The Art of Early Morning Running [A Guide]

Running in the morning is one of the best things you can do in life. 🙌

Your evenings are free to do whatever you want, you ride the runner's high for hours, and you set the tone for a great day. 😎

And guess what?

While daunting, it's not as hard as you'd think to start. 

This little guide is here to educate you on:

  1. the benefits of running in the morning,
  2. what to eat before a morning run, and
  3. tips on how to get your lazy butt out of bed and onto the road.

Armed with this info you'll be ready to wake up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to crush your next run.

early morning running

Run (Early in the Morning) Forest, Run!
Running in the Morning Benefits 
i. No Crowds
ii. Improved Focus
iii. Better Sleeps
iv. Free Evenings
v. Really Wake Up
vi. Peaceful Beginnings
What to Eat Before an Early Morning Run
Running on Empty
Light Snack
Pre-Run Meal
Tips on How to Wake Up Early and Go For a Run
i. Ease Into It
ii. Get Specific
iii. Make it Juicy
iv. The Path of Least Resistance
v. Treat yo Self
vi. Leverage Peer Pressure
vii. Track Progress
Conclusion

Running in the Morning Benefits 

"Hey you should wake up tomorrow at 5am and run around for 30 to 60 minutes".

😨

This may not seem like an attractive proposition.

But once you get into it, it's actually the bees knees.

benefits of running in the morning is the bees knees

This bee definitely runs in the morning. (via Drawception)

i. No Crowds

Is there anything worse than running through crowded streets? 

You're constantly avoiding running into people and stopping at every red light. Your run may start to feel more like an obstacle course than a run. 

This is an especially great reason to lace up early in the time of COVID.

running early in the morning benefits no crowds

"Beg your pardon—coming through please."

ii. Easier for You to Focus During the Day

Studies have shown that running stimulates your prefrontal and occipital cortexes. The parts of your brain associated with focus, managing stress, and working towards objectives. 🧠

I want to throw in a little caveat though. I can personally attest to the fact that running in the morning improves mental focus throughout the day. But not right away. 🏃‍♀️

Initially, you may feel extremely groggy and less focused than ever. For weeks. You just need to break on through to the other side! 👊

iii. Improve Your Sleeps

Running in general improves your sleep, and some studies have shown that folks who run in the early AM spend more time in deep sleep than people who run in the middle of the day or in the evening. 💤

To be clear though: I'm not saying running or working out at night will hurt your sleep. That is a myth. 😴

iv. Free Up Your Evenings

Running in the morning means you don't need to worry about running after work. Which means you may be a lot more likely to be consistent with your runs.

No need to let late work nights and unplanned social activities (i.e. Happy Hour) derail your running routine. 💃

benefits of early morning running happy hour

"I too went for a run this morning!"

v. Wake Yourself Up

Have you ever woken up and gone to work only to feel like you've actually 'woken up' around 10am?

Well, you're pretty much guaranteed to feel up and alert after an early morning run once you get that sweet sweet runners' high. ☀️

 vi. Start Your Day Peacefully

Running in the morning when there's no one around is a fantastic way to establish your peace for the day. It's not just exercise, it's meditation. 

You get to clear your mind and create mental space for emails, meetings, and all the other joys of the modern work day. 🧘‍♀️

benefits of early morning running peaceful day

Just imagine all the peace you'll get.

What to Eat Before a Morning Run

There are three camps when it comes to pre early morning run nutrition: not eating, eating something light, and waking up early to eat an hour before hand. 

This is something that is specific to the individual. So you need to determine what works best for you, so you may want to experiment a little bit. 👨‍🔬

Running on Empty

I personally fall into this camp. It's quick, it's easy, and it means I'm less likely to run into digestive issues midway through my run. 🏃‍♂️

The only time I will eat before an early AM run is if I'm going for longer than 60-70mins. 

That said, I wouldn't recommend that anyone just start out with running on 0. Running without food in your belly is an additional stress on your body since you're expecting movement without fuel. ⛽️

If you've been running for awhile though, give it a shot. 🤙

Pro-Tip: If you run on empty in the mornings, you can try getting your fill of carbohydrates the night beforehand. 

what to eat before a morning run nothing

Light Snack

This is probably the most common camp for early risers. It combines fuelling your workout without needing to wake up 1-2 hours beforehand. 🍌

The premise is simple, eat something light when you wake up. Then put on your gear and head out the door.

What works best? Anything light that won't break the GI bank (if y'know what I mean). 😵

Again, what works for some may not work for you, so you'll need to experiment. But here are some pretty classic examples of light, pre-run nutrition:

👉 banana 

👉 energy bar

👉 toast or bagel

👉 cereal

👉 light smoothie

Pro-Tip: Cricket protein is the gold standard when it comes to early morning workouts because it's so easy to digest. 

what to eat before a morning run bite snacks smoothie

Just make sure to keep it light!

