How to Make Yourself Work Out When It's Dark Out

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/19/2013 6:00 AM   :  138 comments   :  921,761 Views

As much as I love fall, I don't love the darkness that comes with it. It's already getting darker earlier each night, and it's staying dark even when I wake up in the morning. I am not a fan of that!
 
It's hard enough to be a morning person and wake up to work out, but when the moon is still out when your alarm goes off, forget about it! Then again, if you hit snooze and wait to work out after work, you might be faced with the same problem.
 
I will admit that it's not easy for me to get up and be gung ho for a workout session. I am not and never will be a morning person. It's hard for me to wake up just about every day. But I do manage to stick to my morning workouts (most days anyway). And no, I don't have super human powers …which means you can do it, too. Here's how.
 
  1. Go to bed at a normal time. I'm naturally sleepier in the fall and winter, probably because of it gets dark so much earlier. When I know I'm going to wake up and work out, I make sure I get to bed early enough that I get 8 hours of sleep. Does it mean skipping "Conan"? Yep. Is it worth it? Oh heck, yes.
     
  2. Sleep in your workout clothes. I kid you not, this is my No. 1 strategy for making morning exercise a habit—especially in the fall and winter. When it's chilly, I don't want to get out of the covers or change into workout clothes. Plus, it saves me precious time in the morning. And honestly when you're already dressed, you're taking one less obstacle out of the way. Do it.
     
  3. Have a plan. Know exactly what you plan to do for your workout when you go to bed the night before. Whether it's a run, walk, DVD or class, have a plan in place. That way, you're not lying there in the morning trying to figure it out. Lay out your gear, equipment, gym bag and whatever else you'll need the night before, too. Plus when you know what you're going to do (such as run 3 miles), you know exactly how much time it takes (30 minutes plus time to stretch), and it keeps you punctual in the morning to make it happen.
     
  4. Don't hit snooze. Period. If you're a chronic snooze-button user, place your clock on the other side of the room so that you have to get out of bed to turn it off.  Better yet, turn on the lights right away and turn on some heart-pumping music to help yourself wake up.
     
  5. Play your get-up-and-go music. We all know how music affects our mind and body in a positive way. It can change your mood, give you energy, and motivate you to reach higher. Play those tunes in the morning that remind you of your goals and why you're doing this in the first place. And make music the soundtrack to your morning workouts so that you can be fierce and push yourself to the very end.
     
  6. Don't make it a choice. Put simply, the big difference between those who get up and get it done and those who keep sleeping and feel guilty later is that morning exercisers Just. Do. It. It's not optional. It's not "Oh, if I feel like it, I'll wake up and work out tomorrow." They make the decision the night before. And when it's time to wake up and go, that's that. No fights. No compromising. No negotiation. It's just something that they do. And you have just as much power to make that happen, too.

I am not a morning person. I don't want to talk. I don't want to think. And I'd rather be in bed. But I remember my goals and why I'm working out in the a.m. (it's the only time I can really make it fit) and that's enough to make me do it, whether it's in darkness or in light.
 
Earlier this week, my alarm went off and I was tired. I would have loved to sleep in another hour. But I was already in my workout clothes. In fact, I purposefully put on my favorite no-excuses running shirt, which reads, "Rain, Snow, Sleet, Wind…Brave the Run". I knew it would be dark and cold, but that I was a runner and I don't make excuses. I started out slowly, but by the time my favorite songs kicked on, I found a surge of energy I didn't know I had in me. Truth is, the hardest part of waking up is that: waking up. The hardest part of exercising is getting started. If you can get through those two challenges, you are on your way, so make it as easy as possible for yourself to succeed…and you will.
 

What helps YOU work out on a dark morning or evening? Share your stick-with-it strategies below!





