Running in the morning is a saving grace for most mother runners. It most often is the only way we can ensure we get our run in before the day’s chaos sets in.
However, many moms struggle with how to become a morning runner. There are still barriers to getting out the door early. For instance, when my kids were little, I think they had a radar because every time I tried to sneak out for an early morning run, they’d wake up and want me.
Related: 8 Clever Tips for Breastfeeding and Running
Barriers to running in the morning
Running in the morning is particularly difficult for breastfeeding moms, moms who have to work early or have husbands that work early, toddlers’ ever changing sleep schedule, the list goes on…
There’s also the importance of sleep. Many of us are not in control of when we get to go to sleep or how much we sleep. Therefore, it is quite the balancing act of trying to get enough rest while also making time for our running.
In addition to ensuring you get your sleep and your run in, and avoid run-xiety (that chronic all-day-long worry that you may not get to run because of circumstances out of your control), there are so many reasons to become a morning runner.
Is running in the morning better for you?
Yes, running in the morning can be better for you. Research shows there are many benefits to running in the morning.
6 benefits of running in the morning
- Studies show people who run in the morning generally have better health, including lower blood pressure.
- Morning runners also tend to sleep better, research shows.
- Morning runners eat fewer unnecessary calories, according to studies. They also have a boosted metabolism that revs for hours after your run.
- Morning runners also experience those feel-good endorphins (aka the runner’s high) that carry them throughout the day. And, views of that sunrise cannot be beat.
- Starting the day off right also leads to more productivity, better health decisions, and more creativity.
- Morning runners are more consistent in their training as they have less opportunity for obstacles to get in the way of their running.
And, as most runners knows, consistency is key for fitness. Your body requires consistency for those biological adaptations to occur to make you fitter and faster.
Should you run as soon as you wake-up?
No. You should not run as soon as your wake-up. Give your mind and body time to wake and loosen up. This can be as long as 20 minutes to an hour.
Should you run on an empty stomach in the morning?
You should only run on an empty stomach if it is an easy run that is under an hour. Long and intense runs need fuel. If you do not have fuel, your performance and recovery will suffer. Aim to eat a couple hundred calories of complex carbs before runs lasting an hour or longer. I typically eat a plain bagel.
Related: 3 Yummy Recipes for Runners
How long should you run in the morning?
How long you run in the morning depends on your level of fitness but running for at least 30 minutes is advised for increasing or maintaining fitness and promoting biological adaptations. If you would like help with your fitness goals, check out The Mother Runners coaching.
How I became a morning runner
But how do you become a consistent morning runner when obstacles abound as a mother runner? I am here to help with suggestions from fellow mother runners and experts. Because the evidence alone may not be enough to get you to try setting that alarm clock early.
When I become a mom, running early in the morning became next to impossible. When my kids were infants, the early morning run was their first nap in the stroller because they had EARLY morning wake-ups. Then, when they began sleeping later, they’d wake up wanting only me.
I should have gotten a treadmill or stuck to a schedule, but those are lessons learned in retrospect.
Now, my kids are older (4 and 7) and their sleeping is more predictable. Plus, they have become used to me being gone when they wake-up and my husband being the one to make them breakfast.
I used to say I was allergic to running before 6am, but now I wake up a couple times a week before 4am so that I can do my track workouts or long run, and be back to help my husband get the kids ready for school. We are now almost a well-oiled machine. But it took time to get there.
Here are some helpful tips from experts and fellow mother runners to become a morning runner—the only surefire way to being consistent.
15 tips for how to become a morning runner
Don’t shock the system and try to wake up early every morning to run. Aim for one morning a week and gradually add more if needed as your body adjusts. Many runners, myself included, know our limits for early morning runs. I know that if I wake up consistently 3 mornings in a row before 5 a.m., I will get sick or injured and be very cranky. Your body needs sleep!
Prep the night before.
Get your clothes, shoes, watch, reflective gear, etc. out the night before. I also like to prep my coffee so all I have to do is push a button and wait. Create the path for least resistance in the morning. This also minimizes the chance of waking anyone up in your house (including your partner).
Make the morning fun.
Truth be told, I wake up for coffee, not for running. I LOVE drinking coffee in the quiet to do my work. It’s a sacred time. Once I have had my coffee, my body and mind are more awake and ready to run. One mother runner likes to set her alarm to a fun song to pump her up in the morning.
Just do it.
Many runners and mother runners agree: DO NOT overthink your morning run. Just do it. Put on your shoes, shuffle your feet, and allow your body to ease into the day. Don’t let your mind take over.
Run with a friend.
This tip is HUGE. Find friends who will run early in the morning with you. This gives you accountability, makes it fun, starts your day off right, AND makes it safer. Most people won’t get out of bed in the morning for themselves, but they will if it means not disappointing someone else.
Give yourself extra time.
I do not advise rolling out of bed and running immediately. That is hard on the body and mind. Instead, give yourself time to read, scroll through your phone, drink your coffee, eat a little breakfast, and do an active warm-up. Make it a ritual that you look forward to.
Go to bed earlier.
This one is tricky if your kids are anything like mine and are night owls. It is SO important not to skimp on your sleep. If you have an early wake-up, go to bed as soon as you can. Skimp the Netflix or scrolling and close those eyes. You can veg out another night.
If this is hard for you, imagine how miserable you may feel the next day with too little sleep. We lay with our kids until they fall asleep (I know, I know), so on nights before I know I am going to wake-up early, I tell myself it is okay to doze off in their bed. Survival, people!
Don’t hit snooze.
Set your alarm for when you need to wake-up. Don’t give yourself a buffer. This just cheats you of quality sleep.
If you’re going to run longer than 45 minutes to an hour, eat 200 or so calories of a complex carbs. This will help your body stay strong and recover faster.
Start in the spring or summer.
It’ll be easier to wake up early if you’re closer to daylight. If you can, try to make morning running a habit when the days are longer. Also, running when it is cooler instead of in the summer heat is a great motivator. Then, when winter and cold comes along, your morning running will be a habit!
Get a treadmill.
This tip is especially for those moms who have partners who work odd hours or kids that are attached to you. If you have a treadmill, you can run without the need for a partner to be with sleeping kids. You’re also there if they wake-up and only want mom.
As mentioned, running with other people makes your morning running habit safer. So does wearing reflective gear, being aware of your surroundings, running in well-lit areas, and staying on safe running paths. I run in my neighborhood and avoid running trails in the morning. You can also run with pepper spray or an alarm like Birdie.
Related: Running Safety Tips for Runners You Shouldn’t Ignore
Give yourself time.
It takes about 3 weeks to form a habit, so give yourself time and grace. The more you wake up early to run, the easier it will be. It will be hard at first, but your body will adapt. If you hit snooze and skip your run, that’s okay! Tomorrow is another day!
And, if your kids wake up when you’re headed out the door, that’s okay, too! Tomorrow is another day, as well. It took time for my kids to get used to the fact that I may not be there when they wake-up. It also took maturity and for them to get out of the attachment phase.
If your kids are incredibly attached to you or only want to breastfeed versus the bottle, know it is just a phase and your morning miles will wait for you.
PS-I’d love to help you reach your running goals whether it be to run your first 5k or run competitively! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or check out my Coaching Services page!