Pre-Run Meal 

If you're going for a long/ intense run—or a race itself—then you'll want to have a proper feed before you lace up. 🥄

The camp of pre-run nutrition means you'll have the most fuel in the tank, but it also unfortunately requires waking up 1-2hrs early. So it may or may not suit your schedule. 🗓

When you give yourself enough time to digest, you have more freedom to eat what you want. That doesn't mean go eat a box of cookies or bag of chips though. 🙅‍♀️

You should opt for a high carb and moderate protein and fat intake. So no bacon and eggs. Instead you should opt for a combination of some of the following:

👉 peanut butter on toast with banana 

👉 energy bar

👉 toast or bagel with cream cheese

👉 cereal with greek yogurt

👉 muffin

👉 smoothie

what to eat before an early morning run bite snacks nutrition

Great for intra and post nutrition too!

Tips on How to Run Early in the Morning

We've all been there. ⁠ ⁠

You promise you'll start working out in the morning.⁠ ⁠

Starting...tomorrow! 🦾🦾🦾⁠ ⁠

5:30am rolls around. ⁠ ⁠

You wake up.

Easy peezy lemon squeezy. 🍋⁠ ⁠

#riseandgrind ⁠

You go for a 30 minute run that feels like the world is ending. But you're brimming with self-satisfaction afterwards. Nice one.🤜 🤛

That night you go to bed confident you'll hit it again strong tomorrow.

5:30am rolls around.

"Omg. Was I only asleep for 10 minutes??" 😴

Your brain screams at you to stay in bed. Whispering all sorts of sweet secret promises of rest and comfort.

Even so, you roll out of bed. Cobble together your running gear and go for a 30minute parody of a run. 🏃‍♀️

You feel sorta good at the end, but you proceed to spend the rest of the day at work in a cloud of fog. ☁️

Zoom calls hit different when you're dead tired. ☠️

5:30am rolls around the day after.

You hit the snooze button so fast you don't even technically wake up.

Thus ending your dreams of early workouts. 😵

Here's how to stick to your new early morning habit.

benefits of running in the morning

1. Ease into it.

Instead of x5/week straight out of the gate. Consider x1 the first week, x2 the second week, and so on.

Too much, too quick is jarring. And sets you up for failure. 📉

2. Get specific.

Don't say: "I'm going to start running in the mornings."

Create a game plan. Write down what day, what time, how far you'll run, your route. 🛣

Early morning habits need to be wildly simple to execute, because your willpower tends to be low and you're not alert enough to make a series of decisions. 

You might even consider writing out each step:

-At 5:30am I wake up
-Bathroom
-Get dressed
-Eat a banana
-Pet my cat
-Go for run

That way your decisions are pre-made and ready to go. 👍

3. Make it juicy.

If you can't bear the thought of an early morning run, then ask yourself how you can you sweeten the deal?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Run with a friend. A friend might make the experience more enjoyable and hold you accountable. 👯‍♂️
  • Hold a snack hostage. For instance: I can add peanut butter to my morning smoothie when I do go for a run, but no PB if I don't. Choose something meaningful for you. 🍿
  • Only listen to your favourite playlist, podcast, audiobook while you run. 🎶

4. Use the path of least resistance.

We are programmed to move the least amount possible and eat the most possible.

So, if there are a series of obstacles in your way—even small ones—then sooner or later you'll fail. 📉

So what might this look like? 🤔

You could lay all your clothes and gear out the night before so your tired brain doesn't have to scour your closet for what you need. Some folks even sleep in their workout gear. 👟

You could also commit to really manageable amounts of running. When you wake up early and it's raining, 6km might seem an ungodly distance. But what about 1km? Or just to the stop sign down the road. That's a much more digestible mental feat. And chances are, once you're up and out of the house, you'll keep going. 🛑

5. Treat Yo Self

So here's the thing. 👆

The rewards for working out early in the morning aren't obvious enough to make it 'worth it' at the beginning.

You can't see your cardiovascular health improve. 😟

Your weight will probably stay the same for awhile. 😩

And you might not get much better at running for weeks or even months. 😭

So when you wake up, and your tired brain argues "what's in it for me?"

You might want to have some nice treats ready as a comeback.

Here's an example.

As you know, our protein powder is pretty expensive, but it's also pretty damn good.

So, maybe you negotiate that you can only have Bite protein in your smoothies after early morning runs. If you don't then you have to use the other protein powder in your closet that tastes like chalk.

running in the morning benefits bite snacks smoothie

6. Leverage Peer Pressure

Instead of keeping your new habit to yourself, tell other people about it. Vocalize it and make it real.

It gets harder to welch on your habit when you've told 10 people about it. 🙈

You might even consider posting about it on social media. 🤳

Yes, I hear you.

Those people who post their workouts on social are kind of annoying. But guess what? They aren't skipping workouts. 🏃‍♀️

Or sign up to Strava, so that others can confirm you've been doing your workouts. If you can't hold yourself accountable, then maybe others will. 

7. Track Progress

If you want to cultivate a habit as difficult as running in the mornings, then tracking your progress is essential. ✅

This could be as easy as marking each day you successfully run in the morning with an X on your calendar. This was a technique famously used by Jerry Seinfeld to help motivate him to write jokes everyday. 🗓

You just need something to log all your successes to show you're mastering your new habit.  

benefits of waking up early to run

Keep the streak alive!

Conclusion

Waking up in the morning to go for a run may seem daunting, but it is totally doable. 

There are a ton of benefits. And with the right approach, you'll find yourself running before work in no time!

Oh and by the way—this post took a fair bit of effort to put together. So I'd truly appreciate it if you shared it with a friend who may be struggling to get their AM runs in.   

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