Several months ago, I started to work out in mornings for the first time at the gym. I just fucking love it. And actually, so much that I have to force myself not to hit it after four days in a row in order to get some rest. Which is a good problem when it comes to such habits if you ask me.
Here is what I have been doing:
- I don’t make any plans whatsoever in advance, I just decide to go only at the last moment if I feel like it.
- I start with a collagen shake and caffeine powder (about 200 mg) that gives me a bit of extra energy in addition to my morning peak of cortisol (I couldn’t take caffeine in the evening since I don’t break it down easily and then I have issues falling asleep).
- I have a membership card at a gym opened 24/7, so I can hit it even if I wake up super early. Early sessions fit perfectly with my working schedule and do not clash with my daygame sessions.
- I just follow the same list of exercises for full body workouts that I rotate depending on my energy levels and on the day without making a fuss about it. It’s been indeed liberating not to constantly try to control everything and just follow the flow. I even stopped counting my reps, I barely count my sets either, I thought it was taking too much of my attention. Sometimes I push my sets until failure, most of the time just before.
- I don’t push myself hard between the sets, and simply take my time. So, I never really reach cardio levels. But I do long sessions, sometimes up to 2+ hours.
- I enjoy listening to great electronic music that I might include later on in my DJ sets, or browse some podcasts. I use closed headphones, so I stay in my bubble far away from the crap broadcasted by the gym’s speakers.
Of course, it hasn’t been always like that for me. For instance, when I began at the gym several years ago as a complete newbie, I was following to the letter complete routines from a book. I had everything planned in advance, active vs. rest days, all the exercises, in which order, number of reps and sets, Excel sheets to keep track of my progress, etc. And it worked very well for me at that stage to build-up my new habit and develop the core and basic strength my body needed before starting to lift up more. So, it all depends on your needs and finding out what works for you (more to come below on the risk of becoming a control freak though).
And here are benefits I am getting from working out in the morning (vs. working out in the afternoon or early evenings as I was used to before) that I didn’t expect:
- My sessions are more intense and last much longer.
- The gym is much less crowed in mornings, so no need to wait for using the gears I want when I’m ready.
- I have been sleeping slightly better. I guess because my sessions are now better in sync with my circadian levels and morning peaks of cortisol. And also explaining why I tend to go to bed and fall asleep earlier as well, which is perfectly fine with my current lifestyle.
- Sometimes, I feel like being in flow and just loving doing my sets while being much more aware of the present moment. It becomes meditative, and I sometimes reach complete thought-free spaces. It also makes me more aware of the body parts being worked on by putting my attention where I feel the tension. And I’m more conscious of first and subtle signs of pain in my joins or tendons when I push too far.
- I also realized that my energized morning mood and oxygenated brains during exercise make me creative with new ideas I haven’t thought about before. Between the sets, I fill out Todo lists that make me move forward with my projects, and gain perspective on issues I have been struggling with.
- Besides the fact that I have much more energized gym sessions in the morning, an unexpected side effect has been to witness the level of commitment of regular morning guys as well. It turns out it’s also a good way to socialize a bit and get to know new committed warriors. And much more elderly badasses show up in mornings as well. It is so inspiring to see men in their 60s+ who haven’t given up! They just fucking do the work, day in, day out. Some of them still lift so much that the bar bent when they bench press. Some of them have great body shapes. I have a deep respect for these men who are still at the top of their fitness game.
- My libido has increased (I am not sure that it’s related to the fact that I work out in the morning though, it might just be a consequence of lifting harder).
Sustainable habits require love and fun
And since it became so easy for me to hit the gym on a very regular basis, it made me think about important parameters when considering implementing sustainable habits on the long run. And maximizing your joy in doing what you do is certainly a crucial factor. Indeed, willpower actually works like a muscle. You can only rely on it for a while before it runs dry. Moreover, I also noticed in the past my tendency to beat myself up when I failed to implement habits which momentum only relied on brute force willpower. Willpower is certainly required to get you started, when you need to shift your behavior of your daily life, before the habit becomes integrated in your new lifestyle. But then you have to optimize the conditions for maximizing your pleasure in implementing them. And of course, it also encompasses figuring out what works the best for you depending on your goals, schedule, fitness levels, and other personal parameters.
When it comes to implementing sustainable habits, you also have to be convinced that it’s a worthwhile investment for you on the long run. For me, hitting the gym on a regular basis is a responsible commitment for staying in a good shape, healthy and horny thanks to increased testosterone levels. When I feel strong in my body, I feel more confident, more masculine, sexier, and it helps me claiming my space (compared to my past Nice Guy years when I felt shrunk in my body and let people invade too easily my personal space). Working out also contributes to keep my strong and open posture even out of the gym, with my spine straight and high, my chest forward and my shoulders open. Finally, I believe that taking care of your body and your fitness should remain a life commitment for a man, so I am sticking to it.
Keep it simple
On a side note, I am not a fitness expert at all, and I have no intention to become one. The Internet is full of them, and there is huge amount of information out there for improving your routines in so many aspects, much more than what your brains would be able to digest in a lifetime. And I believe that if you are not competing, most of these inputs are useless marketing stuff. But if your goal is to dive hardcore in the science of optimizing your performance and gains, good for you, go for it. But by doing so, beware that it might also be an overcontrolling part of yourself taking over. It might be a shadow behavior, related to your inner control freak, contributing to the illusion that you can control everything from your environment. And also, don’t forget that the more you control the process, the more your willpower is involved, and the higher the likelihood that you will not keep your routines sustainable.
So, bottom line, it seems that I have found for now a great compromise between personal investment and pleasure in the process when it comes to hitting the gym hard, and it makes me feel happy.