How to finally get into the morning exercise habit

Cat on a bike!You have been planning it for weeks. You promised to your family and friends. You even posted it in your blog!

All systems are ready, you make sure everything is working for the last time:

  • Accountability. Check.
  • Goals. Check.
  • Motivation. Check.
  • Ways to measure progress. Check.
  • All props required. Check.

You go to sleep the day before, knowing what you want to do, you’re ready to get back into the exercise habit!

Then it happens, the next morning you feel insanely lazy, eyes burn and your mind asks for just 5 extra minutes.

The inner battle against your lizard brain is there, oh boy, and it’s coming strong. It’s screaming and you are not even fully awake!

So how are you supposed to win this battle? You need to get up and start working out!

Getting back into the habit

Not long ago I wrote about my inner battle against my lizard brain on Bernal’s Peak, there I wrote about getting back into exercising regularly.

I thought this would be really easy, as I was used to workout daily without any complaint or even worry. I followed the Nerd Fitness way and I was happy to listen to some Heavy Metal songs.

It’s almost a year since I stopped doing that, so my confidence was truly misplaced.

The next morning (a Monday), I felt incredibly lazy. My brain started to remind me of the bed’s lovely warm sheets, and how much I dislike to be all sweaty. Besides I could start tomorrow, right? Wrong!

That’s someday thinking, and I wasn’t going to let it win, not this time. But getting up was feeling as if I had to lift a ton of weights already.

You overestimate your own Willpower

Here is the simple truth: I was overestimating my willpower.

I thought getting all my stuff ready and in check would be all I needed to get up the next morning and work out as I used to do. I’m not saying it was worthless, it was truly useful and good idea, but it wasn’t enough.

For the most part, the battle is won inside our brains, just like in Bernal’s Peak, the battle was raging inside my mind, not around me.

To win this battle you need to be really smart about it. Hell, you need to play one or two aces from under your sleeve.

I know this sounds weird, but I don’t always trust my brain, I know we’re a team, but I also know he’s awesome at rationalizing my bad behaviors. Fortunately, I had a wonderful hand to play in this match!

One, I knew I would have to report back to Sandi about my failure and the someday thinking stuff. Now, she’s ultra cool and I enjoy my coaching sessions with her, but I know she would kick my ass so hard I would kiss the moon if I told her I just got trapped into someday thinking.

Two, I played a dirty trick on myself too. I remembered that I’m not going to live forever. Yes, this is insanely effective, but you should avoid using this one often. Remembering that your days are counted is like a punch in the face, it reminds you that you need to act right now instead of wasting your time.

Three, I knew I wanted to write this post, and I was in no way going to write about a defeat, right? Accountability for the win!

Then I could finally get out of bed, I made it immediately to avoid wanting to go back. Turned on my laptop and got everything I needed to workout.

The victory was complete when I crossed the item of my to-do list. Epic win!

Don’t trust your mind during the time it takes you to wake up

I want to save you a lot of stress and the whole battle against your bad habits and make sure you’ll win it.

Getting into a good habit is hard stuff, so each time you get into a new one I’ll personally celebrate it in our Facebook Page so be sure to let me know about it!

Anyway, I digress.

You’ll need to prepare for the battle, and I’ll talk about it below, but first you need to make sure you’ve a couple of extra cards to get you moving the next day. It’s different for each warrior and habit.

Now, I’m not asking you to go all the way out and say that your brain is your enemy. It’s your ally, but you can’t ask it to work at it’s best during the morning. Besides in our modern culture we usually need something before we actually do anything.

What you need before you start your day is different for everyone, some need coffee or a good breakfast, some others will have a daily ritual. These are triggers, and you need to understand them.

When you go out and introduce a new variable to the equation, like trying to workout first thing in the morning, you’re stepping into your previous anchors, that’s how the battle gets started. This is the crucial step I forgot.

So instead of moving into battle mode, understanding your morning anchors and rituals can help you move forward with the change of habits. I talked about my own personal ritual before, but I didn’t take this into account and thought I could just jump on the exercise thing before my ritual, big mistake on my part.

Let’s get you in the right mood to change one morning habit!

Setting up a system to get you out of bed and working out

If you have big difficulties trying to set up a new ritual or morning routine, follow this steps (which I used on the second day) in order to have an easier time.

