The Bulletproof Guide To Early Morning Runs

For some runners, getting in an early morning run is actually pleasurable.

Most of us, however, would frankly rather spend the time in bed.

Early morning runs have a lot of advantages; they get your workout done at the start of the day, which normally leaves you more relaxed and balanced for the rest of the day.

When you’re in training mode (whether for a halffull marathon, or ultra), mornings are often the best time to get your training runs in.

If you leave a training run for later in the day, it becomes easier to skip it – you get tired, your work-day over-runs, or something else crucial comes up.

In fact, when I recently surveyed our community of runners, I found that runners who did their training in the morning were 37% more likely to stick to their training plan!

So, it should be easy  . . . everyone should just do their training runs in the morning!

The problem is a little thing called motivation.

Who wants to drag themselves out of bed at 05:30am to go running?

Many people set their alarms with the intention of getting in an early morning run, but then find a way to dodge it.

With that in mind, I’ve put together this ultimate guide to winning at early morning runs.

HINT: It’s all in the preparation.

Here are the systems you should have in place to guarantee you don’t skip that next early morning run.

(It comes in 10 handy steps!)

The Bulletproof Guide To Early Morning Runs 1

Plan Everything In Advance

The secret to being a successful early morning runner is by having everything pre-planned and ready to go.

Here’s what to have prepped:

1. Plan The Details of Your Run

The first step is to know what you’re running – how far, how fast, and where you’re going.

Why is this so important?

When you are awoken by the alarm system, it’s very tempting to hit ‘snooze’ – rationalizing that you didn’t really need to run 6 miles.  You tell yourself that you can spend an extra 20 minutes in bed, and just run 3 miles.

It’s also worth knowing where you’re going to run, and any pace requirements.

Knowing where you’re running is especially important for early morning runs.

Having a safe, well-lit route pre-established means you can run in comfort.

All of this means you’ve visualised the run.  It’s clear in your head. No doubts, nothing to think about.

When you wake up, you just get out the door and execute the plan.

P.S. The best way of training is to have all your training runs mapped out on a training plan.

2. Lay Out All Your Gear The Night Before

This one is crucial.

Early morning run success means that you remove as many barriers as possible from your morning routine.

The number one thing to prepare is all your running gear.

This means you should lay out:

  • Your running shoes
  • socks
  • shirt
  • shorts
  • hat
  • GPS device
  • smartphone (and headphones, if required)
  • running vest, if required
  • hydration system – filled, if required
  • nutrition / snacks, if required
  • house keys, if required.

The whole idea is that you should be able to roll out of bed, into your gear, and out the door.

Minimise the steps between waking and getting out your front door – prepare your gear the night before. 

The Bulletproof Guide To Early Morning Runs 2

3. Set One Alarm

Many people weirdly set two different alarms – one 10-20 minutes after the other, in case they sleep through the first alarm.

Trust your alarm – you’re not going to sleep through it. 

Setting two alarms gives you an “out” – you’ll wake up with the first alarm, but rationalise that you can snooze until the 2nd alarm.

Just set one alarm – and allow yourself a 10-15 minute buffer between waking up, and being out running. 

4. Keep Your Smartphone On The Other Side Of The Room

Nowadays, we all use our smartphones as our alarm clocks.

The problem with this is that from the moment you wake up and cancel your alarm, you find yourself still in bed – and holding the world’s best procrastination device.

Next thing you know, you’ve spent 10 minutes checking social media and emails, and you’re quickly eating into that running time.

Avoid this completely by putting your smartphone on the other side of the room.

Why?

This means that in order to turn off your alarm, you need to get out of bed.

And once you’re out of bed, you might as well start getting ready.

Don’t sleep with your smartphone at your side – keep it at least a few steps away from your bed!

5. Prep Your Fuel The Night Before

If you’re going for a run of 45-60 minutes (or longer), your performance will improve if you take some pre-run fuel.

