Predawn Running: How to Get Your Run Finished Before the World Wakes Up
Note: This is a guest post by Greg Strosaker from Predawn Runner.
If you’ve got the flexibility to run any time of day you want, with no other commitments to worry about, you can safely stop reading.
Still here? I thought so.
As much as we’d all love to be able to run whenever we felt like it, life often has other plans.
But wouldn’t it be nice to find a time when you could run without the risk of having something else disrupt you?
I’m happy to report that such a time exists – it’s called the predawn.
While just being able to reliably create the time to run using these early hours of the day may be enough motivation, there are plenty of other reasons that running early is often the best choice.
Why run before dawn?
First, you get a big accomplishment done before most people even wake up. No matter what happens the rest of the day, no one can take this away from you, and you’ll enjoy a boost in confidence and satisfaction that lasts for several hours.
Second, getting an early start extends your day and allows you to get more done. When you don’t have to deal with fitting in your workout later, you’ll find a lot more time on your hands to deal with your other responsibilities.
Sure, you may have to go to bed earlier, but for many, late night is the least productive time of day anyway, so what are you really losing?
Additionally, during the summer, conditions are much more favorable for good training in the predawn, when temperatures are cooler and the risk of storms is generally lower. Again, less disruption makes for greater consistency in your running.
Finally, you’ll find an inner peace and comfort running when all is quiet. There is little to disrupt your flow and rhythm so early in the day, and you’ll find that not only can you get in a quality workout, but also some valuable time to think while you are out on the roads.
7 steps to help you get moving quickly
Okay, so you know the why – now the challenge is the how.
I can hear you thinking: That sounds awfully, well, early. If this is your fear, you’ll find the following tips helpful in moving quickly through the morning, so you can sleep as late as possible while still getting the workout done.
1. Lay out all your gear the night before.
Clothes, shoes, jacket, reflective vest, headlamp, watch, iPod, hydration belt, gels – everything. Have it ready to go so you don’t need to hunt through a dark room in a semi-awake state. Have the watch programmed for your workout if needed, and the iPod set to your playlist, if you use one.
2. If the weather is going to be iffy, leave your smartphone by your clothes to check the weather.
If contingency clothes are needed, lay those out too. Again, don’t allow yourself to spend time hunting for clothes – or your phone, for that matter.
3. Only use the smartphone to check the weather!
No email, no Twitter, no Facebook. No one expects you to be awake anyway, so no one is expecting a response. They can wait until you are done.
4. Set things up to be efficient after your run too.
Need to pack a lunch? Get the kids’ stuff ready for school? Prepare dinner? Empty the dishwasher?
Do those things the night before. Saving time after your run and before your other commitments also means you can start your workout later.
5. Know your routine, your route, and how long it should take.
Allow only the time needed to dress, warm-up, run, cool-down, shower and change. It will help keep you focused on moving along.
This means you can’t afford surprises like, “wow, that was a mile longer than expected,” so be meticulous in your planning. This may take some time to learn, but eventually you’ll get to the point where you set your alarm for, say, 4:36 AM because you know that’s as late as you can possibly sleep.
6. Keep your bedroom clock set 10 minutes fast.
Yes, you’ll know it’s a trick. But early in the morning, you just might convince yourself that you slept longer than you did. Plus you get a little buffer on that super-precise estimate you just made on how long your morning routine will take – you’ll appreciate this occasionally.
7. Don’t let the snooze button become a tool of your resistance.
There are several ways to beat the snooze button.
You can put the alarm out of reach so you have to get out of bed to turn it off. You can set the alarm loud so as to jar yourself awake (and, if you have a sleeping partner, no doubt they won’t want to hear that alarm a second time). Or, you can just be so motivated that the snooze button is never a temptation.
For most newcomers to predawn running, safety is the major consideration.
But contrary to what you might think, running this early can actually be safer than running in daylight, mainly because there is significantly less traffic on the streets. As stated in The Running Manifesto, busy streets aren’t busy at 4:00 AM.
You do need to be sensitive to the traffic you will encounter though, so you should invest in a few additional items that will keep you visible and safe:
- A reflective vest – because a reflective stripe on your clothing isn’t enough.
- A headlamp – for both visibility and seeing obstacles like rocks or nocturnal critters (yes, they do occasionally appear). Rechargeable LED-based models from Petzl or Black Diamond are ideal.
- Additional safety lights or reflective accessories – RoadID offers a range of items to enhance your visibility in the dark
If you’re looking for a way to get more stability in your training, more guarded time to get the workouts you want done, try moving to the predawn. You may be amazed at the results.
What other barriers prevent you from running early? If you’ve been successful in making the move, do you have other useful tips for those who want to become predawn runners?
About the Author: Greg Strosaker is the marathon-winning blogger behind Predawn Runner, a site dedicated to helping busy runners find the time and motivation to make running work in their life.