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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Sachith Mankala
6 years ago

Thank you so so so so so much this helped me so much waking up at 5:00 for swim every morning.

Thank you

Sachith Mankala
Rocky Run Middle School 7 th grade

Sachith Mankala
6 years ago

Thank you so so so so so so much this helped me a lot and now I wake up at 5:00 everyday without a problem

6 years ago

Alarm goes off.
Pop out of bed (get feet on the floor).
Warm shower for a couple of minutes (no more).
Cold shower for 20 seconds.
Small glass of OJ.
A bagel or an RX Bar.
Maybe a cup of coffee.
Out the door.
Sip some water and/or coffee in transit.
Have a prefilled (and chilled) water bottle ready before the session.
Keep sipping water throughout the practice (and the day).
Good breakfast soon after the training session.
Works like a charm…

7 years ago

It’s so hard to get to sleep the night before morning practice because we have practice the night before till 6:30pm.Then my body is all wound up and I can’t fall asleep at a time that allows me to get enough rest.

7 years ago

This helped a lot I’m a swimmer and train everyday and morning and only get Sunday night and morning of and Tuesday land training of due to test sets

Rachel P.
7 years ago

This is really really helpful because I’m going to be starting 4:00am practice this school year for the whole year plus school swim- I need all the motivation I can get. Getting up for me isn’t easy at all, but I hope this will change that.

8 years ago

Although not within my control, there was a period when morning practice was in a 78-degree pool. If I woke early I could lay in bed just feeling the freeze, imagining the walk through the cold, the dive into the frigid soup. Man, that was hard to get out of bed for! But then, I’m a temp-whimp. I’d rather train in 84 degrees and suffer the second half of practice. But I guess 82 degrees was the preferred ‘warm’ temperature, and 80 was tolerable. I always imagined that training in warm water would make for a faster ‘cold pool’ race day. But I did (and still do) have a variety of odd mental gymnastics so I don’t know if that… Read more »

8 years ago

We need a list for the parents that are up and driving our kids to early practices…..lol;)

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer, swim coach, and best-selling author. His writing has been featured on USA Swimming, US Masters Swimming, NBC Sports Universal, the Olympic Channel, and much more. He has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 …

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