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Comments

  • 88
    I love going walking at night...I go on a very lit road and most times with a walking buddy. It's so busy in Seoul during the day, so night walking is right up my alley! - 10/20/2013   11:36:21 PM
  • 87
    I just do a dvd inside at night. And the gym is always open. - 10/20/2013   5:23:16 PM
  • 86
    this is really good - I know well both my husband and I know that this is the only time we can workout together. We like working out together so workout clothes are our new sexy nightwear lol:). This is especially true during the fall and winter months when it is sooooo cold in the house when you wake up so having those cozy warm clothes already on, makes it that much easier. Plus we are getting up together so no one in bed left to keep you warm - ok sans the dogs if they sneak in during the night. All great advice to get over the blues of working out when it is dark. Also just having a workout buddy helps alot.

    Everyone just keep on keeping on..you will reach your goals - 10/20/2013   4:21:56 PM
  • 85
    wow, this article is surely a good one, but what exited me more is the comments form other members of Sparkpeople. So many morning people out there who do exercise first thing in the morning and still have to report early to work and come back to take charge of their family's responsibilities. "Real" people doing it! I remember doing this in the past too but it was for a short while. I will try from now on to do it.. I will start waking up half an hour earlier for a start. Any suggestions?? - 10/20/2013   2:01:47 PM
  • 84
    I make my morning workout a part of my getting ready for work. I need to get up early enough to workout (1 to 1 1/2hrs depending on what I have planned for that day), take a shower, put on my makeup, etc etc. There is no other option. I would never skip my shower nor skip putting on my make up in the morning so why would I or could I think about skipping my workout?! It's all part of getting ready in the morning before work! I get up at 4am to be at work by 8am. Been doing this for many many years now! - 10/20/2013   12:38:58 PM
  • 83
    my comment showed up twice. oops - 10/20/2013   9:01:28 AM
  • 82
    "Brave the Run"...I like it! That's my new philosophy. - 10/20/2013   9:01:28 AM
  • 81
    nice article. I lay out my workout clothes the night before. I also set my alarm. My workouts are set in stone unless I am sick of course. I am such a morning person. I like getting my workout done early so I don't have to think about it the rest of the day. So in the morning my alarm goes off at 5:30 and 15 minutes later......after I have spent time with God I am running on my treadmill. - 10/19/2013   11:16:19 PM
  • LEARNINGMOMENTS
    80
    Great article. For me the darkness is hard but the cold weather is the worst. I find it painful to exercise but a hot shower or bath before workout warms my muscles so that I can get moving. Then I am good to go. Fragrant soap puts a spring in my step too along with good music. I will try sleeping in workout clothes because normally heat in dryer before putting them on. LOL. I really don't like cold weather. - 10/19/2013   10:12:23 PM
  • 79
    I'm not a morning exerciser. I do have time in the evenings and am very good about sticking to it (and no, it doesn't keep me awake either). I relate to Coach Nicole's comment about the exercise being non-negotiable. There are 4 day each week that are designated as "exercise days" and I do it without fail unless I'm genuinely ill (which is very rarely). I don't ever have internal struggles with "I don't feel like it" or "I'll do it tomorrow"...because it doesn't matter if I don't feel like it...it's an exercise day and I just do it. Not exercising just isn't an option.

    Heart disease runs in my family. My Dad died at age 57 from a heart attack. A few years ago (after turning 40), I was starting to have some negative health effects of not taking good enough care of myself...High blood pressure and borderline high cholesterol. I had an abysmal diet and was at least 50 pounds overweight. I just didn't like the direction my life was going, so I decided "that it!" I felt I was too young to start having bad health and I wanted to do what I could to take better care of myself. I remind myself I don't want heart disease or other health problems if I can avoid them. So, I see exercise as one way of taking care of myself and giving myself the gift of loving self-care. I don't exercise because I "have to"...I do it because I want to because I want to be healthy.

    Thanks for the article! - 10/19/2013   10:01:48 PM
  • VDAVID
    78
    working 2 jobs I need to work out in between. Great article. - 10/19/2013   9:23:30 PM
  • 77
    helpful article. sleeping in workout clothes might be helpful later when it gets really freezing inside my non-centrally heated house. If I light the stove and put water on to heat, my coffee could be ready when I've done the workout.Can't work out outside in the dark because of loose dogs... - 10/19/2013   4:55:21 PM
  • 76
    The light makes a big difference for me! In fact, I have a lamp up on the dresser attached to a timer (like the ones used for Christmas lights). The timer is set to turn on the light a few minutes before my alarm goes off -- works! It gets me out of bed quicker and in a better mood.

