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How to Make Yourself Work Out When It's Dark Out

By , SparkPeople Blogger
As much as I love fall, I don't love the darkness that comes with it. It's already getting darker earlier each night, and it's staying dark even when I wake up in the morning. I am not a fan of that!
It's hard enough to be a morning person and wake up to work out, but when the moon is still out when your alarm goes off, forget about it! Then again, if you hit snooze and wait to work out after work, you might be faced with the same problem.
I will admit that it's not easy for me to get up and be gung ho for a workout session. I am not and never will be a morning person. It's hard for me to wake up just about every day. But I do manage to stick to my morning workouts (most days anyway). And no, I don't have super human powers …which means you can do it, too. Here's how.
  1. Go to bed at a normal time. I'm naturally sleepier in the fall and winter, probably because of it gets dark so much earlier. When I know I'm going to wake up and work out, I make sure I get to bed early enough that I get 8 hours of sleep. Does it mean skipping "Conan"? Yep. Is it worth it? Oh heck, yes.
  2. Sleep in your workout clothes. I kid you not, this is my No. 1 strategy for making morning exercise a habit—especially in the fall and winter. When it's chilly, I don't want to get out of the covers or change into workout clothes. Plus, it saves me precious time in the morning. And honestly when you're already dressed, you're taking one less obstacle out of the way. Do it.
  3. Have a plan. Know exactly what you plan to do for your workout when you go to bed the night before. Whether it's a run, walk, DVD or class, have a plan in place. That way, you're not lying there in the morning trying to figure it out. Lay out your gear, equipment, gym bag and whatever else you'll need the night before, too. Plus when you know what you're going to do (such as run 3 miles), you know exactly how much time it takes (30 minutes plus time to stretch), and it keeps you punctual in the morning to make it happen.
  4. Don't hit snooze. Period. If you're a chronic snooze-button user, place your clock on the other side of the room so that you have to get out of bed to turn it off.  Better yet, turn on the lights right away and turn on some heart-pumping music to help yourself wake up.
  5. Play your get-up-and-go music. We all know how music affects our mind and body in a positive way. It can change your mood, give you energy, and motivate you to reach higher. Play those tunes in the morning that remind you of your goals and why you're doing this in the first place. And make music the soundtrack to your morning workouts so that you can be fierce and push yourself to the very end.
  6. Don't make it a choice. Put simply, the big difference between those who get up and get it done and those who keep sleeping and feel guilty later is that morning exercisers Just. Do. It. It's not optional. It's not "Oh, if I feel like it, I'll wake up and work out tomorrow." They make the decision the night before. And when it's time to wake up and go, that's that. No fights. No compromising. No negotiation. It's just something that they do. And you have just as much power to make that happen, too.

I am not a morning person. I don't want to talk. I don't want to think. And I'd rather be in bed. But I remember my goals and why I'm working out in the a.m. (it's the only time I can really make it fit) and that's enough to make me do it, whether it's in darkness or in light.
Earlier this week, my alarm went off and I was tired. I would have loved to sleep in another hour. But I was already in my workout clothes. In fact, I purposefully put on my favorite no-excuses running shirt, which reads, "Rain, Snow, Sleet, Wind…Brave the Run". I knew it would be dark and cold, but that I was a runner and I don't make excuses. I started out slowly, but by the time my favorite songs kicked on, I found a surge of energy I didn't know I had in me. Truth is, the hardest part of waking up is that: waking up. The hardest part of exercising is getting started. If you can get through those two challenges, you are on your way, so make it as easy as possible for yourself to succeed…and you will.

What helps YOU work out on a dark morning or evening? Share your stick-with-it strategies below!

