It’s four in the morning and your alarm goes off. Groggily, you go to hit the snooze button before remembering that you’re supposed to run today. You turn the alarm off without snoozing and drag yourself out of bed. You’re still half-asleep and your body is screaming at you to go back to sleep. Should you get more rest or is it okay to run in this state?
Many runners can hit the trail right after waking up, but this doesn’t work for everybody. If you’re having a hard time getting up and at ‘em, maybe you need a cup of coffee for your brain and body to wake up. You should also examine your sleeping habits and your diet, as these factors can influence how alert you feel in the morning.
In today’s article, we’ll discuss both the pros and cons of waking up early for a run. We’ll also provide plenty of actionable tips for mastering the early-morning run, so make sure you keep reading!
Can You Run Immediately After Waking up?
Everyone has that running friend (or a friend of a friend) who is up with the sun every day, often even earlier than that, and eager to lace up their running shoes and get moving. You imagine this person wakes up with a smile on their face even if the sun has yet to rise. They’re eager to go, go, go, and so they do, usually with no coffee required!
Then there are people like those described in the intro who can’t wake up before the daylight without feeling like a zombie. You can’t even talk to a person like this until they’ve had at least their second cup of coffee, maybe their third.
You might relate more to the second example than the first, or more than likely, you find that you fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Either way, if you put your mind to it, you can run immediately after waking up, even if it isn’t always easy.
When we say immediately, by the way, we mean immediately. As in you wake up, go to the bathroom, put your clothes on (or maybe they’re already on), and go. No breakfast, no coffee, just a bottle of water and the running trail. If there’s one time of day that runners will jog on an empty stomach, it’s usually in the morning.
If you’ve tried and failed to get into an early running regimen, we recommend looking at your other habits. What do you eat before you go to bed? If you’re loading up on unhealthy foods that are high in processed ingredients and fats, no wonder you can’t get out of bed in the morning! Try to consume more protein and carbs, as these fuel sources might be enough to get you through the morning.
You also have to ensure you’re getting the right amount of sleep or your body won’t want to budge. Sleep Foundationrecommends that adults aged 26 to 64 sleep for seven to nine hours. Adults 65 and older should get seven to eight hours of shuteye.
The Benefits of Running Right After Waking up
If you can force yourself to get up and out the door for your run right after waking up, you’ll relish these advantages for your efforts.
Enjoy the Perks of Fasted Running
We mentioned in the last section that early-morning runners usually skip breakfast before they run. Now, granted, this isn’t the healthiest behavior, as food is energy and you need energy to fuel your runs. It is doable, though, and it even has a name, which is fasted running.
Fasted running has a lot of benefits in and of itself. Experts have found that not eating before a run could lead to greater oxygen uptake spikes. These results come from a 2010 study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. The journal states that the exercisers who fasted increased their VO2 max levels, which refers to their exercise-related oxygen uptake. Having higher VO2 max levels can improve your fitness and endurance, both of which runners need.
You might also ingest less food (energy) over a 24-hour span, says the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in a 2016 report. Their study had only 12 participants, so the sample size was rather small. Still, the results tell us that fasted running could help you lose weight since you won’t eat as much in the day ahead.
There’s even a school of thought that you burn more fat by running on an empty stomach, as your body uses fat as an energy source with no glycogen from food. Admittedly, more research needs to be done to confirm this hypothesis, but it’s still quite promising!
Get It Out of the Way Early
There’s nothing worse than having a long, busy day at work and then having to exercise on whatever paltry energy you have left. You don’t perform nearly as well as you usually do.
When you run early in the morning, your exercise for the day is done before you even arrive to work. Once your workday ends, you have the whole evening to use however you want. Maybe you choose to nourish your social life or engage in some self-care. It’s up to you!
On the weekends, you can come back home after your early run and go back to sleep or you can stay up and maximize the day. You’ll feel like you have more spare time, which makes fitting exercise into your life far easier.
Energy That Lasts the Rest of the Day
Have you ever noticed that even when you’re a bit tired, after exercising, you feel much more energetic? There’s a reason for this. As you run or do any other physical activity, your body makes more mitochondria. If you’re not familiar, mitochondria create chemical energy for biochemical reactions throughout the body.
In other words, by using energy on a run, your body increases your energy load. If you’re worried about feeling fuzzy-headed at work for the rest of the day after an early-morning run, the opposite could be the case!
The Risks of Running Before You’re Fully Awake
If you’re feeling especially bleary this morning and you’re debating whether running is a good idea, it might be better to wait it out. Here are some downsides to running if you’re not mentally and physically awake.
Less Aware of Your Surroundings
It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, you must be aware of your surroundings at all times when out on a run. This is for your safety. That’s why we always recommend foregoing the earbuds when running, as listening to music prevents you from being able to hear danger around you, whether that’s someone following you or even a car swerving out of traffic.
It’s hard to be eagle-eyed and alert when your brain and body are still in snooze mode. This can be very dangerous! As we talked about in this article on the blog, there’s a 1 in 35,336 chance of you being murdered on your runs. That may be a low rate, but you don’t want to do anything that increases your chances.
Possible Higher Risk of Injuries
Running unaware can be bad for your health in other ways too. You can miss the divot in your running path or that uneven patch of sidewalk, tripping and spraining your ankle. Also, if you were eager to get out and run early this morning, you probably didn’t stretch before you started running. Your muscles aren’t warmed up, which puts you at higher risk of muscle injuries.
