How I Became a Morning Runner + How to Build Effective Habits

Good things about being an adult: Your own house, your own rules. You make your own money. You can drink wine whenever you want.

Bad things about being an adult: More responsibilities. Less time. Less tolerance for drinking as much wine as you want…

Being an adult runner means you’re choosing to make running a priority when you have a million other things you could be doing instead. The laundry won’t do itself,  the dishes aren’t going to get washed on their own, kids (if you have them) need constant attention. But still, you carve an hour or two out of each day for something that others might consider “frivolous” and “unimportant” — because it’s important to YOU.

The biggest way I’ve been able to carve out time to running, which is important to me, is to switch to morning workouts.

Why I switched to running in the morning:

  • The morning is my time. Getting it done first thing, before the day has started, gives me the least chance of interruptions, distractions, or things “coming up” at the last minute.
  • Running in the morning gives me more energy and makes me less stressed for the day ahead. I notice a HUGE difference in my energy levels, concentration, and mood on mornings I run, vs. mornings I don’t. I am a much happier, nicer, and more productive person with a boost of endorphins — and also just having invested time in ME before I’ve had a chance to give to anyone else.
  • Running in the morning helps me make better decisions later in the day. When your first choice of the day is a good one, it creates positive momentum for the rest of the day. When I run first thing in the morning, I am more motivated to make a healthy breakfast, keep my house clean, be more ambitious and proactive at work. And even if nothing else goes well that day, I can take comfort in knowing I did at least one good thing.

My best tips for becoming a morning runner:

  1. Success happens the night before. When you run early in the morning, you set yourself up for success or failure by what you do and don’t do the night before. The night before I always lay out everything I need to get out the door — from my Garmin, to my phone pouch, to my house keys, full outfit, socks, and sneakers. I put everything in my bathroom so I don’t wake my fiancé as I’m stumbling around getting dressed. When I wake up, I don’t have to think about anything — I’m just on autopilot.
  2. Set your alarm on the other side of the room. This helps eliminate the delirious snooze hit. Once you get up to turn off your alarm, you’re already out of bed (the hardest part!).
  3. Get enough sleep the night before. Obvious — yes. But it can be a struggle getting to bed at the time you need to in order to wake up early. Especially initially. Here is my best tip for making that happen: Almost everyone has a smart phone today — and your smartphone has alarm apps! Use them to their full potential! Think about what an alarm does — it disrupts you from your current state. I like to set a couple of alarms the night before (on auto-repeat for each weeknight, so that there’s no excuses) as check-ins for where I should be in my nightly routine. It’s a great way to pull yourself off the couch if you’re struggling to get up and get moving. And it’s a great way to pull yourself away from any task you’re in the middle of. I usually set one alarm to start my “wind down” routine at night (AKA, disconnect from social media, or finish doing the dishes, and start getting ready for the next day). Then, I’ll set an alarm at the time I actually want to be in bed by. That’s my hard stop. Lights out.
  4. Halfway dressed, and you’re halfway there. A tip I had heard when I first started experimenting with morning running was to wear your workout clothes to bed. To me, sleeping in a tight sports bra is very uncomfortable. And I do love wearing real pajamas. So I compromise. I’ll wear my running bottoms to bed, and a comfy pajama top. It’s only one less step I have to do in the morning, but oddly, having that one layer already on seems to make such a difference.
  5. Build a practice. Create a routine, and cues. Take inspiration from yogis who don’t call their yoga a “workout routine”, but rather a “practice.” Develop a morning routine that can become your own form of practice. Once you go through a routine enough, it almost becomes meditative. You should have a super specific item-by-item list of what each step in your routine looks like. This takes a little work upfront, but the payoff is always having a plan and never having to wonder what you need to do next to get yourself out the door. Throughout your routine, set external “cues” for yourself — which are key for building habits. The act of brewing your coffee. Lacing up your shoes after putting on your clothes. Maybe you read the newspaper, or a book, while you drink your coffee. Maybe you spend a few minutes jotting down your goals for the day. All of these are tangible experiences that, once repeated day in and day out, will signal to your brain that it’s time to go running.
  6. Consistency is everything. Nothing works unless you’re consistent with it. The same thing goes with building habits. If you fall off the wagon, get right back on it the next day. No guilt. No overthinking. No deep-seated feelings of anger or shame. Don’t allow yourself to get into the mindset that you need to wait until next Monday, or next month, or the start of the next year, to “start over”. There is no starting over, really. Keep putting in the work, forcing consistency when necessary, and know that over time it will become so ingrained that not running in the morning will feel like forgetting to brush your teeth!

Espresso Dark Chocolate Chunk Muffins (gf, df)

Espresso Dark Chocolate Chunk Muffins (gf, df)

It took me two rounds to perfect this recipe. I am picky with my baked goods, and having to bake gluten-free makes me even pickier. My goal is always to create a baked good that I could put down in front of someone, without telling them what’s in it, and not have them say it’s “pretty good for being gluten-free”, but that’s it “REALLY good”, period. I think I achieved that with this muffin.

Basically, this muffin is the perfect solution to your 3 PM energy crash. It gives you complex carbs and healthy fats to prevent the “hangry” from coming on, and the staying power to get you through till dinner. It gives you a little dose of caffeine with the ground espresso, and it has chocolate in it. Chocolate just makes everything better.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp. melted coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 3 tbsp. espresso beans, ground in a food processor, or 3 tbsp. instant coffee
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup dairy-free dark chocolate chunks, plus more for topping

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray, or oil with a little olive or coconut oil.
  2. In a large bowl combine all wet ingredients (eggs through apple cider vinegar, above). Whisk until well combined — your batter should be smooth and creamy.
  3. Next, add in all dry ingredients (except for the chocolate chunks). Stir to mix, then fold in the ½ cup of dark chocolate chunks.
  4. Spoon your batter into 9 muffin cups, and top with a few additional chocolate chunks. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Let cool for about 5 minutes, and then enjoy!