28-Day Challenge: Exercise Every Morning

Karen Marston

At the start of this year, I stated that one of my goals was to be more productive over the next 12 months. Well, I got off to a pretty shocking start owing to the various disasters and shitstorms that graced my life for the first two months of 2015, not helped by the fact that my office was a cramped desk in a hallway for a few weeks.

But now I’m settled in my lovely new one-bed flat, serene and quiet and home to a desk of gigantic proportions (because it is, in fact, a six-seater dining table). And I’ve decided to issue myself a challenge: exercise first thing every morning (except on Sundays).

I believe the way you start your day sets the tone for the rest of it, so it makes sense to focus on building a strong morning routine to help you kickstart your day. Unfortunately, this is something I’ve been working on for months — years, even — and haven’t made much headway with. And I know exactly why that is. It’s because I find it stupendously difficult to choose one thing to implement and stick to it. Every day I seem to wake up with a new idea of the best way to start your day, so nothing I try ever gets a chance to stick.

I’ve read over and over again that exercising is the best way to start your day, and I’m sure you have too. According to Laura Vanderkam, who’s written various books about making the best use of your time, the thing the most successful people do in the mornings is exercise. That makes a lot of sense, because after you exercise you feel more energetic and have a clearer mind, not to mention just feeling chuffed with yourself.

I’m still undergoing physiotherapy for knee surgery I had almost a year ago, so it’s ultra important for me to actually do my sodding exercises regularly, as opposed to whenever I feel like it, because otherwise I may never be able to go back to sports. So yeah, making exercise a regular part of my life is one of my top priorities.

I’m sharing all this with you for three reasons:

a) I figure telling you guys about this will make me much more likely to stick to it (yay for public accountability!)
b) I’m hoping I’ll learn something I can share with you after the 28 days are up.
c) Maybe it’ll encourage you to take up your own 28 day challenge.

Here’s an important thing you need to know about my challenge:

I don’t plan to do hardcore exercise for an hour and a half every morning. In fact, if I just do ten minutes of plyometric training or a few pushups, I’ll count it as a win, because another thing I’ve read a bazillion times over is that habits are infinitely easier to establish if you make them so easy you can’t not do them. I’m not trying to get insanely fit over the next 28 days; I’m just hoping to get in the habit of exercising each morning and find out if it’s the right fit for me.

To get down to the nitty gritty, this is what I envision my challenge looking like, in accordance with my personal goals and physiotherapy rehab:

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays: Plyometric training, including bursts of running, heel kicks, side-stepping, jumping, leaping lunges, speed skating, and various other oddly named exercises my therapist has given me.

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays: Strength training, including pushups, planks, squats, lunges, clamshells, and assisted pull-ups when I have access to the equipment.

Sundays: REST (because that’s important too).

Prior to this challenge, I had a general exercise-most-days rule, which I often stuck to, but sometimes not, and the exercises I did were unstructured and done at varying times of the day. I’m hoping having solid plans for each day will cut out any wavering I have. It’s so much easier to do something when you know exactly what it is you’re going to do. And even more so when you know exactly when you’re going to do it. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s said they’ll just do their exercises ‘later’, only to sack them off completely before the day is out.

And, because apparently I like to make things hard for myself, I’ve decided to start this challenge on the week I am not going to be in my regular environment. As you read this, I’m blasting my way down the motorway on my way to my hometown for a week. Naturally, my workout clothes are at the top of my backpack.

The plan is to put my workout clothes on as soon as I get up each morning, then brush my teeth and all that crap. Possibly neck some chia seeds and tea before I head out the door. If I don’t put the clothes on straight away, I know myself: I’ll end up sitting around drinking tea for about two hours before I actually get to exercising, and I’m so so so sick of myself wasting precious time in the mornings.

