So you want to be a morning runner …

Ever since running became a regular part of my life, I’ve been getting the same question from family, friends, colleagues, and even complete strangers who come across my blog. How do you find the motivation to get out of bed so early and run?

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Unfortunately, I have bad news for you. For most, this is not something that can be taught nor learned. I’ve been an early riser for as long as I can remember. And while yes, like most mortals my alarm sometimes startles me at the crack of dawn, my first inclination isn’t typically to close my eyes and go back to bed. I am, unlike most others I know, a morning person. It’s simply a part of who I am.

With that said, there are certain habits that I believe can help a non-morning person to muster an early run.

1. Go to sleep already! Do you really need to watch the fifth episode of Law and Order? I know, they suck you right in. They get to me, too. But if you’re planning to get up early tomorrow to squeeze in a morning run, then you’ll need all the sleep and energy you can get. So, turn off the TV. Shut off your phone. And call it a night. Your body will thank you in the morning.

2. Don’t sleep next to your phone. Placing your phone across the room is a great way to force yourself out of bed without thinking. My husband can begrudgingly tell you that, like most people, I’ve been known to hit snooze a bazillion times. But even if you do hit snooze, your body will have already been startled, so after a few minutes, you’ll be more likely to get up and get out. (Sorry, Noah!)

3. Keep the blinds up. Allow the daylight to fill your bedroom as soon as the sun starts to rise. There’s no arguing that your body will want to continue in its slumber if your eyes and brain still think that it’s night.

4. Go back to your routes. The more you have to think at 6AM (or whatever time you need to get up in order to make AM workouts feasible), the less likely you’ll be to do it.

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Make the morning as easy as possible by knowing the route you plan to run. For example, some evenings I’ll psyche myself up for a morning spent cruising along the Delaware River. Last night, I wanted to check out the area around the Philadelphia Museum of Art post-Pope madness. (Reporting back now, I can confirm that it was kind of gross, but fun to run in the street.)

And remember, you can always decide to switch this on the fly once you’re out the door, depending on how you’re feeling.

5. Check the weather! Again, this is about limiting the amount of thinking you need to do. If you know that there’s a chance of rain, you can prepare yourself to either dress appropriately (light rain gear, perhaps?) or to have a backup (maybe you can check your local yoga studio for an early class). Know the weather, think about what clothes you’ll need, and shorten your to-do list for tomorrow.

6. Nominate a friend. Nothing holds you accountable like a running buddy. I had one in New York, and it was phenomenal. There was no way I could back out of my morning run if someone else was counting on me to crush a few miles (or just chitchat for an hour).

Just make sure that your running buddy has similar goals. For instance, if you’re not a talker, you’ll be annoyed by a chatty companion. Alternatively, if you’re chatty, you’ll feel awkward with a reticent runner. Something else to consider is speed. I know I’m slower (and am totally okay with that) in the morning, but for that reason, I also know not to tap my faster runner friends.

7. Reward yourself! Running rewards come in many forms — whether it’s a donut, a refreshing ice tea, or simply the thought of a warm shower. During the winter, that very thought is what gets me through my morning miles. I know that when I finish, a delicious hot shower will feel that much better. Other things that I consider a “reward” include store-bought ice coffee, a fresh breakfast bowl, or even a moment at the end of the run to simply stop, meditate, and be mindful of what I’ve done. Rewards don’t have to be expensive, fancy, fattening, or time consuming.

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Make it personal, make it meaningful, and make it yours.

8. Routine, routine, routine. Lastly, being a morning runner is all about routine. I know because, as I’ve found, I’m not alone in this mindset. I see the same faces each morning along the Schuylkill. When I lived in New York, I came to recognize a ton of joggers in Central Park.

I tend to be a creature of habit in many aspects of my life, but running in the morning is certainly the most obvious. It’s why I’m so good at it. I’ve made my morning run so integral to my routine — and my life — that I actually tend to feel worse if I sleep in and skip my run. I might as well forget to brush my teeth, feed my cat, or drink coffee. It’s that ingrained in me.

And of course, if you try all of this and decide that you’re simply not a morning person, that’s okay too. At the end of the day, running should make you happy. And happiness can be found at any time. Simply find a pocket of your day that works for your schedule, throw on a pair of sneakers, and get out there.

Do you consider yourself a morning runner? What’s your favorite time of the day to break a sweat? And how do you find the motivation to act on your routine?

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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I don’t know many runners who don’t love fall — especially that first fall run of the season — more than any other time of the year. Especially recently, given how hot, sweaty, and swampy the summer months have been. I don’t know about you, but Philly had way too many above-90-degree days this summer. Even the mornings were in the high 70’s. And even last week, during September no less, I braved an early morning run in 87% humidity. Woof.

You can imagine my excitement this week — happy Friday! — when I’ve woken up to 55- and 65-degree temperatures. Fall running is truly the most wonderful time of the year, and I’ve been doing my best to soak it all in.

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There are just two issues now:

1. Ugh, the gym.

I suspended my gym membership over the summer, but this has started up again. What that means is I’m paying for a space I essentially never use. So, I need to start going again. I’ve found two classes that have caught my eye — yoga on Tuesday evenings and barre on Wednesdays. I probably won’t go to both, but if I can commit to one per week, I’ll feel better about my dues. That said, I already failed to go to either of these classes this week. On Tuesday, it was simply too beautiful to workout indoors. And Wednesday, I traded my stretchy pants (I packed ’em and everything!) for a last-minute Philly’s game.

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Look ma, I’m on TV!

2. Ouch, my legs!

Countless consecutive runs throughout spring, summer, and now as we approach fall have left my legs in less than perfect shape. This morning, for example, within a few steps my right shin started screaming. Fortunately, a few steps later, I was able to shake it off. I kept the run slow, steady and smart. But knowing how easy it is to acquire pesky little runner injuries (I’ve had a stress fracture in this same shin before — it totally sucked) I need to be cognizant of my physical well-being.

So, that’s where we are. It’s fall. It’s amazing. I want to run every second of every day, but that’s dumb — both because cross-training is important and because overrunning causes injuries. Simple, right? Now, to put this all into practice.

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Fall running. Go! What’s your favorite running season, and have you ever scaled back despite it?