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5 Tips for Early Morning Training

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By: Derek Wellock

I am not sure there has been much thought or discussion around certain aspects of training from 5am-7am.  I wanted to share some insight on how to optimize your training for this time of day.  

The best time of day to train is the time you get the work done.  Especially for all of us who use fitness to maintain our overall health.  If we were making a living as a professional athlete there would have to be a bigger discussion around optimal training times.  Regardless, I know most of us want to get the most out of our training and continue to make improvements over time. There are some aspects of training, especially for high-intensity training that need to be considered when training in the early hours of the day. 

There is a significant amount of science out there to support a lot of this, but being an early morning person myself, a lot of what I am sharing is from personal experience and why I don’t particularly like to do high-intensity training first thing.  This is not meant to discourage anyone from training early, only tips on how to optimize your morning training. The reality is if 5am was the only time I had to train I will get the work done. I have done training sessions at 3:30am before, just to get the work done because ultimately the only bad training day is the consistently skipped training day.  So here are some tips that might help you out!   

Tip 1. H20 and Na

Drink 12-16oz of water right when you wake up with ¼ teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt.  I mean right when you wake-up.  

“Sodium is vital to proper muscle activation and contractions as well as managing the athlete’s adrenal system.  Salts provide the main electrolytes and minerals critical for normal function. However, don’t just consume any salt. Himalayan salt is far less processed and less toxic than your traditional table salt. It also provides you with more electrolytes and minerals than average salts.” Click this link to read more about this.” – OPEX Coach Mike Lee     https://opexfit.com/blog/morning-ritual-salt-water-and-lemon/

Also, make sure you hydrate throughout the entire day.  A way to rough calculate the water intake you need is to take your body weight and multiply it by 0.6.  This is the amount in ounces of water you need. For example. 200lbsx0.6=120oz of water per day.    

Tip 2. FOOD

Get some kind of quality and easy digesting protein and carbohydrate in your system.  You hopefully just woke up for an 8hr fast, and your body spent a great deal of time and energy healing and recovering.  Going straight into high-intensity training fasted is not good. Low intensity fasted cardio is awesome. High intensity, you need something in your system.

Some of you might say, well I feel great fasted in the morning, and if this is the case I would be curious to learn more about your stress scale.  Most of the time when someone feels they have great energy that early and are able to train at peak high intensity fasted it is because their body’s flight or fight response has kicked in.  When this happens, your adrenal gland kicks up the production of cortisol into overdrive and you have a major glucose dump into your system from your liver. Now to be clear, cortisol is elevated in the morning regardless, it is the body’s way to wake us up and get going.  But if you do this, plus have an additional negative flight or fight hormone response to the workout demands, this is not a healthy training adaptation, it is simply survival. When this is done over and over and over, your excess cortisol could be preventing you from properly metabolizing carbohydrates, suppressing your testosterone, and preventing you from recovering optimally, burning fat, and building lean muscle.   A great way to reduce these potential negative effects is to have some quality and easily digested food in your system available for your body to use during training. I am a whole food first type of coach. But for a morning class, there is only one option for me. 30 minutes before the start of class, I will have 2 scoops of Xendurance Fuel-5 and 1 scoop of their protein. This is about 26g of carbs and 20 grams of protein.  For some people, fruit, a little bit of honey and PLAIN greek yogurt, can be a good source too.  For me, I don’t digest it fast enough to feel good, so for early morning HIGH-INTENSITY training sessions I only use a supplement and Xendurance is my go-to.

Tip 3.  WARM-UP

I get frustrated when people show up late for a warm-up, not just because it may disrupt the class, and I know shit happens, I would rather you show up late than not show up at all.  But the warm-up is a BIG and VITAL piece to getting the most out of your training hour.  If you workout between 4am and 7am, chances are you just rolled out of bed and straight to the gym.  You are going from max state of relaxation to max state of high intensity. This fast transition from body extremes is very stressful to the body.  The body needs good stress which we can get from training, but improper stress from training can have very negative impacts on the body. If you workout at 9am or later, your body has most likely had 2-4 hours or more of general movement.  This general movement involves moving blood, circulation of oxygen, joint lubrication, and muscle activation and our central nervous system has had time to wake up and turn on. 

