The other day I came across an article about Mark Wahlberg’s insane workout schedule, which puts him in the gym at 3:40 AM. I almost died of nope.
5:30 AM is another super popular workout time among the die-hard workout crowd, and hell I’ve even trained people that early. I tend to nope that too now.
Myself – I would never try to workout this early (but in a minute we’ll see how it could be workable for plenty of people).
The reason I don’t do it is simple. We need recovery to grow and get stronger, and we need sleep to do this. If you don’t believe me, just ask the American Council on Exercise, the National Institute of Health, or the National Sleep Foundation. Or if you’re more of a muscle head type, try Jeff Cavaliere of Athlean-X.
He recommends 6 to 9 hours of sleep per night, which is right in line with the CDC’s recommendation for adults between 18 and 60. I go for 9, and if I need more, I get more.
Do The Math
In you hadn’t already, let’s do the math on a 5:30 AM workout, in light of what we just established.
Let’s say the gym is 10 minutes away (generous). Let’s say it will take you 20 minutes to get up, get dressed, and get fueled (AKA eat something). That means you need to wake up at 5:00 AM to get to the gym for a 5:30 workout (very generous).
You’ll need to get to bed by 8PM to get nine hours of sleep in. I don’t know about you, but I am not falling asleep that early.
You could opt for 8 hours of sleep, and go to bed at 9, but how many people do that?
Some people can get away with training and getting 6 to 7 hours of sleep, it’s true, so if that’s you, and you can get to bed by 10 or 11 PM, then the 5:30 AM workout might actually work.
But if you’re fond of staying up until midnight or later (and I know a LOT of people who are), then no matter what your constitution, you’re not doing yourself any favors trying to get a workout in at 5:30.
But…I have work!
Ok so I do get it – there’s a dilemma here, and that’s that most people have to get to work by 8 AM. You work for 8 hours, you get out of work at 5:00, you’re beat, you find yourself completely unmotivated to workout. So, you opt for an early workout, before you go to work.
That’s perfectly understandable! But you can’t fool biology with economics. If you don’t get enough sleep, it’s not enough sleep – no matter what the reason.
So what to do? There are plenty of options!
First of all, think about the length of your workout. The reason I opt for 30-minute HIIT training so often is that it takes literally 30 minutes to do. I’m in, warming up for 5 minutes, working super hard for 20, and stretching for about 5. In, out, done. That means I can get into the gym as late as 7:00 and still have half an hour to clean up and get to work.
HIIT training isn’t the best method for every person and every goal. In that case, you might want to get to the gym earlier for a longer workout, or split your strength training and cardio into different sessions, perhaps weights in the morning and cardio in the evening. There are a million ways to do this, and it all depends on your goal.
Doing things efficiently helps too. Bring work clothes to the gym, get a shower there, and bring what you need so you don’t have to go home.
Or workout at lunch. Or negotiate with your employer for time to get away and get a workout in. This kind of extra perk is getting more and more common.
Or, try again to workout after work. The best way to accomplish this is to bring your gym gear to work and go straight to the gym. If you go home, you’re very very likely not to go back out to hit the gym.
Bedtime for Bonzo
Despite the inflammatory headline, it’s not really the time you workout that matters in this. It’s how much sleep you’ve had. So, if you’re willing to go to bed early and get enough shut-eye, the 5:30 AM workout isn’t so bad.
I admit, it’s kinda cool to get in and get done before most people are even out of bed.
And for the record – Mark Wahlberg gets 7 hours of sleep. Bed at 7:30 PM, wake up at 2:30 AM. If you’re into that, be my guest.
Me, I’ll be catching my Survivor episodes and hitting the gym well after the sun comes up.