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.
As a nearly exclusive pre-dawn runner (even in February in New England), I love to hear other proponents! One additional item I’d suggest is for folks to work on their animal awareness. Deer, raccoon, and all sorts of critters are often up & on the move before sunrise; the vast majority want nothing to do with humans, but keep your eyes open (and maybe the headphones turned down a bit) to avoid any unfriendly encounters.
Also, at that time of day, many early-riser dog owners will just send their pets out into the unfenced yard without leashes, etc. I’ve been bum-rushed by territorial dogs a few times (no harm done, though). Just another factor to consider when planning routes.
Hi Kat, that’s a great suggestion. I’ve experienced the same thing with dogs on rare occasions, and have heard a coyote howl. Worst experience was nearly running head-on into a deer when I was doing an interval around a cul-de-sac. I’d suggest maybe going without headphones in the predawn for this reason.
Yikes! I have had deer run alongside me but I have yet to get close to one.
The dog thing annoys me too (and I get extra annoyed because I have a dog, and I am very careful to always be outside with him if he’s off leash and not fenced in). Once I was chased away from my normal route by a very territorial rottweiler.
what do you wear to run in february in new england?! i live in NH and i just started running last summer. as soon as we got that crazy snow in october i stopped running & just started back up!
I don’t want to take breaks that long every year!
I would add: Invest in a good protein shake mix and load the powder into the shaker before you head out. Then when you get back, all you have to do is pour in the milk, shake it up, and take it up to the shower with you. I love the pre-dawn and dawn runs – to have the sunrise in your face heading home is so gorgeous!
I generally start my runs when it’s just light enough to see, I’ve never yet run while it’s still dark. I’m something of a klutz and have been worried about tripping, especially on the parts of my regular route that aren’t paved. Now that I’m running for longer times I realize that when winter comes back I’ll really need to suck it up and be running before dawn, it’s just not going to be practical to start at first light and then run for 90 minutes. This post is encouraging me to prepare for that – I need to start shopping for a headlamp.
Believe it or not, I went running predawn for years without a headlamp. Now that I have one, I can’t imagine going without it. I stumble more often on the rare instances where I run in daylight, probably because I don’t take as much care to watch my footing as I do in the predawn. The only thing that scares me in the dark now is black ice.
I live and run out in the ‘country’ on country roads and I have found that carrying a LED flashlight works just fine and I also wear a refective hat. You talk about early, I am usually on the road by 3:15 a.m.
You didn’t mention anything about fueling up for the run- should one eat something before heading out on a run? If so, what?
I don’t eat before heading out for a run. I find this is a matter of personal preference, but as I mentioned in an early response, there are benefits (burning more fat, becoming more glycogen-efficient) to running before breakfast.
Yes I always eat a banana before I run. They are easily digestable.
I love running in the early morning! There are way less people around and it’s nice and quiet. Also it energizes the rest of my day. I had trouble getting into the routine at first, but now it’s just a habit.
There is no better feeling than running early under the moonlight and watching the sun rise. Of course, I’m a “morning person” but sometimes that helps me push through the sleepiness and give me energy to start my day!
I would also add that if it’s necessary (and any bed partner doesn’t kill you for it) multiple alarms are ok for the first week or two of early AM running. I run in the early morning all the time, but when it gets super dark and super cold in the fall I still need two alarms set on my iPhone, 5 minutes apart. Basically, even if I fall for the snooze, every 5 minutes I get harassed about getting up, and after a few days of that one alarm is enough to get me moving.
In addition, and in the spirit of the smoothie suggestion, come up with a favorite breakfast or lunch food and plan to have them the first time you run in the early morning. If your usual breakfast is oatmeal, treat yourself to a bagel with almond butter. Or pack a special lunch. I find that having a slight reward like that to look forward to also gets me moving while it’s still dark.
I love the idea of a reward – great suggestion! It’s a good motivation for developing a new habit, no doubt.
