Rise and run is a habit to many runners – but very few started out that way. Natural morning people gravitate toward morning runs, but others created the habit to fit in their training to the rest of life. Whether you are a morning person or not, becoming a morning runner is an achievable habit.
Morning runs ensure you get in your run before the workday starts or the kids are awake. Morning runners also relish the sense of accomplishment from completing a run early – and the benefit of not worrying about how food will sit on your stomach or what demands and distractions could emerge later in the day.
Being a morning runner can also benefit other aspects of your life. Some individuals experience an increase in creativity or productivity after a morning run. Others will feel more relaxed having checked their training off of their to-do list by 7 AM. You may notice the quality of sleep improve since you are no longer releasing adrenaline with an evening sweat session.
How do you become a morning runner? It requires discipline, habituation, scheduling, and sometimes self-bribery. But once you establish the habit, you’ll relish those early morning miles.
Prepare the Night Before
Even small decisions waste precious time early in the morning. Lay out your clothes, GPS watch, shoes, water, and whatever else you need the night before. Program your workout into your watch or check your training plan before you go to bed. That way, you simply have to wake up, sip some water, get dressed, and head out the door.
Top off Your Tank before Bed
Hydration and nutrition before a run are important, but you don’t always have time in the mornings to drink a large amount of water and digest a snack. Too much fluid or food early in the morning can leave you with a sloshy stomach.
Have a small snack with carbs and protein before bed (this aids in muscle recovery as well). Drink a glass of water before bed, and then keep another glass by your bed in case you wake up thirsty throughout the night. In the morning, a few sips of water are all you need to top off your tank. If you are heading out on a long run or hard workout longer than an hour, you might eat a few chews, a handful of dried fruit, or a small banana – but thanks to the previous night’s snack, that should be enough to sustain you.
Skip the Snooze Option
Place your alarm clock or phone just out of arm’s reach so that you have to physically get up out of bed when it goes off. This ensures that you can’t keep hitting snooze and fall back asleep.
Take the Time to Warm Up
Most likely, you wake up feeling less than limber. Rather than heading out the door with tight muscles, spend a few minutes doing dynamic stretches such as leg swings, arm circles, trunk rotations, and butt kicks to wake up your joints and muscles. You will feel more awake and your run will feel less sluggish.
Give Yourself Time to Create a Habit
You have probably heard that it takes 21 days to make a habit. The number might not be exact, but the general notion is true – you won’t become a morning runner overnight. You need to habituate yourself, which takes time. Waking up at 5 AM to run won’t be pleasant the first few times, but it will become easier with time. With time, you will transform into that rise-and-run person and not even think about running later in day.
You may find it easier to start the morning run habit during summer. With more daylight and warmer temperatures, morning runs will be easier and more enjoyable. Plus, you will avoid training in the heat of the day! By the time winter arrives, morning runs will be ingrained as a habit.
Run with Peace of Mind
Running in the dark is nerve-wracking, even if you live in a safe area. Give yourself some peace of mind by taking precautions on your early morning runs.
For personal safety, let someone know when you leave for a run and how long you plan to be gone. If you are nervous about running alone, find a local running buddy, run with your dog, or carry personal safety items such as mace or a personal alarm. Leave the headphones at home and stay aware of your surroundings. (For more on safety, reference these realistic safety tips for female runners.)
If it’s dark outside when you begin a run, visibility is a priority. Use Knuckle Lights or headlamps to illuminate your path and make yourself visible to cars. Wear reflective gear so drivers can see you and recognize you as a moving person rather than a still object.
If you are still nervous about running early in the morning, opt for the treadmill as you form the habit. Once you feel more comfortable with morning runs themselves, then you can begin to venture outside.
Accountability is Motivating
It’s easy to hit snooze if the only person who knows you skipped your morning run is you. Find someone to keep you accountable on your goal. This could be a running buddy, either one you meet with or who will check in with you each morning to see how your run went. If you are working with a coach, tell her your goal of becoming a morning runner. A good coach will hold you accountable and provide encouragement if you struggle.
Go to Bed Earlier
Sleep is vital for overall health and for recovery. If you are consistently sacrificing sleep for a morning run, it will negatively affect your training. Waking up early to run is also easier after a full night’s sleep.
If you’re going to wake up an extra hour earlier to run, then try go to bed an hour earlier. Gradually introduce an earlier bedtime by 10-15 minutes every few nights. If you have a hard time falling asleep, put away your phone, turn off your Netflix, and get ready for bed—sleep will follow more naturally without stimulation. Read a book or journal (with pen and paper) to help you relax.
Becoming a morning runner will be hard at first, so be patient and gracious with yourself. If you hit snooze and skip your running one morning, don’t beat yourself up about it; just try again the next morning. Running in the morning is not for everyone, so if you’re exhausted throughout the day or just can’t wake up early, commit to running after work or over lunch break.
Are you a morning runner? How do you get out the door early?