    EDIT: I don't necessarily go outside in the dark for walking... the light is to help me get up while it is still dark. - 10/19/2013   2:17:35 PM
  • MCSCRAPM
    75
    This is a great article Nicole. I needed the extra push thanks! - 10/19/2013   12:51:52 PM
  • 74
    I don't work out when it is dark just for the safety issue. I am a runner and do run in rain, snow, sleet and wind, but I do it in the daylight. - 10/19/2013   12:11:44 PM
  • 73
    I don't feel like I am safe being outside when it is dark - my neighborhood is curvy and hilly, dark and there is no shoulder or sidewalk - I am afraid I will be hit by a car. So I have ways around this...I can go to the fitness center at work (they open at 5:30 a.m.), I can get on my treadmill at home. I have plenty of exercise DVDs. No excuses. But typically I try to work out at lunch time and that really works well for me. - 10/19/2013   10:35:38 AM
  • 72
    Love this article. I am just starting to find my inner athlete and working out in the morning does seem to help keep me motivated for the rest of the day. I hate undoing the good I have done in the morning. Now I just need to work on getting up earlier so I am not late for work. - 10/19/2013   10:30:33 AM
  • 71
    Ditto!!! I usually carry my gym bag with me to work. And on ,my way home, stop at the gym to workout for 45-60 minutes. This way, I don't have the excuse of not having my gear or risk going home and getting cosy on the couch. - 10/19/2013   10:02:17 AM
  • 70
    I do a little of both . On weekdays I am at the gym at 4am. I make sure I have my clothes ready also my breakfast and lunch. I also have a dog so right after work I walk her. It is great for both of us. I wear bright clothes and make sure she has a reflective collar. and if I have any energy left in my tank I do a dvd later. - 10/19/2013   10:01:07 AM
  • 69
    Great Article. I switched my workouts to the mornings not too long ago, and I feel so much better during the day for it. Even when I'm tempted to hit snooze I say to myself "No, you won't be happy later!", and I get up. - 10/19/2013   8:14:27 AM
  • 68
    I have trained myself gradually to go to bed earlier so that now all my friends know to not call me after 7:30 PM......I can get up early enough to walk the dogs for two hours, eat a good breakfast, have time for prayer and meditation and still be out the door to my class by 8:30.......I have a drawer that holds my dog walking clothes so I can get up in the dark, get the clothes, carry them to the bathroom and get ready for the walk. - 10/19/2013   7:24:12 AM
  • 67
    I hit the snooze button at least 3 times every morning, and i've never missed a workout in 12 years. Not even the 5 am ones. - 10/18/2013   10:06:08 PM
  • 66
    Great article! - 10/15/2013   5:05:08 PM
  • 65
    reminding myself how I will feel later helps me - 10/14/2013   7:03:45 AM
  • JMRORKE
    64
    Honestly, my dog keeps me from hitting the snooze button. Thankfully, he is waiting for me when the alarm goes off and bothers me until I'm up and walking. I'm not a morning person at all! But it feels so good to get a walk in early, than the rest of the day I don't have to think about it. - 10/11/2013   1:53:34 PM
  • 63
    It is harder in the dark. But committing the night before and having things ready really helps. No snooze button! - 10/10/2013   1:17:08 PM
  • 62
    This was a great article, thanks!

    On a separate note, is it just me or is the date on the article in the future? It has a date of 10/18/2013, and today is the 10/10/2013 haha - 10/10/2013   10:39:58 AM
  • 61
    This is a good article. I definitely need to get better at waking up extra early to fit in a run because it just doesn't get done once I get home. The easiest time to get away from a toddler is while they are SLEEPING! :)