Skipping breakfast before a run is okay for lots of people, but for many more, they simply can’t do it. Without the fuel from food, their running performance tanks. They can’t achieve their regular high speeds nor can they maintain their endurance. In the end, they wonder why they bothered to run so early in the day.
Tips for Easing into Early-Morning Runs
This morning, you got up early and went for a run. Although you didn’t love it at the time, you’re quite enjoying the spare time you have for the rest of the day, not to mention the extra burst of energy. You’d like to make early-morning running a more regular part of your routine. Here are some tips for success.
Go to Bed Early
Even if your alarm isn’t set for 4 a.m., if you know you’re rising earlier than you normally do, you need to prioritize your sleep. Go to bed an hour earlier, maybe even two hours, whatever it takes for you to get at least seven hours of sleep.
Keep your sleep schedule flexible for the time being. If you find that you’re too groggy early in the mornings after only seven hours of sleep, then try getting eight hours for a few nights in a row and see how you feel. If that’s not enough, then maybe you need nine hours of sleep before you go running. You know your body best, so do what works for you!
Plan Your Running Outfit the Night Before
Getting out of bed might be the hardest part when you have an early-morning run scheduled, so you don’t want to lose that valuable time debating over what to wear on your run. If you’re the type who likes to coordinate your running outfit from head to toe, then pick out what you’ll wear the night before. You can even grab your work clothes too so when you get back from your run, you can quickly shower, eat breakfast, get dressed, and be on your way.
Don’t just stop at prepping your clothes, by the way. Grab your running sneakers and put them beside the bed. Tuck a sock into each shoe. Put all your essentials in your running bag. Fill your water bottle the night before and then place it in the fridge. Just don’t forget your water bottle in the morning!
When dressing for an early-morning run, keep in mind that the temperatures are usually quite chillier than they will be when the sun is up and has been for hours. That’s true in the summer as well as in the autumn and spring, although obviously, you can still expect warmer summer mornings.
How much sunlight you will have also depends on the season. In the autumn and winter, first thing in the morning, there’s very little sun. That changes in the spring and summer. Since you might run in the early dawn, we always recommend wearing reflective clothing.
Or Sleep Wearing Your Running Gear
Here’s what some runners do who really want to waste no time in the mornings. They put on their running gear the night before and then go to sleep. If you’ve been trying to run early in the morning for months but you’ve had excuse after excuse, it’s hard to make excuses when you’re already dressed for a run. Plus, this measure saves time.
However, we’re sure we don’t have to tell you this, but running clothes aren’t pajamas. Between scratchy zippers, warm layers, and compression, you might not get your best sleep wearing your running gear. Therefore, we’d say if you can do it, go for it, but if this doesn’t work for you, that’s more than fine.
Get a Running Buddy
You can justify skipping your runs early in the morning because hey, it’s just you who’s missing out, right? The best way to shake yourself out of this mindset is to find a running partner. They’re relying on you to get out of bed rather than smack the snooze button three times in a row. Do it for them!
Eat a Healthful Meal the Night Before
We mentioned earlier in this article that what you eat the night before you run is what will be your fuel source in the morning. Yet just because carbs are good fuel doesn’t mean you need to carb load. Increasing your carbs can boost your blood sugar, but only for a limited time. Then you crash, which is not conducive to having a good run.
We wrote a great post about pre-run and post-run diets that you should check out. Before your run, we recommend foods like eggs and toast, chicken breast, potatoes, a bagel with cream cheese, yogurt, granola, a banana, an energy bar, or oatmeal. Make sure that you avoid legumes, apples, pears, cheese, bacon, and too much caffeine. Those foods will impact your digestion and bloat you, which is the last thing you want before a run.
Don’t Skip the Hydration
Even if decide to eat nothing at all before your run, that doesn’t give you a license to not drink water. Sleeping dehydrates you since you haven’t drunk water in at least six hours, so you’ll need to catch up when you’re out of bed. Have three cups of water before your run, which is roughly 650 milliliters. If you can’t drink that much water while you’re still waking up, then consume at least one cup of water, maybe a cup and a half, and gradually work your way up to three cups in the morning.
Keep sipping water throughout your run. After your run, when you get a chance to eat, make sure you consume 16 or more ounces of water. If you were especially sweaty this morning, then increase that intake to 20, even 24 ounces.
Make Your Alarm Clock Hard to Reach
Wrestling with your alarm clock as you hit snooze time and again chews up precious time. To prevent you from snoozing even once, put your smartphone or alarm clock where you can still hear it but it isn’t easily accessible. One such example is across the room. Now if you want to turn the alarm off, you have to get up. Voila, the hardest part of the morning is already taken care of.
Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to Post-Run
For some runners, running itself is the reward. It’s okay if you’re not quite there yet yourself. In that case, come up with a reward that can incentivize you to run when you just don’t feel like it. Whether that reward is spare time, food, or another treat, you’ll find it easier to get through your run.
Running right after you wake up is doable but difficult for some. Once you figure out what to eat to keep you energetic in the morning and you get the right amount of sleep, dragging yourself out of bed shouldn’t be such a challenge. Make sure that you hydrate even if you don’t eat before your run. Best of luck!