How to wake up early to run: 5 tips to make getting up early a little easier

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Use these five tips to make it a little easier to get up a little earlier to run.

Lots of people are focusing in healthy habits in the New Year and doing morning workouts is one of the most popular. While I worked out in the evenings in college, once I graduated (ahem, many years ago) and started working full time, I started waking up to workout before work. That meant setting an alarm sometime between 5:15 – 5:30 a.m. for 15+ years so I could run before I went into the office. And even when I quit Corporate America to work for myself, I still woke up early to run with friends.

In the past few years, my schedule has changed dramatically since I have a two year old, but I really miss those early morning runs. I love the way it starts my day and how I feel like I have the whole day ahead of me before most people have even had coffee. Now, I often don’t finish my run until 9:30! But, I know that it’s just a phase.

But, one of the most-asked questions on Instagram for YEARS was something along the lines of “How do you get up so early?!” or “I want to be a morning person! How do I do it?” or “How do you get out of bed?” or “I want to be a morning runner! How do wake up early to run?” My short answer is, I JUST DO IT. That’s the bottom line – you just HAVE to do it. 

But today I’m going to share 5 tips for making it a little easier! And if you need pointers for running in the dark, read this post.

What Are Junk Miles?

How to wake up early to run

Is Running In The Morning Good For You?

First, let’s talk about the benefits of running in the morning. If you’ve ever wondered why it’s good to run in the mornings (especially if you’re not naturally an early riser), we’re going to get into all the health benefits of running in the morning in this post.

Promotes mental clarity

Research has found that you’re more likely to have better memory function, problem solving, decision making, and cognitive flexibility in the first 2 hours after exercise! (source)

Promotes better blood pressure levels

Some studies have found that working out in the morning can help manage high blood pressure.

Prepares you for race day

Waking up in the morning to run helps prep your body for race day  since most races are in the morning.

Promotes better sleep quality

In a 2014 study, researches found that morning is the most beneficial time to engage in aerobic exercise and helps you fall asleep faster at night.

If you workout outside, running in the morning may have the added benefit of exposure to sunlight, which helps our circadian rhythms and makes it easier to fall asleep early. (source)

Does Running Wake You Up?

Since working out gives you mental and physical stimulation, it’s one of the best ways to wake your body up. Not only that, but the endorphins you’ll get from the run will help promote more mental clarity and energy (and a better mood!), for hours afterwards.

5 Tips On How To Wake Up Early

I do have five tips that I think help, but when it’s all said and done, it comes back to this: don’t hit snooze, get UP when your alarm clock goes off, and don’t get back in bed. Sorry folks. No magic potion (well, coffee is kind of magic, even if I no longer drink 8 cups a day) and no secrets. But, how about some tips that make it little easier to get up early, hm?

1. Go to bed and get up at a consistent time

If you go to bed and wake up at drastically different times, your body doesn’t really know what to expect. And your body likes a routine and consistent sleep schedule (especially 7-9 hours of sleep a night). If you start to go to sleep at the same time of day, your body will start to produce melatonin (which makes you sleepy) at the same time every night. Your body will also get used to waking up at the same time, and while you may still need an alarm (I do!), it will be easier because your body is used to it.

There’s all sorts of science behind that (so google if you’re interested in more detail), but know that there are chemicals/hormones in the body that will work in your favor if you let them.

If you struggle to get to bed early enough, try adding a changing a few things to about bedtime routine to promote a better sleep cycle:

  • Reduce blue light (light from screens) an hour or two before bed.
  • Read a book in bed instead of scrolling your phone.
  • Drink some sleepytime tea or herbal tea without caffeine.
  • Turn the overhead lights off an hour or so before you go to sleep.

If your phone alarm is as jarring as mine is in the mornings, you may want to invest in a Hatch alarm clock. I’ve heard from friends that it’s a game-changer. It wakes you up gently with natural-feeling light (simulates the sun coming up) and gentle sounds. I definitely want to get one for myself.

How to wake up early to run

2. Set your alarm and leave it in another room

Since I don’t have the Hatch alarm yet, I use my phone for my alarm, and I leave it in the bathroom after I finished my nightly skincare routine and brush my teeth. If it’s next to my bed on my nightstand, I will hit snooze. So I removed that option. I have to physically get out of bed to shut it off. And, since I love my husband (and you love your family members) and I’d like to him to keep loving me, I can’t just let it keep hitting the snooze button that’s going off every 5 minutes.

