A blog by runners. For runners.

Becoming a morning runner

I’m trying something new with my running. It has nothing to do with faster or longer workouts either. You see, I’m a deeply passionate evening runner. I’d actually prefer nights, truth be told. Since leaving my 9 to 5 to work for myself and having a toddler, though, leaving my runs till the end of the day has proved a recipe for disaster.

There are so many variables, so many directions in which a day can go. I have blamed deadlines, unexpected treks to the pediatrician, poor eating habits, and afternoon thunderstorms for my missed, shifted, or modified workouts. And those are just examples from the last week!

As a result, I’ve hesitantly come to the decision that I need to wake up earlier. In general, to be more productive and get more work done in the quiet hours. But more specifically, I’m setting my alarm at 5:30 a.m. (and eventually a half hour earlier than that) to run.

This first week of transition has been rough. It feels horribly unnatural. I could have eased into this new practice, but — in typical Ashley fashion — I went cold turkey ripping myself out of bed almost 2 hours earlier than normal and lacing up my running shoes almost 12 hours before the usual time.

My runs have been slower and more difficult to complete. My digestive tract has yet to get on board, leading to some discomfort and unexpected pit-stops. I have no idea what to eat before I head out either. Certainly not a full-fledged breakfast complete with eggs, toast, juice, etc. But that half of a breakfast bar certainly didn’t cut it before this morning’s 8-miler.

I know I’ll get into the groove eventually. I’ve already made some major, should-have-known-beter mistakes. So, this is all just a long introduction to a list of what not to do if you’re changing your own running routine.

  • Go gradually. What I should have done if I wanted to run at 5:30 a.m. versus p.m. is to set my alarm for that hour, but do my work first. Allow my body to wake up and run a bit later in the morning. From there, I could incrementally push that run back toward wake time as it felt more natural.
  • Start with short and slow workouts. The first run I attempted was a 7 mile tempo workout. I completed it, but it was ugly. It would have been much better for my mind and body if I had started with my usual, easy pace 4 mile loop when my brain already switches on auto-pilot.
  • Pay attention to fuel. I used to run in the morning when I was in college, but I did far fewer miles at a much slower pace. Back then, a bite of something and a swig of water worked fine. Now? If I expect my body to perform, I need to eat — at minimum — a slice of peanut butter toast and drink 8 ounces of water.
  • Plan on stops. Without getting into details, I need to modify my routes for those digestive issues I wrote about. Until my body gets used to this new schedule, I’d much rather have a bathroom somewhere along the way than be left in a lurch.
  • Grab a friend. Now here’s something I did do right! Since it’s mentally tough changing the routine so drastically, I asked a friend of mine if she wanted to join me on a morning slog around the neighborhood. That was by far my best run of the week.

I’m definitely seeing the benefits of being a morning runner. Though it’s been rough, I haven’t missed a run on my half marathon plan. Bonus: Those crazy days seem a bit less hectic with my workouts out of the way.

When do you fit in your runs? And if you’re not able to go at your preferred time, how did you transition to a different time?

Written by  Ashley Marcin.

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