Running In The Morning

If you don’t consider yourself a morning person, the good news is that you can turn yourself into one, says Dr James Mojica, a sleep physician.

‘The body is malleable,’ says Dr Mojica, who runs first thing four times a week. Address these points before you reset your alarm.

MAKE THE CHANGE:

  1. Weigh the pros and cons
    If you’re on the fence about converting to early workouts, draft a checklist of pluses and minuses. On the plus side, jot down all the benefits of running first thing: getting the workout out of the way, great start to the morning, extra time during the day, and so on. The minus side might include having to go to bed earlier, being unsure about running in the dark. ‘Hopefully the runner will see that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and that some of the drawbacks, like going to bed earlier, may in fact be beneficial or at least good habits,’ he says.
  2. Get your family on board
    As a teacher, Joanie Templeton, 36,  is used to leaving her house by 7am. But when she decided in 2005 it was time to slim down her 100kg frame, she knew the only time she’d ever be able to exercise was if she got out of bed at 4:30. ‘I couldn’t do this without my husband,’ she explains. ‘He gets our daughters (6 and 10) ready for school. He sees the difference in me when I don’t get my workouts in. I am sluggish, and I get very irritable.’ Let your family know your goals so your training becomes a project they can all get excited about.
  3. Enlist help
    Meghan Ridgley, 32, moved up her morning runs by three hours – to 5am – when her daughter was born. She initially relied on friends to help her adapt. ‘Having people to meet during those first few weeks really helped and got me in the habit of getting up at 4:30,’ she says, but now she mostly runs alone.
  4. Find the right route
    Getting out of bed isn’t the only obstacle early morning runners face. Sometimes paths that are idyllic at noon or 6pm are downright dangerous at dawn. Before your first early run, give your usual paths a second look, paying special attention to the lighting, shoulder width, road conditions, and traffic patterns. Think about scouting around for some new scenery, and make sure family members or a friend have a list of your planned running routes.‘I had to eliminate one of my routes when I started running in the mornings,’ says Nick Bigney, a 33 year-old lawyer. ‘There’s a park near my home that I love. However, there are no lights, and even with a headlamp it’s dark. I nearly tripped over a vagrant once – I don’t know who got the biggest fright! For the sake of safety, I found new routes.’
  5. Wear the right gear
    What you wear is also a safety issue, and dark-coloured clothing is better left at home. Instead, ‘dress like a Christmas tree,’ says race director Felicia Hubber. That means bright colours from head to toe with plenty of reflective accents. Clip-on lights that flash red and reflective vests will also make you more visible to motorists. To be super-smart, wear a headlamp or carry a flashlight if you’re out before dawn. In 2010, Runner’s World conducted a field-test study that found drivers can spot headlamps from 800 metres away; reflective details on clothes and shoes can be seen at only 90 metres; and a plain white shirt is visible from just 15 metres away.
  6. Create a mantra
    Having an early morning power phrase that will get your butt out of bed is crucial for those first few transition weeks, says Raglin.Try: If I run now, I can feel good about it all day. If I skip it now, I’ll feel guilty all day; or A few moments of discomfort now, a day’s worth of elation later.

Very few people are able to just wake up and run. Instead, our bodies rely on morning rituals just as much as evening ones to tell it what to do.

Consider starting your day with the following routines:

THE NIGHT BEFORE

Research suggests that seven to eight hours of sleep is optimal for most people. So if you want to run at 5:30am, you’ll need to be tucked in by at least 10pm, or even earlier if you want to give yourself a few minutes to really wake up. These tips will help make the transition easier.

