How to wake up early and workout
7 simple steps to make waking up and working out a sustainable habit for life.
In previous episodes of the podcast — namely, Designing Your Morning Ritual, and How to Make New Year's Resolutions Stick — I’ve talked about how much I love waking up and working out. The reasons for this are many, including the research-driven data that shows how exercising in the morning actually gives us MORE energy, as opposed to the widely touted myth that working out early drains us of energy.
Again, the reverse is true -- though not for every one, at least for most of us -- not only does working out in the morning help us become more energetic, it can actually set a powerful series of events in motion to help you create more productive days, weeks, months, and years for yourself.
Continue reading/listening and I'll show you what I mean...
The Endorphin Effect
If you wake up early and workout vigorously for a minimum of 45 minutes or more, then a naturally-produced chemical known as Endorphin begins to surge through your body, giving you a natural high (also known as “runner’s high). This chemical kicks into your body because it’s meant to mask the pain your putting your muscles through when you lift weights or do hard core cardio.
Side note: when you’re lifting weights, you’re basically ripping and tearing your muscle fibers… the reason why muscles actually grow in size isn’t because of the lifting of weights, it’s because of the eating of foods. When you tear up your muscle fibers in the gym, you need to put nutrition-dense foods back into your body in order to give them a reason to re-build… and if you want them to come back larger, it’s best to optimize your diet accordingly.
The Dopamine Effect
Now, once you’ve gotten out of the gym, you probably feel really good about yourself for having gotten up early and workout out. This then, gives you small doses of yet another naturally occurring chemical in your body, known as Dopamine, which gives you the feelings of positive reinforcement for having done a good job.
As The Day Goes On
Now you’re in your car and headed to work feeling like a champion. You already know that no one else in your peer group got up as early as you did to workout, so that just makes you feel even better. Whether that’s right or wrong is neither here nor there — but for a lot of us, it *is* true.
If you add a little morning meditation into the mix, that’s even better. And if you add a little visualization and gratitude action on top of that — well, then, you’ll *really* be setting yourself up for a kick-ass day.
Okay, I get it. So how do I get myself to wake up early and workout?
Now, back to waking up early and working out. How do you do it? Here are a few practical tips for making it happen.
1. Plan it out. Plan all your workouts BEFORE you step foot into the gym. Write it down, or get an app like Gym Buddy to keep you on track. Having plans and goals are crucial. Otherwise you’ll end up screwing around and leaving early.
2. Picture yourself doing tomorrow’s workout today. One of the things I do every night before going to bed is to whip out my phone and go over my workout routine for the following morning real quick before calling it a night. I envision myself CRUSHING it in the gym. Performing every exercise and hitting new personal records for each of them. Yes, it helps. And yes, it makes a difference. Currently, I’m keeping my workouts in an Evernote checklist titled “Dean’s Training Program: Week 2”. The tools I use change from time to time, but the process doesn’t.
3. Set it and forget it. Place your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you must physically get out of bed in order to shut that thing off.
4. Never hit the snooze button. “Just 5 more minutes” rarely ends up being just 5 minutes… Trust me, I know this from personal experience on more than one occasion. Do not let your mind trick your into hitting the snooze button. Avoid waking up two hours later and kicking yourself for missing a workout, and then allowing that guilt to have a negative impact on the rest of your entire day. It’s not worth it.
5. Jump out of bed like a machine. Sometimes I wake up with such force that I scare my poor wife out of her beauty sleep. You don’t need to jump right out of bed, but you DO need to feel as if you wanted to. Be robotic with it. Wake up and go. Don’t think about how little you slept last night. Don’t think about how many things you need to do today. As soon as your alarm goes off, get your body out of your bed and get moving.
6. Prep your pre-workout supplementation. I like to have a pre-workout drink before I go into the gym. And because it’s powdered, I put it in an empty shaker and place it next to my bed side table (right next to a bottled water) so that it’s ready to be consumed with my vitamins as soon as I get up in the morning. Wondering what I put in my pre workout drink? It varies, but it’s usually a powdered mix of caffeine, branch-chain amino acids, buffered creatine monohydrate, and arginine. But if you're looking for a set of all-in-one supplements that can give you a solid boost, without making you feel like an over-stimulated crack addict, I'd recommend Onnit Labs. They're an ethical company that produces high-grade supplements, with research-driven data to support their brands.
7. Prepare your attire the night before. I go to sleep with my gym clothes on. But I’m a dude, so that’s usually just a pair of sweats and a tank top. If you can’t do that, then pick out exactly what you need to wear to the gym the next morning and have it ready to go. If you go straight work after your workout, then bring your toiletries and work clothes with you. Most gyms have lockers. Hopefully yours is clean.
