30-Day Challenge: Morning Workouts
There's so much more to starting your day off right than with a jolt of caffeine a la coffee. We reached out to health writer Bana Jobe to show what a commitment to a 30-day, 30-minute workout challenge could do. Here's her experience with daily exercise. Your results may vary. Always ask your doctor before trying a new exercise regimen. Best of luck on your own first day and all the days that come after it.
I'm going to be honest with you: I've never been the kind of person who could wake up early to work out. But at the beginning of this year, I challenged myself to do just that. I fought excuse after excuse and can now proudly say this: I spent a month working out every single morning.
Was it hard? Absolutely.
Do I regret it? Absolutely not.
Day 1: "Wait, am I really doing this?"
I woke up at 7 a.m. on a holiday. I didn't want to, but there I was. My home office served as my makeshift workout room for the month of this challenge. I turned on my laptop to a subscription-based exercise streaming service that I had signed up for, and I picked a 30-minute workout at random.
For Day 1, I picked yoga. I moved into the first few sets of downward dogs, warriors and the worst crow pose you've ever seen, feeling tired and stiff. About 15 minutes in, I was shocked at how much my heart rate had gone up by just balancing myself in wobbly poses. I was actually sweating! Turns out, yoga is great for your heart.
I ended the half hour feeling refreshed and calm. And for the rest of the day, I was energized and happy. Even my husband points out those good-feeling vibes.
Finding Your Style
By Day 15, I've logged 7.5 hours of the most random assortment of daily exercise routines you can imagine, and the early-to-rise, heart-bumping mornings have turned into a habit. I've done an intense 30-minute agility workout, an online hip-hop dance class (the video evidence of which you'll never see) and a bodybuilding plyometric routine just because it sounded fun. Plus, I'm doing lots of yoga, cardio and resistance workouts.
Sometimes, I paused the video just so I could catch my breath, but I kept going. I finished each workout feeling energized, accomplished and sweaty. I started to look forward to the sound of my alarm each morning. Endorphins are no joke.
I can't say this whole 30-minute workout experiment has been easy. Nope, it was hard — some days more than others. But in four weeks of daily exercise I developed some tools and tips that kept me moving:
1. Keep a workout calendar.
Few things in life are more cathartic than placing a big "X" on the calendar to mark that day's workout complete. Seeing those Xs grow made me smile, and I felt satisfied each day when I could mark another exercise done.
2. Randomize your routines.
For me, I needed variety. By doing an assortment of exercises — from Pilates and yoga to cardio, resistance and even dance — the workouts kept me on my toes and had me anticipating what new, fun activity each morning would bring.
3. Eliminate travel as an excuse.
On a couple of occasions during these 30 days, I had to travel for work. I didn't let that stop me, and the National Institutes of Health says it shouldn't stop you, either. I did plenty of yoga and equipment-free cardio routines in hotel rooms (even if it meant hopping around a second-floor room while hoping the folks below wouldn't complain).
4. Add in easygoing days.
I moved every day, but that doesn't mean that every morning meant some intense cardio burner. Sometimes, I just did a simple walk around my neighborhood. A workout doesn't need to be overwhelming to be effective. In fact, the heart-healthy benefits of walking are nothing to ignore.
5. Track your progress.
I kept a workout diary to track my progress. Reading some of the entries now cracks me up, but they also helped me set goals and track my efforts against them.
My Results Are In
I now understand the health hype — how regular physical activity boosts your mood, confidence and energy while kicking stress to the curb. I'm not just saying this because scientific evidence says so. I feel and look better than I ever have before — and I'm in my 30s.
On Day 1, I put a mirror in my office so that I could watch my progress, and I'm really excited about what I've seen: My arms and shoulders look strong, my legs toned (thank you, squats!) and I can even see abs.
But aside from how I look, I'm thrilled at how I feel. Morning workouts have become a fixed part of my day, and they've helped me tackle the workday with energy, confidence and joy. Plus, I've bettered my eating, because when I look at a cookie or slice of pie, I think, "Do I really want to waste the calories I just burned this morning?" Most of the time, the answer is no. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, this thinking, called the "transfer effect," is a real thing.
I absolutely plan to continue working out, and I hope you do too. After all, the natural high from doing so is too good to give up.