Morning Exercise Without Stress or Strain

There are countless reasons why exercising first thing in the morning is a great idea. You start your day off with an energizing, positive activity that revs up your metabolism. You knock something important off your to-do list and it boosts your mood for the entire day. But early morning exercise presents a few challenges.

Health Tips

1. Eat light. After a long night with no calories, it's important to eat something before you head out for a run, hike, or to the gym. Even if all you eat is a little yogurt, a piece of whole wheat toast and peanut butter or a handful of nuts and a glass of milk, having a light snack on board will make the difference between running the distance and hitting the wall. Don't wolf down a big meal though or you'll feel weighed down and may even experience bloating and cramping.

2. Hydrate. Have a glass of water before you exercise to rehydrate your body after a long, dry night. Drinking coffee is fine and may even give you the energy boost you need to finish your workout, but coffee is a diuretic and no substitute for water. Worried you'll have to pee while exercising? Go to the bathroom before you leave the house. If you're headed to the gym, no problem—use their bathroom. If you're exercising outdoors, plan a route with bathrooms or port-a-potties along the way.

3. Warm up and stretch. Your muscles have to wake up just like the rest of you. Start exercising by walking at a slow to moderate pace for five minutes or more. Once you're fully warmed up, stretch gently to loosen your joints, ligaments, and tendons. Don't forget to do a cool-off walk and post-workout stretch too.

Safety Tips

4. Lighten up. If you exercise before the sun is up, make sure cars, bikes, and other early birds can see you. Wear bright colored reflective clothing, and carry a light.

5. Follow the rules. Bike with traffic and run against traffic. In most parts of the country, it's the law that bike riders must go with the flow of traffic. Stay alert for sleepy drivers who don't see you and your bike and give yourself plenty of room between traffic and parked cars. Whenever possible, use bike lanes and bike-only routes. When you run, run on the sidewalk, a track, or if you must run in the road, towards oncoming traffic. That way, if a car doesn't see you, you'll be sure to see the car and be able to get out of the way.

6. Don't be a victim. If your early morning workout leaves you in the dark, walking through unlighted parking lots to get to your gym, or running along trails or roads with plenty of areas for bad guys to lurk, take precautions to protect yourself. Exercise with a partner whenever possible. Carry a walking stick, pepper spray, an alarm or air horn, and an attitude that says, "don't mess with me." If a stranger approaches you, don't hesitate to scream. Yell, "Help!  Police" and run away as fast as you can. Vary your route and avoid areas where your instincts tell you you're not safe or consider changing your workout time to an hour that feels safer.