Running is easy to fall in love with, once you’ve gotten into the routine of running regularly. Building that routine into daily life however, is not always so easy. The majority of my coaching clients have found that it’s easier to work running into mornings rather than evenings, and for the most part I agree. Until you’ve built up a running habit, it can be really helpful to adopt a runners morning routine. So that you get your run done and out of the way before you can talk yourself out of it.
Why Not Just One Morning Run Routine?
I do think it’s useful to have two different routines established. One for longer runs, and one for shorter. Personally, having slightly different routines has worked well for me, for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is that there are usually some significantly different time constraints and needs. Longer runs are usually done during the weekends, when you can fall into the couch and enjoy the life of a sloth afterwards.
Shorter runs are usually done during the week, which means that you’ll probably have work or family obligations that mean you won’t have the same (or any) luxuries as weekend runs. Luckily, shorter runs don’t require quite as much prep work, because there isn’t a whole lot you actually need to get a short run done. A cup of coffee to make sure you can get your shoes on the correct foot, and you might be good to go.
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As a little disclaimer, I want to make sure that I point out that this is the pre-run morning routine is what has worked well for me. I am one type of runner with one type of needs and one kind of lifestyle. I usually work from home, and don’t need to look any sort of presentable. I also wake up with about 45% of my cells still in active REM; it takes me a while to get past the IQ of about a 7 year old in the morning.
All that to say that what works for me will probably need to be adjusted for your lifestyle, but it could be a useful template from which to build your own morning run routine. So take what works, add what you need, and let go of what you don’t.
Short Run Routine
I don’t usually eat breakfast before my short runs. I’ve found that I don’t usually need any real fueling, and eating breakfast just adds to my time. Since I don’t have infinite hours to dedicate to running, I’ve made the choice to forgo breakfast. Again, this is just what works for me.
If you have questions about waiting until after your run to have breakfast, RunnerClick has a great article on the pros and cons of running before breakfast.
For the average weekday run, I wake up about an hour before I need to get out the door. It varies slightly, depending on the distance of my run, but usually my alarm goes off between 5 and 5:30am. I get up, stumble over to the sink to brush my teeth, and then get the coffee going. I have a few drinks of water to get things moving, and then I spend about 20 minutes reading while I drink my coffee.
This gives me enough time for my brain to be somewhat functional, and for the coffee to kick in. Like I’ve said before, poop happens. It’s ideal if it happens BEFORE you head out the door for your run. Coffee helps. Then I get my running clothes on, my hair pulled back, and all of my running gear situated. I spend about 10 minutes doing a few dynamic stretches, and I head out the door.
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Short, week day runs aren’t too complicated. A few things that are helpful for me are having all of my gear charged and ready to grab, making sure my coffee is set to brew, and making sure I don’t hit the damn snooze button.
Long Run Routine
I save my longer runs for my weekends, so that I have a little more time to get my crap together. And so I have the option to spend the rest of the day using minimal brain cells, with easy access to snacks. These are very important things for me if I want to have a successful long run day. With that in mind, I tend to take my time getting ready for my long runs.
I wake up about two hours before I need to head out the door, which generally ends up being around 5:30am. I try to get my long runs done as early as possible so that I have some time with my boys, and have extra hours in my day to eat. Priorities. After my alarm goes off, I brush my teeth, stumble to my coffee maker, and drink a bit of water. Same as my short run days.
However, I always eat something before my long run. And honestly, eating and giving myself time to digest is about 70% of my long run morning routine. I almost always have my breakfast pre-made, so that I can get right to eating as soon as possible. Which gives me maximum digestion time. I have a list of breakfast ideas if you need some help in that department.
I eat my breakfast, drink my coffee, and then give myself 20 minutes to read to start my day on a nice note. Then I give myself another 20 minutes to go through a social media scroll. I’m really just killing time to let my stomach take care of breakfast.
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Once I feel like breakfast is nice and digested, I get my running clothes on, braid my hair, grab my running gear, and spend about 15 minutes going through a dynamic stretching routine. I also spend a little extra time going through some hip and glute activation, since I feel like my long runs are more demanding on my muscles.
A few things that I’ve found helpful for my long run mornings are making sure my clothes (with different weather options) are laid out, my running gear is all charging and together, and my running fuel is with my gear. Nothing worse than having to come back to grab a couple gels or make a pitstop at a gas station for some gummy bears. I also like to make sure my hydration bottles are filled, so I don’t have to mess with them.
And the most important thing for me is getting my breakfast figured out the night before. My stomach is a little picky, and I’m not lucid enough at 5:30am to just wing it. I have to have something ready to go.
It’s taken me a while to get my running morning routine down and consistent. For a couple of years, I almost always forgot something, and it was super frustrating. I put together a handy little PDF to keep you from the same fate. If you’d like it sent straight to your inbox, just click here and I’ll be happy to send it your way.
Hope you find this outline helpful, and I wish you lots of morning run success!