I would also suggest trying to find a similar-minded running buddy or group to meet you out there. This won’t work for everyone, depending on your schedule, but I’ve found that knowing someone is waiting for me at the trailhead is one of the best motivators! And all of the suggestions above. I used to hate it, but running at sunrise is my favorite thing now!
This post came at the perfect time as I just switched to early morning for some of my workouts. I think I’m used to getting up so early, now I just need to work on how to have the energy to finish workout #2 after work. Any ideas? Thanks for the great post!
I don’t know on that one – I find working out after work to be tough even if I don’t get up early. I find success in doing a second workout at lunch, specifically if I’m running doubles. If I do work out later, it’s usually post-dusk.
Good snack/nutrition in the afternoon works wonders.
Absolutely! I run right after work and my running performance/motivation is night and day based on how much of a snack I have in the afternoon. An apple just doesn’t cut it, it has to be a little bit more than a no-run day snack. Apple/PB and soy yogurt or a homemade NMA protein bar.
I run exclusively in the evenings after work. What gets me out there when I’m fried from a work day is knowing in a mile I’ll be feeling great! The stress of the day will be behind me and I can ride the endorphin wave well into my evening! It’s great!
I totally agree! Running is the best way to de-stress and unwind after work for me. Plus I feel like my body is more warmed up and less likely to get injured later in the day than when I’m stiff early in the morning. Also I make healthier food choices after a run, where as when I run before work I’m more likely to go for a happy hour and/or snack before dinner.
Aren’t zombies more likely to attack in the pre-dawn (dark) hours!!!??!?
Anyhow, you mention clothing and waking strategies, but what about food and coffee? Do you eat before your run? I’m used to waking up because I work-out at home in the mornings (short-interval/weight training) but I’d like to start going out on runs. I’m mostly worried about not having enough fuel to finish my runs. Any suggestions and strategies?
I don’t eat or drink before I run, even on a long 20+ miler, and have seldom had any issues. There are good reasons to run before breakfast too, as a previous post here has pointed out. First, you force yourself to burn more fat than you would otherwise, which can help with weight loss. Second, you learn to become more “glycogen efficient” and utilize fat as an energy source, which can help in the marathon (if that is your goal).
And I have yet to see a zombie, but if I disappear during a predawn run, I guess you’ll know why.
I don’t eat before a run, either, even on the long runs. It will just irritate my GI tract and I end up with “runner’s trots” every, single time. That’s why morning runs are best for me and predawn is a habit I need to develop! Thanks for these tips and the motivation.
I don’t have to get up as early on weekends but before my long run I eat oatmeal and a banana an hour before my run.
Check out Brendan Brazier’s Thrive series of books for great pre workout fuel options. He has recipes for bars, gels and shakes that are pretty easy to make.
Great information for predawn runners! During the week I’m exclusively a predawn runner and have about 45 minutes to run before I need to be home to wake the family. So, I totally agree about knowing to agree about knowing your route ahead of time. The website http://www.mapmyrun.com is a great tool for this.
I run in the late morning on weekends and really do prefer the super early weekday runs. We live near several fairly busy streets and I usually only find 3-5 cars during my predawn runs. On weekends, I usually come across more than 40 cars so it is definitely safer for me to run in the early mornings!
For me, the worst part of early morning runs isn’t the blustery wind or the driving rain (we live in Oregon so that’s pretty normal) so much as the fog. Running on dark foggy streets always makes me hyper-vigilant because they always remind me of the dark, foggy alleys in horror movies where people go missing. Probably just my mind playing tricks on me because it would rather be sleeping.
Fog and heavy snow (or rain) that hurts visibility for drivers are the only issues that cause me concern in the morning. And, for the record, I even get up at 4AM on Saturday’s to try an polish runs of up to 20 miles before the rest of the family gets up (though my wife is trying to encourage me to at least wait until 5AM).
Wow…getting up so early on the weekend is real dedication. I don’t particularly look forward to runs in heavy rain but I figure once I get wet from the rain I can’t get any wetter and just keep going.
