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OWN
YOUR
MORNING
Our complete guide to becoming the efficient,
energetic a.m. runner you’ve always dreamed
of being—or becoming an even better one.
BY W E S J U D D // I LLU S T R AT I O N S BY RYA N S N O O K

66 RUNNER’S WORLD MAY 2018

“I’M GLAD YOU’RE
RECORDING THIS,
BECAUSE I WANT
TO GO ON RECORD:
Morning people do not exist,” booms Brogan Graham, the gregarious
cofounder of the free morning exercise movement the November Project.
With upward of 20,000 members in 45 worldwide “tribes,” as they’re
called, the November Project has nearly become synonymous with
mornings. Convincing people to wake up before the sun, and often in subfreezing temperatures, was no picnic, contends Graham. Waking up early
objectively sucks. It’s hard for everyone. But there is a reason why, despite
its daybreak call time, the November Project has grown so dramatically:
Working out in the morning is special—dare we say magical. “A lot of it is
an experience,” says Graham. “The a.m. is such an alien time. By the time
the sun comes up, you feel like you stole something from the city.”
Listen, we know you’ve heard that morning running is good for you—
early bird gets the worm and all that. There is so much more to it, though.
Researchers are discovering that, in ways big and small, exercising first
thing is significantly better for the mind and body. For example, running
in the morning, as opposed to any other time of day, is more effective at
lowering your blood pressure, and inducing longer, more beneficial sleep
cycles the next night, according to a study published in Vascular Health and
Risk Management. Run first thing on an empty stomach, and you could burn
20 percent more fat than exercising later in the day without eating, and reduce p.m. food cravings while you’re at it. Researchers have also found that
morning runners finish their day with more total physical activity, regardless of their weight. As Newton put it, a body in motion remains in motion.
If nothing else, being a morning runner puts you on a schedule. “Consistency is the most important thing in running, and a.m. running is consistent running,” says trail-running coach David Roche, who encourages
many of his athletes to transition to a.m. training. “Mornings are much
more predictable; there are fewer obstacles.” What’s more, a 2012 review
from Tunisian researchers found that exercise performed at the same
time of day produced greater physiological adaptations—in other words,
sticking to a morning schedule can make you fitter.
We get that all of these selling points won’t make the actual crack-ofdawn wake-up easier. Getting up early requires Herculean willpower, and
that ungodly alarm never quite loses its sting. The upshot? There has never
been a better time to develop (or improve) your morning running routine
than right now. We’re fast approaching the summer solstice, when the sun
rises around 5:30 a.m., making a first-light call time a little more palatable.
To boost your drive even more, we spoke with exercise scientists,
coaches, pros, and average running joes to put together this definitive
guide to owning your morning. Use the advice, and you’ll build an efficient, productive, fulfilling a.m. routine that will help you generate genuine excitement for the best part of waking up early—getting to run. And
perhaps that’s all that’s kept you from making the morning habit stick.

68 RUNNER’S WORLD MAY 2018

STEP
ONE: GET
OUTTA
BED
efore I started running, if I got out
of bed before noon, it was early,”
says ultrarunner Dean Karnazes, who
famously “picked up” the sport on his
30th birthday. He now wakes up around
3:30 a.m. and likes to run a marathon
before breakfast. While the following
hacks won’t transform you into Karnazes, they can help you throw back the covers and hit the streets—and maybe even
be psyched to do so.

“B

Let that light shine in. Three main
factors affect your chronotype, or your
natural sleep-wake schedule, says Kris-

CHOOSE YOUR IDEAL
WAKE-UP CALL
Remember dedicated alarm
clocks? They’re far better
than using a time-stealing
phone. Our picks:

SOFT AND EASY
Thirty minutes before your
designated wake-up, the Philips
Wake-Up Light will slowly beam
sunrise colors to gradually take
you out of deep sleep. $170

tin Eckel-Mahan, Ph.D., a University of
Texas researcher who specializes in circadian rhythms: age, genetics, and light.
You can change only one of those. Among
the best ways to naturally wake up and
gradually shift your chronotype earlier
is to expose yourself to natural light. The
body evolved to sleep and wake with the
sun, and by letting the sunrise pour into
your room—or by using a light-simulating
alarm clock (see sidebar at right)—you’ll
be able to rise with (more) ease.
(SONIC BOMB); COURTESY OF BARISIEUR (BARISIEUR)

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF PHILIPS (PHILIPS WAKE-UP LIGHT); HUGH THRELFALL/ALAMY

LOUD AND PROUD
Require an earthquake to wake
up early? Done. The Sonic Bomb
alarm has a glass-shattering beep,
flashing red lights, and a hockey
puck–sized bed shaker to put
underneath your mattress. $70

