“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” – Christopher McDougall, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
I’m a morning runner
This quote by Christopher McDougall sat on my chalkboard for 6 months to motivate me out the door during the hot summer months. It’s almost impossible and definitely crazy to run in the middle of the day during a Brisbane summer. Once sunrise starts, the muggy warm morning becomes a stinking hot day! Last December, it was 25 degrees with 85% humidity as I finished a run at 6 am! I’d be a puddle on the sidewalk if I ran any later in the day. And while that is an exaggeration, I’d definitely finish with a nasty sunburn.
These days I’m an early riser. That wasn’t always the case; throughout my university years I was typically working on assignments (or going out clubbing) until midnight and sleeping in until 11 am. But I wasn’t a runner when I attended university. That didn’t start until much later. For the last few years, I’ve been pretty consistent about waking between 4 am and 5 am to get in a morning run. Sometimes, I even wake at 3 am if I have a long run on the schedule. Yes, that’s very early I know but it’s worth it for my mental and physical health!
Today, I’m exploring the reasons I recommend becoming a morning runner and how to get started with your new morning routine!
The benefits: why you should run in the morning
1. Start your day in the best possible way
I never regret starting my day with a run. In fact, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! For me personally, a morning run is my me-time. During the working week, it’s rare for me to have alone time. I’m taking calls, fielding emails and holding meetings. There are always people around. But at the start of the day, I get to prep for the day ahead, clear my mind and enjoy peace and quiet. All solo. It really sets the tone (a happy, productive one!) for how the rest of the day plays out.
I also find after a morning run that I have more energy and strength to overcome hurdles, am more alert in the afternoons and I sleep better in the evening as well.
2. You won’t be distracted and fail to run later in the day
It’s not motivation that gets you out of the door; it’s discipline. Motivation is fickle and it will abandon you. Life is just waiting to get in the way of your planned evening run. There’s a meeting that runs late, groceries to be purchased, dinner to cook or you’re just plain tired. Excuses aplenty to avoid going for an evening run. In the morning, there are fewer excuses for missing a run. If you are disciplined enough to run in the morning you won’t need motivation later in the day.
3. Enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and quiet
Watching the sunrise is one of the most peaceful things to do. I spend the majority of my days working indoors. Which is why it’s so refreshing for me to get outdoors for a morning run. I enjoy the stillness of the pre-dawn hours. I love hitting the trails where I can take in the sounds of rustling leaves on gum trees, a magpie’s call or the scratching of a bush turkey. Then there are the lovely smells of gum trees, the dry earth and fresh breeze off of the local dam. If I’m really lucky I’ll see a koala or wallaby. It’s rare to see these things in the afternoon. In Australia, the afternoons are also when the snakes are out sunning themselves. Nothing worse than hitting the brakes on a run or taking a flying leap over a snake as you round a corner.
If you don’t have trails to head towards, then what about a beach? The feeling of sand under your feet and salty air will certainly improve your mood. Otherwise, simply enjoy the quiet early morning hours and sound of your feet along the road as you run through suburbia. Regardless of the venue, I always find the sunrise brings a smile to my face and gives me an exra pep in my step.
4. The feeling of accomplishment
In the first month or so it is going to really suck to get out of bed early. But you will be glad you battled with your head and forced your body out of bed to go for a run. You won’t regret it! It’s pretty cool to have completed a run while everyone else is still tucked up in bed. You can’t beat the feeling of productivity and accountability before the sun has risen! And there’s still 12+ hours of the day to go! Imagine the possibilities…
Get started: 6 tips for waking for a morning run
But just how do you motivate yourself to run early in the morning? I put the question to the running community and here are some of their (and my) suggestions:
1. Early to bed
The key to waking in the morning is an early bedtime. Yes, this means keeping unsocial hours but it’s the only way to ensure your body has sufficient rest to recover from your runs. To balance out the early morning start, I aim to be in bed and falling asleep between 8 pm and 8:30 pm. This helps me rise at 4 am. Sleep is incredibly important for healing my body, centring my mind and ensuring I wake and rise when the alarm sounds. If I delay my bedtime, I struggle to rise in the morning. At first, it was a struggle to fall asleep at the early bedtime, but eventually, my body and mind became used to this new habit.
2. Know your new routine
Whatever your morning schedule is, plan it out and stick with it. For me, when the alarm sounds, I’m straight out of bed, make my bed, then change into my running gear. I apply Body Glide anti-chafing balm, let the dogs out to the toilet and blend my fruit and milk smoothie (I prepare my smoothie the night before!). I pull on and lace up my running shoes, turn on the Runkeeper app on my phone and switch on my Jabra Elite Sport wireless headphones. Then I’m ready to head out the front door. The first five minutes are a warm-up walk and then I’m off and running. I adjust my start time based on how far I’m going and when my first meeting starts. If you know your new routine ahead of bedtime, it’s much easier to leap out of bed and follow it through.
And if you’re training for a race, I always like to keep the following day’s training plan in the back of my mind while I’m out on a run. I use that time to plan out my next run and my next day’s schedule. This helps me to prioritise running and ensure I get as much training completed as possible ahead of a race. There’s nothing worse than entering a race will little to no preparation. I’ve done it and let’s just say I was a sore mess the next day.
3. Run with friends
Accountability is key. Knowing there is someone who has woken early and is waiting at a designated meeting point before the sun has risen is a great motivator to get out of bed. Peer pressure to turn up is a key. The last thing you’ll want to do is text your friend as they’re 5 minutes from arriving and tell them you’re going to be a no-show. That will certainly dampen their mood and make you feel guilty.
And running with a friend is also a great way to stay safe when running in the dark morning hours.
4. Wear your running gear to bed
If you struggle to leap out of bed in the morning then wear your running gear as pyjamas. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to a run when you’re already dressed to go. All you need to do is roll out of bed, throw on your running shoes and hit the streets. If you’re running before sunrise, I recommend investing in a headlamp. This is the headlamp that I’ve been using lately: Petzl TIKKINA Headlamp. It’s only 150 Lumens but has two light settings that are incredibly bright! It does make me look like a mine worker and it took a bit of getting used to but at least I’m visible to oncoming traffic. Some other headlamps to consider:
Don’t wear the headlamp to bed though! Leave it on your side table or with your running shoes. If you’re still feeling nervous about running in the dark, check out my post, Running Safety: How to stay safe while running in the dark.
5. 5-second rule
Set your intention to rise early. When the alarm goes off, hit the off button and begin your countdown to 5. 5, 4, 3, 2, OUT OF BED! It sounds simplistic but it really does work. And when that alarm goes off, do not hit snooze and do not open your emails or start scrolling through Facebook. Get on your feet and moving immediately. Emails and Facebook can wait until you return from your run.
6. Download the 5 Day Running Challenge eBook
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Summary (for the skim readers):
I hope this post inspires you to get out for a morning run tomorrow! For the skim readers, here’s a quick overview of what I’ve just covered:
The benefits: why you should run in the morning:
- Start your day in the best possible way
- You won’t be distracted and fail to run later in the day
- Enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and quiet
- The feeling of accomplishment
Get started: 6 tips for waking for a morning run
- Early to bed
- Run with friends
- Know your new routine
- Wear your running gear to bed
- 5-second rule
- Download the free 5 Day Running Challenge eBook
I hope this post helps you kickstart your day with a morning run. Feel free to post any additional tips in the comments.
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