7 Expert-Backed Ways to (Finally) Become a Morning Runner

Emily Abbate
by Emily Abbate
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7 Expert-Backed Ways to (Finally) Become a Morning Runner

There’s something very special about getting up and out to log a workout before the rest of the world leaves the cozy confines of their bed. Granted, it’s not easy to establish an early morning sweat session as part of your routine.

The science-backed benefits can certainly be motivating. People who tackle their fitness first thing in the morning may experience better sleep and lower blood pressure. They may also consume fewer unnecessary calories throughout the day, compared to those who don’t hit the gym. Plus, there are the feel-good endorphins that come hand-in-hand with giving back to your body from the moment your day begins.

“Morning exercise is not only a great way to start your day fresh and energized, but it’s also an excellent safeguard to ensure that your training gets done,” says Erika Lee Sperl, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and Los Angeles-based wellness consultant. “We have all been sidelined by that last-minute request from our boss, an emergency text to pick up the kids, an email that threw off your mindset or one of any of the hundreds of things that can come up and derail your exercise plans.”

Still, some of us just aren’t early risers — yet. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Here, experts weigh in with their helpful tips on how to integrate movement as a regular part of your morning.

1

START GRADUALLY

Rather than diving in with an hour-long run if you’ve never been a morning person, set up a plan for a gradual growth to success. For example, for the first week, just get up earlier and read the newspaper with a coffee — whatever gets you up. Then, the next week, do a series of gentle yoga stretches. After that, add an outdoor element by going for a short walk. Increase distance and/or pace slowly, week after week, until you’re suddenly out running at 6:30 a.m. It might take time, but the slower buildup may lead to a more long-term lifestyle change.

2

MAKE WAKING UP “FUN”

A study looked at motivation in the morning and found working out is easier to make stick if it’s perceived as a fun, positive thing to do, instead of a total drag. Shift your mood by setting your alarm clock to pep you up, rather than stress you out. Maybe have a wake-up playlist.

3

START GETTING READY THE NIGHT BEFORE

Convenience is key for early morning runs, which means nighttime prep is crucial. When you get out of bed, you want to minimize the amount of time it takes to get ready so there’s less time to talk yourself out of it. “This way, you’ll maximize your time for the run,” says Corinne Fitzgerald, head coach at Mile High Run Club. “Have your clothes ready so you don’t waste time trying to find the right layers. It’s also good practice to check the weather before you go to bed for the next morning so you can plan accordingly.”

Read more > 5 Pro Runners Share Their Morning Routines

4

EAT SOMETHING SMALL

Considering your body has just spent the past 8-or-so hours fasting, it’s helpful to give it a boost before you get your muscles working. “I suggest something that’s about 150 calories or less, like chia pudding, oatmeal or a banana with peanut butter,” says Fitzgerald. “Especially if you’re running longer than 1 hour or you’re planning on doing speed work, these eats can give you the energy you need to complete your run feeling strong all the way throughout.” If you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll be happy to know it’s been shown to boost performance.

Pro tip: Aim to consume this about 20–30 minutes before exercise begins.

5

RECRUIT A PARTNER

Find a friend, coworker, spouse, family member or even use a habit-enhancing smartphone app to help you stay accountable to your goals. “It’s a lot harder to pull the covers back over your head at 5 a.m. when you know you have a friend meeting you for a run,” says Sperl.

6

MAKE TIME TO WARM UP

Jump right into an early bird workout, and your muscles may not appreciate it. Make early-morning workouts better by getting things fluid before the real work even begins with a few dynamic movements.

Read More > A 5-Minute Warmup For Runners With Tight Hips

7

FIX YOUR ROUTINE

If you want to make early morning exercise your new norm, you have to make it a routine. This means you’ll need some consistency in terms of habits, bedtimes and exercise. “Mixing early mornings with late nights just isn’t sustainable,” says Thomas Watson, run coach and founder of Marathon Handbook. “You’ll burn out soon, and lose all motivation for your early morning exercise.”

Running with a lack of sleep not only makes it really challenging to wake up, but you can also risk injury. To get up early, you should go to bed early, advises Watson. “You still need the same length of time in your bed — if you were getting enough sleep in the first place — so if you want to build a healthy early riser routine, you’ve got to support it with an early-to-bed routine.”

About the Author

Emily Abbate
Emily Abbate

Emily has written for GQ, Self, Shape and Runner’s World (among others). As a certified personal trainer, run and spin coach, she’s often tackling long runs or lifting heavy things. In addition to that, she’s working on Hurdle, a podcast that talks to badass humans and entrepreneurs who got through a tough time —a hurdle of sorts— by leaning into wellness.

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