Running in the Morning

by Dan Walsh

Another lesson in choosing the appropriate time for each action.

Running in the morning is an excellent way to start the day. The streets are quiet. The air is fresh. It wakes up my mind. Starting the day with an accomplishment sets a productive tone for the rest of my day. And, kind of like doing your homework Friday evening instead of waiting until Sunday night, I don’t have it hanging over my head. It feels great. Too bad I hate running in the morning.

I’ve tried for years to make a habit of running in the morning, but it just won’t stick. This year, I started waking up at 5:30am so I’d have enough time to run, write, and get to the office on time. I thought it would be great exercise, and a great exercise in discipline. It is! But it sucks.

My willpower is weak in the morning and my body is stiff. Running in the morning is like running through mud. My stride is stiff and my breathing is shallow. My tired brain makes it oh-so-easy for the tiniest excuse to wither my resolve. I am unlikely to run if it’s cold, if I “have a big day”, or if I’m sore from yesterday. I’ll even skip my run if I don’t know where I left my workout clothes. Finding them requires turning on the lights and I don’t want to wake up Angelica.

These are all excuses. I could resolve most of them with a little planning. Regardless, I wondered if this was one of those habits that I was trying to perform at a suboptimal time – like flossing at night. So I went for a run last night to see how that felt.

It was so easy!

I got home from work, turned on the lights, found my running gear, and was out the door in 5 minutes. My run was fluid and my breathing was smooth. I didn’t feel like I was running through mud. Dare I say, it was enjoyable.

Based on this experience, I might scrap my attempts at establishing a morning running routine. Running in the morning is a choice between waking up and running, or sleeping in an extra 30 minutes. That’s a pretty bad downside compared to a pretty great upside. I’m more likely to run in the evening because the choice is much simpler: Run or don’t run.