Does anyone have suggestions on where to run? Normally, during a daylight run, I’ll avoid major roads for quieter trails, but as a woman running alone, I’m not sure I’m comfortable doing quiet trail runs alone at dark. Stick to main roads with street lights? I’m not much of a pre-dawn runner, mostly because of safety concerns, so any advice is much appreciated!
I’ll admit that I live in a pretty safe area, so this usually isn’t a concern for me. But yes, I’d stick to well-lighted paths and have your own light (headlamp or knuckle lights), as well as potentially carrying a phone in a SPI belt or similar in case you do need help. I know quite a few other early morning runners and have yet to hear of any incidents.
In my area there is one street with streetlights and that I run on during my weekday early morning runs. There are multiple gas stations, Dunkin donuts, a hospital. I carry pepper spray, sometimes I’m also armed, and i never wear my headphones during those runs for safety. I am much more aware of my surroundings. I have to get through a short, dark section with woods on the sides before I get to the lighted streets so I pay close attention.
I recently downloaded a math alarm clock onto my phone, which is genius for not snoozing! I have it set so it won’t shut up until I solve a math problem, and it just keeps getting louder. Once my brain starts working I can’t go back to sleep!
OMG! Laura I got a similar app after reading your post and tried it out for the first time this morning. It’s crazy!!! It makes me complete 4-5 problems/puzzles not just one! And they are problems like (12X13)-5. Are you kidding me? It’s 5am! And I was trying so hard to finish quickly because I didn’t want to wake up my husband. I was spazing out! It was hilarious! No kidding about waking up! I couldn’t go back to sleep after that for sure! 🙂 Thanks for the tip! 🙂
why the hell would you need to check the weather on your phone when you can, you know, just look at the thermometer or go outside?
Not sure where you live Chris, but around here, the forecasts for the next morning can be off by 10-15 degrees. That makes a big difference in what I wear, and it makes too much noise to step outside, then go back and have to change. And we don’t own a thermometer.
Second issue is when storms are coming through, it can be helpful to look at radar to know when it will come or how long it will last, and figure out how to adjust plans – stay closer to home if a storm might be coming, delay and do some strength or mobility work first, or just outright postpone. Doesn’t happen often, but at least once or twice a month in the summer.
I now live in Finland but have lived in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Florida, and Oregon. Nothing is more accurate than the human body-brain combo. And it is true, forecasts are always off, so intuition is crucial.
I wonder if Chris lives in CA? I rarely have to worry about the weather here. We are so spoiled out here! 🙂
That sure isn’t CA! 🙂 I’ve never been there so I don’t know. But I picture it cold and snowy. It’s probably not that way all time though eh? I bet it’s beautiful though!
Happy running Chris….in all weather! 🙂
cold and snowy, yes. most days I wake up wishing I were in California. it is indeed beautiful though, especially if you are up early to witness it, which is a new thing for me since the mornings are miserably cold. (i set a personal best-low of running at -4 F this year.)
-4! The coldest I’ve ever ran in was 1 F. (Not counting windchill). That was in January in Iowa. I did not get very far! LOL! I was even wearing a neoprene face mask. My sunglasses froze to my face! Ugh! Props to you being able to run in the cold. It’s not easy! : )
I do the majority of my runs, weights, etc. predawn. What gets me out of bed is my spouse gets grumpy if I set the alarm and don’t get up,so once it goes off I pretty much have to. I have discovered, though, that I don’t run as well if I do itlater in the day. It is just harder and hotter. I think this is going to make races more difficult, right? They don’t schedule them at predawn.
My wife would shoot me if I went back to bed after the alarm went off. And I also intentionally mix in some later-in-the-day runs during training to get used to running in more race-like conditions.
