With the start of the New Year, a majority of us are preparing for, or working through, our New Years resolutions. Regardless of how your 2013 ended, you are likely, in some manner, to be striving for a “better” you in 2014. There are numerous promises you can make to yourself that may never come to fruition. Instead, why not set realistic goals that can produce measurable results and help keep your resolution for this and future new years. Start by setting aside 20 minutes every morning for a little bit of exercise. This simple addition to your day will energize your mind and body and can be achieved by anyone.
While adding exercise to your already over-scheduled life may seem a daunting task, the benefits are irrefutable. Research has revealed that just 20 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise (an average heart rate of approximately 112 beats per minute) will have a lasting effect anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. By the time the effects are beginning to wear off, you will likely be winding down for the evening, readying yourself for the next day.
Working out provides a retreat from our daily lives. It gives us time to reflect on what has been working lately and what decisions we are currently faced with, without the every day tasks to influence or distract us. With a clearer mind and a renewed focus, this is the moment when some of our best decisions are made.
Your normal wake-up time is 6:30? Tomorrow, set your alarm for 5:45. This will give you a few minutes to shake the cobwebs off and put your work out clothes on. Now, go for a run, pop in that work-out video or come up with your own exercise routine. Just get that body moving and your heart rate up. Once you have finished your work-out, shower and head in to work. Your endorphins are firing now and you walk into the office with a huge smile on your face and a mind ready to tackle the day.
As you sit at your desk, you realize your mind is clearer. You feel more alert and prepared for your day. Before you know it, it’s lunchtime--and look at all that you have accomplished. And while you were sitting there working, you were burning calories! Studies show that the benefits of exercise are long lasting and continue boosting your metabolism and burning calories throughout the day.
Once your work day is complete, your best friend calls to see if you would like to meet for dinner. Thankfully, you are already finished with your workout. Had your intentions been to work out when you got home, you might have turned down a dinner with your best friend to go home and exercise or skipped the exercise all together. With this new plan in place, you garner the benefits of both exercise and camaraderie. The vast majority of us might simply say “oh, it’s just one workout, I’ll pick it back up tomorrow”. But, by waking a little earlier, you are now able to fit everything into your schedule and feel better doing it.
Scientists have stated that it takes between 21 and 30 days to form a habit. Give yourself 30 days, sticking with a daily 20 minute workout routine. As you progress, you will find that you sleep better at night, and wake feeling more rested. And since your body feels more refreshed than ever before, you will find that your body is accepting of this pattern, waking up naturally before that pesky alarm clock buzzes at you. With such results, over 90% of the individuals who adopt this routine stick with it long-term.
I can personally attest to the success of early morning workout routines. I have been exercising early, before work, for 20+ years. My very first boss was a runner, a marathoner in fact. She ran every morning at Memorial Park with her husband and a running group. I was complaining to her one day about how I was really struggling to motivate myself to exercise after work. She asked me to join her running group at the park. Although very discouraged by the time of day, 5:30am, I decided to give it a try. After three consistent weeks, it became a habit. I felt so much better. I had energy all day long. I had a better attitude. I had more time in my day. I was free of obligations after work and could enjoy time with friends and family or other hobbies. It really worked for me! I can no longer run. The wear and tear on my knees was a killer. But I still start my day with exercise either going to the gym, playing tennis or going to a yoga class. Exercise is a critical component to my overall well-being!
If you are still feeling a little skeptical, keep in mind that the goal is to boost your energy physically and mentally, NOT to exhaust you before your day has even started. If your favorite thing to do in the mornings is watch the news while sipping on coffee, swap the coffee for a few jumping jacks and weight intervals. The endorphins are sure to keep you going a lot longer than that cup of coffee. And remember, every little bit helps and you can always add to your routine over time.