How to Start Running in the Morning – Become an Early Bird

You know those people who just appear to have their lives figured out? They are efficient and organized and go running every morning before its even light?

Yeah, I know. Annoying.

Well, we can either hate them, or join them. And, luckily for us, joining them in their morning running awesomeness actually isn’t too hard.

We’ve all heard of the benefits of doing your run first thing in the morning. Things like increased productivity over the course of the day, increased the likelihood of sticking to your schedule and not missing training sessions, more time to be a bum later in the day…

I’m sure we can all agree it’s much more enjoyable to catch up with friends or be a couch potato after you’ve trained as opposed to having it hanging over you like an ominous dark cloud.

young woman runner running on city road

Don’t me wrong, I love running!

I don’t dread it and include it in my life as a daily punishment. But I’m not going to lie, becoming a morning runner can be a daunting task.

But there is hope!

Take solace in the fact that it’s the first few weeks that will be hardest as you form the new habit and get used to it.

After that, it will get easier and easier until morning running is just a natural part of your life that you don’t question.

And, there are some simple things you can do to make the transition easier and your new running routine more likely to stick.

This article will provide you with some useful tips and advice on becoming a morning runner.

How to Start Running in the Morning

woman running at sunrise beach

1. Know Your Reasons

A big part of morning running comes down to motivation. And motivation can be influenced by what your reasons are for wanting to run in the morning versus the evening.

If you know why you want to start running in the morning as opposed to just sticking with your current routine, this will help a lot in finding to motivation to make it happen.

Try writing a list of the reasons why you want to start running in the morning and stick it somewhere you’ll see it before you go to bed at night and when your alarm goes off in the morning.

2. Set Some Goals and Have a Plan

Similar to knowing your reasons, goal setting helps with motivation and creates more incentive. Maybe you’re already training for a race or maybe you already have body weight goals.

But setting some more specific goals related to your running routine will just add to your motivation even more.

Draw up your running schedule and make the number of runs you do in the morning gradually increase each week.

Having a goal of all of your runs being morning runs by the end of the month should be manageable for most people.

Following a plan like this makes it easier to just follow it without having to think about it and makes it less likely that you’ll bail if it’s a gradual process that isn’t too overwhelming.

3. Pay Attention to Your Sleep

Getting enough sleep so you’re not over-tired and groggy when your alarm goes off will probably be the most important step you take in becoming a morning runner.

But this isn’t just a case of going to bed early (although that helps).

Paying attention to your evening routine can go a long way towards making sure you have a good quality sleep and wake up ready to run.

For example, reading a book will help you to fall asleep quicker than watching TV as the light won’t keep you awake.

Avoid looking at screens of any kind for at least an hour before you go to bed, and if you have to check your phone, install a blue light filter so that you’re not messing with your body clock.

4. Avoid Alcohol and Heavy Late Night Meals

Having a big meal and/or drinking alcohol right before you go to bed definitely interrupts the quality of your sleep and makes it harder to get up in the morning.

I’m not saying never drink or never eat late at night. But in general, eating a bigger meal at lunchtime, avoiding alcohol and eating a smaller meal at least a couple of hours before you go to bed will increase the quality of your sleep and allow you to wake up feeling more refreshed.

Contrary to this fear of hunger our society has, it’s ok to go to sleep feeling ever so slightly hungry every now and then.

Experiment and you might just be surprised at the difference you notice!

Just make sure you eat enough at breakfast and lunch to make up for eating less at night.

5. Get Your Clothes Ready

Your brain has a limited amount of energy for decision making before it gives up and gets lazy.

Reduce the number of decisions you have to make before your morning run by getting your clothes all ready and laid out so you all you have to do is get dressed in the morning.

6. Plan Your Breakfast

For the same reason as above, it can be very helpful to plan what you’re going to eat/drink or not eat/drink so that you don’t have any decisions to make when you wake up.

If you’re not sure where food fits into all this for you, check out our article on what to eat before and after a morning run.

Different things work for different people when it comes to whether or not you eat breakfast before your morning run.

It will depend on how early you run, how hungry you are when you wake up and whether your stomach can handle running with some food in it first thing in the morning.

You may have to experiment to figure out what works for you.