Have you ever been the person who got an important phone call and you had to get on the computer to answer the question, it’s a little older computer, and it is not on!  Then you have to wait for the CPU to fire and up and get everything running. Sometimes it feels like 30 minutes before that machine is fired up. The human body is significantly more complex than a computer. 

The WARM-UP IS VITAL to getting the most out of your training and preventing injury.  

5am-7am:  You need to warm-up to do the warm-up.  This does not mean foam rolling. You need a more general warm-up before class starts.  I suggest the first thing you do when you walk through the gym doors is get on a machine and do 8 minutes of cardio.  Start easy and increase intensity every minute for 8 minutes. Your heart rate and respiratory rate are going to spike very fast, but this ok.  Your body is moving oxygen through your body and this needs to take place prior to the start of class so you can get the most out of class. After the 8 minutes, you should be breaking a sweat.  

When class starts, our focused warm-up is for priming the CNS and muscle groups that are going to be used in the strength and the wod, and it is very important to get your central nervous system activated, especially if you want to move heavy weights safe and well.

Tip 4.  YOU NEED SLEEP.

I have heard some of you tell me you are rolling into class at 5am with 2-4 hours of sleep.  Trying to train your body with little sleep is and can be extremely harmful to your long term health.   The minimum hours of sleep for a person should be 6 hours with striving to get 8 hours per night. Coming in and training at high intensity on less than 6 hours of sleep you may be hurting yourself more than helping.  Low-intensity exercise sleep deprived may be ok, such as light cardio, but high-intensity training with heavyweight is not best on low sleep. If you follow me on Instagram you have seen that November I have put a lot of focus into my sleep.  And if you follow me on SugarWod I have been scaling workouts a lot. This is because my body on poor sleep is not going to have a positive response to a high-stress workout.

So if you are rolling in sleep-deprived, use the workout to jump-start your day.  Focus on breaking a sweat, loosening up, and feeling good. Back off both mentally and physically from trying to hit the peak level of intensity when sleep deprived.  The body will respond better from lower intensity on these days. Have kind and positive self-talk, because getting to the gym and maintaining your routine is a huge win when sleep-deprived, so be stoked with yourself! Then try to get some sleep the next night if you can.  Your body will reward you for getting sleep.    

Tip 5.  Listen to your body. 

If you have done everything above correctly and you get 20 minutes into the morning class and you still feel like crap, then your body is simply under recovered and not ready to take on additional stress.  Most of the time, people start to feel good about 20 minutes into a group class, that is because you are finally warm-ed up. Putting a little intentional effort into a pre-workout routine can make sure you get the most out of your best and healthiest hour of the day.  

Here are a couple of ways to know if you are under recovered.  (These tips are only relevant if you have had a GOOD Warm-up) If you missed the warm-up these are not valid tests or evaluations to use.  

Is your coordination off?  Double unders are a great way to know if you under recovered. If you are a double under wizard and you try a set and you can’t seem to do them anymore, you might just be under recovered.  Does the weight feel heavier than it should? If you start to lift and everything feels super heavy, your body might be under recovered. These are a couple of gauges I use to let me know how prepared my body is to take on physical stress from exercise.              

So if you haven’t hit a PR in a while, feel like your strength gains have slowed, or feel beat up with low energy in the morning, take a look at your pre-workout routine.  These things can possibly help you take things to the next level. But there is a lot more that can play into how well a training session goes. Something that happened 3 days prior can be impacting you today.  For the most part, if you have a solid pre-workout routine you can get a lot of intentional and quality stress out of your training, which will have a very positive impact on your health and fitness.

I also realized that many of us have children, life stress, and various other things going on that might be pulling us away from being able to set our bodies up for optimal training stimulus.  So hitting all of this perfect every time may seem impossible. But the more knowledge you have, the better you can prepare your body. Some days just getting to the gym is a victory. A little sweat and an endorphin kick can really help jump-start the rest of your day, this is awesome, just remember when your body is not set up to hit peak performance, do not expect peak performance from it.  Having this knowledge will hopefully empower some of you to have more gentle self-talk and be proud of your progress even though the days are not currently filled with personal records. Just remember, stacking daily wins and consistency over time always wins, and the only bad training is the consistently skipped training day.      

As always, I am one of your coaches.  I am here to help you succeed in life and one of my biggest tools to help you is the gym.  So if you have questions, concerns, or would like to dive into the nitty-gritty please reach and we can do that.  Let’s GO!