7 Ways to Make Waking Up for AM Workouts Easier

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join his weekly motivational newsletter for competitive swimmers by clicking here.

I won’t sugar-coat it – I despised waking up early probably more than anything else in the world. More than the fact my CD player skipped non-stop (dating myself here), that I’d left my water-logged suit in my bag over-night, and possibly even more than distance fly sets.

It might be because my bed was a comfortable slice of heaven. Or that Canadian winters make for some bone-chilling walks to the car. Or that tricking myself by putting the alarm clock across the room only served to make me more grumpy and more tired.

Here are 7 tips to help make those early mornings a little more bearable, without having to resort to tricking yourself or having your old man dump water on you like mine occasionally did—

1. Prepare your gear the night before. This has two benefits – the obvious one being that you’ll free up another ten minutes of sleep the next morning (or longer depending on how much stuff you have to pack for the day). The less obvious benefit is that the feeling of preparedness made me fall asleep a little better. I didn’t have the, “I still have to get my stuff ready tomorrow” thought gnawing at the back of my brain as I lay in bed, closed-eye staring at the ceiling.

2. Turn on all the lights. Soon as you wake up, turn on all of the lights. Open the curtains – if it’s not the dead of winter, and still darker than it was when you went to sleep – and let your body’s natural clock become aware that it’s rise-and-shine time.

3. Keep moving. Sitting down and slumping into your breakfast will only keep you in that half-asleep mode. Your body, confused with what its supposed to be doing, will continue to implore you for the warmth of your sheets. Move around, get some blood flowing, and get your body closer to “go” mode.

4. Hydrate. Did you know that you can lose up to a litre of water while you sleep? True story. Start every morning off with a big glass of water and return your body to hydrated-status.

5. Commit to getting up for 5 minutes. Starting anything is the hardest part, you should know this by now. Promise yourself five minutes of being up and at it, no more. Committing to 5 minutes is a lot easier to digest than the thought of that epic distance set awaiting you at the pool.

6. Have a Pre-Sleep Ritual. Getting up is exponentially easier when you have had a good night’s rest. Insure a solid 7-8 hours by having a pre-sleep ritual. Things to note when building your own plan for optimized sleep:

  1. Limit exercise a couple hours before working out (not always possible, I know).
  2. Dark as possible.
  3. Limit TV and cell phone use (probably asking a lot here in the case of the latter).
  4. Avoid caffeine in the house before sleepy-time.

7. Have a set of cues for when you wake up. Habit is an extremely powerful thing. Use it to your advantage by creating a set of cues that will make getting up a habit instead of having to rely on willpower. Here is an example–

  1. Turn off alarm.
  2. Open blinds.
  3. Make bed.
  4. Go to the bathroom.
  5. Drink a full glass of water.
  6. Make breakfast.
  7. Watch Sportscenter for 5 minutes.

Do these things each time you have to wake up early, and you will find that the routine becomes hard-wired. The more you do it, the less you have to think about it, and the less you think about it, the less you are having that eternal argument in your brain about getting “just five more minutes” under the sheets.

Don’t feel bad about the fact that you feel like you are at half-speed when you wake up. A great majority of us feel the same way. Do you have any tips that help you get up for morning practice?

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8 years ago

#8 – make a decision the night before about what you are havinng for breakfast. Choices at 4:30am are too hard!!!

Reply to  Pam
5 years ago


Reply to  Pam
5 years ago

Hahaha I know right? I just want to slump my face in my cereal

Charlene Tallen
Reply to  Pam
3 years ago

Excellent idea

Jo-Ann Elo
8 years ago

When getting up at 5:00 a.m. for swim practice, the first thing I would do was go into the bathroom and wash my face. Once you have washed your face, you’re not going to fall back asleep! Get dressed and get some carbs…usually a bowl of cereal for me.

Reply to  Jo-Ann Elo
8 years ago

That’s exactly what I do *high five*

8 years ago

So timely! Just read this to my son, who is about to start early morning practices in July.

8 years ago

So glad those days are long behind me.

Reply to  KevinT
6 years ago

I envy you, sir.

Reply to  KevinT
3 years ago

You’re a lucky soul

8 years ago

Replace “3. Make bed”, with “3. Put on comedy record” (dating myself here)
You’ll be laughing yourself out the door and win back-to-back Most Inspirational Swimmer awards. (true story)

8 years ago

This assumes swimmers require a whole lotta morning practices to be good. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Reply to  PAC12BACKER
7 years ago

Maybe for some morning workouts aren’t a requirement for being good, but an awful lot of teams have them, and so an awful lot of athletes end up going to them. Sharing suggestions is a lot more helpful than trying to dodge the problem.

I’m insanely lucky that I’m a 5:30-in-the-morning person, but still, movement and food are top dogs in getting me to stay awake once that alarm goes off!

Reply to  PAC12BACKER
7 years ago

Sometimes, it’s a scheduling restriction, too. This article isn’t assuming anything like that.

Reply to  PAC12BACKER
6 years ago

An article titled, “7 Ways to Make Waking Up for AM Workouts Easier” only assumes that the reader has chosen to arise for an early morning workout. It then offers tips on how to achieve that goal.

It doesn’t say that morning workouts are the best/only workouts.

Reply to  PAC12BACKER
4 years ago

For my son whose 11, I have observed that the morning sessions are the best ones.
Apart from the torture of actually getting up, once in the pool it’s a great way to start the day after the body has rested. My son is energised, and after the session, (and second breakfast) he’s ready, alert and raring to go to school.
We have a bit of a routine, but I think I will get him to create his own ‘morning routine’ so it becomes habit.

Maybe I should do my ‘swim parent’ routine too, as I’m the worst!

Reply to  LL98
3 years ago

At 11 you’re stunting his growth by making him get up so early. He should follow his natural sleep rhythm for optimal development.

Reply to  PAC12BACKER
3 years ago

This article makes no assumptions… you did. Some teams can only train mornings or train mostly mornings. Some mornings are 5:30 AM and some are 8AM. Get off your high horse and come have somebody fun in the water with the rest of us y’a grumpy gus

8 years ago

Be realistic with yourself and teach your body to differentiate between tiredness and laziness. Some days you just don’t feel good or really do need that extra sleep. I let myself skip practice on those days I really need the sleep so I know that tomorrow I’ll be ready to go.

Evlyn valle
7 years ago

Suena fácil. Pero se que no lo es pero tampoco es imposible; pero lo que si se: es que se siente una satisfacción muy grande después de lograrlo y tener resultados en las competencias

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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