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That moment your alarm goes off and you have to choose sleep or gym...

Posted by: Emily Beers

Do you dream? Dream about being a morning workout person?

 Of a life where your day begins at 5:30 a.m., and by the time you’re at work at 8 a.m., you’ve already had a workout and are feeling that endorphin high all morning? A life, where after work you’re able to pursue other interests because you're not devoting your evening to the gym?

I’m a morning coach, and have been for six years. Over the course of those years, many many people have attempted to convert to morning training sessions.

For some, it's never too early to deadlift...

Each January especially, a new influx of aspiring converts trickle into my 6 a.m. class. But by February, only one or two manage to successfully make the conversion. The rest give up and return to their evening routine.

(There's absolutely nothing wrong with training in the evening, of course—if that’s when you function best and you enjoy it. If that's you, keep doing what you’re doing).

HOWEVER, there's a whole group of people out there, who want to get it done before work. They set their alarms with the intention of getting up, but that moment the alarm sounds, their plan goes to shit.

“Screw it, I’ll just workout after work,” they negotiate with themselves before falling back into a slumber for another hour or two.

AND THEN there are those who have succeeded: They show up diligently 3 to 5 mornings a week, ready to go at 6 or 7 a.m.

This morning, I decided to ask both my morning classes if they ever say 'F-You’ to their alarms and choose sleep over the gym.

Fifty percent of them looked at me almost baffled by the question.

“Maybe once a year I keep sleeping if I’m sick or something,” said one of them.

“I’m excited to get up at 5 a.m. when my alarm goes off. I only need five hours of sleep,” said another.

“I have the opposite problem. Sometimes I plan to take a day off, but I end up getting up and going to the gym,” said a third.

These three are automatic!

“Even on my days off when I could go to the 8 a.m. class, I choose to go to the 6,” said a fourth.

All I could think of was, ‘Holy cow, I’m dealing with a disciplined group of people far beyond what I ever realized!’

But the other fifty percent of the morning folks admitted waking up at 5 a.m. to lift weights and condition wasn't in their natural makeup; it's something they have had to work hard at. For them, it's about prioritizing their lives, about committing to something and following through.

And they also admitted they still battle that voice in their head that tries to keep them in bed a bit longer. But they fight the voice because they know they will thank themselves later. It's a battle worth fighting for, they said. 


Here are some of the tips the latter group offered to anyone struggling to make the conversion to early morning workout times:


Some find that simple things like getting gym clothes ready, packing a work bag, setting the coffee maker, and making lunch the night before is incredibly helpful in ensuring they follow through with their wake-up plan.

“Then everything is ready and all I have to do is peel myself out of bed,” said one 7 a.m. attendee.


Some admitted transitioning to the morning takes some serious self-talk.

“I remind myself of how much better my day will go if I go to the gym in the morning,” was a common answer.

“I almost didn’t get up this morning, but I gave myself a talking to,” said a committed 6 o’clock-er.

Another morning riser said he just reminds himself of how much longer the bus takes after work than before.

"That's usually enough to convince myself to hop out of bed," he said. 

These same people said they try not to guilt trip themselves too much if and when they ever do choose sleep over sweat. Guilt trips are counterproductive, but reminding yourself of your purpose is not, said one of my clients.

Ask yourself WHY you do it. WHY going to the gym in the morning makes your life better. And HOW you feel when you don’t follow through on your commitment to yourself.

Sometimes they even self-talk between sets...


Some said knowing they’re paying $200 to $400 a month for personal training and classes keeps them accountable.

“Not showing up isn’t an option when I’ve committed myself not just to myself and my coach, but also financially,” said one of my clients.


A couple athletes admitted the only reason they’re able to do it is because they make plans to workout with a friend and then to go for coffee after class, while another one of my clients, who only does personal training, said having an appointment with me twice a week (and the fact that he’s paying $75 a session) is reason enough.

The power of friendship

I could relate to this one big-time. I have a personal coach who programs for me each week, and even the days I don’t feel like training, I make sure I drag myself there because of the guilt I would feel to let myself down, and the embarrassment I would feel to tell him, “I just didn’t feel like working out today."


For one morning client, he said what ensures he shows up is the fact that he uses a car-to-go service, which he books in advance at the start of the month for every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“Knowing I've pre-paid for the car, too, ensures I show up,” he said.


I think the best tip I heard all morning was from one client who talked about the difference between motivation versus discipline.

People often talk about not being motivated, but in the end waiting for motivation just becomes a great tool to procrastinate and make excuses, he explained.

“If you wait for motivation, then you’ll always wait until you want to do something,” he said.

But if you focus on being disciplined, then you’ll do things that you might not want to do in the moment, but things that will benefit you greatly.

"Getting here in the morning is about discipline, not motivation."




Posted by Emily Beers on

Emily Beers, hailing from Vancouver, crosses bridges by being not only a CrossFit athlete, but also a journalist. She has been a regular contributor to the CrossFit Journal since 2011. She qualified and competed at her first CrossFit Games as an individual athlete in 2014.

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