How To Wake Up For Morning Workouts

“How do you wake up so early to run?”

It’s a question I’m asked fairly often. And, as someone who writes about health and fitness, I’ve written the “How to Become a Morning Runner” article more than once.

Everyone wants a quick fix or little trick to becoming someone who rises with the sun. (Put your alarm on the other side of the room! Enlist a buddy to hold you accountable! Set a goal to train for or work toward!) And those are great and can help. But my take? Stop over-complicating it! If you want or need to be someone who works out in the morning, Nike that shit and just f-ing do it.

Do I want to wake up at stupid-early times to wake up and work out most mornings? Not really. Would I rather sleep forever? Dude, duh. But here are a few things that really have helped me commit to early AM workouts.

1. Make sure you’re waking up for something you love or want to do.

The days when I actually do bound out of bed are the days I have something exciting to do. I genuinely like waking up and going to the track on Tuesdays, and I look forward to the Wednesday November Project workouts because I know I’ll get to see my friends. I’m not as eager to rise when I’m getting up for 6 easy solo miles or something less thrilling. If you’re going to commit to forgoing shut-eye in favor of a workout, make it for something that’s effective, worth your while, and fun. Don’t wake up at 4:30 AM to half-ass your way through a sad spin class. Instead, pick an activity you love and will want to wake up for.

2. Refuse to snooze. 

Simple as that. Create a rule that you will not under any circumstances hit the snooze button. The snooze button is my downfall. If I hit it once, I’ll hit it 15 times. So my rule is to grab my phone when the alarm goes off, turn the alarm off, and start doing something, like scrolling Instagram or checking my email. And while I’m doing that, I remind myself that I’m more likely to regret snoozing than I am to regret getting up.

3. Accept that you’re probably not going to feel amazing when your alarm first goes off. 

I’m sure there are people who pop out of bed at 5 AM ready to crush the day. I am generally not one of those people. But I have come to accept that I will most likely feel like tired garbage when I first hear my alarm. I won’t want to get up. I won’t love that it’s dark out, I won’t love having to get dressed, and I probably won’t even love the first mile of my run. But eventually and gradually, I’ll start to feel better. Maybe it’ll be during the second mile, the fifth lap around the track, or when I’m back home and showered, but I know that feeling will come, and I remind myself of that while I’m waking up.

4. Give yourself a few minutes to ease into it. 

When setting my alarm each night, I work backward. Take Wednesdays — my earliest days — for example. My workout starts on the Upper East Side at 5:28 AM. That means I need to be in an Uber around 5:05, which means I need to order my Uber around 4:55. (Ubers aren’t as densely populated here in West New York as they are in Manhattan! Sometimes the closest Uber is 10 minutes away; other times there are none available. The horror!) From there, I know I need at least 30 minutes to truly get ready — that includes going to the bathroom 3+ times, getting dressed, brushing my teeth, and then going to the bathroom one more time. That brings us to 4:25. Then I give myself a 5-minute buffer. That’s the period during which I can stay in bed scrolling social media and checking my emails before I have to actually physically get up. And that’s why I wake up at 4:20 on Wednesdays.

5. If working out at night works better for you, work out at night. 

People give a lot of credit to morning runners. And waking up early is hard! But so is running at night! If you truly want to be someone who works out in the morning, commit to it. But if a post-work sweat fits into your schedule better and means you’re more likely to go for that run or get to that yoga class, then keep working out at night. Don’t let morning exercisers get all the glory — any time you can get out and bust a move is quality time.

6. Don’t wake up early every morning. 

It helps me to know I get at least one morning per week when I don’t have to wake up at 5. I have no problem waking up early on Tuesday and Wednesday if it means I get an extra hour of sleep on Thursday. Pick a few days a week to do the early-rising thing, and give yourself a break on the other days if that helps.

7. Stop bitching about it. 

Complaining about waking up early is not going to make it any easier, I promise. Yes, you may hit a 2 PM “holy shit I cannot stay awake” slump. Yes, you may need to go to bed a little earlier. But no, it’s not the end of the world and it’s not impossible. Give yourself a little tough love and just do it.

Suck it up, buttercup. Wake up!

All that being said, don’t be stupid. Sleep and rest are important, too. Family is important, too. Your health is definitely important. Figure out your priorities and plan accordingly. But don’t keep hitting snooze because you’re tired. Everyone’s tired. Everyone’s busy. Everyone’s over-worked. (I don’t condone this — I think it’s crap that this is how we all live in 2016! But I recognize that it’s often the reality.) If you want to reach your goals, you’ll make sacrifices sometimes. You got this.

Good morning!

ANYTHING TO ADD? If you’re a pro morning runner, feel free to share some tips for your friends here!



27 Responses

  1. Mornings are, to put it bluntly, hell for some of us. The sound of the alarm clock violently ringing in our ears rips us out of rest and puts us instantly in a bad mood. Worst of all, we’re completely aware of being in a bad mood, but believe we’re powerless to stop it. We have to wait until the mood burns off and hope we don’t do anything we’ll regret later.

  2. All good tips. I work out in the mornings because there is really no other option. It is NOT because I am way more committed or saintly. If I don’t get up, my family / kids / work / sports / etc will consume my evening OR I will spend all day stressing that something will come up, so it’s just easier to get it done!

  3. Completely agree with all of these! I am also a morning work-out person.

    One thing that has really helped me stick to morning workouts is setting a bed time. It sounds silly, but it has helped me feel more refreshed in the morning. I go upstairs at 10:00PM, and let myself read until 10:30PM at the latest (I personally need 8 hours of sleep to feel rested enough to work out). It worked for us as kids, it works for adults too!

