How to Train Yourself to Become an Early Morning Runner

early morning runner on the ocean city boardwalk
Early morning running (Photo credit: Genaro |

Sometimes it feels like there are simply not enough hours in the day.  We work all day long, come home to take our kids to their sporting events, make dinner, help out with home work, catch up on laundry, and before you know it, it is bed time.  But wait, what about that hour or more we need to get in our run?

It isn’t always easy to find.  For me personally, it is almost impossible after work because I am tired and there are simply too many other obligations and distractions.

The solution for me has been to adjust to becoming an early morning runner.  That’s right, I am talking about getting up at 4:30 am (or earlier) and getting my sweat on.  Now look, I know even reading that will make a few of you balk, especially since this time of year it is dark and cold and unwelcoming at that hour.  But hear me out.  Early morning running has real benefits.

First, you are more likely to get your run in and less likely to get sidetracked by other things, such as work, kids, spouse, happy hour, evening work events, etc.  Second, mornings are quiet and peaceful, which can be just what you need to clear your mind and put in a hard workout.  If you are getting your runs in, you are more likely to stay on track with your training program and nail that big fat PR you’ve been dreaming of.

I won’t sugar coat it though.  It’s not easy acclimating to early mornings at first.  I have been doing it for years, yet it is still a struggle every time I try to get back into a good, early morning routine after taking down time.  It isn’t impossible though, and if you follow these tips, before you know it you’ll be waking up before your insanely early alarm clock feeling great and ready to log a strong workout.

5:00 am isn't so bad once  you get used to it.
5:00 am isn’t so bad once you get used to it.

Understand that it takes time.  They say it takes 3 weeks to instill a habit.  This means that the first 3 or so weeks of getting up early may be really hard.  Keep reminding yourself that it is only temporary.  If you stick with it, you really will get used to it and will start feeling fresh and ready to roar bright and early.

Stay consistent.  If you want to acclimate, you need to ensure you are getting up at the same time every day.  I allow myself to sleep in on the weekend, but every other day of the week, I make sure I get up at the same time so my body can get used to it.  If you are inconsistent, you won’t acclimate as quickly (if at all).

Ditch the snooze button.  The snooze button is your worst enemy if you want to get acclimated to early mornings.  Resist the temptation as you can create a bad habit by using it.  Seriously, don’t do it.

Pull out your running gear before you go to bed.  It is easier to grab your gear and get ready if it is already laying out for you.  I know if my husband is still sleeping, I don’t want to be rifling through the dark room looking for stuff.  And of course we’ve all had that time where the shirt, sports bra, tights, whatever we needed was still wet in the washing machine.  Pull it all out the night before and you won’t run into these issues.

Check the weather before you go to bed.  Is it supposed to be thunder storming?  Will the roads be covered in snow?  It is good to know the night before so you can mentally prepare to hit the treadmill or adjust your day.  Otherwise, it is too easy to turn over and go back to sleep when you hear the rain/thunder outside or see 2 feet of snow.

Go to bed earlier.  As we all know, sleep is one of the most important tools in our training arsenal.  If you are going to get up earlier, you need to adjust on the other end too.  This one can be hard, but talk to your spouse about it (if applicable) and get him/her on board with hitting the hay a little earlier too.

Don’t get sucked into social media or your e-mails.  Some people get up and run right away.  I need a good half hour to have a cup of coffee or two and get ready.  It is very easy to slip onto Facebook or log into my work e-mail, so I have to make sure I keep it to a minimum and keep an eye on the clock.  Otherwise, it is too easy for an hour to slip by and suddenly I no longer have the time I need for my work out.  Time management is key even in the early mornings.

Recruit a friend to run with you.  It is easier to get up in the morning if you know your friend will be out there waiting for you!

Make sure you have the right gear or are running in well-lit areas.  If you are hitting the roads in the dark, make sure you have bright, reflective gear so you can be easily seen.  Also make sure you have a headlamp or even better, run in well lit areas.

That’s it!  If you follow these steps, you’ll be a seasoned early morning runner before you know it!

Do you run early in the morning?  If so, do you have any other tips to share?

Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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  1. I love running early in the morning, especially in Boulder. I have seen more beautiful sunrises to the east, and the moon setting over the mountains towards the west. Plus, it’s so peaceful since most of the world is still asleep.

    1. I totally agree. My scenery isn’t nearly as beautiful as Bolder, but I have witnessed many beautiful sunrises and quiet mornings while the world still sleeps.

  2. I can’t even fathom waking up that early to run. I’m also impressed you run outside that early – I live in a really safe town but I’d not be brave enough to run outside alone at that hour.

    I am however really looking forward to April when the jasmine comes out here in the Bay Area and the mornings are light. That’s my favourite time of the year to run, I’m excited about it already!

    1. Cathryn, I have to admit that I have gotten creeped out running in the dark that early, so I make sure I only run in well lit areas and good neighborhoods. Truth be told, however, most winter mornings I have to run indoors on the treadmill because I can’t run outside on the snow/ice in the dark. I am just waiting for some of that to melt so I can hit the roads again!

  3. Early morning runner here: I get up between 3:50 and 5 am every day, and start running as early as 5 am if the schedule calls for it. The biggest thing is going to bed early. It sounds trivial, but if you’ve gotten enough sleep, it’s not nearly as brutal to get up.

    Oh, and get a decent headlamp. My Tikkina wasn’t very expensive ($15 or $20), and helps me spot icy spots on the sidewalk in the pre-dawn dark.

  4. I actually figure 5 am is one of the safest times to run. There’s little to no traffic, and bad guys stay up late and sleep in. At least, that’s how I imagine it 🙂

  5. I LOVE running in the am. I am a 4-4:30 am runner. I just love the peace and calm. Hardly any cars, no noise. It gets me ready for my day. I do find that it is harder to pound out a decent tempo run or track work in the am than it is in the afternoon. Still, I am a dedicated morning person. That is my 100% time:).

  6. Late to the party! I am a newbie (6 months running) and I wake up at 3:30am to get going on long run day. Running at this time means I don’t need a babysitter, as my husband is home, and I don’t have to dodge pedestrians or cars! Stray dogs and the occasional drunk are easy enough to avoid. I find it calming and it is time I get to spend alone with my thoughts. The run gets me going for the day. However, this is my first cold season running (I live in the tropics, southern hemisphere so we are just beginning the equivalent of our winter) and I am finding it hard to get up in the cold and dark! Any suggestions?