It takes a lot of strength and willpower for many of us to jump out of bed in the morning, pull our running kit on, and hit the roads or the treadmill. The dark and cold mornings at this time of year only make this more of a challenge. I used to struggle to train in the morning with tiredness, lack of fuel and motivation. But over the course of a summer, I started to enjoy the morning run for the way it set me up for the day. Getting off to a positive start made the challenges I had at the time seem more manageable.
Firstly, there are lots of reasons why an early training session is worth doing?:
It feels amazing to know that your training session is out of the way before some people have got out of bed. Nothing wrong with feeling a teeny bit virtuous. There is no wondering where and if you are going to fit it in to your day, or something happening during the day meaning your training plans are derailed.
Getting up early always makes me feel more energised. Those endorphins are kicking in before you’ve got to work or started your day of chores making you more productive and energetic.
Fasted runs can improve your ability to burn fat as fuel. Low intensity running in the morning is a perfect opportunity for this.
That means if you only have chance fit a shorter session into the morning, your body can feel the same benefits as a longer session later in the day.
There is something magical about watching the sun rise and hearing the birds sing without many other interruptions. It makes me feel calm and at peace, and helps control my anxiety and negative emotions, sometimes just for the length of the run, but often for some time afterwards and even the whole day
Obvious though it is, running before work is the best way to avoid impacting your free time.
Short, easy runs in the morning are a good way to experiment with double days, something you might want to consider if you have a performance goal.
Breakfast tastes so much better knowing you have already burnt off its calories!
It’s easy to see the advantages of a long run but that doesn't always translate to emerging from beneath the duvet. Here’s how I managed to convert my brain from not engaging with the prospect of an early session, to actually going to sleep looking forward to waking up so I can get running:
I recognise how incredibly better I feel emotionally from exercise, and look for any opportunity to fit it into my day to manage my moods
I kick start my metabolism and energy levels with caffeine. I now really relish that time first thing in the morning where I sit with a coffee, catch up on overnight emails, messages and news, and plan my training for the day. ‘Me time’ if ever there was a dictionary definition of it
I make sure I am in bed early enough the night before to get sufficient sleep to not feel tired when I wake up. All I am sacrificing is an hour of watching nonsense TV, no choice really
I lay out my running kit the night before so there is no thinking involved in getting ready for the session, and no chance for my brain to wander and come up with a reason to not do it
I sleep with the curtains and a window open - a trick that only works in the summer, but it makes getting up early so much easier when you are woken by natural light and bird song
I have pretty much given up alcohol. That way there is no chance of a hangover getting in the way of a training session
Whenever I can, I run with someone else. That means the session can be a sociable occasion if I choose, or I’ve got a training partner to push me on. Arranging to meet someone means you are unlikely to change your mind about the session if you are struggling for motivation
I didn’t have access to a gym, so I bought a treadmill. I do appreciate that not everyone has the money or the space at home for this, but it doesn’t have to cost the earth, there are plenty of good fold up, space saving options, and it does make morning running safer in the autumn and winter months, being able to avoid dark stretches, ice or leaves underfoot, and rain, snow or frost which are definitely off putting.
On the mornings where I really don’t want to run - I’m only human, they do happen - I tell myself I’m only going to do a short, easy session. Often that turns into a longer or harder session once I’m warmed up - the key is tricking the mind into thinking that the session won’t require much effort and will be over soon, to convince myself to get out there
The mantra you will hear me come back to time and time again - I know I will only ever feel better for doing it, never worse.
Morning running isn’t for everyone. It’s essential if you’re in a couple that you have an understanding and supportive partner who doesn’t mind being woken up at the crack of dawn. It does take a bit of discipline even if you are generally highly motivated. You’re reading a blog on running, you must be serious about improving your running, so you have all of those qualities in abundance, right? Stick with the early morning routine for long enough and it becomes normal, then, like me, you will be wondering why you didn’t adopt early morning running sooner.