11 Tips to Become A Morning Runner

By: Christine Nichols

By: Christine Nichols

What’s your favorite time of the day to workout? For me it’s a 5:00am date with the pavement. That means I’m up at 4:30am getting dressed, laced up and warmed up. Some say I’m crazy. Maybe I am ha but it’s truly the only time that I can manage to get my workouts in.

You never know when something is going to come up in the middle of the day that will sabotage your post-work runs. It used to happen to me all the time. Before I started running before work, I was scheduled to run after work but then I would be invited to a happy hour, or the hubs wanted to go out to a movie, or the parents would ask us over for dinner. I didn’t want to be that non-social poop head that would miss out on all the fun things in life just because of training. So I braved what many will not à I set my alarm for 4:30am and just did it.

Now I’m not saying it was as easy as just setting my alarm. It took me weeks, if not months, to become accustomed to the early rises followed by extraneous activity. But by doing it I was able to train for my first marathon in 18 weeks only missing one run (too much drinky drinky the night before in Boston) and clock a 3:42:16 marathon in Pittsburgh. I know I was able to do this because my early morning runs kept me accountable to training.

So how did I make the PM to AM transition?

Wake up and workout before your body realizes what you’re doing.

Here’s a few things that helped me:

  • The night before plan out your workout. Is it an easy run, long run, tempo? If it’s a tempo or progression then either memorize your paces to hit or write them down to bring with you.

  • Map out your route. I always use mapmyrun.com to make sure I have the distance I need and I either memorize the route or write it down.

    • Sometimes running a new route keeps your mind fresh and interested. Call me a geek but I get excited about new routes and this will motivate me to wake up to run it.

  • Lay out your clothes the night before. I never fail to do this. It’s part of my nighttime rituals now along with brushing my teeth. I don’t want to wake my husband up that early so instead of turning the light on and rummaging through my dresser, I pick it out the night before and put it in the bathroom to change.

  • Don’t just lay out your clothes the night before but lay out your shoes, headphones, reflective gear, gps (make sure it’s charged!), etc. This will avoid any and all excuses when trying to get out the door.

  • Check the weather and plan your gear accordingly the night before. Do you need to pull out that face mask because it’s going to be 0 degree wind-chill and you haven’t seen it since last winter?

  • One thing about working out in the morning is that you may run out of time in getting ready for work. Sometimes when my runs are longer obviously I get home later and need to immediately start getting ready for work. The night before these runs I make my lunch and set aside what I need to make my breakfast.

  • Go to bed early! This is probably one of the hardest adjustments to make since your body has its own internal clock and you need to recalculate it over the next few weeks. Personally, I start getting ready for bed at 9pm and my alarm goes off at 4:30am. I always get between 7-8 hours of sleep – which is extremely important for not only runners but everyone’s health.

  • Set two alarms. I usually set them 5 minutes apart having the second alarm be the time I want to be out of bed. Sometimes I don’t even remember turning off the first!

    • If alarms don’t really phase you then put your alarm across the room to force you to get out of bed to turn it off.


    • Get out of bed!!!! Sounds obvious right? Well your mindset at 4:30am is totally different than it is at this very moment. You are sleepy and tired and all you want to do is go back to sleep and most certainly not get up and run 10 miles in the blistering cold. The absolute hardest part of AM workouts is the initial sit up in bed. I promise you once you sit up and get out of bed your mind and body starts to wake up and it doesn’t seem as bad. So when your alarm goes off and you are laying there wondering why in the world you are up just tell yourself to at least sit up. Once you sit up tell yourself to stand up and walk. Once you get to that point you are just about golden, which leads me to my next point.

  • Once you are up and dressed…… do not sit down and/or lay down!! Coming from experience ha just keep moving and don’t give yourself more time to get ready than you need or else you’ll find yourself killing time by sitting on the couch scrolling through Twitter and IG. Guilty!

  • My last piece of advice on morning runs/workouts is find a running buddy. I know for some this isn’t possible but if you have a friend that you know runs in your area then ask to join them. Knowing that someone will be waiting for you on the corner at 5am will get your butt out the door.

This isn’t just advice for runners but for anything in the morning – gym, library, classes, and travel. If you fail to plan then plan to fail. By all of the night before preparation this is eliminating any possible excuses that you can make. And you just did all that work the night before so why waste it all by going back to sleep and putting it to waste?

I can promise you that if you stick with it consistently for at least 4 weeks your body will start to recalculate its internal clock and it will get easier every morning. Now, on the mornings that I don’t need to get up early, my body naturally wakes up around 5am because it’s in a routine.

This way you won’t miss any of your training runs and you can enjoy social activities without guilt. By making this switch the intensity of my running increased substantially. I started running further without stopping, my pace increased by 2 minutes/mile, my success at work skyrocketed because I was awake, aware, and my mind was alert and wired because of my early morning activity.

Clearly there are so many proven benefits to early morning runs but getting to that point where you’re comfortable and consistent is the hard part. Just know that it’s not supposed to be easy and everything great takes time and consistency. Just keep at it and follow these steps you’ll be a part of the 5am club in no time!

Christine Nichols