Why You Won't Wake Up Early to Work Out and Other Battles of Willpower and Inertia


You say you are going to work out before work.

When the alarm goes off that brilliant plan seems absolutely ludicrous.  The idea of getting up, getting dressed, driving, working out, showering, changing for work, and driving some more…it’s just too daunting.  You hit snooze and go back to bed. When you do rise, it’s with a healthy dose of guilt and a promise to yourself, “tomorrow”.

My personal struggle was with house cleaning.  I wanted my house clean.  I felt totally motivated to get it done on my drive home Thursday evenings. I plotted that I’d clean Thursday night and enter the weekend carefree.  Then I would get home, sit down to dinner, and turn on Netflix.  Before I knew it, I was on a Netflix bender.

Inertia is a more powerful force than Willpower most of the time. It’s stronger than our good intention to wake up early and workout, to stay on facebook for “just five minutes”, or to go do something a bit more exciting on a Saturday night than the same weekend routine we’ve become so bored with.

To overcome inertia, we must start small and then gain momentum. I am not a morning person.  In fact, I’m a different person altogether in the mornings than I am throughout the rest of my life.  My morning-self wants only one thing: to stay in bed.  She can’t even imagine that she might get up, get dressed, drive to the gym, work out, come home, shower, and go to work.  But, what she can do is turn on the bedside lamp and notice that she laid out clothes the night before.  Small acts, but acts that build momentum.

The light helps morning-self wake up enough to consider putting the clothes on.  Her full bladder compels her to the bathroom, where her toothbrush sits on the counter.  She still can’t imagine going to the gym yet, but she can imagine brushing her teeth. After all, the toothbrush is right there. And since the water is on, she might as well wash her face too. Before she knows it, she’s dressed, cleaned, and moving toward the door. The first step was achievable even if the whole task wasn’t.  Twenty small steps later, she has become “I” and I am ready to go work out.

Just take the first step.

Even better, prepare the first step early.  When I know I’m going to be cleaning later, I’ll give my future self a break by setting out the supplies. It’s so much easier to want to begin an already started project. It’s another beast to imagine doing the project AND the prep work.

Where in your life can you make it easier to do the “best thing” instead of the easiest thing?  The easiest is what inertia would have you do. What would will power have you do?  Your willpower muscle is best built by light weights, many reps.  Get lifting.  Take so many small steps forward that it would become harder to stop than to keep going.

Take one small step forward. SMALL!!  Then, another.  Soon, you will have taken so many small steps forward that it would become harder to stop than to keep going.