Running in the Morning: 9 Steps to Transform Your Day

Updated: March 14, 2024

March 14, 2024 in Training guides

Running in the morning can be challenging, especially if you are not a morning person like me. Recently, however, adding morning runs has greatly improved my training. I will show you some steps I take that work for me as an elite runner with a full-time job.

Previously, my runs would have been done more around midday and, before this, in the evening. However, now, I regularly complete up to 8 miles and workouts before 8:30 am.

What Is The Morning Run?

The early morning run is a staple for many weekend runners. For example, long runs are traditionally done on Sunday morning; many runners worldwide do this.

However, during the week, an early morning run can take some time to adapt to, particularly if you also hold a full-time job; managing your day can be tricky. Here are some steps I follow and how you will benefit from a morning run.

What Are The Benefits Of The Morning Run?

Quiet on the roads—There is often less traffic in the morning, especially if you are out and back before rush hour. This can make your run much more enjoyable.

Sense of achievement—You should certainly feel proud of yourself for finishing your training while most are still sleeping or just waking up.

Time for other tasks—Getting your run done early can free up time for other tasks, such as spending time with family or shopping.

Option to double—If you want to increase your mileage and have been running in the morning for a little while, you may add a second run in the afternoon or evening.

Less on your mind—I found this particularly beneficial in the morning. Sometimes, if you are doing a morning workout, you have less time to overthink it, meaning the activity can often go better than expected.

Most races take place in the morning. Running well is a lot about finding a good routine. If you plan on racing, practicing running in the morning should help you prepare, as most races start in the morning.

Step By Step Instructions To Start Running In The Morning

Here are the steps I follow, which start from the previous evening, to make my run as enjoyable and productive as possible.

 It's essential to prepare, as even knowing that you have made this effort can reduce stress in the morning and make it less likely that you will hit the snooze button.

Step 1 - Optimise Sleep Schedule

Sleep is one of the most critical recovery techniques. It allows you to be at your physical and mental best. Therefore, I like to let myself to sleep or at least be in bed for 8 hours. So I try to go to bed between 9.30 and 10.30 pm.

TOP TIP: Tell a family member—By telling a family member or partner you are doing this, you set yourself some accountability, so you are less likely to hit the snooze button. You don't even have to live with them. But if they check in via phone later in the day, you will want to tell them you did it.

Running in the morning: waking up


Step 2 - Wake Up Time

It's important to apply what you have considered in step 1. I set my alarm clock for 6 am, which then gives me 15 or so minutes to get out of bed fully. Additionally, it is okay if this feels hard to do, particularly in the first weeks. However, you should adjust to the sleep schedule over time and wake up more naturally.

Step 3 - Optional Light

I like to use a sunlight lamp in my wake-up routine, designed to help you wake up. I have found it hugely helpful since starting this in January. It is still very dark at 6 am. I have the light on while preparing a light snack and some drinks and eating my breakfast.

Remember do not look directly at the light.

Running in the Morning: Light


Step 4 - Breakfast Of Choice 

When deciding on whether to have a breakfast or not, You need to find out what works for you. I have tried fasted (having no food prior) runs, which I found okay for up to around 4 miles and at a very, very easy pace, but if I want to go further or faster, I like to have something in my stomach. I tend to go for something simple like toast and honey with a banana.

Step 5 - Coffee

Coffee is loved by many athletes, especially those who like to start training earlier. The caffeine can give you a boost; however, it does not work for everyone, and it can also act as a diuretic, so make sure you also include step 6.

Step 6 - Electrolytes And Water

I like to have a glass of water and sometimes add a small amount of electrolyte to it to help with hydration. It's so important to drink water after sleep and prior to your run, as it will help your muscles during exercise.

Step 7 - Selecting Suitable Kit

I found that you can feel colder in the morning, so I like to wear layers, a hat, and a good water and wind-proof jacket. I have two options depending on the temperature. A good tip is to have a temperature app on your phone so you get an idea of what to expect. Having your running clothes and gear all prepared the night before is also a really great tip, as it saves you time in the morning.

