Karoline Barwinski

Why exercising in the morning is life changing

Karoline Barwinski
Why exercising in the morning is life changing

I’ve been experimenting with my mornings.  (Isn’t life often a big experiment?)

As a mom who continues to co-sleep with our little munchkin, and in turn continues to breastfeed at night, my pre-baby morning routine (aka my time to focus on myself) has flown out the window.  My priorities have changed—sleep and being there for my son are higher up on the list right now than yoga.

Before Rafael came into our lives, I LOVED my yoga practice.  I LOVED waking up before 6am and heading to my ashtanga studio or practicing at home.  (If the thought of that is totally unappealing, know that I was in your shoes too!  But after a few months of waking up with yoga, it was easier to wake up early, and my body and mind began craving it!) I then would come home, eat a nourishing breakfast and start my day.

There were no excuses other than the ones I made up in my head; there were fewer outside forces that influenced my decisions, routines and habits.

I no longer have that simplicity in my routine. 

So now, I have to get creative, flexible, and committed.  

Routines and, in turn, habits have been much more difficult to set.  There are days when I wake up with Rafael because I need the sleep – maybe he was up a lot feeding at night, or maybe the day before was rough on me mentally, or maybe I just had a pizza the night before and I am accepting of the fact that I feel a bit lethargic the next day, or I’m simply sick and my body needs to rest.   On those days, I may not do yoga.  I get him ready for school with Aran and then I get on the computer. 

But having observed how my body and mind respond on those days when I do not get to do my yoga practice, I don’t do well.   I feel stress in my body, I don’t respond to stressors as gracefully and peacefully, I feel tense in my shoulders, and I feel generally blah and unexcited to take on the day.  I feel more anxiety.

In contrast, a physical morning practice, a morning movement, even if just for 10 minutes, always sets me up for the day.  My body feels relaxed, open, and energized.  My mind feels clear, calm, and focused.   It’s game changing because I have taken care of myself at the beginning of the day—instead of waiting until the end when I’m too tired, and let’s face it, not up for any sort of exercise. 

So what do I do now that I don’t have a full hour and a half for a morning practice? 

I try to dedicate at least 10 minutes to movement each morning.  

When it comes to feeling on top of my game the rest of the day, this has become nonnegotiable. 

Sometimes I manage to sneak out of bed without waking Rafael up or he doesn’t need that morning milkies time (any other co-sleeping mama in that boat?) and practice until he does.  Other times I do it after we get him ready for school when my husband is dropping him off.  Still other times after I drop him off.  

Does my mind still try to make excuses not to?  Of course.  But I’m already hungry?  What if there’s an important email I need to read immediately?  I’m going to be late for work.

But instead, I have a banana.  Or I tell myself email can wait 10 minutes and if being 10 minutes late allows me to be that much more focused and engaged, then doesn’t everyone actually win!?  (I know not everyone has the luxury of not showing up “on time” to work, but there’s always room to create 10 minutes for ourselves in our lives if it matters to us). 

I share this story not to inspire you to practice yoga per se, but to get you questioning whether a morning movement practice could be just as energizing for you as it has been for me.   Or maybe it gives you the time you need for your amazing, dedicated, loving, caring self.   (As mother’s we’re all too often giving so much of ourselves to others—we also need to give to ourselves.)

Now is as perfect a time as any to start revolutionizing your mornings so you can reap these benefits. 

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have kids, you’re pregnant, or already have little ones running around.    If you don’t have kids and hope to one day, think about setting this morning habit now so that it is easier to come back to it once you do have kids.

Here’s some research-backed insights that may help you consider why starting your day with a little movement can feel so good and what benefits you can reap in other parts of your life. 

  • Morning exercise – even just 5 minutes – will help you get better quality sleep at night.  

  • Moving your body in the morning means you don’t need to think about doing so later in the day!  

  • You’ll be more focused at work.

  • Taking care of yourself first, helps you show up for others.

A note on making a morning movement routine a habit

One of the things I hear often from people is that they were doing well with a routine practice or ritual and then they skipped it one or two days and they felt they had already failed. 

No no no!!  Keep going.

Don’t be so hard on yourself!  It takes a while to create a habit or start craving a certain feeling that comes from a good habit enough to want to do it over and over again. 

In fact, it takes on average 66 days, and anywhere between 2-8 months, to set a new habit depending on the person, behavior, and circumstances.

Did that just blow your mind?  And make you feel so much better about struggling to form those good habits?  Were you taught that it takes about 21 days?  (Check out this great article about a study that debunks the myth and offers some more accurate data.)  

So it’s not you.  Well, it is you, but you’re in control.  

I love that this study also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.”  It’s okay to take breaks – our bodies need a day of rest  - and it’s okay to not get to your movement practice every once in a while. 

Just. Keep. Going.  And know I’m right there with you, facing the same challenges.   

We are all overcoming them together. 

So what are kind of movement will you choose in the mornings?  There are so many choices.


Jumping jacks.

Jump rope.

Push ups.

Dance (yes, dancing is an amazing form of movement that gets us going, have you heard about the early morning raves?  So put on some fun music and move that toosh!)

Dance with your kid(s) (turn up that good vibe music!)