Likewise, if you’re going for longer than an hour, you’ll want to take some gels or snacks with you to keep yourself going.

You should have all this prepared the night before.

I tend to make a small smoothie the night before an early morning run, and throw a couple of gels into my running vest if I’m running for anything more than an hour.

Since it’s early morning and you’re going running immediately, you want something light and easy to digest.

Some runners simply grab a banana and some coffee, others can stomach something heavier.

Experiment with early-morning fuel and figure out what works for you! 

The Bulletproof Guide To Early Morning Runs 3

Lifestyle Fixes For Early Morning Runs

Preparing right is just one part of the equation.

The second part is lifestyle fixes – you can’t get into an early morning run routine without a few changes.

Here are the key ones you want to get right for your early morning runs:

6. Go To Bed Earlier!

If you want to get up earlier, you have to go to bed earlier!

If you don’t change your sleeping habits, then waking up early simply isn’t sustainable.

Try to carve out at solid 8 hour window for sleep each night, and stick to it.

7. Stick To A Routine

Your sleeping hours need to be consistent for success.  A typical night-owl can’t suddenly go to bed at 9pm one night, and expect to wake up at 5am feeling fresh and ready to go.

Habits take time to stick, and your body will gradually adapt to any shifts.

So make your new sleep habit consistent – it’s a lifestyle change, not a one-off event.

8. Have a Wind-down Period

What’s a wind-down period?

It’s those final couple of hours of the day before bed – and you wind down by gradually preparing yourself for sleep.

This means:

  • less smartphone time
  • no more chores or tasks
  • finish all your work for the day
  • no late snacking
  • spend time with family and friends
  • read and prepare to fall asleep gradually.

A wind-down period is something that deepens the longer you do it. 

Your body begins to recognise the cues you send it, and it’ll naturally prepare itself for a good night’s sleep.

Start to be more conscious of how you spend those last couple of hours in the evening, and you’ll see the results in your quality of sleep!

9. Stick To A Routine

A routine is simply a system – something you follow every day.

The more you systematise your daily routine, the easy it becomes over time.

Hate waking up at 6am?

Set yourself a challenge of doing it for 10 days in a row.

If you form a good routine, by the end of the 10 days you’ll find it much easier to bounce out of bed at 6am.

You’ve formed a habit.

And now you’ve built that momentum, it’s so much easier to just keep it going.

Related article: Running Before Bed: Benefits And Tips For Night Time Running

Related article: When Is The Best Time To Run?

10. Limit Coffee and Alcohol Intake

Coffee is a stimulant – it makes you more alert and energetic.

Too much coffee, especially late in the day, will hinder your ability to fall asleep easily.

I find it’s best to limit coffee intake to pre-lunch hours in order to avoid it impacting my sleep.

Alcohol, on the other hand, is a depressant – it makes you sleepy and less alert. In general, it’s a little bit harder to get out of bed the next day after drinking – even after just one or two drinks.

So in order to maximise your chances of bouncing out of bed and going for a run, go easy on the booze!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

4 thoughts on “The Bulletproof Guide To Early Morning Runs”

  1. Thank you Thomas for all your encouragement! I’m yet to start training properly for my next marathon. Need to be consistent and form good habits. I’ll be in touch regarding a program sooooon. Thanks once again and keep up the good work. Geraldine

    Reply
  2. Thomas,
    I’m sending a big ‘Hi!’ from Croatia! I would like to thank you for your e-mails and give you a feedback. I so much got used to recceiving your e-mails and I simply can’t believe how much I’ve gained from them! I’ve been running for two years and, being very interested to learn every information which I can find out, I’ve read many articles and books about running. But, since I’ve I stumbled upon your articles/videos a month ago and started receiving your running-emals, I’ve been in sync with them and I really felt like having found a treasure! Now I’m training according to your 20-weeks-marathon plan which is the first plan to work fantastic for me! Thank you very much and keep on with your great work! 😊

    Reply

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