I know 30-day challenges are all the rage these days but I like 28 days, because, hey, that’s 4 beautifully distinct weeks, and I figure it extinguishes the urge to wait until the first of the month to start. Why do a limited-day challenge instead of committing to this in the long term? Because indefinite goals are scary and much much harder to implement. Knowing that after 28 days I can quit this if I’ve decided I don’t like it or it doesn’t work for me will make it easier to see it through to the end, and hopefully 28 days will be long enough for me to notice some differences.

Want to join me in a 28-day challenge? YAY! Yours doesn’t have to be exercising first thing every morning though. What one thing could you do that would make the biggest difference to your productivity? Let me know in the comments down below!

I’ll report back after my 28 days are up. I started yesterday, so you can expect an update on 5th May. (Crap, now I really have to do this, don’t I?)

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    1. Get it girl. I can relate to a schedule that is based on how I feel that morning which ends up wasting more time than I’d like to admit. Maybe a morning workout routine would be just the trick. It gets oxygen and blood flowing through your veins which always helps with creativity!

      1. I waste SO much time in the mornings, it’s ridiculous. Once I’m exercising I’m fine, but obviously it’s starting that’s the problem… ;)

    2. I highly endorse this! This year, I’ve maintained a regular MWF morning workout schedule, and I’ve seen that I’m more productive those days than I am on Tuesdays and Thursday. Something about the discipline needed during the exercise puts me in the mind to be productive. You can do it!

      1. Nice job, Charles! So far I’m finding it hard to do anything in the first hour. Although knowing I have publicly announced my plans here is so far working, woop!

        1. Make it the very first thing you do when you get out of bed. It’s easy for exercise to get derailed if it comes after breakfast or coffee or checking emails. Think of it as sacred time to get both your mind and body in shape and prioritize it as such.

    3. Fantastic! My thing is going to be increasing my intake of fruit & veg. I regularly manage 4 a day with no sweat, but I’ve decided to start each day with a green smoothie to definitively boost me past the ‘nearly there’ mark. Good luck with your exercise plan, Karen, and thanks for a beautiful photograph.

      1. Let’s do it, Lynn! Glad you like the photo — it’s Edinburgh from the Pentland Hills! You can see Arthur’s Seat in the distance :)

    4. Exercise seems to be the best way to improve habits all around. I used to exercise every morning just because I’ve always had a ridiculously hard time waking up early. If I didn’t exercise, I would open my dried out, disoriented eyes just enough to squint at the alarm and smash my hand around until I happen to hit the snooze button. Working out is one of the only things that pumps me up enough to stay awake. NOT lay back and down and “rest my eyes for five more minutes.” Pssh, it was never just five minutes. I’m so good at lying to myself in the morning.

      1. I read something yesterday that was like, ‘The best piece of advice I ever had was to exercise straight away. You won’t feel like it, but it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself.’ I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist of it. I need to get over this ‘BUT I DON’T WANNA’ feeling I have when I wake up :D

    5. Love this. Like, literally love this. I’m a habitual “goal-setter” and yet, not so much of a “goal-reacher.” Somehow, the way you’ve laid this out seems so much easier to swallow daily than my plan of “do the Insanity workout twenty-two days this month.” I did for a week; I hate it and also kind of secretly love it at the same time… But what would I rather do? Go for a 2-4 mile run and pretend to prep for a race… Like I’ve been meaning to do for the last year.

      Thanks for the motivation, Karen! Totally taking your lead and adding this to my list of goals for May. And I swear, I’m going to crush it this time. :)

      1. I think doing things you actually enjoy is SO important when deciding on your exercise regime. If you hate it, you’re not going to stick to it, and besides — why the fuck would you want to force yourself to do something you hate?!

        Good luck, Krissi! Please do report back with how you get on :) Though I must ask – why wait till May? ;)

        1. I’m an obsessive freak and as such, starting something new that’s supposed to last a month on a random day feels so wrong… Though, I could see myself starting on a Friday or a Monday. So maybe tomorrow is the day! :)

          Thanks for challenging me to get my shit together on this one!

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