It’s easy to believe all the people you know who are just getting back from their run as you stumble bleary-eyed to the coffee maker are born morning people. If you took an informal poll of the runners in your life, though, I think it would surprise to you to find out there are a lot of reluctant morning runners out there, getting their miles done before they even realize what they’re doing. It is possible to become a morning runner, even when every fiber of your being cries out when the alarm goes off in the early hours. (If you remember, the short answer to ‘When’s the best time to run?’ is ‘Whenever you can.’)
This post is inspired by me needing to get my butt in gear and get back in a morning running routine. It’s been a long stretch of Fran working from home, being unemployed for a few months, then looking for a job (which he didn’t start until a month after accepting). Know what that meant for me? I could go running any old time I wanted. Afternoon nap time for the boys? No problem, Daddy was home. Early evening before dinner? He had it covered for me. Now, the harsh reality has come crashing back down on me and if I’m not out getting my run done early in the morning, it’s not going to happen.
The one thing I have going for me is that I used to be exclusively a morning runner, way back when I had an office job, so I remember how good it feels to start the day early, get your workout done and have the whole day full of energy. I also remember from training for the marathon getting up at an unreasonable hour on a weekend to get my three or four hour long run done, wanting to be home for breakfast to squeeze in all the family time I could (and possibly assuage some of the mother runner guilt). So I know being a regular morning runner is possible. I know it’s a good thing. I know it will work perfectly for our new routine. But I still need my own running tips on how to become a morning runner!
I know you’ve read the tip to lay out your gear the night before. And it works. You do not want to be looking for a pair of socks or your GPS watch in the early morning hours, when it’s dark (and way too early) and you’re cranky and tired. Setting everything up ready to go is key to making this a success.
Now – you need to choose your ‘staging area’. (That’s an inside joke with my cousin Ann – she used to get annoyed if anyone would leave random items in her designated ‘staging area’ at the holidays. Hi Ann!) What do I mean by staging area? I mean, forget having all your running gear in your closet in your bedroom. My new staging area is a small cupboard by the front door. I have running clothes and workout gear in it, my shoes are tucked underneath and – importantly – it’s right next to an outlet where my Garmin charger is plugged in, so it’s there ready when I go out to run and I can put it back on the charger as soon as I walk in the door on my return. Just remember to replenish fresh clothes for the next time you head out.
If you want to get crazy about it, you could even have a basket or hamper right there so you can literally strip off and head to the shower the moment you get in the front door.
For me it’s a no-brainer, coffee. But I don’t want to come home and have to make it from scratch when both boys are going to be clamoring for my attention (and in Baby T’s case, for my boobs) and cut in on my already all-too-brief shower time. So I get it prepared the night before – grind the beans, fill the water -so all I need to do is hit the on button when I walk through the door. Back when I was training for my first marathon in 2010, the reward was getting warm bagels on my way home from my long run on a weekend (shout out to Bergen Bagels in Prospect Heights!) Whatever your reward, make it good enough that the thought of it will power you through the tough miles.
When you’re done with your big goal races for the year, but you still want to be out there running, it’s tempting to just go out for a run without any kind of training plan in mind. Even when you’re not officially in training for something, though, it’s so helpful from a motivation standpoint to have a plan to follow. It may be specific workouts, or your weekly plan could be a little looser, like a long run day, a speed-work day and a few easy runs sprinkled in. Knowing what you want to get done before you leave can motivate you to get out the door, especially if you’re the Type A kind of person who would not want to miss the chance to put a big check mark next to a completed workout.
I am a night owl. It is not conducive to morning running. If you’re reading this because you need to run early and really don’t want to, I feel your pain. If you’re a night owl like me, you can at least take steps to ensure you get out the door without feeling like a zombie in the morning.
First, quit the alcohol habit. I’m never going to tell you not to have a glass of wine with dinner (I’m not a monster), but if you want to be out for a run at 6am, finishing the bottle isn’t going to help. Eat a healthy dinner the night before – sometimes that helps me to wake up feeling like a superstar healthy-all-the-damn-time kind of person and motivates me. Drink lots of water before bed – if you’re up early to pee, you may as well run too, right? Set your alarm and then put your phone (or clock if you’re old school) out of reach. Try setting your bedtime a little earlier over time – 5 or 10 minutes earlier every night won’t seem like a big deal at the time, but it will add up to more rest time given a couple of weeks.
These are the tips I’m relying on as I work my way back to a solid, regular morning training schedule. Especially now that the days are shorter, it gives me that much more incentive to head out before my day really begins. Sometimes those last minutes I have, when I’m stretching out, before heading inside to greet my boys and start the day, are like a mini-meditation for me, a time that’s just my own. I know that feeling, I remember that feeling and I’m looking forward to it being a regular part of my day once again.