Squeezing in a workout before the rest of the world is even awake takes an extreme amount of willpower and dedication – and maybe a bit of insanity. But if you work at it, anyone can become an early riser, says sleep specialist Dr Christopher Winter.
So learn from the masters. These six guys get up every morning at 4 a.m. to break a sweat. Here’s how they do it.
Picture Your Rivals
Name: John Burk
Occupation: Military instructor and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
Burk’s a former drill sergeant, but that doesn’t mean a 4 a.m. wakeup call comes easy. So Burk remembers an old military mantra to drag himself out of bed: “You may be tired or hurting, but there is someone somewhere training harder to kill you.’”
He then applies that saying to his current goals. Right now, the vet is training for a bodybuilding competition. “All I can see is this blank figure, this silhouette, and he’s training even harder than me to beat me on that stage,” he says.
Make It As Easy As Possible
Name: Richard Rees
Occupation: Executive director of a family company
Rees’ alarm clock goes off at 3:50 a.m., and he’s out the door on a run just minutes later.
His quick turnaround is due to the fact that his clothes, coffee, and breakfast are all ready when he wakes up. Even his socks and the coffee scooper are laid out waiting for him. He doesn’t need to think about anything.
The longer your to-do list in the morning, the easier it is to stay in bed, Rees says. So prepping every last detail the night before eliminates excuses.
Remember How Crappy You Feel When You Miss a Workout
Name: Tom Carpenter
Occupation: Executive director at a large company
There are a million excuses to not get out of bed—you’re tired, it looks like rain, you’re sore. But Carpenter says to ask yourself one question: Have you ever regretted a workout?
The answer is probably no. You’ll definitely be sorry you skipped a workout, though. “If I miss a workout, I’m in a bad mood,” says Carpenter. Thinking about that may just be enough to outweigh the pros of sleeping for an extra hour. And you don’t even need to go anywhere.
Think about Tomorrow
Name: Joseph Eazor
Occupation: CEO of a managed services provider
When Eazor wakes up early to train for his Ironman races, he thinks about the long-term benefits. Sure, devoting early mornings to training will make him faster and stronger. But they’ll also make race day more bearable—maybe even enjoyable, he says. It’s the difference between crossing the finish line with a smile or a grimace on his face.
So remind yourself of the end result—the whole reason you’re doing this. Whether it’s keeping up with your kids in the backyard, going shirtless at the beach, or running your first 5K without walking, imagine exactly how you’ll feel in the moment that you conquer your goal.
Have a Bedtime Routine
Name: Craig Ballantyne
Occupation: Certified trainer and author of Turbulence Training
Getting up early starts the night before. Ballantyne recommends setting an alarm to go off an hour before the time you want to hit the hay. Use those 60 minutes to wind down. Stop looking at electronics, make tomorrow’s lunch, or read a book.
The goal: get your mind to shut up so you can go down for a full night’s sleep. If you’re still buzzing with ideas or to-do lists, dump it all onto a pad of paper, Ballantyne says. Writing out what’s on your mind will help clear your head.