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Why You Should Be Working Out First Thing in the Morning

Why You Should Be Working Out First Thing in the Morning

During high school and college I grew to despise my alarm clock. As a swimmer my alarm clock went 5-alarm crazy at 4:45am four days a week, at which point I would shuffle to the pool (all too often through a bleak Canadian winter) with my teammates where we would swim up and down the black line for a couple of hours before heading off to school.

One of the best feelings of my life was the first Monday morning after I left the sport where my alarm went off, and as the confusion passed, I realized that I could guilt-free go right back to sleep.

A funny thing has happened since then.

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With no one to tell me what time to get up I soon learned to respect the early morning workout, and to be honest, while I don’t miss the awful sound the alarm made (and I don’t get up at the ungodly hour of 4ish AM), I have grown to appreciate the early morning workouts a lot more.

After all…The key to a successful workout program is finding a time and schedule for your workouts that allow for the highest percentage of completed sessions.

While it’s easy to fixate on finding the best supplements, or the coolest-looking workout gear, the real game changer when it comes to results in the gym isn’t something you pick up at GNC or will find in the forum of a bodybuilding website. It’s picking and sticking to a time where you are most likely to be consistent with attending the gym. Depending on your schedule this might mean not being able to go to the gym until late at night, or mid-afternoon, or during peak hours during the after-work rush. Whatever your schedule, here are 8 reasons you should choose to workout first thing in the morning:

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1. Early morning workouts tend to encourage better eating habits later in the day.

Exercise is one of those keystone habits that seeps into other areas of your life. After a good workout you tend to lean on better food choices to compliment the healthy physical decision you have already made.

2. Early morning workouts remove the sense of “Ugh, I still have to…”

This is a thought that plagues many of us late in the day when we are bushed and the last thing we want to do is go to the gym. Get it out of the way early, and you can focus the rest of the day without the nagging sense you still have something to do later.

3. Early morning workouts give you a better chance at having a killer workout.

Think about it, at the end of the day you are mentally and physically worn down and your willpower is bordering on depleted. In the AM you are fresh, mostly awake, and mentally you are more energetic than at the end of a long workday.

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4. Early morning workouts tend to come with more gym space.

If you are one of the brave souls who go to the gym right after work for the 5-6:30pm frenzy you are well acquainted with the line-ups and craziness that the gym assumes during this time. In the mornings it’s a much different pace. Less waits, less people, and a quicker and more efficient workout.

5. Early morning workouts get your day off to a great start.

The sensation of having accomplished something early in the day is a fantastic way to get your day going. (Want another easier one? Make your bed each day. Seriously. The little hit of dopamine that comes with completing what seems like such a benign task can help propel your day.) When your workout is done and over with, you can’t help but feel a little more stoked to take on the rest of the day.

6. Early morning workouts means that you are less likely to bail on the gym.

When you make going to the gym part of your daily morning routine your workout program becomes habit. And when it becomes habit, well, the gains and improvements start to happen on auto-pilot. And the easiest way to get the habitual gym sessions going is to attach it to something you are already doing. By piggy-backing the gym to something you are already doing—“When I do this, I do that” it makes the exercise habit easier to install.

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7. Early morning workouts make getting up easier.

Your body is a hilariously smart piece of machinery. Once you get into the swing of getting up and working out at a specific time your body begins to anticipate waking up at a specific time. This makes it much easier to wake up, as your body is already priming for what is to come by adjusting the circadian rhythm and endocrine system in anticipation of waking up. (Additionally, morning exercise typically helps you get to bed earlier at night.)

8. Early morning workouts make you mentally sharper.

If you’ve ever struggled with a creative task, and then gone for a run and had the answer hit you while on mile 4 you know what I am talking about. Exercise has been shown to boost brain function both short term (up to 4-10 hours) and long term (adding moderate exercise pushes back cognitive decline by 10-15 years in even middle aged people). Getting that early morning sesh in means that you are not only helping out your brain big time in the long run, but your decision making and mental output will greatly benefit for the rest of the day as well.

In Summary

At the end of the day it doesn’t really make that much of a difference what time you hit the gym. What matters most is that you are going.

If that means hitting the gym at 1am, than so be it. But if you’ve got the consistency and routine part down, consider hitting the gym in the mornings so that you can propel yourself physically and mentally through the rest of your day.

This post was originally published over at YourWorkoutBook.com.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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