  1. Have a hearty dinner – early
    Food is directly related to running performance, says dietician Nancy Clark, author of The Sports Nutrition Guidebook: A Food Guide for Marathoners and New Runners. A meal the night before should be an easily digestible one with carbohydrates and protein, like stir-fried rice with vegetables and tofu.
  2. Get your gear ready
    ‘Being ready beforehand means I have no excuses not to go, and it also eliminates the need to remember everything when I’m still in a morning fog,’ says Kim Burie, 42, who two years ago decided to run at the crack of dawn so she could get in longer workouts. Once she’s showered after each morning run, she lays out her gear for the next day. Before bed, she preps her water bottle and recharges her phone.
  3. Dim the lights
    Darkness helps to stimulate the release of melatonin, which is the hormone that signals night and makes you sleepy, says Dr Mojica. Thirty minutes before going to bed, dim room lights and turn off all electronics: The screen glare will trick your brain into thinking it should still be alert.
  4. Create a sleep ritual
    ‘Having a nightly routine that serves to wind you down is important,’ says Dr Shelley Tworoger, who conducted a major sleep study in 2003. Being active late at night will override your sleep signals, she says. Instead, take a bath, have a cup of tea, read, or do some stretches.
  5. Set the right alarm (or two)
    Before he goes to bed, lawyer Nick Bigney, who switched to early morning workouts to avoid work interference, sets four ‘obnoxious’-sounding alarms on his iPhone. ‘The first goes off when I want to get up, the second when I should get up, the third when I need to get up, and the final one is when I should be out of the door,’ he explains. If you can’t risk waking others, Dr Mojica, who is also an early morning runner, likes a vibrating alarm (available on many sports watches and phones).
IN THE MORNING… 
  1. Turn on lots of lights:
    ‘It’s tempting to keep the lights low to ease your way into waking,’ says Dr Mojica. Don’t. ‘It’s important to quickly expose yourself to bright light to signal to your brain that it’s time to be awake.’ Meghan Ridgley keeps her gear in the bathroom where the light won’t bother her family.
  2. Find your mojo:
    When Joanie Templeton’s alarm goes off at 4:30, she grabs her coffee mug and logs onto Facebook, where she looks for quick motivation. Ten minutes later it’s shoes on, earbuds in, and out the door. ‘I really rely on that jolt of motivation,’ she says. (Be careful not to spend more than a few minutes for fear of getting sidetracked.)Nick Bigney gets his energy surge seeing people who are just waking up and turning on their lights and thinking to himself, You’ve already been beating them for an hour. And for Meghan Ridgley, the sunrise waiting for her at the end of each run is all she needs to get out there.
  3. Have a small snack
    Your stomach may be grumbling and your energy will be extra low in the wee morning hours. A small morning bite will go a long way to getting you ready to run first thing, says sports nutritionist Nancy Clark. A banana, crackers with peanut butter, an energy bar, or a hard-boiled egg with a piece of toast will jump-start your blood sugar. ‘Just 400–1 200kJ is all you need,’ she says. And don’t forget to hydrate: Drink water before you head out.
  4. Make time for coffee
    Runners love their coffee. And even if it takes time for the caffeine to work its magic, Clark says a cup of java is about so much more than the stimulant: ‘It’s the reaction your body has to the scent, the warmth, the taste.’ Kim Burie, who’s up at 5am, adds, ‘I check my emails while I have some coffee. It gives me time to really wake up before I’m out the door.’
  5. Let your system wake up
    Another good reason to wake a few minutes early is to give your digestive system time to work. Eating something and having a glass of water will usually speed things along, says Dr Mojica.
  6. Don’t expect magic overnight
    Changing your evening patterns will likely take a few weeks to stick, cautions Dr James Mojica. If you’re used to going to bed at 11pm, for example, try turning in 10 minutes earlier and waking 10 minutes earlier for a week. ‘After a few days of going to bed earlier, I was still having a hard time,’ says runner Meghan Ridgley. ‘But I stuck it out, and one day it was suddenly no big thing.’ The same goes for altering bad evening habits – cut back gradually for a smoother transition. ‘I promise it gets easier,’ says runner Kim Burie. ‘Soon you’ll wake up wanting to go.’
  7. Practice makes perfect
    For your first week or two of early runs, you may find it beneficial to experiment with different types of morning snacks, or varying your wake-up time until you find what works best for you. ‘My stomach is iffy in the morning,’ says runner Kim Burie. ‘But I really didn’t know how much to eat – or not eat – until I had tried a few different things.’ Adds Dr Mojica: ‘Converting is all about trial and error. Don’t give up if on that first or second time out you had to turn back to use the bathroom or found yourself starving at five kays.Just tweak things the next day – and the next, if you have to.’

READY, SET, RUN

Your body tends to be tighter in the morning, and you have a lower core temperature. Here’s how to warm up wisely for better performance:

  1. Go old school
    As in classic calisthenics. Jumping jacks, squats, and walking lunges all serve to ‘get the bones moving first thing,’ says Dr Jordan Metzl, a sports physician who has completed several marathons and Ironmans. ‘An active warm-up will make that first kay feel a lot better.’
  2. Start slow
    ‘I run the first kay slower than I otherwise would to wake up my muscles,’ says Nick Bigney, who averages 60 kilometres a week. ‘On a pace run I’ll go the first kay in 5:25 or so and then the remainder at my regular 5:05 pace.’ 

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23 Responses to Running In The Morning

  1. Nhlanhla 7 January 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    nice tip but i wanted to know if running in the morning would make a person sick

  2. georgie 7 January 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Thanks for the coffee advice- I had always thought it would give me cramps, but cant seem to wake up without it! Also the food advice was helpful. I am definitely going to give this morning running a go. Now the most difficult: getting to bed early!

