There’s a good amount of evidence that first thing in the morning is the best time to run. The problem is, many of us runners are also night owls. Whether its job responsibilities, home routines, social obligations, or just a preference for staying up late, “early to bed, early to rise” isn’t always possible. Getting up early can be a hard habit to establish.
I speak from personal experience. And I live by the beach, which definitely has to have the best views in the mornings!
If you’re trying to establish a morning running habit, we hear you. We support you. Read on. We’ll cover everything you need to know about morning runs, from why to do them and why it’s hard. We’ll wrap up with 7 tips on how to start a morning run routine.
Why Should I Run in the Morning?
One of the best reasons to run in the morning is that you’re sure to get your workout in. For many people, it’s the part of the day without other commitments. Your boss might ask you to stay late, but you’ll have to know ahead of time if you need to come in early.
This means you’ll always get your runs in if you schedule them in before work. Additionally, running in the morning means that you’ll run before the rest of the day tires you out. You’ll finish feeling refreshed, awake, and energized.
In fact, evidence suggests that you might sleep better. One 2014 study found that people who worked out in the morning got more deep sleep than people who worked out in the afternoon or evening.
You’ll also get to start the day on a good foot (literally) and won’t have to worry about dodging crowds. Not many people are dedicated enough for morning runs. It’s likely going to be only you on the road or trail, maybe passing a few cars and some other runners. It’s a lot more peaceful.
Finally, in the summer, early mornings are the coolest time of the day. It’s the best time to get a run in before the heat and humidity climb into the intolerable range. If you pick the right time, you’ll be able to see some amazing sunrises to boot.
Why It’s So Hard to Run in the Morning
It’s clear that running in the morning is the best. So why is it so hard? Especially if you’re someone who doesn’t naturally wake up with the sun, it can be difficult to wake up early to run. Plus, once you’re awake, it can be challenging to motivate yourself to run.
In the winter, in particular, cold and dark mornings make it hard to goad yourself to get outside. Snuggling beneath the covers can be alluring. And the last thing you want to do is brave the cold before you have to.
What are Some Tips for Running in the Morning?
Want to start running in the morning as part of your routine? The best thing you can do is be consistent for a couple of weeks and do it every time you say you’re going to do it. Habits take time to build, but not too much time. Do it for two weeks to start. There’s a good chance that it won’t be as terrible after you do it for a while.
Additionally, start off very small so that it’s hard to say no. For example, tell yourself that you have to run 1-2 miles. That’s typically no more than 20 minutes, give or take, for most people. You’ll likely feel motivated to run longer once you get out the door.
The best way that you can start becoming a morning runner is following the following tips. You might not ever become a morning person, but they will make it easier on you to get your runs done in the morning.
1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
The first (and perhaps most important) step to getting a morning run: get a good night’s sleep. Time management guru Laura Vanderkam says that going to bed early is sleeping in for adults. This means that if you want to run in the mornings, you can’t go to bed too late.
The best thing you can do is to start getting into a routine and going to bed at a consistent time. Although we might think that we can survive on less than 7 hours of sleep, it really isn’t ideal. Aim to be in bed 30 minutes before you actually want to fall asleep, and get 7-9 hours of sleep.
For me, that means being in bed between 9 and 10pm. My body will naturally wake up 8-9 hours later. I can assure you that I am not a morning person, and it’s a struggle to get up. But being consistent with my bedtimes has made a world of difference!
Another thing you’ll want to do is avoid alcohol and caffeine before you sleep. These can both keep you awake. You’ll also want to avoid TV and electronic devices before you go to bed. These can really mess up your sleep patterns.
2. Set an Alarm Away From Your Bed
If you’ve gotten a good night’s sleep and are in a habit of doing it, there’s a good chance that your body will naturally wake up. But if it doesn’t, you have to make sure that you’re forcing yourself to get out of bed and avoid the snooze button.
By setting an alarm that is away from your bed, you will have to get up to turn it off. A word to the wise: after doing this, you have to get up and do something else like use the bathroom, go into the kitchen to turn on the coffeemaker, etc. If you go back to bed, you’ll fall asleep.
3. Create Incentives to Run
Sometimes, to get motivated, we need extra incentives to get up and get going. Figure out what motivates you the most. Maybe you’re an extrovert and love hanging out with people. So schedule morning runs with friends. That could be a good motivator to get you up.
Maybe you like making to-do lists and checking them off. If so, training plans can be really helpful. I like putting a checkmark on my calendar every day that I run. I’m motivated to get as many check marks as possible. This is like Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity hack of don’t break the chain.
You might also consider weekly rewards for your morning runs if you’re motivated by food or some material item. For example, maybe if you’ve run 4 days a week, you allow yourself to go to your favorite bakery and get a treat after your Saturday morning long run.
4. Make Getting Ready for Your Run Easy
Human beings take the path of least resistance, so you need to make it easy on yourself to get up and run. Set out your running clothes the night before. Some people even sleep in their running clothes or put their shoes right by their bed so they basically trip over them in the morning.
Plan your route and your distance. If you already have this figured out and don’t have to decide on the fly, you’re more likely to follow through.
Plus, it’s good to honor the commitments you’ve made. Once you decide on a run, follow through with it. Don’t bag out and do less, or your mind/body will know that it’s easy to give up.
Finally, set out your water bottles and/or fuel (if needed) the night before. If you’re prepared ahead of time, you’ll get out the door faster and you’ll have fewer reasons to persuade yourself not to get out the door!
5. Start with a Brisk Warm-Up
Warm ups are always important, but this is especially true for morning runs.It will help you ease into your run. Just run what’s comfortable and get moving. Once you wake up a little bit more, you’ll be ready to push harder.
6. Find a Running Partner
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, a running partner will keep you both accountable and make it more likely that you get your morning runs in.
I didn’t run super regularly in college, but when I did, I always had a running partner because then I knew it would happen. I wasn’t going to let somebody else down.
7. Stay Safe
Finally, it’s important that you stay safe. While it’s typically lighter in the morning than in the evening, wear reflective clothing if it’s still dark outside. It’s hardest to see runners when it’s changing to dawn or dusk, so make it easy on drivers.
Additionally, if you’re running alone, bring pepper spray or a personal alarm. This is especially important if you’re a female. Err on the side of caution.
When I think about the best runs that I’ve had, almost all of them have been morning runs. I always get a great feeling of accomplishment when not only do I get a run in during the day – but I get a run done in the morning.
There’s nothing better than getting up before 7am when you’re on vacation at Disney World, going for a 10-mile run while you watch the sun rise, and getting back just as everyone else is waking up. “What did you do?” “Oh, I just got back from a 10-mile run while y’all were sleeping!”
If you want that feeling of getting something done even before your day starts, start running in the mornings. You’ll be energized and ready to take on the day, no matter what it might hold.