  4. “Accept that you’re probably not going to feel amazing when your alarm first goes off. ” THANK YOU. My alarm will go off, and I’ll be like “ugh I feel like crap I can’t possibly get up.” but when I DO get up and wake up a bit it’s fine. It’s getting over that initial “I must NEED 90 more minutes of sleep” hump.

  5. I just wanted to say that I’m really glad you’re posting so much again! I love your outlook on things & your funny comments are always a nice thing to read in the mornings!

  6. I really love morning runs (I even love them in the dark for some reason) but the actual getting up is grimness!! I can usually manage it twice during the working week and once at the weekend.

    I echo your point about going to bed earlier.

  7. That was highly motivating… I have been getting up early for a couple of years now, but only recently to run. This takes more time and motivation.
    I know that after work, when it is hotter I will not want to do this, so if I do it first thing in the morning I don’t have to worry about it!
    The holy shit I can’t stay awake hits at 3 for me!

  8. I was much better at morning workouts before moving in with my boyfriend. He is not a morning person so I feel bad setting an early alarm and making noise getting ready when he has another hour of sleep left. I of course do it occasionally for races and when I know I won’t be able to fit my workout in later. How do you deal with a sleeping partner?

    1. Courtney, I get up at 3:45AM – my VERY nonmorning husband doesn’t get up until after 7AM! So, I get ready in another room/bathroom I the mornings so I don’t have to worry about making noise or feeling bad for waking him up.

  9. This is what I’ve been asking myself the last few weeks when I’d rather stay in bed…

    1) when I want to skip a long run: Would M. Phelps skip a long swim?
    2) when I want to skip any other workout: Would M. Phelps skip a short swim?

    The answer is usually “no,” unless we are considering M. Phelps in his “troubled” time.

  10. I wake up at 4:30 am to run three times a week. I make sure everything I need is laid out the night before so all I have to do is roll out of bed and change. I would love to go back to bed most of those mornings but that means I would have to do speed workouts and tempo runs pushing a stroller in the evening and that sounds harder than just getting my butt out of bed. Plus I really like having my evenings free to do other things.

  11. ” Don’t let morning exercisers get all the glory — any time you can get out and bust a move is quality time.”

    YES, thank you. I WANT to be morning runner, but honestly, I am more of an evening runner (always have been). That doesn’t mean that I do get up to run in the morning sometimes… those are some great tips. I should find a running group for those hard morning workouts 🙂

    1. At the risk of sounding like a total stalker, I have gathered from your blog that you live in/around Sacramento. If so, check out a group called 9run6. It’s basically the November Project of Sac. A great, free group to run and workout with! I’ve been doing it for a few months now an now it’s not nearly as tough to pop out of bed at 5 am anymore.

  12. Recently found your blog and loving it!

    I know that morning workouts are better for me and so I should do them, but it’s definitely a struggle.

    I have a picky stomach, so working out or running is better than doing so at the end of the day when food is more likely to bother me.

    I also love having my evenings free.

    I’ve been trying to go to Orange Theory in the morning and as one reader mentioned, I pay for it, so I need to go. If I cancel in the morning I lose that class. That works well for me.

    I’d LOVE to see those sunrises, that would motivate me too!

  13. I used to think anything before 6am was insane. Now I wake up in the 4:xx or 5:xx hour at least 4 days a week. Do I like waking up in the dark? Not particularly. But I love NP and I know myself enough to know I’m not going to work out at night. I think it’s one of those things where you just have to do it. It sucks at first but eventually your body adjusts. This morning I slept until 7 for the first time in forever, but I need that one day a week to sleep in a bit and recharge the batteries.

  14. I am the farthest thing from a morning person; however I watched and learned from my dad about getting up at 4am working out and commuting to NYC from an hour away. Everything was set out the night before. He also had his sneakers next to his bed as a reminder.

    DO IT!!! We should all live and use this day in and day out for many aspects of life!

  15. My boyfriend is so pragmatic about early morning rise to go running. He just does the Nike thing. 5am twice a week. But he also has an 85 pound dog that relies on him for those runs and isn’t shy about nudging him just in case that alarm doesn’t go off. I learned early on that mornings don’t agree with me. I can get up early to run a race because I have a few hours from the time I get up till the race starts but just to pop up at 5am and start running out my front door 5 minutes later isn’t for me. I’m grateful to be freelancing again with more flexibility but boy this summer has been brutal. I run late morning and endure heat and humidity that might be a smidge better if I ran earlier. I agree though about getting up for something you love.

  16. I’ve always been super motivated to workout in the morning because I know it means I’ll have my evenings free to go out, work late, do nothing, whatever I choose! The key for me is to eliminate all excuses, which means I make sure I have everything ready the night before – my running clothes, post-run breakfast, lunch, my work bag, etc. If those things aren’t ready it’s easy to convince myself to stay behind.

    Great tips!

  17. OMG. So true about it being easier if you are excited for a workout. That’s generally why I pay up for things like Flywheel/Flybarre or Peloton. Also? If I’ve paid for it in advance and used a boutique class credit, I’M GOING. Money = The Greatest Motivator.

    Let’s email today, k?

  18. Thanks Ali for these tips! I’ve woken up to workout in the mornings 80% of mornings for the past 7 years. For me, the best trick is just to make it non negotiable…it’s just something I do! I truly agree with your #3… I feel cappy & exhausted every morning when my alarm goes off, but by the time 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes have passed, I feel just fine! Also, for me, the thought of having my evening free to do something else makes it worth it. And lastly, to your #6, Friday I sleep in a little later. The thought of Friday helps me power through the other early workouts. 🙂

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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