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How to wake up earlier: Finding time to get in your workouts

“The hardest step is out of a warm bed and onto a cold floor”

One of the biggest excuses people give for not working out or following the diet they should, is lack of time. Preparing quality food, takes time, as does working out.

Sure, there are days where things are completely crazy, and you really don’t have time.

But those are just ‘freak days.’ They are outliers from the norm.

What it really comes down to is not lack of time, but poor planning and lack of priorities. I just don’t buy it that you can’t find 20 minutes a day to fit in a workout. If it’s important to you, you’ll find time. If its not important to you, I respect that, but don’t use time as an excuse.

One of the most effective ways to add a bit more time to your day, is to wake up earlier. Yes, even waking up 20-30 minutes earlier can give you the extra bit of time needed for a workout.

Waking up earlier sucks in the beginning, I know, I’ve done it many many times when I’ve needed to add more time to my day.

Notice though, I’m mentioning, waking up earlier, not sleeping less.

Most of us don’t get enough sleep to begin with, so that’s not what I’m advocating here.

I’m specifically refering to shifting your sleeping pattern so that you can maximise productivity and get more out of your day.

Before I delve into strategies that will help you get more comfortable with waking up earlier, let me give you a few benefits of early rising:

1. You miss rush-hour traffic.

If you’re able to save time in traffic by heading to the office earlier, you’ll immediately have more time in your day. The earlier you start your work day, the earlier you can finish it (depending on your job.) If you finish earlier, maybe now you’ll have time to squeeze in that workout.

2. There are fewer people around in the early morning hours.

One of the biggest distractions and time wasters are other people. It sounds harsh, but it’s true.

If you’re up early, you have some quiete time to get more done. There are fewer people around to ‘steal’ your time. You could either squeeze in your workout during this time, or maybe get to work early, before the rest of the office arrives.

Use that time to get more done. The more you get done, the less likely you are to have to stay late.

3. You’re less stressed.

If you hit the snooze button a couple of times and wake up in a panic realising you’ve overslept, your whole day could be thrown off.

When your day is thrown off, you’re less effective and get less done. This equals more time in the office and less time available to workout or do other things important to you.

4. You get better quality sleep.

Sleep experts have found people who go to bed earlier and rise earlier are more in tune with their natural circadian rhythms, which offers more restorative sleep.

The better rested you are, the more productive you’ll be. You’ll also be able to put more focus into yourworkouts and you’ll recover more quickly if your sleep is of a better quality.

5. You’re more optimistic

Various studies have shown that ‘morning people’ exhibit character traits like being more optimistic, more agreeable and have higher levels of satisfaction.

I could go on, but are definitely benefits to being an early riser that extend far beyond just making time to fit in your workout.

Benjamin Franklin said it best: “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”


You know you should wake up earlier, but it’s not as simple as just setting your alarm for 5am.

Setting your alarm for 5am right off the bat will be too much of a shock to the system if you’re used to waking up at 7 am.

The best method I’ve found for training yourself to get up early is using the ‘Gradual Method’. I first read about it on Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits.

As the name suggests, it involves doing things gradually, in baby steps.

Start by setting your alarm 10-15 minutes earlier. Also try to get to bed 10-15 minutes earlier. 

Once you’ve done this for a 4-5 days and feel like you’re starting to get used to it, try setting your alarm another 10-15 minutes earlier. Again, adjust bed time accordingly.

You can keep adjusting in this manner until you’ve trained yourself to get up at a time that frees up enough time to allow you to get the things done you need to.


Setting your alarm earlier is one thing, but a big part of the problem is actually getting up and fighting the urge to hit ‘snooze’. 

This requires a specific strategy to prevent you from giving into temptation and hitting the ‘snooze button’.


1. Get excited about having to get up early.

‘Yeah right,’ you might be thinking, how is that exciting?

It’s hard for me to tell you exactly how to get excited, but really try and give yourself a reason for getting up early. 

If you’re getting up early to exercise, get excited about the results you’re going to get from making the commitment to exercising each morning. Visualise how you’re going to look, how you’ll feel and any of the other benefits. 

Imagine in your mind’s eye all of the attention you might get from the opposite sex when you’re in amazing shape. It could be anything, but try to find a reason to get excited.

The ultimate aim, is to give yourself a reason to get up and workout or to start your day earlier. 

Find a reason that is much stronger than the desire to hit snooze. Think about what you’ll ultimately lose, if you hit snooze.

2. Give yourselft a big important reason and goal to get up.

I’ve struggled a lot with waking up early to workout in the past, but the times when I’ve always jumped out of bed and been able to head to the gym or hit the road, without the snooze button getting the better of me, have been when I’ve been working towards a goal.

Enter a race.

The approaching deadline of race day is a great motivator to get you up. You know that if you hit snooze and don’t get up and go train, you’ll be underprepared and things might not go all that well come race day.

When I did my first Ironman triathlon, I woke up at 04h30 am every morning to get in a swim session before work.

It was never particularly pleasant waking up that early and getting into cold water, but I knew that if I didn’t, I would struggle come race day, and my dream could be affected.