Step 8 - Don't Overthink Your Pace

Do not worry about pace. I have run a 5.00 pace for 10k and under 5.20 per mile for the half marathon. When I started these morning runs, I regularly ran 8 minutes per mile or slower. Gradually, you may want to increase the pace over time, but keep in mind that you can get it done or run for time and gradually increase the time. I started with 20 minutes.

Step 9 - Setting Your Route

Keep the light levels in mind, and ensure you're running somewhere safe and well-lit, or you may need additional equipment. Doing laps can always be an option, especially when getting used to it. It might be worth starting there if you can find a lap that takes you between 5 and 10 minutes.

Step 10 - Recovery And Post-Run 

I hope you will share the same sense of achievement of completing your morning run. However, once you finish, it does not stop there. Make sure you eat something else and rehydrate. Check out some other of our recovery tips.

Critical Considerations For Successfully Running In The Morning

Remember that adapting to morning running can take time, and you will have days when you feel tired and need to get some additional sleep. If you are just starting out, I recommend alternating days or only trying it a few days a week to give you time to adapt.

That being said, finding a routine is also important. You may still decide to get up early in the morning but not run. A consistent morning routine is important.

Initially, when I first started, I was concerned about my sleep quality and thought I would struggle to sleep before midnight as my previous routine. I do consider myself to be more of a night owl. However, with time and consistency, I have adapted well.

Taking It To The Next Level

You can try several additional ideas to become a morning runner.

Try to find a running buddy to train with. This can help in a variety of ways, particularly for accountability. Having someone there you know you are due to run with is significantly important when it comes to running. You may even find a running group of morning runners.

You may try your first double day and couple your morning run with an evening run. Please only consider doing this if you have a lot of experience running shoes and have been running in the morning for a long time. If you try a double day, ensure you schedule good rest and recovery.

Alternatives To Running In The Morning

If you are just starting with running, the key thing is to get your training done, no matter the time; some common alternatives also have pros and cons.

Mid Day Run

Or another common alternative, 

Evening Run

Or, Suppose you are still hoping to adapt to running in the morning. You could start off with a walk rather than a run or just wake up early and complete a different task. It is very specific to the individual regarding how long it can take to become an actual early bird.

Another alternative is to join a gym and go for an early morning session. Typically, if you run, your options are limited, and if it is still dark, you may prefer to head to the gym and hit the treadmill.

Wrapping up

Completing a run in the morning is hugely satisfying, but it takes good habits and preparation. We know running has many health benefits to your overall health and fitness. However, if you are changing your running schedule or increasing your mileage, do take safety precautions such as checking in with your doctor and running with a personal trainer or friend, especially in the winter when it may be dark.

Give yourself time to adjust by planning rest days while your daily schedule adjusts to the new routine. Training with other runners can be hugely motivating, and you could set up a small group of early-morning runners in your area.

It has taken me around six weeks to fully adapt to running in the morning and being closer to the pace I would typically run at later in the day. The key is not to try and jump into your usual pace and distance; give your body time to adapt. Remember to make it specific and relevant to you and your fitness levels.

FAQ

Is It Good To Run As Soon As You Wake Up?

It's good to run early. How soon after you wake up depends on a few factors, such as personal preference, how far you are running, the intensity, and the length of time. I do like to eat something before running in the morning, and I also like to have water and coffee. The key is to find what works for you and your routine. 

Is Running Good To Do In The Morning?

Yes, running is great in the morning for various reasons, including less traffic, less on your mind, more time, and saving free time for later. However, do take your time to adjust to a new routine.

About the author 

James

James is an elite distance runner and has also raced triathlon for a number of years. He has a certification in swimming coaching, and a passion to help all athletes succeed in finding a balance within sport and life.