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I worked out at 5am every day for a week — here's what I learned

A woman stretching to touch her toes while sitting in front of a rising sun
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There’s a new health craze taking off on TikTok, and it’s not a hot girl walk. With more than 6.2 million views on the platform, the 5 a.m. routine is seemingly helping people transform their physical and mental health. And there's a lot more to it than simply setting an early alarm clock; the 5 a.m. routine is designed to help you start your day in a more positive way. To find out more, I changed my alarm, dug out my favorite gym kit, and gave it a go. 

Of course, getting up early isn’t anything new. Robin Sharma wrote a book called, ‘The 5 am Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate your life’ in 2018, and there are a number of other similar books and plans on the market. The goal is simple: to get up earlier, when the house is quiet, and start your day with some movement and meditation. 

Before I get into whether or not waking up an hour or so earlier changed my life, a gentle reminder that what works for me, or someone on TikTok, might not be right for you and your body. If you are new to exercise, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor or a personal trainer before starting a new program. Looking for more fitness inspiration? Read what happened when I added 100 dead bugs to my morning routine here. 

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What is the 5 a.m. routine? 

After watching countless TikTok videos on the subject, the 5 a.m. routine seems to have the same basic principles: 

Obviously, there are variations on the theme — some TikTok users drive to the gym, others do cartwheels on the beach — but all of the videos are inspirational montages about getting your day off to the best start.

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I tried TikTok’s 5 a.m. routine for a week — here’s what happened 

I’ll caveat this article by stating that I’m already an early bird. My normal alarm clock is set for around 6 a.m., and my friends laugh when I tell them I go to bed at 10 p.m. most evenings. That said, I’ll often wake up at 6 a.m., scroll Instagram for 20 minutes, then walk the dog or head to the gym on autopilot, so having some structure to the first four hours of my day would be an eye opener. 

On day one of the new 5 a.m. routine, I realized just how different the world looked at 5 a.m. compared to 6 a.m.. It’s summertime in London, but waking up 10 minutes after the sun came up felt, and looked, a little different. Rather than sitting on Instagram, I forced myself out of bed, made a coffee, and then took the dog out for an hour. He was confused by the lack of dog friends on the field, but it definitely felt special wandering in the eerily quiet morning light. When I got back at 6 a.m., I switched my shoes, and head out for my run. At 7 a.m. I had a shower, drank some water, and opened my new journal (I opted for The Habit Journal by the food medic (opens in new tab)). It asked me to jot down my morning thoughts, the most important task for the day, a mini win, something I was grateful for, and to then get started on my personal and work to-do lists. By the time my colleagues logged on at 9 a.m., I felt like I’d ticked loads off my list. 

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Day two followed the same pattern: I felt energized, I had the gym to myself, and I had time to make a proper oat milk latte, rather than rushing around to be at my desk on time. On day three, I was heading to Wimbledon to watch the tennis and found having a structure to my morning allowed me to tick everything off. I left the house at 9 a.m. feeling calm. 

Of course, nobody would have predicted that the Serena Williams/Harmony Tan match wouldn’t finish until 10.30 p.m. With all the excitement, I didn’t get into bed until 11.30 p.m., so I shifted my alarm back to 6 a.m. The next morning, I still managed to complete my dog walk, and run, and had time to write in my journal. 

By the end of the week, I felt like I’d gotten into more of a rhythm, and wasn’t as thrown by the earlier alarm. I enjoyed the calmer pace of my mornings, which often feel like a juggle to fit everything in. That said, I was glad when my alarm went off at 5 a.m. for the final time. For me, the extra hour of shut eye is just as important as having a slower start. While there are elements of the routine I’ll keep — I’ve always found it difficult to meditate, but the journaling was a nice start to my day — I don’t think getting up an hour earlier made me any more productive or more organized overall. 

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The real lesson? My 5 a.m. mornings looked nothing like the beautiful sunrise montages on TikTok, but that’s OK. Like many viewers, in preparation for this article, I’d become obsessed with watching people light candles, write in journals, and drink lemon water in their beautiful homes, but my life doesn’t look like that, and that’s fine by me. Set intentions, set goals, and start your day with movement, but remember it might not look as polished or perfect as an Instagram Reel or TikTok video. 

Jane McGuire
Jane McGuire

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past four years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.