  • Set an accountability system: Tell your family and friends about it, but specially tell someone you trust and who can kick you if you aren’t sticking to your word. In my case, Sandi is the best for this task, she would kick my ass if I didn’t stick to my word and celebrate if I fulfilled my promise. Win-Win.
  • Set a clear goal: For me it’s not about weight, but about physical condition. So one great way to know I’m doing great is measuring daily my progress on routines. Also, the best way I’ll know I made it is next time I have to face something similar to Bernal’s Peak.
  • Get motivated: your goal should motivate you to get right into the action, in my case exercising. You can add to that another positive thoughts, for example you’ll become healthier, you would sleep better and, of course, all the compliments you will get for looking awesome (yes, external motivation but it’s a bonus, not the focus).
  • Measure your progress: It’s really easy to get lost and think nothing is working. Why? You see yourself everyday, it’s difficult to notice progress if you hang around with yourself all day long. Instead find a good way to track it, I use a simple spreadsheet file where I record number of repetitions and weight along with the time spent on the bike. I have noticed a steady increment.
  • Get the stuff you need ready: Tennis shoes by the bed, dumbbells a couple of steps ahead, a timer on hand and my computer to check the workout and record it. Those are the things I used, and it worked like a charm to have them on hand without thinking about them.
  • Check your daily routine: Be smart about this one, check what you do everyday and what you really need to get started. As I said before I need to gaze out of the window for a few minutes and do some simple breathing exercises. The second day I included these before the workout, and guess what? Piece of cake to get started. Be mindful of your anchors and you’ll be able to include any new habit in your schedule.
  • Bonus one, check your momentum: By the time I’m publishing this, I already have 2 weeks and a half exercising regularly and now it’s easier to get out of the bed and start working out without a problem. That’s because I’m also factoring my momentum now and I’m not letting anything break it. Why? Because I don’t want to go back to day 1 again.

Now remember, you need to mix and match this process to your own needs, but if you keep your own rituals and willpower in mind you’ll be getting into those habits you have always wanted in minutes.

Want me to showcase your victory on our Facebook Page? Do you have a different system in place to add new habits to your life? Let me know in the comments and let’s get the positive vibe rolling today!

Photo by jordanmit09

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Alex Reyes (@EnsoJourney) is the co-founder of Enso Journey. He is a geek seeking to turn himself into a modern warrior. You can train with him by liking Enso Journey's Facebook Page or joining the Enso Journey Warrior Dojo for FREE.


  1. Yo Alex,
    I hope as I write this you are busting out some push-ups with sweat drenching off your body :).

    I think developing a workout routine can be challenging. I think that the challenge is that we all are at a different place in the continuum of working out. For some folks they just need to find a way to walk for 30 minutes 3x a week. For others, they need a more vigorous routine 5 days a week. Then there are others that want to take it to a whole new level with a crazy routine.

    Depending on where each person is at the solutions to making it happen are different.

    For me, I’m at a point where I’m all about knowing my deeper purpose behind my workouts. As you know, I want to be a ninja- I also want to live a long life and have energy till I die. So for me working out covers 2 things. It gets me in top physical condition for my martial arts training and it is an investment in my life.

    I feel the results. I am more focused and more present when I get a solid workout in. It’s interesting though because there are dangers with this just as much. I can become overly consumed with working out and rather than feeling good about working out I’ll feel bad if i don’t. In other words I won’t celebrate my succeses (which as you know, is not a good thing).

    Good post my man :).
    Izzy recently posted..Stupid + Stupid = Courageous. Need Proof? Read This Post.

    • Hi Izzy!
      Your ninja skills are certainly improving, I didn’t see you come into the Dojo. :)
      You are completely right, a fitness routine varies from warrior to warrior. It’s better to start small and build momentum that hit the weights just to end up injured. When I started a few years ago, I did it really slowly and in a fun way (this may sound funny but Wii Fit did the trick). So it all boils down to something you like to do and gets you moving, then add momentum to seek a more complete fitness routine that fits your lifestyle. Just like your martial arts training.
      Oh and no, sorry I was not doing push-ups (I love them tho), I was headbanging like crazy on Megadeth’s concert. I’m a heavy metal warrior, and believe me one of those concerts near the stage is more or less the same as a full body workout. Great training on self-defense too if you are up for it. :)
      Also congratulations man, I know you will be breaking bricks soon, and be sure to send me the video, I will showcase you here on Enso Journey once you do it!
      Alejandro Reyes recently posted..Celebrate with us our first anniversary!

  2. I only have a little question. Nothing as complicated as Izzy.
    Why the morning?
    I just don’t think I could ever get up and work out first thing in the morning. I’d hate that. I’d be so tired. I always work out in the evening. Does it make a difference really?
    Liz recently posted..7 Kinds of Manipulative People That Make Me Want to Reject My Humanity

    • Hi Liz!
      I have read that exercising in the morning does have better results, but to be honest I have never noticed (I have done it in the early morning and evening). The real difference is based on how it makes you feel.
      For me, exercising in the morning is the best option, because it fills me with energy and helps my creative flow.
      If you find that mornings are not your best, by all means avoid it. The idea here is to be mindful of our energy levels and our personal rituals to be able to add healthy lifestyle changes without feeling like crap. :)
      Alejandro Reyes recently posted..How I fought my lizard brain at Bernal’s Peak

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