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How to actually make early morning workouts happen


Photo: November Project
Photo: November Project

It’s 5:28 on a Wednesday morning on New York City’s Upper East Side, and while most of the city is snoozing, there are hundreds of bright-eyed, neon-clad workout warriors ready for a 40-minute, community-focused sweat sesh. Outside, and in the dark.

But that’s just how things roll with the November Project, the free, grassroots fitness phenomenon that started in Boston in 2011 after two former collegiate rowers committed to working out together at 6:30 a.m. Soon, their friends started joining them, and from there it exploded. Now there are roughly 30 “tribes” across the United States and Canada, and the November Project has a new book out, too.

So how have the November Project’s founders Brogan Graham, 33, and Bojan Mandaric, 34, motivated their members of all stripes to commit to pre-dawn workouts?

Here are 7 of the November Project’s secrets for how to stop hitting the snooze button and becoming a morning workout person…

Photo: November Project/Facebook
Photo: November Project

1. Prepare yourself the night before. Like, hardcore prepare.

Setting an alarm and thinking about where your sports bra might be doesn’t cut it. “I sleep in what I’m going to wear to the workout, and have my work outfit planned and packed the night before,” says November Project devotee Sarah Johnston, 30, a teacher who drives 50 minutes to get to the New York City workouts. (Not that hard-core? You could lay your pre-selected pieces out on chair and pack your work clothes.) “I even pre-pack my food for the day to bring to work, and set my coffee on a timer to brew so I can bring it to the workout.”

2. Enlist an “accountabili-buddy.”

Translation: a buddy to help hold you accountable. “I promise my closest friends I’ll be there, knowing I’ll have an embarrassing amount of guilt if I break that commitment,” says 27-year-old technology management consultant Lucy Wallace. “I’m not a natural morning person, but I’ll take waking up at 4:30 to work out with the amazing support of a group over extra sleep and a solo gym session any day of the week…except maybe Sundays.”

Photo: November Project LA/Facebook
Photo: November Project Los Angeles

3. Don’t use the weather as an excuse.

“I’ve been to workouts in the rain, snow, and freezing cold,” says Johnston. “I remember one workout last year when the whole course we were running was a slushy mess up to our ankles. By the end, I was soaked and freezing, but those uncomfortable workouts are the ones you really remember. You feel like a total badass.” The next time it’s raining and you think you can’t possibly make it to your a.m. barre class, push yourself and see how strong you feel.

4. Stop telling yourself you’re not a morning person.

Yes, some people just are naturally better in the morning. But the more you tell yourself you’re useless before 9 a.m., the more likely that is to become true. “Getting up early is like pulling off a Band-Aid that was stuck for a week,” says Mandaric. “The more you think about it, the more painful it’s going to get, and the more likely you’re not going to do it.” New mantra: I can get up early to make this happen. Eventually, you’ll condition yourself. Start by going to bed at 10:30 p.m. every night.

Photo: November Project
Photo: November Project

5. Consider the FOMO.

You never regret a workout—but you’ll definitely regret seeing an Instagram of all your friends sweating together while you were still in bed. “I know that if I miss the workout, eventually I’ll see the photos and texts from friends, and I’ll feel immense sadness and regret for missing what was definitely ‘the best workout ever,’” says Robyn Mayer, 27. That’s where the aforementioned acountabili-buddy (or buddies) comes in big time.

6. Remind yourself: If your brain is up, your body is up.

“My thought process is normally, ‘Gross, it’s 4:30, that’s a stupid time to wake up. Maybe my body needs sleep today,'” says 26-year-old Jana Ross, who has been working out with the Boston tribe for three years. “But if you can talk yourself out of a workout that early, your mind is already moving. You might as well get your body up with it.”

7. Stop over-complicating everything.

Want to know the real so-simple-it’s-ridiculous secret? “Get your feet to the floor and put your them into your shoes,” says Graham. “From there, get far away from your bed. Then decide if you still want to get up and run, train, rap, love, hug, build, learn, or whatever it is you’re up early to do.” In other words…just put one foot in front of the other and before you know it, you’re out the door. Take that, snooze button!

On the opposite end of the spectrum…here’s the new fitness class where everyone takes a nap