Getting up at the crack of dawn is sometimes the only way you can fit running into your schedule, but running in the morning can be really hard, especially when you would normally still be in bed! I prefer an afternoon or evening run, but most of my long runs have to be done in the early morning hours because of my work schedule. During the hot summer months, running in the morning can also be a lot safer if daytime temps get into the 90’s or above!
It’s also important to get your body used to running early since most races start at that time too. If you only ever run in the afternoon but have a race that starts at 7am, you’re in for a rude awakening.
I’ve found a few ways to make early morning runs a little easier on myself. Sometimes it’s even enjoyable to be out running before the rest of the world wakes up!
Prepare the night before. Getting out the door will be much easier if you lay out everything you will need for your run the night before. This includes what you will wear, your headphones, water bottle, fuel, shoes, car keys– whatever! When you’re still foggy from being asleep, it’s so much easier to grab and head out the door, instead of digging through your drawer to find your socks. You also reduce your chances of forgetting something!
Be gentle to your stomach. I have a really sensitive stomach in the morning and have always struggled to eat food so I am fueled properly, without feeling nauseous mid run. I know a lot of runners who just don’t eat breakfast before they run, but I can’t do this!
If I am doing a run of 5 or more miles, I definitely need to eat something for breakfast. I play it safe with a plain english muffin with just a little peanut butter. For longer runs, I have been adding a UCAN bar that has slow releasing starch, that really seems to help keep my energy up for the first 90 minutes of a run. It also doesn’t bother my stomach at all. I’m so thankful I found these!
Get your caffeine kick. One of the biggest culprits that I have found to upset my stomach during morning workouts is coffee. It’s really acidic, and although I love my coffee, I have learned I can’t have ANY before an early run or race. Because I absolutely need the caffeine, I have found Run Gum to be a much better solution. The gum is caffeinated and provides you the kick you need before a workout. I also feel like chewing the gum helps with nausea of any other food that I eat for breakfast before running. I normally start chewing a piece as I am driving to wherever I plan to run, and chew it for the first 15 minutes of the run.
Hydrate. If you’ve slept all night and haven’t drank any water, you will want to drink some before you start running! I try to start sipping on a glass of water as soon as I wake up, so that I don’t have to chug it as I run out the door. I also feel like sipping it as you get ready gives you time to pee before you leave! Don’t forget to hydrate as you run, even if it doesn’t seem warm since the sun isn’t up yet!
Start slow. One mistake I often make is to start running at full speed on the first mile of an early run, and feel like I’m immediately dying. I often can get out the door and start running 45 minutes after waking up, and that is a lot on your body! I try to never worry about the pace of the first mile, and find my runs are much more successful if I ease into them.
Be safe. Because I am a female, every run has a risk analysis if it is safe to be running in that location at that time. This weighs on me heavily, because we should be able to run in public and not have to weaponize ourselves, but there are a lot of places I won’t run early in the morning because its too isolated. I always wait until its near sunrise so that I have visibility of my surroundings, and sometimes carry a flashlight anyways. I also only run at a very public trail where there are lots of other runners and bikers around.
For all runners, it’s also important to have reflective gear or a light if you are running at dawn or dusk. When I’m running, I always think its nuts that a driver couldn’t see me, but sometimes when I’m driving I come across someone who is in dark clothes and it is SUPER hard to see them even with your headlights on. I have some pretty awesome Nike and Lululemon gear that is completely reflective so that you light up like crazy when headlights hit you! I like having gear that has the reflective elements in it, so I don’t have to be bothered by anything else on my body.
Embrace the challenge. I personally don’t think I run my very best during morning runs, but it’s important to have a positive mindset. Running in the morning is a great way to get the hard work of the day over with, and it can be a really beautiful and peaceful time! I have seen some of the most stunning sunrises during my early runs, and it’s a time to appreciate the ability that you have to get out and run, even if you would really rather be in bed!