I really admire those of you who are able to get out of bed before the sun rises to run – this is something I wish I could change about my body. I barely make it out the door for morning runs, on the days I am able to do them. For some reason I always have my best runs mid-day (lunch time) or evening/dusk. When I trained for triathlons I tried desperately to “become” an early morning person – we would meet to swim in the lake at dawn during the summer and then run 5 miles… I couldn’t handle it. I’d be asleep on my desk by lunch time. Then I tried going to bed earlier, but I’d just wake up all night panicked I had missed by alarm and the workout.
Of course, I don’t have children yet and my husband and I run together most evenings. I know things will probably change.
Also, I totally understand the quiet serenity; it’s very similar to running at dusk or just after dusk for me. 🙂
Amanda, just aim for getting your hiney down the stairs for a cup of tea (or coffee, if that’s your thing. WAKE UP for a few minutes before you put on your running clothes. Of course this means getting up slightly earlier, but even when I am a barely-functioning-creaky-lump making my way down the stairs; within a half hour i am a whole new person and ready to go!
Thanks, but that still only keeps me awake til noon and unproductive later in the day. To each their own!
I am totally with you Amanda, it feels great out there at the time, but not in the afternoon when I’m so tired because I’m a night owl and can’t get to sleep before 11.
I only run in early morning…I always aim for getting out the door between 4:30 and 5:00. But I need a minimum of 45 minutes in the winter and 30 minutes in the summer to accomplish this. I MUST have a cup of tea, which half wakes me up, I scan the news headlines for 5 minutes, and use the bathroom. THEN I can get dressed, don my reflective vest,watch, phone and headphones;and then finally get out the door. I have never used a headlamp and have only tripped twice in the last 6 years. Your eyes adjust. The biggest thing I want to emphasize for those just attempting to run early morning: at first you will negotiate with yourself every single morning about whether to sleep or whether to get out of that warm bed to go hurl yourself into the darkness…but eventually you just do it. It is incredibly rewarding.
You raise a good point Milemom – finding a routine that works is what’s important. If it takes a bit longer but manages to get you out the door consistently, then you’re doing it right!
In regards to the headlamp, being able to see obstacles is secondary to increasing my visibility to oncoming cars. A few of my routes include main streets with very little berm and, while there is usually not much traffic, there is the occasional incident of cars coming from both directions at the same time. One such close call led me to finally invest in the headlamp.
I am once again starting over and getting back to running. I am also concerned about safety running early as I am an older woman. I have not figured out how to manage this, so I may have to resort to a local indoor track that opens at 5:30. There are two good tools for waking up early: On the iphone, you can get an app called “sleep cycle” which will ring the alarm any time within 30 minutes of the time you set. You put it on your bed, and it detects when you are sleeping less deeply and so it is easier to wake up since you are not in the middle of a deep sleep cycle. It also keeps a log of your sleep times. Also, I have just ordered a sunrise alarm clock that gradually lights up your room over the course of 30 minutes before the alarm goes off. It also gives you a more natural wake up experience. Both have worked well for me in the past. Less brutal.
Sounds like you have made quite an investment in making the predawn routine work for you Nora. I hope it works out (and suspect it will!).
The sleepy feeling you feel after an hour or so of predawn running will dessapear overtime, I have lasted several months running predawn, but as soon as I get home I sleep for a couple of more hours, what if I would have to get home, shower and off to work to 5 p.m., I would get used to it after a while? you told me that you didnot take naps, so I think you got used to the little sleep!! Cheers
Hi Cesar, I read a few years back that Jeff Immelt (CEO of GE, where I worked at the time) had trained himself to get by on ~5 hours of sleep per night. Now I don’t know the long-term health ramifications of such a decision, but having to go that route in order to fit in my training seemed a worthwhile tradeoff to me.
After years of running at night I switched to mornings when I took up running again 5 years ago. I love getting my runs in prior to going to work or doing weekend activities. If its too cold,snowy or wet, I am lucky to have a treadmill that I can hop on if need be.
Reflective gear is really a necessity for these pre-dawn runs -I’ve almost been mowed down by cars on way too many occasions!
