How I started waking up at 6 a.m. to run before work

neighborhood running before work

A few years ago, I went on a health kick. I decided I was going to be “one of those people” who worked out every day before work. That was also the year I realized I may not be as much of a morning person as I once thought. For the sake of my relationship and sanity, I quickly flunked out of my self-induced morning boot camp.

Fast forward a bit and here I am training for my first 10k, quickly learning that I’m not much of a lunch break runner either. With my weeknights packed, and serious lack of motivation after 3 p.m., I realized I only had one option: go back to the morning.

Getting up early sucks. Waking up in the dark sucks. It’s SO EASY to hate exercising first thing (and therefore never actually do it). So how did I turn into someone who wakes up at 6 a.m. every week to run before work?

I started small. VERY small.

One of the biggest mistakes I think beginner runners make is assuming they have to do a BIG THING to go run.  If I had started out saying, “I’m going to run a 5k!” or, “I’m going to do this three times a week!” I never would have started.

Instead, I thought of the smallest possible thing I could do to increase the likelihood I would actually drag myself out of bed to try it. I settled on 2.5 miles on Tuesday mornings (because who wants to wake up early on a Monday) in my neighborhood.

I only have to get up early one time out of the week, I know I can run 2.5 miles around my neighborhood, and I don’t have to drive anywhere to go do it. Is it very long? No. Is it very often? Definitely no. But it’s manageable. If I get up at 6 a.m. to run 2.5 miles on Tuesday, I’ve accomplished my goal for the week.

I can sleep in every other morning and not beat myself up for “failing” at what I set out to do (which, really, is just to run more often. Once is more often than zero times). So I will likely do it next week. And then I will feel ~really cool~ for being an early morning runner and keep doing it every week.

(I’d like to say this isn’t actually what happened, but I have started feeling very proud of myself when I’m one of like five people outside in my neighborhood that early, which has been really helpful motivation)

Pick out your clothes the night before.

This is in basically every advice column about how to get up early to exercise, and with good reason.

Automating your morning routine makes it much harder to back out, or dawdle around for so long that you all of a sudden “don’t have time” to go for a run anymore, so you roll around for 10 minutes on a yoga mat before telling yourself you “did some good stretching” this morning (totally not speaking from experience).

On Monday nights, I check the hourly forecast and decide what to wear. I set out everything. Every accessory, from socks and a sports bra to my reflective gear and headlamp. Every layer I plan on wearing. What I’m going to change into for work after.

I don’t wander around my house in the morning looking for things, I just get up, drink some water, get dressed, and get out the door.

Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to experiment.

I’m not always very good at exercising in the morning because I have what some may call a “delicate system.”

Too much food, I get cramps (also, if I spend too much time in the house I am not going to make it out). Too little food, I get woozy.

The morning of my first 6 a.m. run, I gulped down some water and put a protein bar in my pocket for emergencies. I told myself if I started feeling like I was going to faint, I would just stop, eat the protein bar, and walk back home.

That moment never came, so I realized that a small glass of water is all I need before heading out. For you, it may be something different (a spoonful of peanut butter or a banana have also worked well for me), but give yourself permission to just try and see how it goes before insisting that you can’t do something.

And finally, don’t force it.

Maybe you do like running at night. Maybe your lunch break runs are just swell. Maybe you’ve tried all my tips and it still is awful and terrible to run in the morning.

You’re not a failure, it just means you need to try something else. Forcing it will not work, inevitably leading to you blaming yourself for being a “failure” because you weren’t able to commit to waking up early and going running.

So live your truth….and let me know how it goes. If these tips are crap, I want to know what works for you instead!

Published by Laura Cardon

Laura Cardon moved to Colorado as an adult and quickly realized how difficult it was to get started exploring the outdoors in a state full of experts. She founded Outdoor Beginner in 2014 to fill the gap in beginner-friendly content for camping, hiking, skiing, and other outdoor activities. In addition to Outdoor Beginner, she coaches beginner trail runners and works at Runners Roost in Golden, Colorado, where she lives with her spouse and toddler.

3 thoughts on “How I started waking up at 6 a.m. to run before work

  1. As always, a pleasure and a relief that it’s okay to try different ways to make it work for each person. Keep the tips coming!!

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