Quick recap: 7 steps to wake up early and workout
1. Plan it out
2. Envision tomorrow's workout today
3. Set it and forget it (place your alarm clock far enough away from the bed so that you've got to physically get out of bed to turn it off... then STAY out of bed :)
4. NEVER hit the snooze button
5. Be robotic with it. Jump out of bed like a machine
6. Prepare your pre-workout supplementation for immediate consumption upon rising
7. Prepare your pre and post workout attire the night before
30 Days To Make A Habit
A powerful personal growth tool is the 30-day trial. This is a concept borrowed from the shareware industry, where you can download a trial version of a piece of software and try it out risk-free for 30 days before you’re required to buy the full version. It’s also a great way to develop new habits, and best of all, it’s brain-dead simple.
Let’s say you want to start a new habit like an exercise program or quit a bad habit like sucking on cancer sticks. We all know that getting started and sticking with the new habit for a few weeks is the hard part.
Once you’ve overcome inertia, it’s much easier to keep going.
Yet we often psyche ourselves out of getting started by mentally thinking about the change as something permanent — before we’ve even begun. It seems too overwhelming to think about making a big change and sticking with it every day for the rest of your life when you’re still habituated to doing the opposite. The more you think about the change as something permanent, the more you stay put.
But what if you thought about making the change only temporarily — say for 30 days — and then you’re free to go back to your old habits? That doesn’t seem so hard anymore. Exercise daily for just 30 days, then quit. Maintain a neatly organised desk for 30 days, then slack off. Read for an hour a day for 30 days, then go back to watching TV.
Could you do it? It still requires a bit of discipline and commitment, but not nearly so much as making a permanent change. Any perceived deprivation is only temporary. You can count down the days to freedom. And for at least 30 days, you’ll gain some benefit. It’s not so bad. You can handle it. It’s only one month out of your life.
Now if you actually complete a 30-day trial, what’s going to happen? First, you’ll go far enough to establish it as a habit, and it will be easier to maintain than it was to begin it. Secondly, you’ll break the addiction of your old habit during this time. Thirdly, you’ll have 30 days of success behind you, which will give you greater confidence that you can continue. And fourthly, you’ll gain 30 days worth of results, which will give you practical feedback on what you can expect if you continue, putting you in a better place to make informed long-term decisions.
Therefore, once you hit the end of the 30-day trial, your ability to make the habit permanent is vastly increased. But even if you aren’t ready to make it permanent, you can opt to extend your trial period to 60 or 90 days. The longer you go with the trial period, the easier it will be to lock in the new habit for life.
Another benefit of this approach is that you can use it to test new habits where you really aren’t sure if you’d even want to continue for life. Maybe you’d like to try a new diet, but you don’t know if you’d find it too restrictive. In that case, do a 30-day trial and then re-evaluate. There’s no shame in stopping if you know the new habit doesn’t suit you. It’s like trying a piece of shareware for 30 days and then uninstalling it if it doesn’t suit your needs. No harm, no foul.
This 30-day method seems to work best for daily habits. I’ve had no luck using it when trying to start a habit that only occurs 3-4 days per week. However, it can work well if you apply it daily for the first 30 days and then cut back thereafter. This is what I’d do when starting a new exercise program, for example. Daily habits are much easier to establish.
Here are some other ideas for applying 30-day trials:
The power of this approach lies in its simplicity. Even though doing a certain activity every single day may be less efficient than following a more complicated schedule — weight training is a good example because adequate rest is a key component — you’ll often be more likely to stick with the daily habit. When you commit to doing something every single day without exception, you can’t rationalise or justify missing a day, nor can you promise to make it up later by reshuffling your schedule.
Give trials a try. If you’re ready to commit to one right now, please feel free to post a comment and share your goal for the next 30 days. If there’s enough interest, then perhaps we can do a group postmortem around May 20th to see how it went for everyone. I’ll even do it with you. Mine will be to go running or biking for at least 25 minutes or do a minimum 60-minute hike in the mountains every day for 30 days. The weather here in Vegas has been great lately, so it’s a nice time for me to get back to exercising outdoors.
How To Rewire Your Brain
The brain is plastic or changeable.
The brain's ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.
Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.
What is Neuroplasticity?
Our brains are constantly being shaped by experience. Most of us have very different behaviours and thoughts today than we did 20 years ago. This shift is neuroplasticity in action; changes in brain structure and organisation as we experience, learn, and adapt.
With every repetition of a thought or emotion, we reinforce a neural pathway - and with each new thought, we begin to create a new way of being. These small changes, frequently enough repeated, lead to changes in how our brains work.
Neuroplasticity is the 'muscle building' part of the brain; the things we do often we become stronger at, and what we don’t use fades away. That is the physical basis of why making a thought or action over and over again increases its power. Over time, it becomes automatic; a part of us. We literally become what we think and do.
Neuroplasticity is at work throughout life. Connections within the brain are constantly becoming stronger or weaker, depending on what is being used. Younger people change easily; their brains are very plastic. As we age change doesn't come as easily; the brain loses some of its plasticity and we become more fixed in how we think, learn, and perceive.
