Becoming a Morning Person: Running Edition 

Cover photo courtesy of Newport Autumn BloomJenny Cooper

I’ve failed at reaching the same goal for the past several years: becoming an early morning runner. Wake up, get dressed, run—it seems so simple, and yet I can’t do it. Years ago, I often ran early, but between various kid and dog demands, lifelong night-owl tendencies, and a work schedule that allows me to run whenever, that’s gone out the window. When my alarm goes off, I can barely scrape myself out of bed, let alone run several miles.  

I want to be different. I know running early would make me more productive, avoid the heat, and leave me more available for my kids this summer. Here are the tips I’ll be reminding myself of as I attempt (again) to make this goal my new normal.  

Prep everything the night before 

Lay out clothing and sunscreen, choose your route, edit your playlist, and fill your water bottle. Set the coffee maker and prep your pre-run meal, too. Your fuzzy morning brain will thank you. 

Get the timing right 

Find your a.m. rhythm: How long do you realistically need to wake up, get ready, and leave? Allow time for food, the bathroom, and potential disruptions. Some early risers prefer running on an empty stomach, but that leaves me depleted and headachy. Figure out what fuel works for you. Many runners choose easy-to-digest snacks like half a banana, PB toast, or overnight oats. Eating and hydrating well the day before can also reap big benefits on morning runs.  

Courtesy Jenny Cooper

Warm up 

Shake out groggy bones and loosen up creaky joints with a brief warm-up—think leg swings, torso rotations, walking lunges. (See the last issue’s interview with orthopedic physical therapist Rebecca Thompson for more on the benefits of a dynamic warm-up.) Bodies are usually sluggish and stiff first thing, so don’t stress about your pace for a while—you’re unlikely to set any PRs until this new habit becomes old hat. 

Reward yourself 

Habits can be broken down into chains of events: cue, response, reward. With a habit like early-morning running, the biggest benefits might take a while to be obvious. In the meantime, build in immediate rewards to cement the “early morning runs are worth it!” feedback loop in your brain. The reward doesn’t have to be elaborate: getting a smoothie or coffee on your way home, eating your favorite breakfast while playing a brain game (my new obsession is the New York Times’ Strands), using the percussive massager, taking a leisurely shower. Before long, your cue (the alarm clock going off) will not only lead you to your response (going for a run), but will remind you of the reward that will immediately follow. 

Don’t expect it to be easy 

Be real with yourself: This is going to be hard for a while. Set a specific goal for how many mornings per week you want to run early and celebrate when you meet it. Don’t beat yourself up when you occasionally oversleep or just can’t make it happen. Ask someone to keep you accountable. My best friend and I regularly text each other when we tackle difficult or annoying tasks, knowing the other will respond with an over-the-top celebration. Her: “I drank a whole Nalgene of water today; praise me!!” Me: “You did it!!!! You’re a hero!” Somehow, this solicited affirmation really helps—try it! On your own, reflect on the benefits you’re seeing even when things aren’t yet easy: productive mornings, quiet roads, more flexibility later in the day. Your body will adjust. Don’t let the hard part that comes first keep you from what you really want. 

Sarah Hauge is a writer and editor who lives in Spokane with her husband and two children. She is excited to run her 21st consecutive Bloomsday this May. 

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