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


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/19/2013 6:00 AM   :  148 comments   :  1,058,456 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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  • 98
    MIGSJG, I'm so sorry for your loss. *hug* - 11/11/2013   8:24:01 AM
  • 97
    My Mommy recently died (2 weeks), but before that she always pushed me to take care of myself - asked if I was going to run this morning. I started running earlier and earlier in the morning (5am) to be sure I was back home before she would need me. She may be gone, but I can hear her plain as day - "I thought you said you wanted to run this morning?" I still cry, but having a healthy outlet has really helped me. AND YES I still run at 5am. The stars are so crystal clear at that hour, I feel she is looking down at me and smiling. - 11/11/2013   7:32:17 AM
  • 96
    I need to get back on track. I know with this team, and the special guidance I've received from it, I will get back on track. I never thought I would be facing this weight issue again.
    My focus was on other issues I need help in, but I never got where I hoped to be with these issues. In the meantime, I slipped away from my good habits to do with my eating and exercise. I will get back on track.
    My healthy journey started here a year ago February 4, 2012. I'm grateful to GLITTERGIRL. If it had not been for her guidance and help, I would not have been filled with some much enthusiasm. I did not lack in motivation.
    The truth of the matter is, "I Can't Do This On My Own."
    I do not like the darkness either. I don't like getting up when it's dark, and I lack in motivation to a degree when it is dreary weather.
    I will be coming more often to this team to work back to where I was.
    May God's Blessings be with this Team!
    Feeling Grateful, Janis - 11/9/2013   12:30:26 AM
  • 95
    Like most other times when I don't want to workout- I don't give myself an option to to say no! I just do it no matter how I feel. - 11/6/2013   10:30:02 AM
  • 94
    Now I have to find out what Conan is. New tv-show?

    I love fall myself (rustling, colored leaves and elder berries and the smell in the air) and and I can't blame the dark mornings for not getting up and working out - it's the same with me in high summer. Pure laziness! But I really like this post and it's sort of comforting that even fitness experts battle with getting out of bed and working out. And the tips are great, I'll make sure to have my workout video picked and at the ready when going to bed today.
    Thanks for the good ideas! - 10/24/2013   7:21:32 AM
    I guess I'm weird, I am totally a morning person and I love exercising in the cold, it's motivating! But, I can't put one foot in front of the other before my first cup of coffee. So, I get up, brush my teeth and dress for a long walk first thing before I even get out of the Bathroom. Cup of coffee down and I'm out the door! Because of where we live (very rural) we do have some issues with wildlife so I try waiting until the sun is starting to come up so I can "see them coming"! I would never exercise at night...I'm spent my 5 p.m. and just the thought of it would depress me! - 10/23/2013   7:59:20 PM
  • 92
    I put my work clothes in my car the night before and my workout clothes by the bathroom. If I want to skip the workout, I have to get my clothes out of the car and since I am already out in the cold, might as well go to the gym. If I can get through brushing my teeth and flossing, Im usually awake enough to manage to get to the gym. I've been doing this for 8 years now. - 10/23/2013   9:48:59 AM
  • SPAYNE34
    As a homeschool mom, I'm trying to find that "perfect" time to fit work outs in. It's not there so I have to juggle mine and even split them up on occasion. - 10/22/2013   3:34:08 PM
    Great article. That's why I go at 8:a.m. in the morning. So I don't have to run into any crazy person or whatever. But I always loved morning. - 10/22/2013   8:29:48 AM
  • 89
    Thank you for the tips. I have been suffering from fall mornings lately. - 10/21/2013   12:02:24 PM
  • 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 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
    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'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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    @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
    @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
    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
    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
    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
    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
    Fabulous article! JUST GO OUT AND DO IT, NO EXCUSES!!!! - 10/5/2012   6:12:19 AM

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