If you are like me, your only time to train is if you roll yourself out of bed and hit the gym the second you wake your eyes, or you can kiss the thought goodbye.

After working in the industry for over a decade, I have come to the perfect solution for how successful clients master the 5 a.m. workout grind.

I am sure you jumped on the bandwagon at a time in your life, and the fact you are reading this is why you fell off after a month or two and could not figure out how to sustain it. 

Speaking from experience, with multiple businesses, two infants, and a chaotic life, I am here to shed light on a few key tips you need to keep yourself away from the love/hate relationship with the snooze button.

Let’s dive in:

1. The 5 a.m. Workout Starts 24 Hours Ahead of Time 

The biggest mistake I see with those attempting to master the 5 a.m. workout is their 24 hours prior.

It is important to ask yourself these questions when taking a deep look at how serious you are about your goals moving forward.

A. Did I keep stress down or manage my stress? If not, your body will not recover properly from the day, and you will have diminished returns with your mind, body, and energy when that alarm clock goes off the next day. 

B. How was my hydration? Even a one percent drop in hydration can drop twelve percent of your performance in the gym. 

C. Did you live to eat or eat to live? We often get caught up in the idea of where we are getting through our days “so that” we can reward ourselves with food. Having this mindset will take your discipline away from training, and focus it on your next meal. Your food should be used for fuel to perform and train, not the other way around. 

2. Create a Night Time Routine

The night before can be the turning point for most. For example, if you are one to get home from work, eat dinner, and then doze off on the couch watching the Yankees most nights of the week, you will have a hard time keeping true to that 5 a.m. workout, even if you are getting those seven hours of sleep.

We live in a world driven by our physiology. How you fuel your thoughts, emotions, and energy becomes essential for your next day's productivity. 

Need an example?

How many of you work late? When you get home, you shove dinner in and watch your favorite show before bed. Then, wake up the next morning, skip your session, and beat yourself up for doing it. 

Think about what you did the night before. Did you take time to reflect on your day? Did you thank God or your family for the day, the gift of life, and your blessings? 

Research has shown that reflecting and practicing sources of gratitude and affirmations can increase your ability to accomplish goals you set forth for yourself.

Your mind is your biggest weapon in reaching your goals because your body will not work if your mind does not tell it to.

A simple 20-minute routine I do that you could try is:

  1. Breathwork. (four min) 
  2. Stretch or something physical to change physical state. (five min)
  3. Gratitudes or possibilities. (three min)
  4. Focus on moments of triumph, maybe a couple. (three min)
  5. Prayer to a higher power (God). (two min)
  6. Random acts of kindness (text) or prayers for others. (two min)

3. Live by Rules

Your sleep and digestion will be your best chance at being consistent with 5 a.m. workouts, and one way to dial this in is a method taught to me by my coach, Craig Ballantyne.

It Is The 15-3-2-1-0:

  • Ten hours before bed - No more caffeine.
  • Three hours before bed - No more food or alcohol.
  • Two hours before bed - No more work.
  • One hour before bed - No more screen time (turn off all phones, TVs, and computers).
  • Zero - The number of times you will hit the snooze button in the morning.

If you live by this, you will change your life in more ways than one. Your sleep will become restful and you can wake up ready to own the day!

Eating late at night does not automatically mean you will gain weight, but more often than not, things people eat past dinner serve no purpose but for boredom and to complicate digestion more while you are sleeping. This can draw more blood to the GI tract and cause disturbances while you are trying to get quality REM sleep. 

Plus, how many of you stick to your diet all day, and then when 10 p.m. hits, you reach for one snack, then two, which leads to a stack of cookies and a jar of ice cream? It is so easy to add back 600 calories to offset your deficit within seconds when you are tired, sleepy, and not cognitively aware. 