3. Put a visual reminder of WHY you are getting up next to your alarm

I put my current training plan (sometimes from my running coach) and running clothes for my morning run the next day next to my phone so when I turn off my alarm, I have a visual reminder of why I want to get up (rather than hitting snooze and getting back in bed). The visual cue is sometimes a note on my phone screen that says “Meet Kelly at 6:15” so I don’t forget that I’m meeting a friend and I don’t want to stand her up! A visual cue helps a LOT. And it’s also part of my evening and morning routine, which leads me to…

4. Follow a routine at night and in the morning

I think people talk about an evening routine a lot as it relates to making it easier to fall asleep. But it’s important to help you wake up early as well. And I think a morning routine is just as important as an evening routine. Your body and mind are very likely tired first thing in the morning and if it can go through some things on auto-pilot, it helps.

When I’m waking up early, I usually head up to our bedroom to wind down around 9:30-9:45 and start my night routine. Electronics keep me up and TV especially gets me worked up so it’s super important for me to get away from that about an hour before I want to fall asleep. (Tommy, on the other hand, gets sleepy watching TV so he stays downstairs to wind down.)

My evening routine:
  • take out my contacts + wash my face
  • floss + brush my teeth
  • get my running clothes out + plug in my Garmin
  • set my alarm, plug in my phone and leave it the bathroom
  • read for 15-30 minutes
  • drink a little water, put my mouthguard in, earplugs in and eye mask on (YEP, I’m that person)
  • turn my lamp off (sometimes Tommy will stay up later to read, but the eye mask makes that a-okay 🙂 )
My morning routine:
  • get up, drink a full glass of water, put on my glasses, get my phone, carry my running clothes downstairs
  • get coffee (Tommy preps the coffee the night before and it starts on a timer 10 minutes before my alarm so it’s ready when I get downstairs, or I just pop in a Nespresso pod). Sit on the couch for 10-15 minutes, easing into consciousness and drinking coffee.
  • put on my running clothes while eating a pre-run snack (I hate running on an empty stomach if my run is over 30 minutes).
  • go upstairs, put in my contacts, pull my hair back and kiss Tommy goodbye (who is usually getting up as I leave to run)

Nearly every single morning starts the same way. And I honestly look forward to mornings because I’m not forcing myself to get dressed right away or head out the door in 10 minutes to run. Yeah, that means I have to wake up earlier but that, to me, is less brutal than needing to function immediately upon waking up. (I had a MUCH easier time waking up and getting out the door to run in 15 minutes when I was in my early-to-mid 20s! No more!)

How to wake up early to run - Foods to Eat Before a Run

5. Have a WHY that’s important enough to you

This will be personal, but you need to identify WHY you want to get up in the morning. Your WHY is a huge part of getting motivated. My why is that running early allows more time in the evenings to spend time with Tommy, Thomas and cook dinner, and spend more quality time with my son. I also know that my most productive time is in the morning. So if I have a lot of work to do or a blog deadline, I take advantage of my magic morning hours where I can crush work. I also really love the peace and quiet of the mornings, where no emails or messages are coming in. So I can actually get a little caught up. And I really, really love watching the sunrise. There’s nothing better than a run with a sunrise.

Whatever your WHY is, identify it and then create a visual reminder, whether it’s your running shoes, a sticky note with a written reminder that you put on your alarm, or a picture of your family. Then, when you’re tempted to hit snooze, you’ll be reminded of WHY you’re doing it. And for me, that’s enough.

When I polled people on Instagram if I should write a post about how I get up in the morning, I got this response. I couldn’t agree with Jenny more.

instagram dm

Here’s a Runner’s World article about waking up early to run.

The bottom line is I can’t make you an early bird, you just have to do it. No one can do it for you.

Okay, your turn: what are your tips to waking up early, whether to run, work or anything else? 

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I sure miss Maizey being a part of my morning routine. But I LOVE having my son with me in the mornings now.

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    29 responses to “How to wake up early to run: 5 tips to make getting up early a little easier”

    1. I needed this! I’m SO guilty of snoozing.. and even getting up, grabbing my alarm, and going BACK to bed. I need more discipline!


