By Lisa Spencer, vp of mojo
It’s dark. It’s quiet. It’s early. Too darned early for what I am hearing – the perky chirp of my alarm breaking the silence. Yet here it is, 5am already.
I roll out of bed, brush my teeth, check the weather app twice since my eyes are not really focusing yet, and pull on my running clothes. A quick stretch and roll out of my legs, an even quicker shot of espresso, and I’m out the door, on time to meet my most-regular running partner at our normal starting point.
Yes, I am one of those reflective-vest wearing, flashlight carrying morning runners. And while my younger self would have NEVER guessed it, I have grown to love my early morning runs for more than only expedience.
A little while ago, a fellow nuunie wrote a blog in praise of the afternoon run (my favorite line: ‘pro tip: never turn down fun!’). I thoroughly enjoyed and agreed with it until he wrote "morning runs are the worst. The absolute worst."
At that moment I knew I was going to write my first blog since joining Nuun 13 months ago – because I realized I have something important to say. Here it is: Running in the morning is only occasionally the absolute worst. And often it is absolutely awesome.
Yes, sometimes it does stink. It’s early, it’s dark, it’s cold, it’s rainy (Seattle…), my body is creaky, my pace feels too slow, it's harder to see, and I am TIRED. I will freely admit that I never ran in the morning before I became a parent. And that I probably never would started otherwise. I started out of desperation: I wanted to work out and also spend post-work time with my then-toddlers. My pre-kids favorite running time, the dusk "run the sun down," is still magical for me.
But most of the time it’s the opposite of awful. My morning run is meditative. It’s restorative. It wakes me up in the best possible way – with a dose of endorphins on top of my caffeine boost. When I’m lucky enough to run with a friend it feels like free entertainment, or sometimes therapy. I always finish in a better frame to start my day than if I simply woke up and went to work. If you’re a regular morning runner you probably know what I mean.
If you are not yet a morning runner, here are some tangible benefits that may inspire you to try it.
Early endorphins make the whole day better
You may have read relationship research that shows that how you great your partner after being apart – those first moments – can set the tone for the rest of the encounter. For me, it is the same for my day. If I greet the day with my normal weekday 6 mile route that comes with a big shot of my favorite natural mood elevation, I am more centered and happier the entire day. This is my primary reason for loving my morning runs.
Except a truly sick kid, there are no external reasons for me to cancel my morning run. So if I miss it, I only have myself to blame. There is also less chance my running partners have to cancel than if we had post-work plans.
I save 15-30 minutes by taking one shower instead of a morning shower and post-workout shower. I have two kids and work outside the home full time. ‘Nuff said.
Evenings are open
If I work out in the morning, I can meet friends after work, make it to my kids’ Lacrosse game, or generally gsd (get stuff done) after work. Or just make dinner for the family at a reasonable hour.
Eating is easier
When I run at lunch time or later, I have to think carefully so I am fueled for my workout without being too full. Morning is much easier – for me it’s espresso and maybe a banana. Simple.
Starting my day with a workout inspires me to eat healthier throughout the day. I am less likely to grab a mid morning donut from the box that shows up frequently at the Nuun office because I don’t want to undo the benefit of my run. (Note, if there is ice cream in the office at any time, this benefit is totally invalid because I almost never resist.)
The early morning run is nature’s way of giving me an easy warm up mile or two and a slower overall pace – especially in winter. I see this as a benefit, since I try to vary my pace throughout the week and I can focus on speedwork during weekend or lunch time workouts.
Have I convinced you yet? Interested in trying out a morning run or two or twenty?
Here are some hints that made it better for me
- Bribe yourself: Yes this is my biggest tip. Do whatever it takes to get yourself out of bed the first 20 times. If you run 2x / week in the morning that is 10 weeks which will establish your new habit. Promise yourself a reward if you make it to 20 – an unnecessary but appealing new piece of running gear, a fluffy new pillow to throw at your alarm clock, a dinner out – whatever is appealing enough that you really want it.'
- Trick yourself: This is the partner to bribing yourself. At some point in the first 20 runs, you will inevitably wake up to the sound of rain (or snow) or feel SO tired that you can’t possibly get out of bed. Trick yourself. Tell yourself "it is going to stop raining in 5 minutes and I will be SO annoyed that I was wimpy and stayed in bed." Or "if I turn the alarm off, I won’t be able to get back to sleep anyway." Or "I will feel so much better and more energetic after my run than if I stay in bed" (this last one is totally true). I can honestly say that I have never regretted getting up for an early workout.
- Set a schedule: I started with Tues/Thurs mornings which felt achievable and still gave me some "sleep in" mornings. It was a few years before I got hooked enough and the kids got old enough that I could handle early work outs 4-5 mornings/ week. Pro tip: 2 days a week is plenty to start!
- Find a partner or two: You know this trick. Another person = commitment = more likely to show up. It works at 6am as well as it does at 6pm – maybe even better.
- Get ready the night before: No, don’t sleep in your running clothes. That would be uncomfortable. But look at the weather, lay out your most likely outfit (in another room if you have a partner who you’ll otherwise wake up), and if you are going straight to school or work, pack your daytime clothes, lunch, etc too. It is a pain sometimes but so much easier than doing it right when you wake up. (Pro tip: if you need to, make a check list.)
- Pre-hydrate then rehydrate: You knew this was coming, right? In all seriousness, my morning runs have gotten so much stronger since I started having a glass of nuun electrolytes or nuun vitamins before bedtime. I also like that I can wait until after I run to drink in the morning, which is great because I hate having to stop to pee mid run. I then follow my run with my morning nuun, and I’m good to go for the day.
- Fuel for recovery: Sports nutrition expert Dr Stacy Sims, who partnered with Nuun in formulating our new endurance product Performance, recommends having ~30 grams of protein (ideally whey based for the high amino acids) within 30 – 90 minutes of finishing a workout to help muscle recovery. This gives me the perfect excuse to indulge in my favorite greek yogurt + cinnamon with apples breakfast.
I hope this motivates you to try an early morning run – and if you are already a morning runner, please comment with your favorite tips!
I absolutely love morning runs!!
I was never a morning runner until last summer - when I ran (trained) with my friends who were training for Chicago (even though I wasn’t running a marathon).....I loved having my evenings free…..I didn’t have to worry about what I ate for lunch…..I got used to getting up at 4am once a week (my husband well, he got used to it too)......I run 3 times a week with a group and twice a week at home and I’m still in love with it!!
All of your tips are spot on as well!!