Ah, like-minded runners. I’ve been a pre-dawn runner for years. I get up ~5:00 am and I’m usually out the door by 5:30 or 5:40. No breakfast during the week, and only a very light one on the weekend prior to a long run. I rarely carry any lights as the neighborhood where I run has plenty of streetlights. I do have knuckle lights, though, that I can use.
I do, however, avoid trails in the pre-dawn dark just for safety.
Another advantage to running this time of day, and you have touched on this regarding traffic, is that the number of available routes goes way up. There are some streets I would never run on, nor even try to cross, during the day because of traffic, but in the pre-dawn they are accessible, or “cross-able”.
It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, and it’s everything else you describe. Running from pre-dawn dark all the way through to sunrise is one of the most sublime pleasures that so many people miss.
But I do hate the new, early, switch to Daylight Savings Time. Getting the morning light a bit earlier would be nice thankyouverymuch.
Hi Donna, I definitely agree on the increased access to a wider range of running routes. I spent the entire last spring and summer never repeating the same route twice, which would have been impossible if I had to deal with daytime (or even postdusk) traffic levels.
I’m pretty much exclusively a trail runner so my post-dusk and pre-dawn runs can be pretty interesting. I’m always on the lookout for beady eyes glowing back at me from beyond the trail. I follow most of your tips. I have to put the iPhone alarm on and leave it in the kitchen. That way by the time I get to it to turn it off I’m fully out of bed and practically at the door anyway. I find my body is still too asleep to get out the door right away so I have a small snack and a drink so that the sugars give me a little wakeup and there is some time for my body to catch up.
Nothing beats a day with a pre-dawn run that you get to see the sunrise. I love those days.
Now, to try to find the motivation to head out in the driving rain I can hear outside that I’m sure will still be falling in the morning…
Good article, Mark. I’ve actually done extensive running both in the afternoons (while in college) and in the mornings (as a professional runner) and always enjoyed the morning routine more.
For those interested, almost all elite runners do their main workouts in the mornings (albeit not all of them get it in before dawn, but some do). Likewise, the very respected Joe Vigil (Deena Kastor’s coach) highly recommends running in the morning.
Here is his reasoning: “The philosophy behind running in the morning is that when you go to bed at night and you are lying flat, your intervetebral discs are able to engorge themselves with water. And in the morning when you get up and your full body weight is on those discs and gravity is pulling on you and the more active you become the more water you lose and they become compressed. And consequently you have a chance to irritate those horse tail nerves that come out of the vertebrae and that is when you can develop some injury and also some postural deviation.”
That’s interesting Jeff, I haven’t heard that particular justification before.
Thanks Greg (sorry for the name typo earlier :). It’s definitely an interesting theory – I’ve never studied the topic, but Dr. Vigil is an absolute legend in our sport, so I’ll take his word for it. Either way, can’t beat the support of such a great coach.
Well, I think I’ll need to study it more, as it sounds like a great topic for a future blog post.
Great post! I’ve always been a pre-dawn runner and totally believe in it. Best part of the day! I sometimes even take my kids in the jogging stroller if they wake up too early on the weekends – they love seeing the sunrise!
I live on a small island and love running early in the morning – to hear the waves; the birds just starting to sing and gradually see other people getting up and putting lights on in their houses is something special. It’s very much MY time for ME! Regarding safety – it’s very safe here, but many roads are not lit so I need to be careful about where I run or I can fall off a pavement no problem! Haven’t yet mastered a torch/headlight thing…..I don’t bother to eat or drink anything, but my early morning runs don’t tend to be longer then 6-7 miles, so it’s not a problem. I just use my Garmin to tell me how far I’ve run, no music I listen to nature and love it and safe the music for other times of day!
I work at night ( 7 pm – 7 am ) but sometimes I get out at 3 am and I love to do my long runs at night when there’s nobody on the street , my times are always better too, because it’s not so hot ( I live in
Florida ) , I love running into the sun rise , keeps me energized for the rest of the day
Starting the day off with a great achievement really sets the day in the right direction. I’m glad you took the time to write this as I was just in the process of starting something new.
