Do you want to become a morning runner, or perhaps a more consistent one?
On the days you’ve gotten a morning run in, you’re so glad you did it. You’re energized, and ready to tackle the day. You’re thankful you made yourself a priority before the day is gobbled up by commitments, work, and errands.
Here’s the rub. You have to get the run in. Some folks are naturally “morning people,” and to become a morning runner is not a huge feat. Yet, others are DEFINITELY not in that camp. Starting or maintaining the habit seems almost impossible, or at least highly improbable.
But, there are so many great reasons to become a morning runner. That’s why when the habit clicks, few turn back. Those that become morning runners know they’re more consistent, more productive, manage stress better, sleep better, and have more energy for the day. And believe me, that’s not an exhaustive list.
Let’s jump into it then – how can you become a morning runner, and make the habit stick? Let’s chunk it down…
To Become a Morning Runner, Start the Night Before
To become a consistent morning runner, prep the night before.
Spend a FEW MINUTES the night prior so you can think less, do less when you’re groggy the next morning. Most weekday mornings are rushed so anything done in advance means you’re more likely to get the run in.
Put OUT your gear/running clothes. Think of the runner flat lay. Try to put out the whole ensemble – socks, shorts, shirt, hat, safety gear, etc. No fishing in the dark, and it’s easier to get out of bed knowing you’ve got your stuff ready to go. (Be sure to check the weather temp and forecast.)
FILL your water bottle, and prep any other hydration/fuel items you use on your run. I prefer cold water/hydration on my run, so overnight in the fridge makes this a no-brainer.
Get enough SLEEP. If you’re like most people, 7-8 hours are what’s in order. Once you are waking up earlier on a consistent basis, you’ll WANT to get to bed sooner. Make the transition to an earlier bedtime with small steps, ie: 15-20 minutes earlier each week, until you land on a time that allows a sufficient amount of sleep.
DISENGAGE from screens earlier. There’s several recent studies that show exposure to blue light (present in virtually all electronic devices) disrupts the release of sleep-inducing melatonin. If you can’t disengage from your screens roughly two hours before bed, consider wearing “blue blocking” glasses, or use an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
The Morning of Your Run – Go Time!
MOVE your alarm clock. Put it out of arm’s reach so that you have to physically get OUT of bed to turn it off. If you’re out of bed, you’re less likely to hit snooze, or get back in. Some folks will go so far as making their bed immediately to discourage themselves from lying back in it!
When daylight hours become shorter, consider using technology to help you get moving in the a.m. A wake-up light alarm may do the trick. When your alarm rings, it brightens your room – but it begins that process gradually before it goes off. (It also does the reverse when you’re getting ready for sleep!)
Make a run DATE. You’re much less apt to bail on a run if someone else is part of the mix. Granted, it may be hard to run with someone every time, but pepper your morning runs with a friend, if you can. It’s not only the accountability, but comradery and connection that makes it a great start to the day.
WARM up. After a night’s sleep, muscles are more likely to be stiff. To reduce the chance of injury, be sure to start with a dynamic warm up. Not only will it make you less injury prone, you’ll enjoy the run more.
FUEL up. According to Nancy Clark, R.D., if you don’t have the time (nor appetite) to eat 200-300 calories before an early morning run, try having the fuel the night before. In terms of a pre bedtime snack, a bowl of cereal or granola with yogurt are good options. For the morning, something simple/easy to digest is best. An English muffin, oatmeal, or banana with peanut butter, are some examples.
For me, if it’s a short run (less than 45 minutes), I will typically have 6-8 ounces of juice (tart cherry, or pink grapefruit). The liquid calories tend to be easier for me to tolerate on the run with less GI upset.
And, if you really can’t stomach anything first thing in the morning, your body may be receptive to some fuel once you’re about 30 minutes into your run. Therefore, brink some fuel with you.
Post Run – Finish SMART
How you finish your run impacts your odds of success to become a morning runner. Finish smart so the next start is both easier, and more likely!
You did it – gold star for getting that run in! Just don’t skimp on doing a few things post run to ensure the balance of day doesn’t suffer (or your next run).
Have a post run breakfast or snack that provides both carbs and protein. By doing so, you’ll be able to exercise better 24-48 hours after hard muscle-damaging exercise. (For example, your blood level of creatine kinase (CK) will be lower, a marker of muscle damage.
Also, post-exercise protein activates an enzyme that turns on muscle-building pathways. Protein helps build muscle, carbs refuel muscle; meaning, you want to have a combo of carb-protein for your next meal. This helps facilitate a more rapid rate of recovery for eight hours!
Some examples: chocolate milk, protein smoothies, oatmeal with milk, eggs and toast, and toast and peanut butter.
Don’t skimp on post-run stretches. In about five-six minutes, you can help build your range of motion, decrease the odds of stiffness, and loosen up any tight muscles. This is especially important for those who have a “desk job” and are quite stationary during their work hours.
Give it TIME As You Become a Morning Runner
There’s varying estimates on how long it takes for a habit to stick. At minimum, it’s 21 days, but the variance is wide. A recent study shows that it’s a bit longer than that. Perhaps as long as 60+ days. But don’t be discouraged!
The process will become easier over time. It’ll become a habit, and you won’t likely consider doing it differently from that point forward.
One idea is to begin your quest to become a morning runner during the summer. More daylight, warmer temps can make the transition easier. You also have the benefit of avoiding training during the hottest part of the day.
What has worked for YOU in your quest to become a morning runner? OR what tips will you use here to make it happen??