Want the ben­e­fits of a morn­ing workout, but strug­gle to get out of bed? You can train your­self to rise and shine. By Kim­berly Gil­lan

Sunday Herald Sun - Body and Soul - - LIFESTYLE -

Your alarm screeches and it’s still pitch black. Do you switch it off and drift back to sleep or bounce out of bed and pull on your workout gear?

The fittest peo­ple will get mov­ing, says Emily Brabon, di­rec­tor of Orig­i­nal Boot Camp Aus­tralia. “We find the peo­ple who come to our 5.45am and 6am classes are a lot fit­ter than those in our later ses­sions,” she says. “They are driven enough to get them­selves out of bed and to train­ing be­cause they want to look and feel a cer­tain way.

“We lead such busy life­styles now that if you don’t fit ex­er­cise into your sched­ule, it’s prob­a­bly not go­ing to hap­pen later in the day when other things come up.”

Morn­ing ex­er­cise has more ben­e­fits than sim­ply get­ting it out of the way – it ac­tu­ally kick-starts your me­tab­o­lism.

“When you do a vig­or­ous session in the morn­ing, your me­tab­o­lism is raised post-ex­er­cise for up to 12 hours, which is go­ing to make you more efficient at util­is­ing stored fat,” says ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist Dr Jar­rod Meerkin.

“At night your me­tab­o­lism drops, so you are not go­ing to gain the same ben­e­fits you would ex­pect to achieve ex­er­cis­ing at night as you would in the morn­ing.”

That logic is hard to ar­gue with, but if you’re not a morn­ing per­son, how do you con­vince your bleary-eyed self that you re­ally ought to get up and move?

Body-clock battle

If you strug­gle to get up, you’re prob­a­bly suf­fer­ing sleep in­er­tia. “It’s like you have this hang­over of sleep that can take you a while to get go­ing,” says Vic­to­ria Univer­sity sleep psy­chol­o­gist As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Ger­ard Kennedy. “It can last for any­where from a few min­utes to half an hour.”

Lack of sleep is the num­ber one cul­prit for sleep in­er­tia, but if you’re nat­u­rally wired to func­tion bet­ter at night, you might find an ear­lier bed­time hard to lock in. “There is ac­tu­ally a ge­netic pre­dis­po­si­tion and an in­nate ten­dency to be ei­ther a night per­son or a morn­ing per­son,” says Dr Sarah Blun­den, sleep re­search fel­low at the Univer­sity of South Aus­tralia.

The best way to re­set our body clocks is via sun­light in the morn­ing. When our reti­nas ab­sorb light, our cen­tral ner­vous sys­tem re­ceives the mes­sage that it’s time to get up.

“Ex­pos­ing your­self to bright light ac­tu­ally sup­presses your mela­tonin, which is your night hor­mone,” Dr Blun­den says. “If you sup­press it bit by bit each morn­ing, it will kick in ear­lier at night so you can move your bed­time back.”

As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Kennedy says some peo­ple who strug­gle in the morn­ings take mela­tonin in tablet form. “You take it two hours be­fore

your de­sired bed­time to try to pull your body clock back in the direc­tion of the dose of mela­tonin,” he says.

Chang­ing your meal and so­cial rou­tines can also al­ter your body clock. “If you time your meals and have break­fast at 7am, lunch at 12 and din­ner at 6.30 or 7pm, this acts as an­other sig­nal to an­chor your bi­o­log­i­cal rhythms,” As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Kennedy says.

Rise and shine

If you’re de­ter­mined to be a morn­ing per­son, you have to kiss the snooze but­ton good­bye. “It’s bet­ter to set your alarm for the time you re­ally want to get out of bed,” As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Kennedy says. “You need to men­tally tell your­self be­fore you go to bed, ‘I have to get up at this time’, rather than think­ing, ‘When the alarm goes off I might get up, or I might turn it down’.”

It could also be worth turn­ing up your alarm. “I usu­ally put my alarm on loud if I have an im­por­tant early start,” he says.

Brabon, who gets up at 4am to set up for boot camp, says early ris­ers need to be or­gan­ised. “I have all my gym clothes laid out and I make sure my lunch is ready,” she says.

And she prom­ises it does get eas­ier. “The first two weeks are al­ways the hard­est,” she ad­mits. “But it’s worth it – you’re up and you’re mo­ti­vated to do some­thing for your­self that puts you ahead of ev­ery­body else who is ly­ing in bed.”


+ Find out how body+soul’s on­line edi­tor be­came an early-morn­ing ex­er­cise per­son in her blog at bodyand­

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