Don’t hit snooze. That extra rest you
think you’re getting actually keeps you
in a not-quite-awake, not-quite-asleep
state—the worst of both worlds. Instead,
put your alarm clock across the room, and
force yourself to get up on the first bell.
Four-time USATF trail-running national
champion Megan Roche, who would wake
up at 3 a.m. to run while juggling medical school and training, says her rule is to
never, ever snooze. “No matter how tired
she was,” says husband David Roche, “she

would never hit it. If you know that option
is open, you’re going to take it.”
Ignore your electronic BF. “The phone
is a major problem for morning runs,” says
Mario Fraioli, running coach and author
of The Morning Shakeout. “I have athletes
who say they want to run at 7, but actually
run at 7:20 because they’re on their phones
for 20 minutes.” Issue yourself a challenge:
The second you wake up, stash your phone
under your pillow. Leave it there while
you’re getting dressed, making coffee,
warming up. Take it on your run if you
must, but don’t go scrolling until you’re
back. Checking email—or at least Insta—
can be your reward when you’re done.
Grab liquid courage. Hydrating before
you run is a given, but instead of standing
at the sink and chugging a glass of plain
H 2 O, get creative. Prep some ice water
with fresh-squeezed lemon, or a hot tea
with a hit of ginger or cayenne. Whatever
sounds refreshing or energizing to you.

BY NECESSITY
To turn off the Witwatia pressure
sensitive alarm clock, you must walk
over and stand on its plush memory
foam pad for three seconds. $60

WITH A COFFEE AROMA
The Instagram-worthy Barisieur
coffee and tea maker + alarm clock

raised over $750,000 on Indiegogo in
2017, and should ship soon. $395

MAY 2018 RUNNER’S WORLD 69

FIRE
YOUR
BODY UP
y warmup is non-negotiable,” says
Michael Olzinski, a triathlete coach
at Purple Patch Fitness. “Just five minutes
breaks the little fascial connections that
get made overnight.” Coach David Roche
agrees: “Warming up is good for all running, but especially morning running. Even
if you have to cut minutes off your run, it’s
worth it to have a routine that doesn’t leave
you super stale when you start. You reduce
injury risk, and psychologically, you finish
and you’re like, ‘I’m ready to run,’ ” he says.
“It’s almost a Pavlovian response.”
Here, the quick and essential moves
that Olzinski and Roche recommend.

“M

READY TO RUN: FIVE MINUTES, FIVE EASY MOVES

 

1

WALK AROUND

It may sound
simple, but it’s important. Shake the
cobwebs of and really let your nerves
and muscles switch
on, says Olzinski.

 

2

PRIME THE

CALVES While
Olzinski sips cofee,
he’ll bounce on his
toes and do calf
raises to wake up
stif ankles and the
Achilles.

 

Roche
says a lunge matrix is one of the best
things you can do
before heading out
3

LUNGE

the door. It activates
your glutes, quads,
and hamstrings,
provides a dynamic
stretch, and if you
do it consistently, it
will build strength.
Stand upright, and
lunge forward 10
times, alternating
legs. Repeat, this
time performing
a trunk twist. Go
again, and lean
side-to-side, arms in
goal-post position.
Finally, do 10 backward lunges, alternating legs. (Note:
Return to a standing
position after each
rep—this is not a
walking lunge.)

4

ADD A BAL ANCE
CHALLENGE

Don’t bend over or
sit down to put on
your shoes. Instead,
balance on one leg
while lacing up the
opposite foot. This
will activate your
body’s small stabilizing muscles.
5

SWING THOSE

LEGS As soon
as you step out the
door, ind a tree
or railing to lean
against and do 10
swings with each leg
front-to-back, then
10 side-to-side. This
loosens the hip joint
and creaky tendons.

LET
MUSIC
SET THE
MOOD
n the days that I’m dragging, music gets me out the door,” says
pro ultrarunner and Western States
100-mile course record holder Timothy
Olson. Research has shown that music
can increase work output, improve exercise performance, delay fatigue, and, of
course, boost your mood. And if waking
up to run one morning feels particularly
unbearable, a playlist could be the perfect antidote—one small thing to look forward to that helps coax you out of a warm
bed. “Podcasts and music can be a helpful tool to not feel lonely and purposeless
super early in the morning,” says Roche.
We polled all of our sources—athletes,
coaches, and scientists alike—on their
favorite morning run songs for warming
up, powering through the workout, and
cooling down. The result is the energetic,
rocking playlist at right. Download it for
tomorrow’s run, and we promise it will
be worth waking up for.

