Good Morning, Sunshine! How to Become a Morning Person, Plus The Benefits of Running in the Mornings

Chirping birds. Droplets of dew. The sun, just starting to peek above the horizon. These are the hallmarks of an early morning of a bright new day. If you’re like me, however, the idea of actually waking up to see all this might sound like torture instead of serendipity. However, maybe you, just like me, are also curious about the potential benefits of getting up early in the morning to exercise before your day begins. There can be quite a few, depending on how you look at it and what your goals are. Below, I’ll take you through some ways to (hopefully) turn yourself into a morning person and an early runner!

Written by Lucas Collins
Edited by Pavlína Marek

The Benefits of Waking Up Early for Your Run

Before I try to explain the ‘how,’ allow me to try and sell you on the ‘why.’

Physical Benefits of Running in the Morning

According to Fabio Comana, the Exercise Physiologist and Faculty Instructor at San Diego State University and The National Academy of Sports Medicine, there can be many physiological markers that determine the effectiveness of your workout at a certain time of day. Things such as heart rate, blood pressure, and core temperature can all impact your performance when exercising.

A woman on her early morning run stands on the beach as the sun comes up

Exercising in the mornings when you’re just waking up and are well-rested can help jumpstart your body from a sleepy state into a much more awake and aware one. If you often find yourself in a fog as you go to work or school in the mornings, a run beforehand might just be the trick to mentally prepare yourself for the day.

Getting a load of sunshine in the morning also helps regulate your circadian rhythm. If we fast-forward to the end of the day, morning runs have been shown to help improve sleep quality despite the large time gap. Therefore, running in the morning can help you go to sleep at night.

Unsurprisingly then, there are other benefits that you may feel throughout the day. It’s been reported that working out in the morning can increase your energy levels for the entire day, particularly in the afternoons.

Despite a ‘midday slump’ many people feel, studies have shown that our bodies perform their best in the mid-afternoon. A morning run or resistance routine can help elevate that even further!

Does a Morning Person Burn Fat More Efficiently?

If one of the reasons you run is to try and get into better shape, then it’s worth knowing that exercising before you eat breakfast may help you burn body fat more effectively compared to the same workout done in the evening. On top of that, exercise will kick your metabolism into high gear and you’ll burn more calories throughout the whole day.

One of the touted benefits of doing High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT workouts, is something called the afterburn effect. This is a period where your body is still performing at a level above your resting baseline, therefore burning more calories even though you’ve already completed your workout. This effect is present in all forms of exercise to varying degrees. Therefore, by completing your workout in the morning, you end up burning more calories throughout the day than you would if this effect took place while asleep when your metabolism is naturally lower.

Mental Benefits of Early Morning Runs

The are many psychological benefits that morning exercise has, too. Firstly, the act of simply getting up from a warm bed when you’d rather sleep in builds resilience and discipline, and strengthens your will. However, the benefits don’t end there.

When you run in the morning, your body gets a boost of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones. They will stick around and help you deal with any inevitable inconveniences much better than you’d do without them. A morning boost of endorphins also helps lower stress and anxiety levels throughout the day. Exercise lowers the amount of stress hormone cortisol in the body, resulting in overall better mood. It may even make depressive states less intense and it will help you build your self-esteem.

How to Start Shifting Towards the A.M. Schedule

If you’re now convinced that a morning run is worth the trouble of waking up early, here are some tips on how to become a morning person and turn morning exercise into a habit you can follow.

1. Consistency

First and foremost, consistency is key. Do something enough over a long enough period and your body will naturally adjust to expect that activity. Therefore, by consistently waking up in the morning, your body will shift its circadian rhythm to wake you up at that time. You can accomplish this by changing your bedtime over several days or weeks. For example, if you go to bed around midnight to wake up at 8 a.m., start shifting your bedtime backward by 15 minutes every couple of days. You’ll simply go to bed at 11:45, then 11:30, and so on until you reach the desired wake-up time.

2. Light

Another way you can promote this behavior is by getting more light into your room when it’s time to wake up. Even with your eyes closed, your body and brain can detect sunlight or a lamp mimicking sunlight. Investing in a good sun lamp to turn on when your alarm goes off, or even getting one that has an alarm built in, might make the experience of waking up less jarring and difficult.

3. Realistic Goals

The most important thing to consider with all this is to keep your goals realistic. You won’t go from being a night owl to an early bird overnight by brute-forcing your bedtime backward or skipping out on sleep to ‘reset’ it. It will take time to adjust your schedule and how you need to approach your running routine.

4. Gentle Beginnings

You might need to incorporate more stretching since your body will be stiff from sleeping. Or maybe you’ll need to change your diet since you’ll be burning more calories first thing in the morning before you’ve eaten. There are lots of things to consider both big and small, and it would be impossible to predict them all before they come up.

5. Listening

As long as you listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard, you will see and feel the benefits of starting your runs in the morning. Whether you’ll learn to actually enjoy waking up for those mornings as much as the results,… well, try to keep in mind it’s for a better you!

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