A Summer-Like Fall for Runners

The weather outside is so far from frightful, it’s not even funny. In fact, I’d call it downright delicious. 75 and sunny in November? As a runner, I can’t get enough.

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While my legs have definitely been feeling it, I’ve been running pretty much every morning for the last couple of weeks. There’s a part of me that feels as though I have to take advantage of these unseasonably warm days and lighter mornings even if I wake up tired or grumpy. Even if I have work to accomplish at 6am. Even if I instinctively don’t want to run.

Of course, once outside, it’s blissful. No hats or gloves. No triple layer tops. No ski socks. Just me, the warm air, the fall flora, and the sun.

From the Schuylkill…

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…to the Delaware…

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….it may look like fall, but it feels a whole lot more like late summer.

To uplift my mornings even further, I’ve been totally digging a bunch of new running songs released over the last few months:

If we’re being honest though, I could probably just run to Adele the entire time. I couldn’t be more excited for her new album to drop at the end of the month and plan on running to it through all of winter. Bring on the emo workouts. If you need me, you can find me bundled up in winter-wear, weeping tears of joy along the banks of the Schuylkill river.

The only downside to these beautiful mornings is that I’ve been skipping out on all that juicy complementary stuff that helps strengthen me as a runner. I had been hitting up yoga once a week, for example, to combat dark mornings. Or, I’d set up a chair in my living room, grab the five pounders, and make my way through a few barre videos. The variety is healthy, and I’m definitely missing out on that now.

But of course, it can’t stay 75 and sunny in Philadelphia forever. I know the mornings will get darker. The air will get colder. And as winter approaches, I will inevitably get lazier. So, we take what we can get, we live in the moment, and we enjoy it while we have it. In the words of Scott Jurek, “Rational assessments too often led to rational surrenders.” As it gets colder, I recommend that we all think a little less rationally.

Is this not the warmest November ever? Has the weather been unseasonably warm by you too? How do you transition to fall and winter running?

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?