I am not by nature a super early riser, or a morning runner. For many of my marathon running years, I got up just in time to breakfast, shower and get to work, and not a minute earlier. I ground out my midweek long runs at night, starting after we got the kids to bed and finishing sometime around 10 p.m. But if you’re going to commit to maintaining your running mileage, and also commit to showing up for all the other things you’ve obligated yourself to – work, family, community, faith – then sometimes you’ve got to bite the bullet and get out of bed well before the sun rises. And frankly, if you manage that, it’s a lot easier on your head than knowing you’ve got a major workout in store waiting at the end of a long, tough day (though sometimes that workout can be rejuvenating or cleansing – I’m not saying only run in the morning).
The long-term solution is to make early rising a habit, in which case you won’t need any tricks to get up. Most days I wake before my alarm, and am up at about 5:15 and out the door. But to get to that point, here are three tactics I used to get myself out of bed when I knew pre-dawn was the only open slot on my calendar for a run that day.
- Lay your things out the night before. Sounds simple right? But you wouldn’t believe how easy it is – even after you’ve roused yourself from slumber – to sit drinking coffee and answering email or checking Facebook rather than actually stepping out the door to run. Especially if it’s bucketing down rain or snowing, or 15 degrees F with a strong wind blowing and you can’t find your gloves, hat, headlamp, compression top, whatever. Check the weather the night before and lay out an array of possible gear options. One excuse off the table.
- Schedule a hard race. Register and pay for a race you’ve really got to train for. Whether that’s a 5K or if it’s a marathon, cool. You know what your goals are. To run your fastest 5K you may want to get in 40-60 miles (or more!) a week. To do that you’re going to need to get up some mornings, same as you would for some epic distance event.
- Post it to social media. Does it sound like a bit like bragging if you post on Facebook the night before your run: “Man, I’m really dreading getting up at dawn tomorrow to run 12 miles in the sleet and 24 mph wind.” Yeah, it does. Somebody out there is going to think you’re a jerk. That’s okay. Let it go. The main point is getting yourself out the door for that run. When you’ve just told all your friends, family and other social media acquaintances, at least implicitly, what a bad ass you are; you now have one more impetus to deliver. You’d better get up now, or your post won’t just have been boastful, it will have also been BS.
So those are three little tips. And here’s a bonus fourth. Remember death. You don’t have an eternity to keep kicking this particular can down the road. You’re going to start getting up to run next week? Next week’s always going to be next week. Get up. For those of us in our middle ages, it’s instructional to recall what my friend Cap’n John has pointed out more than once: When a kid goes to bed he wakes up stronger, just by virtue of the stage of his life he’s at. When we go to bed we wake up a little bit weaker than the day before. We’re getting older. The first part of our workout isn’t building, it’s wresting back what age took the day before. Get up.
UPDATE – BONUS SUPER-EFFECTIVE FIFTH TIP: After I posted this, my friend Jean commented on Facebook, reminding me of a great tactic that I’d left off the list. She wrote, “Plan to meet others. That is the main thing that gets me out the door.” I agree. Super effective.
Do you have another? Send it along and I’ll add to the list.