    I'm always a little hesitant to run in the dark (although I love to), but I recently moved to a very nice neighborhood that makes me much less hesitant to do so. This article was a nice motivation to get my hiney out of bed nice and early. I like the idea of wearing workout clothes to bed but have to wear a pretty tight exercise top over my sports bra that I wouldn't be very comfortable to sleep in. I like the user idea of just setting everything out in the bathroom (I also have to go in there to put in my contacts just like her). - 10/9/2013   4:14:15 PM
  • LWAYCASTER
    60
    You crack me up...and cause me to tear up at the same time. Thanks for the inspiration and great tips!! I want one of those t-shirts!!!! How cool! - 8/6/2013   5:21:05 PM
  • HAPPYBAT
    59
    I HAVE regretted workouts, particularly when I've gone running while sick and either had to turn back or hurt myself refusing to turn back. It's definitely not true that no-one ever regrets a workout! - 8/1/2013   6:58:39 AM
  • TENIHITONOKO
    58
    @LORIN: "BI do try and get my workout done in the morning. I like it but about 1030 am i hit a wall. I get so sleepy i can hardly stand it. On the days i dont workout I dont have that issue. To try and stay awake i find myself eating which is no good. I sit at a desk so getting up and walking around really isnt an option. What can i do to fight this? It is frustrating! - 1/11/2013 3:38:01 PM"

    That's just your body needing sustenance. You are supposed to eat after working out, the key is to eat something low in sugar and fat that is high in protein. I always snack on a nut bar if I have nothing immediately available, my husband's go-to post-work out snack is a peanut butter sandwich. (We're skinny people so we need all the calories we can get)

    Your body needs to replenish the energy you used up, if you don't eat something healthy after your work out, you will be craving something oily and fatty later in the day. I hope this helps you :) - 5/22/2013   4:47:37 AM
  • JENAWIND
    57
    @marathonmom2014 #53 - I know it's been some time since this article was posted, but maybe trying an ace bandage to wrap around you underneath a sports bra may help with support, and the cutting issue.

    @evansmg #55 - I've lived in the country a couple times, and trying to run on those roads is always discouraging. Something I suggest is using your driveway as your track instead. I'm pretty confident your driveway is long enough to measure with a car so you can know how many times to go back and forth to add up how far you want to go. If that isn't the case, use the inside of your property line, but be careful with uneven land and hidden holes or "treasure" left behind by whatever animals are out. Always make sure someone knows where you're going and the route you're taking. - 2/3/2013   2:19:53 PM
  • LORIN59
    56
    BI do try and get my workout done in the morning. I like it but about 1030 am i hit a wall. I get so sleepy i can hardly stand it. On the days i dont workout I dont have that issue. To try and stay awake i find myself eating which is no good. I sit at a desk so getting up and walking around really isnt an option. What can i do to fight this? It is frustrating! - 1/11/2013   3:38:01 PM
  • EVANSMG
    55
    You're article has some great tips for getting motivated. But do you have any tips on how to physically work out in the dark? I live in the country and working out in the dark sounds like a daunting and dangerous task... I'm trying to start a morning running routine but I'm nervous. My parents are always telling me not to exercise in the dark. I live on a narrow winding country road with the occasional speeding car and steep ditches on either side.... do you have any tips for being safe and prepared for morning workouts? - 11/13/2012   7:51:43 PM
  • 54
    I don't sleep in my workout clothes, though it is a good suggestion. If I did, some of my tops have built in bras, and those would be the ones I'd wear. I put my workout clothes in the bathroom the night before and put them on right away before my mind wakes up enough to start thinking of excuses.

