Becoming a Morning Runner When You’re Not a Morning Person

Becoming a Morning Runner When You’re Not a Morning Person
Okay…100% honest confession: Last week I only ran three times. I also ran only after work and on the weekends. How about becoming a morning runner? Yikes.

I know ya’ll are probably envisioning “Eco Runners” as these up at the butt crack of dawn road warriors, who have logged five miles as the rest of the world slumbers. That is not me—sorry.

I am just not a morning person, and I never have been. I used to loathe mornings. It would take me hours to wake up, and would have waking amnesia, wherein I wouldn’t remember conversations, or have any form of logic until I had been up for at least twenty minutes.

In the last few years, maybe as I get older, it has gotten easier. I typically get up around 6:15 most mornings; drag myself to the shower and out the door by 7. Still, in the winter and when we hit Daylight Savings time I find myself exhausted and late to work more and more frequently. Forget running.

I aspire to be a morning runner, though. Last spring I managed to hit the pavement at dawn with a fair amount of regularity. It was actually quite lovely.

In an effort to get back to that time, I decided to do a little research on what makes getting up less painful, and how I can motivate myself to get out the door and on the road, especially when we are looking forward to some sunny days in the near future!

Sleep in running gear

Not exactly “Victoria’s Secret”, but my running clothes are comfortable (just tanks and some sort of stretchy shorts or pants), and if I only have to stumble towards my sports bra, put on some socks and shoes and walk out the door…well, I’m one step closer to a successful morning!

I find that having my headphones nearby, a hair elastic, and a fully charged Jawbone UP and iPhone ready to go, helps. I’m not a Simon & Garfunkel (sounds of silence) runner, and I like a little music. I use my UP band to track my steps and distance, and I’m using a Couch to 10k app right now (also on my phone).

Now obviously all of these things are not necessary to run, but I find that it’s best not to leave myself any excuses to slack.

Cut back on caffeine

Love me some caffeine. I am nothing until I’ve had my coffee in the morning, and I have a dirty little diet soda habit that I’m not so proud of (I’m down to just one or two a day). I have found that if I cut out that midday soda, and watch any caffeine after 2pm, I sleep a lot better.

Moreover, I’ve found that on the nights I can’t fall asleep, and consequently can’t get up, it’s often because I’ve had some sort of late day caffeine beverage, or even dark chocolate.

Don’t nap

For Sam, he can handle an occasional nap, and will wake up refreshed and ready to take on the world. I have never been a napper, even when I was a kid. Maybe I always thought I was going to miss out on the party or something…

Unfortunately if you are sensitive to naps, it can throw off your whole sleep schedule. It’s much better to try to power through, take a walk, drink some water, or chew some gum. Do something to wake yourself up so you can avoid putting yourself out of sync.

Avoid sleep aids and nightcaps

If I can’t sleep and have to take a Melatonin or Tylenol PM, I might as well abandon all hope of having a bright and sunny morning. I don’t drink alcohol anymore, but when I used to, I know that without a doubt it made me foggy (rather groggy) and just generally not so great the morning after.

Now, I’m not saying avoid all of it all together, BUT if you can avoid it the night before you plan to run, you will have a better morning.

Practice good sleep hygiene

There is definitely some merit to keeping my room dark, and avoiding electronics before bed. In fact, I find that print is almost like an instant sleep aid for me. I usually can get through only 5-10 pages before I find myself nodding off. It can be hard to leave my phone alone at bedtime, but the light really does make me feel less sleepy and more awake.

Scenes from a morning Spring run

I’ve heard that you should also avoid sleeping in the same bed as your pets. I have had my cat Madeline for the last fifteen years, so I have no idea if I would sleep better or worse without her, and I’m not about to find out! She’s staying! Instead, I change my sheets weekly, wash our comforter and use anti-allergen filters and a humidifier. This keeps dander to a minimum and we both seem to sleep pretty will with a sweet kitty cuddled in our bed.

The humidifier is great for creating white noise for our bedroom. I put a few drops of lavender in the water and we only use it when we are sleeping. I also keep the room cool at night, because there’s nothing worse than tossing and turning in a hot room.

Morning Runner Wake Up Time

I used to travel to Washington DC for work, and when we have travelled internationally (and yes, even during Daylight Savings) resetting your sleep clock can be a real bear.

The best tip I’ve found is to fast for 14-16 hours before your new “wake up time”. So if you want to get up at 5am, stop eating at 2 or 3pm the day before. For some reason, resetting your eating also has an effect on your sleep.

The caveat to this is that you have to eat something right when you wake up (before you run). A protein or granola bar and a glass of almond milk seem to do the trick. You will be very hungry and it will get you going in your new time zone.

The only other “time zone reset” trick that I know is to stop doing the math! Change your watch and all clocks, and try to get zen and “exist” in the zone you are in. Sometimes we psych ourselves out about what time we think it “actually is at home” as opposed to just accepting the new clock. It’s that whole mind-body connection, you know?

Pick an alarm you don’t hate

In 1994 I woke up every morning to the Cranberries CD because that was the disc in my alarm player, and I was too lazy to change it. To this day, I cringe every time I hear “I Still Do” (I still do—ha), because it filled me with the dread of getting up for high school.

There are many alarms that you can choose from and download for your phone. Pick something that doesn’t make you feel so awful that you turn it off automatically, but also something that will get you moving—music, a gradually louder noise, birds chirping, etc. Put your phone across the room, or download an app like FreakyAlarm, which forces you to complete a series of puzzles or scan items before the alarm stops. It may sound masochistic, but if you really struggle to wake up, it will probably work.

If you still can’t get up

Evening workouts are not the worst thing in the world. As long as you are moving at some point, it’s better than nothing. Studies now show that exercisers who work out just a few hours before bedtime don’t experience a great deal of sleep interference.

I’ve also found that when I tell myself that this is it, “I’m doing ALL the things! I’m getting up every day and running 3 miles!” I set myself up for failure. If I say that two weekdays and on the weekends I will run, and fill in the other days with walking and yoga, I’m much more successful. Give yourself a break. If you aren’t a morning person, it’s okay.

So, what about you? Do you run in the morning or at night? How do you get out of bed? Do you think I’ll make it out of bed early this week?

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