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PATRICIAAK 9/21/2020
:) Report
KHALIA2 3/8/2020
Great tips and article, Thanks, Coach Nicole!!!!!!! Report
METAFUKARI 12/10/2019
For those who can't exercise outdoors or feel unsafe, set up an inexpensive home gym! I have a treadmill and stepper and use videos and online sources to work out~Get free weights, bands, etc its not that hard~ Report
Great article! Report
HOLLYM48 11/18/2019
Great article! Report
CECELW 11/17/2019
i am so glad i don't ever have to worry about working out in the dark Report
WALKZWDOGZ 11/17/2019
Dark is why there are gyms, or videos & DVDs so one can exercise in front of a warm TV. :-) Report
ROSSYFLOSSY 11/14/2019
Every day. Report
Wow, that's getting up pretty early. :-( Report
Wearing my workout clothes is a major reason for getting my exercise. I do not sleep in my bra.
I just add the bra, socks and running shoes in the morning. Report
I've often heard the suggestion to sleep in your workout clothes. Occasionally I'll even briefly think about trying it, until I remember how awfully uncomfortable it is to sleep in a sports bra! Report
Love those early morning runs Report
Absolutely great Report
These are good tips Report
In the warm months I take an early morning walk before the sun comes up. Report
. Report
I leave the house between 5:30 and 5:45 am. It is dark. I have always been afraid of the dark. I put on a lot of reflective gear and my ear buds and go walk 3 miles. If I miss a day I stress over the fact that I did not walk today. I feel like I cheated myself. I would much rather stay home, read the paper, relax and slowly wake up but I keep going. It's hard but I am proud that I do it. Report
I ,get up early and do my elliptical program for 40 to 60 minutes.To keep me motivated I watch a DVD series on TV. I ,have to do the elliptical to watch.We need to put the oxygen on us first then we will be able to take care of our family's. Report
I actually prefer working out at night. I can't motivate myself to get up early and hit the gym or the road. Report
Right now I have to get up very early to work out. My hubby and I have to leave the house by 7 am, so in order to work out and have enough time in the morning I wake up at 430 am in order to work out. It sucks, but I know I feel so much better when I do work out. I also know I wont work out when I get home. (I usually get home at 6 pm.) Some of these I already do, but I will also try to sleeping in my workout clothes. Report
I love the suggestion of sleep with your work out clothes on! I'm trying that one! Report
I already get up at 5 every day. Work out in the morning advice drives me crazy. It assumes people don't get up until 7. The difference between 7am and 6am isn't that big (to me). 5am and 4am are very different. Report
If a person says they are not a morning person, they are not. I "became" a morning person when my boss told me he'd fire me if I was late again. :)

Jeff Report
I have a really good head lamp that I use for the dark evening. I let my husband know where I am going for safety. I love working out when it is dark, less traffic and the atmosphere is peaceful. Report
I use my stationary recumbant bike when its raining or my walking partner is out of town. I still get a great work out and I am safe-no worries about the wild animals that may get aggresssive if only 1 person out there. Report
wow that is very inspiring. I am not a mornign person either and very true if the sun is not up at 6 i dont like to exercise at that time and keep putting it off till evening and it gets dark again and the routine continues. I should try some of these tips definitely. Report
For me, it is so hard to roll out of my nice warm bed and into that cold world. I hadn't thought of sleeping in my workout clothes; it's such a simple option. I'll have to give that a shot tomorrow. Report
For me, at least now, it has nothing to do with dark. I could care less about the dark. It's about the cold. I live in a very cold climate. When it's -2 base temp going to the gym or even wanting to go is VERY HARD. Like why in the world would I leave the house when it's -2 out? So while the whole get up and do it may work in a more moderate climate, it doesn't work for me at all. Report
I wholeheartedly agree that the whole getting up/morning workout process is just harder when you have to start before the sun comes up. Thanks for the tips. Report
What a great idea to sleep in workout clothes. I've never thought of that! It is hard to go to the gym when the moon is still out. Makes me feel better to know that others are going there too. I'm not alone! Great suggestions. Thanks. Report
I have to agree with others that it has nothing to do with "dark"....especially for someone like me who is night blind? How would any of this pertain? I was hoping for some tips. Report
Sleeping in your workout clothes is not such a good idea, especially if you do your exercising outside during the colder months. Dirty clothes don't insulate as well as clean clothes. A sweaty sweat suit would leave you freezing during your morning hike or jog. A better idea would be to sleep with your workout clothes next to your bed or even under your pillow. That way you can dress before exposing yourself to the cold and still have warm clothes to exercise in.

I like the move the clock across the room idea. The really habitual snooze button pushers could even use two or three clocks spaced at various different places throughout the room. It's easy to walk over and turn one clock while still half asleep, but not so easy with three. Report
I don't feel safe exercising outside when it's still dark out and the trail right behind my home is only open during daylight (no street lighting). However what I am able to do is get up and take care of some of the morning chores out of way so that when the sun rises and there's is light, I'm out the door. Report
This article has nothing to do with it being dark outside; its title should be "How to Make Sure You Get Out of Bed on Time."