Since the brain is pivotal to all we think and do, by harnessing neuroplasticity we can improve everything we do and think.
“You are the way you are, because that’s the way you want to be.”
Mere human thought creates new connections …
Here are the 3 steps to Growing and Changing your Life:
1. Through neuroplasticity what you focus on is what you become.
2. Learning actually changes the brain—you will focus on what you learn.
3. You can modify behaviors through repetition—what fires together, wires together.
Neuroplasticity: Success = Repetition
The first time you try something it is like walking through a tall grassy field—it is difficult.
But, the more you do anything—from practicing the piano to completing your “5 before noon —repetition makes the neurons in your brain fire together.
At first it is only a weak connection and difficult to accomplish, but with repetition, the grass lays down, the neurons fire together and the path to success is direct and easy.
To accomplish your Goals
1. Know your purpose in life
2. Clarify your 90 day goals
3. Translate your 90 day goals into a written daily plan of action
4. Do your your Get It Done, “5 before Noon
It is the DAILY-ness… that determines your success.
6 Steps to Personal Change
These things change your life!
Your Life Becomes - Your Present, Your Future, Your Reality
The sum total of what you focus on
+ Your level of fulfilment is based on what you CHOOSE to pay attention to.
+ The meaning you find in life is based on what you CHOOSE to pay attention to.
+ Your productivity and goal attainment is based on what you CHOOSE to pay attention to.
= The life you experience on a daily basis, your present, your future, your reality—stems from the CHOICES you make regarding what you deliberately pay attention to.
14 Ways You Know You’ve Got Too Much Stuff
1) You have a drawer full of keys that open nothing, some string and the head of a watering can that cracked in the late eighties. If anyone approaches it you shout at them.
2) You take three bags to the tip and come back with four.
3) Time Team have expressed an interest in excavating your bathroom cabinet.
4) Bag-ladies tell you you really need to start letting go.
5) You’ve still got a Betamax VCR ‘because you never know’.
6) You have a spare everything. And sometimes a spare, a reserve, and a spare spare.
7) You can costume an entire primary school production of the Wizard of Oz with the contents of your airing cupboard.
8) Your car can’t remember what the inside of your garage looks like.
9) Rather than pack to move house it would be less stressful to burn it down.
10) You keep bent Tupperware for sentimental reasons.
11) You occasionally unearth objects you have genuinely never ever seen before.
12) A quick tidy of your desk drawer requires three strong men and a skip.
13) You can lay your hands on a combined rice cooker and bean steamer in a trice but have no idea where your handbag is.
14) You have a loyalty card and flyer from a restaurant you visited seven years ago. Once. In some shithole. And it wasn’t very good.
Reducing TV Watching
Take a TV Fast
Go without watching TV for 30 days, and use this time to gather data on your viewing habits.
If you have a digital video recorder like TiVo, use your DVR to record all the shows you would have normally watched — not just the shows you intend to watch in advance, but your best guess as to all the shows you would have actually watched if you weren’t on the fast. If this project would max out your DVR’s hard drive, then you really ought to leave your cave on occasion.
At the end of the 30 days, review your recorded listings and see what you learn. Add up all the time you would have spent watching each TV show. Get clear on what value you could have expected from those shows and what else you might have done with your time. Most likely, you’ll realise that some shows aren’t worth your time. Their entertainment or educational value is too low for how much time they take to watch. Once you see this information in front of you, consciously decide what you’ll continue to watch and why.
In her book Brain Building in Just 12 Weeks, Marilyn vos Savant (the woman who holds the Guinness record for the highest IQ) suggests that TV reduces your capacity for rational thought. One reason is that TV oversimplifies reality. You’re presented with subjects in a matter of minutes where everything is nicely wrapped up at the end. Reality is reduced to labels like good or bad, funny or serious, smart or dumb.
This harms clear thinking by conditioning you to expect that most problems have a simple, clear solution (and if not, then it will be an overly dramatic solution). But real people and events defy labels. Real life weaves a much richer tapestry than TV, and too much TV viewing can make it hard to see and appreciate that tapestry for what it is. TV skews your map of reality.
As you go through the fasting period, think about alternate ways to invest your TV time. If you weren’t watching TV, what else could you do? Be creative. What could you do for your health, relationships, family, work, education, etc?
Question why you watch all the TV you do. Is it simply a habit? Do you watch TV by default because you haven’t consciously allocated that time to anything else? If TV is your default filler behaviour when you have nothing else to do, switch to a different default behaviour like reading or talking to actual human beings or hobbies like music or drawing.
If you watch TV when you’re too tired to do anything else, then go to sleep or simply lie down. If you need to rest, then rest.
What would happen if you increased your TV viewing? If you’re getting such a good value out of it, then why not do even more of it?
Organise your thoughts, organise your life...