7. Try a Different Alarm

This is a personal favorite of mine as I believe it makes a huge difference: try out a different alarm that wakes you up in a different way from what you’re used to.

If you don’t share a room with someone who needs to keep sleeping, or if you do share a room but the person you share it with is happy to wake up at the same time as you, I highly recommend trying a Sunrise Alarm Clock.

It can be extra tricky getting up in the winter when your alarm is buzzing but it’s still dark outside. Using an alarm clock that wakes you up with light that simulates a natural sun-rise wakes your body up slowly so that you feel ready to be awake and not rudely awoken and groggy.

8. Warm up Slowly

Don’t expect yourself to be running 5 minutes after you wake up. Your body will still be in sleep mode and your muscles will be stiff and short on oxygenated blood.

There’s no rule that says if you’re going to run in the morning it has to be immediately after you wake up.

Allowing a bit of buffer time to warm up can make a huge difference and can give your body a bit more time to digest anything you might have eaten (and possibly visit the bathroom too).

Take 20 or 30 minutes to wake up properly and warm your muscles a little by walking around the house and doing some light active stretches.

Your legs will thank you for it and maybe your mind too as it won’t feel like such a punishment making yourself run when you’re still half asleep.

9. Use Social Media to Your Advantage

During the warming up period mentioned above, once you’re out of bed and having a drink, make use of inspirational social media pages to help give you a final burst of motivation.

Follow fellow runners or motivational pages on Instagram or Facebook to give you a quick reminder of why you’re choosing to run in the morning and why it’s a good thing.

These positive thoughts should hopefully displace the negative “why am I doing this to myself?” thoughts.

10. Go Easy With Your Expectations

Start out with low expectations. Don’t plan for your hardest and most grueling workouts to be the ones you try and complete when you’re still getting used to morning running.

Plan your easy runs for the morning and continue doing your harder workouts later in the day until your body is used to it. You don’t have to suddenly start doing all of your runs first thing in the morning.

Also, don’t be disappointed if your run’s aren’t as fast or as easy as you hoped in the morning.

Until you’re used to it, your body just won’t perform as well as does later in the day. But the human body is an amazing thing. Hang in there and it will get easier.

11. Run With a Running Buddy

Organize to run with a friend so you can’t back out. Even if neither of you feels like being social first thing in the morning.

Having someone else to hold you accountable can help with the motivation.

It’s much harder to bail if it means you’d have to send a message to your running buddy with your excuses.

It might be easier to just do the run and not have to think up excuses.

12. Listen to Music

Running to music can help hugely with motivation. I used to be a stubborn advocate of running with just my thoughts and the sounds of nature.

But then one day when motivation was running low, I gave some music a try and now it’s my go-to solution for helping me get through a run when I’d rather be doing something else.

Make yourself a playlist of your favorite music that has an up-tempo beat and makes you feel invisible.

Your performance will improve, I guarantee it.

13. Plan a Suitable Route

Have a safe and enjoyable route planned that isn’t going to put you in any danger of unsavory characters or crazy traffic conditions first thing in the morning.

Find somewhere to run where you are going to feel comfortable and relaxed, even if you have to drive to a nearby park where there are always lots of people running at that time.

Your run needs to be enjoyable and safe or you’re just going to stay in bed.

14. Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself works.

Even if it’s something that you may have done anyway without the run to give you a reason, having done the run makes the enjoyment of that thing so much sweeter.

It may be that you take a slightly longer shower and really savor the feeling of the hot water on your just-been-running body.

Or maybe you have a fancy brand of coffee that you only crack open when you’ve been for a run first.

You can also plan a larger reward for each week that you stick to your schedule and get yourself a massage or go out for a meal.

Whatever it is, finding something that gives you a sense of reward can go a long way towards helping you get out of the door at 6 am.

15. And a Few More Safety Things

  • Tell someone where you’re going, your route and what time you should be back.
  • Wear some reflective clothing and take a flashlight.
  • Consider investing in some headphones that allow you to hear the noise in your surroundings as well as your music.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article and feel prepared to put some of these tips into practice and start running in the morning.

And remember, there’s no pressure.

If running in the morning really doesn’t work for you and you feel like you’ve just been bashing your head against a brick wall for a month, give it a break.

Relax for a while and then give in another shot at a different time of year.

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