When it comes to caffeine, many of you may not know, but it is an antagonist to adenosine. According to a December 2018 study in Risk Management and Healthcare Policy, caffeine acts as an adenosine-receptor antagonist. Adenosine is a chemical that builds up in the central nervous system over the day and ultimately brings on feelings of drowsiness come nighttime.

When caffeine binds with adenosine receptors, it blocks the effects of the calm-bringing neurochemical, which has you feeling alert, so when slurping down lots of caffeine, you can become resistant to your adrenaline and create adrenal dysfunction by blunting the process of melatonin. This is why shift workers get their circadian rhythms so out of whack. 

Screen Time

Finally, for screen time, we are all guilty. Until you create a new pattern for your ritual at night, this will always be a problem. Speaking from a nighttime worker myself, it is hard to get pulled away if you are stuck having to work late hours. 

If this is the case, get a quality pair of blue light blockers like Swannies. 

4. Wake Up with a Perfect Morning Setup 

A great piece of advice I got over the years for morning workouts is to wake up with a perfect “setup.”

What does that mean?

Well, for starters, put your alarm 10 feet or more from your bed. It will make your butt get up to get it turned off, and at that point, you are not rolling back in unless you truly are not motivated to get leaner or stronger in the first place. 

Second, avoid opening your phone at all. Yes, we live in a stimulating dopamine-filled society, but for the first hour of your day, you need to be in tune with your body, your goals, and your mind. 

This can not be done if you are opening your phone the second the eyes open to hit Instagram to see the likes on your last post or check your inbox. 

Take time for prayer, gratitude, and affirmations, and then get right to your training, distraction-free. 

Know Your "WHY"

I like to tell my clients to explain their "why.”

For me, I love training before everyone else is up because I know no one will be bothering me, and it helps me handle work issues that come the rest of the day!

What is your why? 

Harness it, embrace it, and cherish it. Focus on your why to make sure you know what you are living for and getting up to do.

You can be mediocre and cave into the workout. Then you will be more apt to hit up the bar with your buddies and turn the day into a reversal on your dreams and building man boobs. Or you can hit the gym, be a healthy person, build pecs, and have a strong identity for yourself and your reputation. 

5. Accessibility is Your Friend

Accessibility is key and often never thought about. Your brain naturally has a build-up of neurological demands it has to sort through every day.

This is why the morning time is imperative for high performers because the earlier in the day it is, the more your brain can work to solve problems and have an internal dialogue we all tend to play with ourselves. 

Think of it this way:

You plan to work out after work, but 5 p.m. rolls around, and two of your buddies text you about meeting for a quick nine holes and a round of drinks.

You are tired, stressed, and dreading the middle of the week, so you cave. So, you skip the gym with much more ease to join them than if it were at 5 a.m. and you have nothing but yourself and your gym shoes in front of you.

Which then leads me to the next piece. The importance of the place you go to train. Is it within a reasonable driving distance? Does it get so busy at that time you go that you can not get on any equipment? These things can be quick “excuses” you play in your mind when that alarm goes off to give you a reason to turn back over.

Accessibility is why home gyms can have their advantage. That is, if you can have the discipline and motivation to train when no one is watching.

Important If-Then Statements

I have my clients practice if-then statements to help them declutter their minds from negative thoughts about training or being healthy.

It can look something like this: 

If I get to the gym and it is crowded, then I will go play basketball for 30 minutes and find one machine to use after.

If I have a 5 a.m. workout planned and I get bad sleep, then I will cut back my volume to two sets and keep reps within three to four of failure.

You can get the picture here. But, when you create statements, you build your character and ultimately discipline, so you can varnish any excuse you have that might have come your way.

Final Thoughts

Look, no one is saying 5 a.m. workouts are easy. 

But they can be some of the most rewarding days you have, and as athletes, rewards are the starting point to everlasting health and consistency. 

write for elitefts

Mike Over is a NASM master trainer and owner of Over-Achieve Fitness in Pennsylvania. He works with hundreds of everyday gym-goers and athletes of all levels.

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