“O

GET-ORGANIZED
TIPS THAT
REALLY WORK
PUMP-UP
TUNES
Lin-Manuel
Miranda
“My Shot”
Angels &
Airwaves
“True Love”
HAIM
“Want You Back”
John Butler Trio
“Ocean”
Andra Day
“Rise Up”

ON YOUR
RUN
The xx
“On Hold”
(Jamie xx Remix)
Brother Ali
“Champion”
(Remix)
Muse
“Uprising”
Two Another
“Over My
Shoulder”
Cut Copy
“Hearts On Fire”
Captain Cuts
“Love Like
We Used To”



I have this mind-set
of ‘just do it.’ Just do
it. If you take the time
to think, to make
excuses, it doesn’t
happen. Just do it.”
—LARISSA RIVERS, SENIOR
MARKETING MANAGER AT STRAVA
AND MOTHER OF THREE, ON HOW
SHE GETS UP EARLY TO RUN

As humans, we’re wired
to take the path of least
resistance. Set yourself
up for a run the night
before, and you’ll take the
decision-making out of
morning running—which
means you’ll decide to go.

COOL
DOWN
The Lagoons
“California”
Electric Guest
“Oh Devil”
Jake McMullen
“Dancing on
My Own”
Pixies
“Where Is
My Mind?”
Coldplay
“Life in
Technicolor ii”

GIVE YOURSELF TIME
Some runners can wake up
and head straight out the door.
That’s not most of us. Creating an
energizing prerun routine that you
don’t have to rocket through could
make the difference in successfully building a habit. When Brogan
Graham was leading the November Project’s Boston tribe, as a
rule he would be drinking coffee in
his kitchen 90 minutes before the
start of the workout.
LAY OUT YOUR CLOTHES
It’s the oldest trick in the book—
and it works. Small decisions, like
choosing what to wear, can lead
to decision fatigue. (Just ask Mark
Zuckerberg, Barack Obama, or any
number of top performers who
wear the same thing daily.) Laying
out clothes saves you that mental
taxation. Plus, it allows you to get
warm asap. Your body temperature
is lowest around 4 a.m., so if you get
up at 5 in skivvies and then have to
decide what to wear, it’s inherently
an uncomfortable experience.
PREP YOUR GO-TO DRINK
No convenience is too small when
streamlining a morning. Whether
you grind beans for pour over,
leave a packed moka pot on the
stove, or set your coffee maker’s
timed brew function, pre-prepping
a morning beverage is one of the
top time-saving and motivation
gems. As Olzinski puts it, “My best
alarm is the coffee alarm.”
WARM UP WHILE FUELING.
Do exercises between bites and
sips. This incentivizes you—a sip of
coffee is a great reward for a few
lunges—and keeps you from mindlessly scrolling on your phone.

MAY 2018 RUNNER’S WORLD 71

DO THE
FIRST
MEAL
RIGHT
P

ost–morning run, treat yourself to a
generous, healthy, delicious breakfast.
Why: Studies show that those who eat a big
morning meal generally eat less throughout the day than those who forgo breakfast.
Refueling after a run is also vital; skip it,
and your body is deprived of essential nutrients to build fitness, and your energy
tanks. Plus, a mouthwatering breakfast
creates the reward response in your brain
that leads to more morning running.
The ideal meal, says Stephanie Howe
Violett, a champion ultrarunner who holds
a Ph.D. in nutrition, has carbs to replenish
fuel, protein to build muscle, fat to help absorption, and flavor because…duh. Use her
mix-and-match chart at right to nail it all.

72 RUNNER’S WORLD MAY 2018

Create the Perfect Recovery Breakfast
Pick from each column, starting at left (carbs! Your base) and
work right. Your number of possible meal combos: 7,776.

CARB

FRUIT OR
VEGGIE

PROTEIN

HEALTHY
FAT

EXTRAS

SWEET
POTATO

BERRIES

EGG

AVOCADO

DRIED FRUIT

OATS

GREENS
(spinach,
kale, chard,
arugula)

PL AIN
YOGURT

NUT
BUT TER

SPICES
(cinnamon,
nutmeg,
black pep per, cumin)

TOAST

ZUCCHINI

NUTS
(walnuts,
almonds,
hazelnuts)

BUT TER
OR GHEE

SEEDS
(chia, flax,
sesame,
hemp)

BANANA

B EETS

B L ACK
BEAN S

CHEESE
(cheddar,
ricotta,
cream
cheese)

HONEY OR
MAPLE
SYRUP

WAFFLE

B E LL
PEPPER

SALMON

OLIVE
OIL

FRESH
HERB S
(cilantro,
basil, mint)

QUINOA

TOMATO

MILK
(2% or
nondairy)

