An Experiment in Early Rising & Exercise

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Waking up early is tough. Finding time to workout is even tougher.

For most of us, arranging time for a workout is even more of a challenge than the exercise itself. Along with pulling ourselves out of bed, working hard all day, and either making dinner, taking children to activities, grocery shopping, paying bills, or may even relaxing for once…..where does the time go? Certainly, as the day progresses, we realize working out simply isn’t in the cards. Then we feel the guilt and shame as we say to ourselves, ‘well, maybe tomorrow’.

During an early morning sweat-fest, a hot yoga studio instructor shared this maxim: “at 6 A.M., the only obstacle standing between me and my workout is ME; by 6 P.M. all sorts of obstacles exist to prevent me from working out.” Truer words may have never been spoken.

With repeated exposure to articles and TED Talks touting the benefits of waking early to exercise as one of the activities successful, productive people do, a couple of us here decided to try an experiment. We committed ourselves to waking up before dawn and working out before our day started – all in the name of science.

To be honest, we’ve long envied those dedicated individuals who wake up and engage in an intense sweat session, shower, eat a healthy breakfast, meditate and then start their workday, refreshed and ready to pounce on their assignments. Who WERE these people anyway? And….would we feel the same?

For the sake of testing the ‘early bird catches the worm’ hypothesis, we will do this – for you, our dear readers – following the scientific method. Just for fun.

Questions

Are people who wake up early fitter, happier, more productive and successful? What factors play into such aspects? How will waking up early impact energy and focus throughout the day?

Background Research

According to an article on Forbes, early rising is a trait associated with CEOs, political heavyweights, and other influential people. So we have some correlation here….not causation.

Some argue that if you get the same amount of sleep you would waking early versus later on, there’s no difference in productivity. There are a number of successful political figures, philosophical writers, psychologists, and inventors who were night owls. According to Russel Foster during his TED Talk on “Why do we Sleep,” he says ‘early to bed, early to rise…’ is a myth.

With regard to exercise, it seems as though early morning workouts may present some advantages, including having more focus during the rest of the day, using natural daily hormone cycles to your advantage, boosting your metabolism, and being less likely to skip the workout later in the day.

Our Hypothesis

We suspect (and dread finding out) that the early risers do, in fact, have some advantages over those who prefer to wake up closer to sun-rise, including increased dedication to physical fitness and productivity.

Testing the Hypothesis by doing an Experiment

Well this is where the rubber meets the road. A couple of us here at One Bite made a pact to run ourselves through this experiment and so on a few dreary, dark mornings we somehow found ourselves inside of a boxing gym or hot yoga, slightly before 6am. Accountability partnering does amazing things.

Analyze Data and Draw a Conclusion

Our sample size is small and we have tested waking up at 5am and performing a 6am workout 3x in two weeks. We kept our environment and schedule as we normally would (no built-in nap times or ‘light’ workdays). Our observations:

  1. Getting enough sleep and having an accountability partner is key. Missing either one of these drastically reduces the possibility of an early morning workout.
  2. Focus and productivity (caffeine-free) ran us well into the early afternoon before sleepiness and lethargy stepped in.
  3. Feeling terrific and highly energetic until early afternoon
  4. Having workouts that were varied and that we looked forward to doing was important.

Share the Results

Will we be waking up at 5am everyday? Certainly not. Early rising requires early sleeping and it just feels plain lame to be going to bed by 9pm – not to mention that it hampers social activities and actively works against  night-owl tendencies. However, we discussed creating a compromise with our own natural cycles in mind and working with them for an earlier morning in general.

We cannot over-emphasize how happy and accomplished we felt with having completed a workout by 7am – this alone won out over the alternative of scheduling a later-day workout but having a higher risk of skipping it. By all means, if an early morning workout just isn’t for you, ensuring proper exercise during other times of the day is better than nothing.

What are your thoughts? Will you try the experiment for yourself?

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