This is a helpful article but as a woman living alone in an urban area I find it neglectful that the only safety issue you mention is cars and being seen. Thinking about Sherry Arnold and other women who have vanished or been assaulted while running some days makes me nervous to step outside my door in the daylight alone. (although I always do.) it would be nice to see this article updated with tips for that.
Michelle, what tips do you want? Wear a reflective vest, pay attention to your surroundings, carry a phone and perhaps mace, vary your route….and proceed forth. “m sure you know all this. It is very sad what happened to Sherry Arnold, but of all the many women who are attacked and/or killed each year, how many are female runners running at dawn? There are plenty of women who are abducted in the middle of mall parking lots in the middle of broad daylight.
never get in a car, even with a gun pointed at you. If you get in the car, you almost always die, but if you run away, you at least have a chance of escaping.
Michelle, that is a great suggestion. Alas, since I live in a safe suburban area, it’s something I’ve never really had to study, so would have to defer to those with more experience in coping with such a situation to write such a post. Milemom’s tips are a good starting point.
LOVE THIS POST. This is exactly how I got into running and what I do every morning!
Predawn is the calmest, best time of the day. It’s the best time to see a city or place. The best time to have “me time” and ignore everyone else (except keeping an eye on your surroundings for safety).
so, i love working out in the morning. in high school I played hockey and i loved the 4:30 am workouts! it was great to have worked out hard for an hour before anyone else was even awake.
i am always hesitant to run when i wake up though. how is it on your muscles? i always feel more stiff in the morning (i didn’t realize it started so early! i’m only 21! getting old already), and i find running in the afternoon is good because my body has loosened up throughout the day! its the same way for me with yoga- i can go much deeper in the afternoon. however, morning yoga does stretch me out earlier and i feel better for the day.
would it be similar with running? you’re more stiff but you get warmed up early in the morning and you’re better off for the rest of the day? and is it always a more difficult run?
Yes, the muscles do warm up when running in the morning. The first mile is usually slow (for me). A good warm-up routine of mobility drills and lunges can help. However, if I really care about the results of a speed work session, I will delay it until lunch. This is more a matter of the mind being awake and alert than it is of the body being ready – it’s hard to knock off a consistent set of intervals if you’re not fully awake.
This was a really interesting article and I really enjoyed reading it.
I wanted to go back to the safety questions for a second. I’ve always wanted to run in the mornings before dawn; however, I live in downtown Chicago. It’s a really safe neighborhood, but I still don’t know how comfortable I would be running when it is still dark out. Normally, I run on the lakefront trail, which requires me to run under a tunnel when I’m going out and then when I’m coming back. I can adjust my route so that I’m running through neighborhoods and not under that tunnel, but I still have some apprehensions about that as well. Does anyone have any good suggestions for how to be safe?
Hi Ashley, I’ve actually asked your question to another young lady I know who runs in Chicago, and I believe she runs early in the day. If she has any advice to share, I’ll comment again.
In general, I would recommend a headlamp or other lighting (like RoadID carries) as enhanced visibility can promote safety, and keeping some form of communication with you. I suspect that the area you are describing is as safe as many suburban areas would be as I’m a little familiar with it, but will hopefully get better insights for you soon.
Ashley, here is the feedback from my friend in Chicago (verbatim):
I’ve talked to a few women about running early (or late) in Chicago and I typically say the same thing—if you’re aware of what’s going on around you and you’re smart about where you run in the city, you’ll be fine. Beyond the normal runner safety precautions like wearing reflective clothing and/or bright enough colors to be seen, I think it’s smart for women to either have a whistle or some mace with them. (Keep in mind that I give this advice, but I don’t actually practice it because I feel really safe running in Chicago). The tunnels to the lake can be a bit creepy but maybe she can get to a location that doesn’t require running through one. For instance, there is a bridge that crosses over Lakeshore Drive just north of North Avenue from Lincoln Park. It’s out in the open and it’s lit very well. Whenever I run predawn (which hasn’t been often lately!), I rarely see many people. When I do see fellow runners or cyclists out there, we give each other the “I know, it’s early–way to get it done” head nod.