COCONUT
OIL

GR ANOL A

TO WIN THE A.M.,
ACE THE P.M.
H

ow you feel in the morning is a direct
result of all the decisions you made
the previous night. Adopt these small
habits, and becoming an early runner will
be worlds easier.
Pull back your bedtime. Perhaps the
single most important part of getting up
early is going to bed early. “A lot of folks
trying to develop a morning running routine neglect that part,” says coach Mario
Fraioli. “As you start to get up earlier, you
will get tired earlier, and listening to that
cue is essential.” In essence, becoming
a morning runner is less about forcing
yourself awake and more about listening
to when your body needs to hit the hay.
Try melatonin—but early evening.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body that induces drowsiness and regulates the wake-sleep cycle.
Recently, over-the-counter supplements
have gained popularity among those who
have trouble falling asleep but don’t want
to commit to a prescription sleeping aid.
Kristin Eckel-Mahan recommends that
instead of popping melatonin right before
bed, like you would a sleeping pill, take it
earlier in the evening, which will work to
more effectively adjust your body clock.
“To shift your chronotype, this is a much
better mechanism,” she says.



You get hooked on
morning running. I get
to the office, and people are half asleep, and
ask me, ‘What are you
on?’ I feel like I’m on
top of the world.”
— JOHN HONERKAMP, RUNNING
COACH AND FOUNDER OF THE
NOVEMBER PROJECT’S FIRST
NEW YORK CITY TRIBE

Ban blue light. You’ve heard it a thousand times: no phones for at least 30
minutes before bed. That’s not just because checking work email can stress
you out, but also because the blue light is
signaling to your brain, and thus the rest
of your body, that it’s time to be active.
“The central pacemaker in the brain is
primarily determined by the light-dark
cycle and is extremely light-responsive,”
says Eckel-Mahan. “Abnormal light exposure will misalign your clock.”
Eat dinner early (and don’t eat again).
Each cell, tissue, and organ in the body
has its own internal clock that produces its own biological rhythm, and in a
perfect world, all of these clocks will
be in sync. Just like bright lights signal
to your brain that it’s time to wake up,
food tells the metabolic organs that it’s
time for activity. That midnight snack
you think is harmless (you’re a runner,
after all), is actually telling your liver
and kidneys, for example, that it’s time
to go. “Generally you want your food intake to match your activity phase,” says
Eckel-Mahan. “That keeps your clocks
aligned.” What’s more, she adds, eating during your body’s rest phase, and
thus misaligning your clocks, is thought
to promote obesity, diabetes, and other
metabolic disorders.
Don’t bring work home with you.
It’s the advice of innumerable productivity manuals and self-help guides: Get
your hardest work done first thing in
the morning, when your mind is typically sharpest and willpower strongest.
And your morning run could also benefit from it. If you put off your hardest work till the evening, bringing that
baggage home with you, it’s a recipe
for stressed sleep. Plus, front-loading
your work and running in the morning
(which is shown to improve concentration and memory) can create a positive feedback loop: run early, feel great,
nail your big project, tend to smaller
things in the afternoon, come home
clear-headed, fall asleep early, repeat.

HOW TO MAKE
MORNINGS STICK
REWARD YOURSELF
Treating yourself to something
you enjoy after the run—like the
day’s first scroll through Instagram, your favorite podcast, or a
delicious breakfast—will actually
develop neurological pathways
that associate the early morning
run with said reward. Soon,
those same Pavlovian pathways
activate whether you give yourself the reward or not. It’s like
your brain learning to subconsciously motivate itself.
LET YOURSELF GO SLOW
For those used to running in the
afternoon or evening, the body’s
early sluggishness might be
disheartening at first. “My one
piece of advice,” says coach
John Honerkamp, “is focus on
effort, not pace. The body is
slow-moving in the morning, and
it needs to get used to it.” The
surest way to abandon your new
morning routine is trying to PR
every day. “It doesn’t mean you’re
not getting fitter. Getting out the
door is the important thing.”
GIVE IT THREE WEEKS
Before the November Project
became a national fitness sensation, founder Brogan Graham was
tasked with convincing friends,
acquaintances, and strangers to
wake up before the sun. One time
is easy—it’s novel and thrilling. But
how do you make it a habit? “Make
a goal of more than one morning,”
Graham says. “Your first time is
going to suck. The second one
you’ll have a better understanding.
And the third, you’ll be looking
forward to getting up.”
THINK ABOUT FUTURE YOU
Recall when you first started
running. Maybe your ankles
hurt, your lungs burned. Yet you
persisted, and looking back now,
you’re better for it. Take this
same outlook for developing a
morning routine right now: You’ll
be so glad you did. “I always
regret not going on my morning
runs,” says Honerkamp. “But I
never regret doing it.”

MAY 2018 RUNNER’S WORLD 73


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