  3. Kat 7 January 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    A very informative article, thanks RW!
    I am still trying to incorporate running in the morning, but my studies do get in the way as I’m doing a PhD which itself requires early morning wake ups for experiments. At the end of a long hard day I treasure my early evening runs. I think no matter what you prefer, try both and see how they sit with you. And don’t be afraid if evening running or morning running isn’t your thing – just make sure that you are able to do what you want to do with your run at a time that you can fit into your schedule and creates a good environment for you. I’ll still keep trying to do early morning runs, but we shall see how it goes :-)

  4. Louis 21 January 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    please e-mail a sub 6h00 taring program for the 56 km race 30-3-2013

    Kind Regards,

    JL Pretorius

  5. Rachel 28 January 2013 at 1:06 am #

    Great advice, answered a lot of questions that I had about AM running after moving to a new area, great stuff!

  6. steve corrall 18 July 2013 at 6:13 pm #

    Great advice! May switch to morning running to avoid this current heatwave. Can’t run in 26C anymore!

  7. Erna Cornelius 2 October 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    When I was still working, I did my run in the mornings with Gym work in the afternoon. I have great early morning memories. I took early retirement and now run in the afternoon. Love it just as much. And seeing I am no morning person, and that I don’t have to get out of bed at 5, just love afternoons. But I love running, period.

  8. Marie Locker 2 October 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Your article is perfectly timed, just the motivation and guidance I needed – thanks !

  9. Mac 3 October 2013 at 8:17 am #

    I’m a morning runner, waking up at 04:45 to run at 05:10 for an hour. Morning runs keep me alert and active for the rest of the day (at least until 16:30). But after that, I still go to the gym for weights. Morning runs have also improved my dietary habits. Its difficult to indulge and binge after a very good morning run. Your brain just tells you that such an effort needs not be wasted.

  10. Manasa Sridhar 4 October 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    Hey! Thanks a lot for these tips. I’m gonna start running in the mornings for the first time so hope all of this helps me! :)

  11. Lynette 7 October 2013 at 10:47 am #

    Hey! I did my first morning run yesterday and it was AWESOME! Everything is so new and fresh that time of the morning that it just gives you that motivation to get going. I went to bed early the night before and it really made a difference. Thanks for the tips. Very helpful.

  12. Mike 2 November 2013 at 1:24 am #

    Great tips! I’ve always run in the evenings but I’d love to switch to AM runs. Thanks for those ideas. I’m going to give it a try!

  13. sourabh 19 December 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Great tips. I m plg to start using from tomorrow

  14. sourabh 22 December 2013 at 6:54 am #

    This is the third day and I am on with my running shoes in morning.

    Will keep posting my success steps for I m indebted for the tips. Thank you

  15. sourabh 26 December 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    I am continuing till date, hope to continue… it is giving me immense pleasure when I think about it and it gives me enough energy to go all round the day – active.

    As I said earlier I will keep posting on this, it motivates me.

  16. Fran 17 January 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    I started running in the mornings a month ago and I find it do much easier. For 1 its do much cooler and also the air is crisp and fresh. Still struggle to get out if bed but once I’m out the door it’s all systems go. Also it feels good to have extra time in the PM without having to still squeeze in a run. Thanks for the very informative article.

  17. Lungi Kheswa 12 March 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    Thank you for such a great article. I have been running in the mornings for the past 4 weeks now alternating days, but thinking of doing this for full Three or four days now. You have covered all the questions I had about my early runs, been running on an empty stomach and without water because I thought I was going to get stiches during my run. Since I now know better, I plan to improve my workouts. Thank you

  18. amanda 13 March 2014 at 2:32 pm #

    what great tips. just what i needed. im addicted to my coffee but didnt know i cud have some before my run coz i worried about getting cramps. also the snack before the run is a great idea. a slice of bread with peanut butter would give me the energy i need for the run indeed.
    also knowing now that there is nothing wrong with running slow, is a great motivation to me because this has really helped improve my breathing and i cover a longer distance as compared to when the pace is faster. the waking up part is still a challenge but i found that setting two alarms really helped a bit coz i still go out even thou it is still a little later than id prefare, so that tip of setting four alarms, i will definately try and i already know that it will make a big difference.

    much appreciation

  19. Andrew Reddy 27 March 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    Some great advice .started running 2months ago mostly morning runs running on avrage 7- 12 k play a bit of five aside and other bits but have to say you cant beat running im getin addicted and your advice really spurs me on cheers .

  20. Ana 25 July 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    thanks for these advices =) I want to take up running but with school and my other activities, i don’t have any time to do it but in the morning. Sooo, I’ll try this tomorrow morning as it’s holidays therefore it is easier to go to bed and wake up earlier plus i can take a nap if necessary =)
    I’ll give you some news in a week or so ^.^

  21. somu gowda 11 August 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    Cool tip thnq mr.James mojica

  22. Quinn Culver 13 August 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    The title of this webpage is “Benefits of Running in the Morning”. Didn’t really find that here.

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