for instance hot baths, reading or gentle stretching or meditation are all good habits which help relax the mind and body before you hit the sack. These things will help you wake up more rejuvenated.”

Power plan

“Plan your morning schedule,” says Zanna van Dijk. “If you’re going to get up early, you need to use this time wisely. Schedule in your workout, plan your journey to the gym and lay out your clothes; or set aside your notepad, laptop and pens ready to crack on with some work. This means you will have fewer opportunities to make excuses the next day. If you’re rising early to train, a great tip is to book into a gym class; the late cancellation fee will make you get out of bed.”

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Start off slowly

Always been an evening workout kinda person? Changing that takes time, so manage your expectations accordingly and start off slow. “You don’t need to smash yourself into the ground every time you train,” says Matt. “A better approach is to start conservatively and gradually build the intensity as you get fitter and your body adapts.”

Make your bedroom the ultimate gym buddy

Slave to your snooze button? Take back control over your wake-up-call by dabbling in a little bedroom rearrangement. “Put your alarm clock on the other side of the room so that you have to get out of bed to turn it off,” recommends Zanna. “Resist the temptation to crawl back into your comforting duvet and get going.”

Be consistent

The biggest piece of weaponry in your early workout artillery? Routine. “Be consistent,” advises Zanna. “Try to wake up fairly early 7 days a week - yes, even on the weekends. This allows your body clock to really get into a good rhythm and get used to the early starts. I am not saying wake up at 5am on a Saturday, but 7/8am is a good benchmark to aim for.”

You can either see early mornings as living Hell, or as a chance to get ahead of the game

Up your hydration

Does exercise in the early hours wipe you out for the rest of the day? If the risk of a headache threatens to extinguish the flames of morning motivation, don’t worry, there are ways which can reduce it. According to Dr Michael Burdon, Head of Sports Medicine at Pure Sports Medicine Kensington, “The general advice is to make sure that you are well hydrated before exercising as dehydration could lead to headaches. For some people, you may need to eat a snack before exercising to help any low blood sugar from happening - which again, can cause a headache. A carbohydrate-based snack would usually be the thing to eat.” If headaches are more frequent though, do go and see a medical expert. “Headaches can be a sign of a more problematic disease or condition; so if in any doubt, please see your GP for an assessment regarding this,” recommends Dr Burdon. “For example, high blood pressure could lead to headaches. A more serious but rare cause may also need to be ruled out.”

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Know your Yin from your Yang

Does yoga perhaps provide a more appealing way for getting your morning mojo going? For those who would rather not ‘HIIT’ the ground running, a touch of Namaste in the AM could be the perfect option. “Even doing a very short, simple yoga class after I get up is a lifesaver for my health, my sanity and my mood, and really can help set the tone for the day,” says Kat Farrants, founder of online yoga and wellbeing company Movement for Modern Life . “There are so many benefits from just moving mindfully and breathing deeply.”

If yoga is your morning workout of choice, make sure you choose your practice wisely to best benefit the time of day, advises Kat. “From a yogic point of view, the evening is a Yin time, it’s a time of peace, calm and reflection, whereas the morning is very Yang – a time of natural activity,” she explains. “So the best thing to do in the evening is a Yin yoga practice. With Yin yoga, poses are mostly floor based and poses are held for much much longer than in many yoga classes. This means that you can focus much more on taking very long, relaxing breaths and you’ll receive so many more benefits from the poses when you hold them for a long period. Try doing Yin at night and your evening will take on a whole new quality and your sleep will improve, leading to a much brighter morning. Try this class  at night and just see how you feel!” Want to give it a go? You can  start your free 14-day trial here .

In the mornings, focussing on strengthening your core and stomach could help in terms of boosting both body and brain. “It’s great I think, to do plenty of abdominal work in the morning especially as it fires up our energy, gets our digestion going and is wonderful for strengthening the back,” explains Kat. “I also like the deep breath-work in the morning which is incorporated in many yoga practices. Yoga also incorporates Bandhas which are strengthening practices. Practising yoga with plenty of Uddiyana Bandha is wonderfully energising and will help your morning yoga practice to fly! It’s the secret of keeping light during practice. This tutorial will help .”

“I also really LOVE to do Forrest yoga,” recommends Kat. “If you’ve never tried Forrest yoga, get ready for something completely different! It’s unbelievably healthy for our modern bodies which are often desk-bound and spend a lot of time sitting. In Forrest yoga, you strengthen the core with some amazing ab work, strengthening of the shoulders and also a focus on relaxing the neck.” Intrigued? Read more here .

Make your space Savasana savvy

Worried your room isn’t Warrior Pose friendly? Rest assured that it needn’t look like a yoga studio in order for you to channel your inner yogi. “Just make the space easy and inspiring for you,” says Kat. “You don’t have to have a special yoga area in your house and you don’t need to buy anything in particular. For me, the most important thing is that your area is accessible.”

“If you’re doing an online yoga class like those on Movement for Modern Life, choose your class at night. Then you’ll be ready to make a start as soon as you get up. When you do wake up in the morning, I’d advise you to have your hot lemon or coffee, or whatever it is that gets you going and then delay no more! Get yourself on the mat - but be kind to your body. Your body is naturally more stiff in the morning, so heat up the room to warm up your muscles and ease into your morning practice with good-quality instruction.”

View morning workouts as time for you

Fitting in fitness is never easy. However, finding a time and space that suits you is what gives fitness plans added sustainability. Viewing your morning workouts as a useful way to help both body and mind to be stronger for the day ahead will ensure you see them in a whole new light. “Think positively,” says Zanna. “You can either see early mornings as living Hell, or as a chance to get ahead of the game and work towards your goals. The power is in your hands to change your mindset and choose the latter.”

Most importantly, don’t be hard on yourself if it doesn’t feel like it’s coming easy. “The main thing I want to reiterate is that becoming a morning person is a process. You need to stick with it,” says Zanna. “I pinky promise that after a week or two your body clock will start to adapt and it will become easier and easier to get out of bed at the crack of dawn. You might even end up finding it enjoyable.”

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