Larks and owls as exercisers

If you have never been able to stick to your exercise program, a morning workout may be just what you need.

Researchers at the University of North Texas discovered that the most consistent exercisers work out in the morning. Head researcher David Hill says morning exercisers are more likely to stick to their workouts compared to people who exercise in the afternoon or evening.

Exercising first thing in the morning means it is less likely that a busy schedule will interfere with your good intentions. As the day goes on, many obstacles can pop up to derail you—an unexpected meeting, fatigue or traffic.

Larks and owls
Sleep experts categorize people as larks or owls. Larks are people who are at their mental and physical peak in the morning. Owls are the opposite. They are at their best at night.

Theoretically, a morning person should have no problem working out in the early hours of the day because their bodies are innately geared for action at that time.

I say “theoretically” because the motivation to exercise is more complicated than that. But if a morning person has a genuine desire to work out, part of the battle is already won because he/she is not handicapped by having to fight against his/her natural biorhythm.

The owls or evening people are those who really find it hard to exercise in the morning. I should know because I am an owl and I have been teaching an early morning exercise class for 17 years.

It has not been easy but it has definitely been worth it and it is definitely possible. My day is more productive, time-efficient and full of energy.
Of course, there are mornings when I wish I hadn’t committed to such an early time but I have never regretted my decision because I feel totally empowered after the class.

If I didn’t exercise that early, it would take me half the morning to really start revving up my engines. And, of course, I would end up sleeping at midnight or later, which would just make my owlish tendencies even worse.

The two biggest problems that owls face are being unable to sleep early and feeling sluggish when they wake up. But you can train your body to exercise in the morning as long as you do it on a regular basis. Hill says, “Our bodies’ rhythms are inborn, but we reset them every day when our alarm goes off, when we eat our meals and when we exercise.”

The following tips are for owls who want to exercise in the morning and need an extra push to get them going:

Sleep early.
This is the catch-22 of exercising in the morning—you need to sleep early to be able to wake up halfway cheerfully but you have a hard time sleeping early because it is against your nature. You need a little discipline to stick to your required bedtime.

Dim the bedroom lights a few hours before you sleep. The body responds to darkness by getting sleepy and to light by waking up. Experts recommend that people with severe sleep problems should not turn on the lights if they have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. A small night light is more conducive to going back to bed.

Do not read or watch anything that stimulates your nervous system. If you watch an action movie, don’t be surprised if you don’t get sleepy right away.

Worry and anxiety can keep you up like nothing else can. Do what you have to do to reduce stress. Some people play soft New Age type of music and use relaxation techniques like controlled breathing.
I find that a heart-to-heart talk with God followed by counting backward from 100 usually does the trick.

Do not take coffee, cola or tea (anything with caffeine) less than six hours before bedtime. Alcohol and nicotine can also disturb your sleeping pattern.

Don’t do paperwork in bed thinking you can get a head start the next day. Work-related thoughts may keep you up at night. Both your body and your mind need time to unwind before going to sleep.

Prepare your workout and office clothes, as well as your office paperwork, the night before. Mornings are not the best time for owls to think clearly. You will be so stressed out looking for your stuff that you will end up using it as an excuse not to exercise. Besides, preparing your things at night is a psychological tool that convinces your mind and body that you are really going to do that early morning workout.

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