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      • Oh man, I’ve done that myself – snooze and back in bed. (I did that today actually since I didn’t have to run – ha!)

        I hope these tips have helped you get up more easily!

    2. Good info. 2 things that help me. 1) I heard on a podcast about morning workouts where the guest says she makes the decision the night before whether to exercise or not then sticks to it. She doesn’t allow herself to change the plan when she gets up.Granted that’s a lot of determination 2) I’m the type of person motivated by consistency. If I have too many off days it’s a slippery slope. Therefore I vowed recently to not go more than 1 day in a row without some type of exercise.

    3. […] 5 Tips to Make Getting Up Early Easier via A Foodie Stays Fit Food & Body Freedom Is For You Too via The Real Life RD BMI Report Cards: How We’re Setting Up Children for Lifelong Dieting & Eating Disorders via Zen & Spice Busting 4 Eating Disorder Myths via Rachael Hartley Nutrition You Have Permission To…Do You via Bucket List Tummy […]

    4. I have been trying to motivate myself to work out in the morning for weeks and your right-I have to just stop snoozing and go! Thank you for this post!!!!!

    5. I wrote a post recently about how I’ve started waking up early for a workout because I’ve always been such a night owl. But the biggest thing I’ve told people who is ask me is that you just do it. You stop making excuses and do it. It sounds like “duh” but it took so much willpower the first few weeks because I had my “why” and I had worked out my night routine and made it easy for myself but without the just do it mentality, it wasn’t going to happen!

    6. yes i can totally relate. At the start of uni I got up every morning at 5am to do my workout for 2 whole years. Last year when i got back from Germany i struggled so much getting my bum out of bed and it took me really long to get used to getting up early again. I think its a habit thing

    7. Thanks Teri, I needed this! I’m a runner but NOT a morning person. Thanks for the practical tips and a little kick in the butt as well. I’m also training for a marathon but finding it hard to get my runs in after work during the week. I’m going to try leaving my phone in another room and setting my coffee maker the night before. Can’t wait to track you in Boston, I’ll be out there cheering!

    8. I too am a morning runner/workout person. I always put my clothes out the night before on a bench we have in our bedroom. One of the things I do is on Sunday I decide which says will be workouts indoors or runs (always outside!) Based on training schedule, time and weather. If I know I cannot get my morning run in, I may plan at afternoon run with a friend. So basically have a plan or plan to fail!

    9. I treat it like work. I can’t not go to work just because I’m tired or want to lay in bed more. During the week I’m laced up and out the door by 5:15. All I do is brush my teeth and get dressed (running clothes already in the bathroom). I feel so much better and my day is so much better so that’s motivation too. Not running sucks way more than getting up early 🙂

    10. Also included in motivation: get a puppy! Puppy annoyingness = early mornings that grow into early morning snuggles. Maizey looks like the best part of your routine 🙂

    11. Interested in any ideas anyone has for those who work off shifts on a variable schedule?? My life has no consistency and I’d love to create some!

    12. I am new to running so really finding it a struggle to get into a proper routine. However, I recently took my running gear with me whilst away on work business and went for a short run, normally I would have enjoyed the extra half hour in bed not having to do the commute! I always make sure to have my running gear ready, but putting the phone across the room will definitely help me to stop snoozing!

      • Glad to hear the tip to put your phone across the room helped!! And love hearing you ran while traveling for work – that’s one of my favorite ways to explore a city when traveling!

    13. Hi there! I’m a law student and am trying to switch to running/working out in the mornings but I have a pup (close to one year old). Curious, how did your schedule change when you had Maizey? (i.e., did you let her out first thing or wait until you got back?)

      • When she was that age, I actually took her running with me a lot to burn off energy, ha! As she started to age and didn’t want a full run, I’d do the last mile with her (rather than 3-5 like she used to do!).

        If she didn’t run with me, most of the time I let her out for a quick “hurry up” before I went running and then I walked her when I got home. When she got older, she was still asleep when I left so I let her out/walked her when I got back.

    14. I totally agree that it’s a habit thing! The more you do it, the more normal it seems to wake up that early! Thanks so much for sharing such an excellent post.

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