I’m travelling at present and this morning took a long, early morning run on a nice paved trail along a Southern California beach. I thought about this post after about the tenth time I “sneaked up” on a woman who was wearing earphones and had no idea I was running up behind her. I understand it was a pretty safe place but being that unaware of one’s surrounding seems pretty nuts to me. So my suggestion is to leave your music at home and maintain what the military calls “situational awareness”. Since you’re a runner the odds are good that you can escape from some scumbag pretty easily if you know he’s there.
That’s really great advice! Thanks for checking with your friend. I just moved here for school back in the fall. I don’t really know any other runners and have been really interested in seeing how other runners in the area feel about pre-dawn running. Thanks again!
Worried about safety? Run with a dog! I know, not the solution for everyone but my dog has protected me from all sorts of things, running or just walking. I have a small – medium, skinny, funny looking, sort of junk yardish mutt but he’s a great companion. I am trying to become a predawn runner. I just moved from San Francisco to the East Bay where it is much much warmer so running in the morning is the only time it’s cool enough for me and my dog. SF is pretty much always cool so it didn’t matter what time we ran. I wear a belt with a leash attached and my dog is well leash trained. This is important so your dog doesn’t trip you. I’ve trained him to keep his “pee mail” time down to 5 seconds and the frequency down to every two blocks. I keep an eye on him so if he seems to be falling behind I stop and do a set of push ups or sit ups. Dogs recover fast but do need breaks. Have your vet check for arthritis or other joint problems too. Just like people, you’ll have to condition your dog. I am thinking I should stay off the trails though because of mountain lions in the predawn hours. Coyotes are always a concern too, with the dog anyhow.
Hi, I was considering pre-dawn running tomorrow seeing as I am busy all day. However I do not own a headlamp. The course I was planning on running is wide, concrete and never goes on a trail once. Do you think I will be OK or should I wait and get a headlamp?
I ran for years in the predawn without a headlamp – based on your description, you should be fine, so long as you are in a safe (crime-wise) area.
Hey Runnergirlie, I run in the dark every morning (semi-rural roads) and never use a headlamp. Your eyes will adjust and there is usually enough ambient light to make runing safe. Just DON’T RUN WITHOUT A REFLECTIVE VEST!! (you’ll be able to see well enough, but drivers will not see you without a vest)
It was this thread that got me started with predawn running, and now I’m a real fan. At first I was using a headlamp on every run, but as Milemom suggests you will find that your night vision kicks in and you don’t really need a headlamp. Now I only use the lamp on really foggy mornings (not uncommon where I live) and that’s more to be seen than to see.
I wear a reflective ankle band and reflective clothing to make sure I’m seen. A lot of drivers are clearly on autopilot early in the morning and you really need to be aware of your surroundings. I’ve not had a real close call yet but more than once I’ve left my preferred track to avoid a vehicle that seemed to be getting too close. IMHO it is insane to use headphones when running on streets and that particularly applies in the dark.
What about being a woman and fear of, I don’t know, being abducted when there’s no other humans around?
I am a newcomer to central florida and this is a huge concern of mine.
Note* I do live in a safe neighborhood, its a newly built community, not gated, still, your out there after dark…
What’s your thoughts on this?
I’ve been running from 5:30 to 6:45 in the morning since my gym closed for Covid precautions. I love it! I live in a suburb in Texas, so side walks and street are nice. My only concern is that sometimes I feel a little vulnerable, as a female alone in the dark while most of the world is now asleep. So far I’ve only had an issue on one block, so now I avoid that block. Otherwise it’s been amazing!
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