The best of day to work out is the time you will get your workout done. For most of us, the morning is the best time because it's out of the way. But for a lot of us, evenings are better. Lunch time may be the most convenient time. There is no one "right" way.

But as a bike commuter and a triathlete, I find nothing makes getting out bed easier than knowing I have to ride to work, and the best time to workout is whenever there's time: before work, lunchtime, after work.

If you want to get something done, you will find a way; if you don't, you'll find an excuse. Report
I wish I could exercise in the morning, but I usually wake up at 6.30 to leave the house at 7.30 am to get to work on time. Exercising for one hour would mean waking up at 5/5.30.... Definitely TOO early!!! :( Report
The only thing that can get me through working out in the dark is some uplifting music. I couldn't train without it. Report
Oh my gosh! What a great blog/article. I've been wanting to exercise in the mornings, but have opted to sleep in instead. This morning though, I woke up to my husbands downloaded music. I didn't hit the snooze button b/c I LIKED the music. I'm going to try this option tomorrow morning. I do think I will enjoy working out in the mornings - if I actually give it a try - LOL! Report
Love this article....one of my goals is to wake up and get started...the music is key for me, as is NOT hitting the snooze button! Be gone damn insomnia...I feel great when it's done and over for the day, and I always sleep better that night. I happen to like the Fall darkness because I like walking in the dark with my headphones, something so peaceful about it. It's the winter darkness with snow on the roads that's a killer. Report
It's true for me: if I get up and get into my workout first thing, I've done it for the day. If I don't, the day goes by and so does the workout. I like the idea of sleeping in my workout clothes - what a time-saving step.

Helpful article! Report
I love the thought of sleeping in the clothes. I am the worst for hitting snooze and not only missing work outs but being late for work. I'm going to try this. Thanks for the tip. Report
Great article! I usually do the workout even if I wake after before the alarm....I have in the past tried to sleep till the alarm and usually that is when I keep snoozing! Since I workout at home mostly, it works fine. Report
My best time of day to workout is evenings after the kiddos are in bed. I am usually tired after a long day as anyone would be, but I get my exercise in anyway. I keep telling myself two things: if not today, when...and...no one can do this for me but me. Report
My New Years resolution is to not hit the snooze button. Hoping this will give me more time! Report
I've found that having a few fun DVDs on hand also help keep me on track because I don't need to leave the house to do them. Don't let the cold weather stop you from getting fit. Report
This is such a great article! Such truthful ideas and I totally agree with Number 6-Don't Make it a Choice Report
Don't forget to wear a reflective vest when walking or running near cars at night. Even if you're on a side walk. I take the extra step of wearing a strobe light. Report
I'm fortunate in that I have never needed an alarm clock, so don't have any problems with the snooze button - my internal body clock wakes me up at the same early hour every day, weekends included.
I love running outside, but during the winter won't do it because of a painful past experience, and also the fact that my husband and two sons won't allow me to run outside while it's dark because of the above-mentioned experience and other safety concerns.
That's where my DVDs come in, coupled with my gym membership.
My gym opens at 6.00am so I get there at opening time, do an hours workout, shower and am home by 7.30am, with the whole day still ahead of me.
And if I workout at home, then I am done by around 6.30am.
I've always been a morning person - come 7.00pm I'm pretty much good for nothing! Report
Going for a run in the dark really bothers me. I have horrible night vision and the streets around me are not lit well. I have a very hard time motivating myself to start running in the dark and the cold, but I have to in the winter if I want to run at all. Report
Great read, as I hit 4th snooze. Doing this in Hotels is even tougher. Love the sleep in Workout Clothes.

Thanks for sharing. Report
I hate cold and the darkness too. I have to be very quiet in the morning so as not to awaken Grumpy (DH). I try to get up early so I have time for my morning prayers and a short Coach Nicole video 10-15 mins of something that I can do quietly, I do some wall push ups and gentle yoga stretching either before my shower or while in the shower. The hot water feels so good and is so stimulating while stretching. When I manage to to get all this in, my whole day goes better. Report
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