I’d also told so many people about my goal, the thought of going back and telling them I didn’t make it, was a terrible prospect. I used this ‘threat of failure’ to get my ass out of bed and into the pool.

This might not work for everyone, but I’ve personally found deciding on a goal and publicly stating it, is a very powerful motivator.

3. Find inspiring stories or videos to get you pumped up

You’ll know you have a worthy goal, when you’re excited about it and think about it all the time.

This excitement is great for stopping you from hitting snooze and getting you up in the beginning, but it does begin to waver.

Fitness is one of those things where results are not immediate, and because of this, motivation can wane.

Even if you’ve set a big goal that helps get you out of bed in the morning – if its a couple of months away, the temptation to rationalize, “what difference will one day make?” eventually creeps in.

What I’ve found useful to keep me focused and motivated are some inspiring YouTube videos. As lame as some of them might be, they still get me revved up and help keep me motivated.

If I know I need to get up early the next morning, I’ll watch some of these before bed to get me pumped up.

When the alarm goes off in the morning, the video I watched before bed is still fresh in my mind and I’m able to draw inspiration from it, getting me out of bed.

These are some of my favorites:

I must have watched this one dozens of times when I was training for the Ironman. Just imagining what it would be like coming across that finish line was enough to get me out of bed 99% of the time.

When I haven’t had a goal as grand as the Ironman, I’ve turned to, what in my opinion are some of the most inspiring training montages of all time – any of the Rocky training montages will do. 


4. Put the alarm across the room.

This is one of the most obvious strategies, but if you put the alarm on the other side of the room, you have to be up and on your feet in order to turn it off.

There is of course always the temptation to climb back into bed, but make a rule that you’ll turn the alarm off and immediately drink a glass of water and wait 2 minutes.

Once the two minutes have passed and you’ve had your water, you’ll be a lot more awake, won’t feel as bad, and the extreme temptation to get back into bed will have passed.

5. Do not rationalize

Once you start rationalising, saying things like “I’ll start tomorrow” or just “10 more minutes,” its over.

Do not rationalise, put rules in place for yourself as mentioned above, such as, “As soon as I’m up I’ll drink a glass of water and wait 3 minutes.”

Another good rule to put in place, is that after you’ve turned the alarm off, listen to a song that inspires and motivates you.

If you don’t want to wake up the rest of the house, have your iPod/Phone next to your alarm. Get into the routine of putting on your inspiring soon as you’ve turned the alarm off.

You’re not allowed to get back into bed until the song is over – I’m almost certain that by the time the song is finished, the temptation to get back in bed will have passed and you’ll feel more pumped up.

Get creative with these rules, the idea is to put systems in place where you don’t start rationalising, you need to make yourself almost robot-like with these rules, just do them. Do not start questioning things.

Having the right systems in place, almost always brings better and more consistent results than sheer will-power.

Think about what systems you can put in place that will stop you from getting back into bed.

6. Sleep in once in a while

Allow yourself to sleep in once in a while.

If you allow yourself to sleep in on weekends for example (as a normal person should,) you’ll have something to look forward to. Having something to look forward to is a good motivator to keep you focused.

We all need a break from time to time.


One of the biggest sticking points for people needing to turn in earlier, is they think they won’t be able to fall asleep if they go to bed earlier.

This might be the case initially, but with a bit of training, you should be able to adjust your rhythms and be able to turn in a little earlier.


1. Go to bed earlier

As obvious as this sounds, make a point of getting into bed earlier. Often just getting into bed starts a cascade of events, telling your body that it needs to start preparing for sleep.

You’ll start to relax earlier and your mind will hopefully start to shut down earlier.

2. No computers in bed.

If you’re getting into bed earlier, do not take work with you to bed. Also, avoid other devices such as phones or tablets, not only will the bright screens not be condusive to sleep, but the content on them can put you in a hyped or stressed state.

Things like Facebook or email before bed can get your mind racing and will not aid in helping you relax and get to sleep.

Save your lunch break for social media.

3. Read fiction in bed.

For me, this has helped tremendously in helping my mind switch off get to sleep. All it takes is usually a few pages before my eyes get heavy and I’m off to la-la land.

These 3 things coupled with the fact that you’re now getting up earlier should help you get to sleep earlier.


Just a simple 30-minute shift of your sleep patterns, resulting in you getting up earlier can make a huge difference in your productivity and help free up time, allowing you to get in your workouts.

Sure there will always be freakish days where ‘sh*t happens’ and you really don’t have the time, but if you are willing to make just a few adjustments and get up a bit earlier, not having time for workouts is not a valid excuse.

My challenge to you is this:

Within the next 30 days, using the gradual method, adjust your sleep pattern so that you’re getting up 30 minutes earlier.

If you can do it, you’ll be amazed at how much more you’re able to get done and the greater consistency you’ll achieve with getting your workouts in.

Leave your comments below and let me know how getting up earlier has helped you.


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Article by: Bryan Hamann.

Bryan is a personal trainer, certified bootcamp instructor, Ironman Triathlete and author of THE PRISON WORKOUT.

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