    I don't like walking alone in the dark, so this week I got my husband to go with me on an early morning walk by starlight. It was beautiful, and we had some nice time together. - 10/13/2012   10:40:26 AM
  • 53
    Just curious - for those of you who sleep in your workout clothes, does this include the bra? I am one of those runners who must wear at least 2 of them, and they cut off my breathing. Trying to sleep in that would have me awake in no time with a migraine headache! I can barely stand it for a 30 min. run. - 10/6/2012   12:28:02 PM
  • KATEM200
    52
    Interesting. Good advice for morning exercisers, but not what I was expecting when I saw the headline. I thought it would be about the fact that it gets dark earlier for us evening exercisers. It doesn't matter what time of year it is, it would always be dark for me exercising in the morning. If I leave for work later than 6 a.m. then I'm "running late" so I would generally need to be out running at 4 a.m. - 10/6/2012   10:33:40 AM
  • GEREE01
    51
    As I work two jobs, afternoon or evening workouts are not an option. I was only doing a little bit in the mornings for a while, about 30 minutes. Last January, I started to use the eliptical at the school I work at and to exercise for an extra fifteen minutes before I leave for work. This has resulted in a weight loss of about 30 plus pounds and a much firmer body. I have been doing it for long enough that it has become a great habit, even though there are days when I would rather not, I always enjoy the happiness that I feel afterward, and the sense of accomplishment. - 10/5/2012   11:30:07 PM
  • 50
    Wow I feel better when I got
    it behind me. Even part of it. - 10/5/2012   3:16:05 PM
  • BAYLAM
    49
    Fabulous article! JUST GO OUT AND DO IT, NO EXCUSES!!!! - 10/5/2012   6:12:19 AM
  • 48
    Good ideas!! Love the work out PJ's the most!! Great idea!!! Thank You! - 10/4/2012   9:21:17 PM
  • TSHIRT24H
    47
    Turning on lights of light helps me! - 10/4/2012   4:12:07 PM
  • 46
    My, I donīt remember writing this blog! :-D Itīs soooo like me. Iīm an evening person no matter what. And I have my workout session in the morning - most of the days (well, I have my dance lessons in the evening too so if I donīt manage to get up in time - Iīve started a new job and I should be there at a reasonable hour - I still have some exercise) because I need some warm up to get me moving. Litterally, I pay the debt for all those years of dancing. But just this morning I was not able to talk myself in to getting up. Well, tomorrow is another day. - 10/4/2012   1:20:58 PM
  • 45
    Working out with someone else helps! You feel like you have to show up because they are expecting you! - 10/4/2012   11:44:04 AM
  • 44
    For me having an obligation to meet someone first thing in the morning at the workout....gets me up. I am rarely late if I have an appointment with someone. It is just common courtesy!...So be there - 10/4/2012   11:02:43 AM
  • RIVES522
    43
    Oh my goodness this article came in the nick of time. I love the picture because funny because I woke up at 2:30 this morning and couldn't fall asleep so I got up at 3:30 to do my two hours workouts - Insanity and P90X and I loved it. I didn't feel any different from working out earlier because normally I would get up at 4:30. Yahoooooo! When I first started working out many years ago, I would wear my workout clothes to bed because it would help my conscience to wake up and work out with no excuses. I also love the idea of putting on a song when you first work out. I shared this article with a friend who is having a difficult time working out in the morning. I love mornings. You get it done and you feel sooooooooooo good for the rest of the day. Hey, I pat myself on the back and relish in the excitement of my daily accomplishments. Thank you. - 10/4/2012   10:19:11 AM
  • 42
    That workout has to be non-negotiable, it is part of getting up in the morning - just like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, having breakfast - the only way to get it done is to do it as part of the usual routine - 10/4/2012   9:44:50 AM
  • WOLVERINEGIRL23
    41
    What I find works best for me is the same as many people have already commented - I tell myself the night before that I'm going to the gym in the morning and then don't leave it open for discussion. I admit, I sometimes have to give myself a pep talk in the morning to get going, such as "you'll feel great! Imagine how good you're going to look if you keep it up!". I love working out in the morning though, it's such a relief to go through my day knowing that I already have that accomplished. - 10/4/2012   9:30:28 AM
  • 40
    Early morning exercise can be tough, but every time I see 'sleep in your workout clothes', I cringe. A good night's sleep is crucial to good health...& wearing form fitting clothes to be does not support a good night's sleep. Loose fitting helps the entire body to relax & allows for blood flow to all those areas that are often constricted by tight fitting waist bands & bra bands. So...lay your clothes out at night...but don't sleep in restrictive clothing. - 10/4/2012   9:25:16 AM
  • ALICOTTER
    39
    Or just have a dog who gets used to gettting up early and even on your days off you'll be up and out the dog for the "walk"" \just try turning over and going back to sleep with a german sheperd standing over you saying it is time for her walk.
    - 10/4/2012   9:03:35 AM

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