We all know that running consistently opens up a world of benefits, regardless of what time you choose to cover your miles. But does the time that you run actually make a difference? The answer is a resounding YES! In this post, we are going to unpack some of the major benefits of running in the morning.
Benefit 1 – You Are Much More Likely To Run Consistently
Of all the benefits of running in the morning, this is arguably the most significant. When you make the decision to start running in the morning you can unlock a level of consistency that most afternoon and evening runners will never tap into.
Research from the American Council on Exercise has shown that people who exercise soon after waking tend to be more consistent and exercise more often than those who work out at other times of the day.
The reason for this is fairly simple. When you make early morning exercise a priority, you shield yourself from all the potential obstacles that can throw even the most determined runner off course.
For instance, you might need to stay a little bit longer at work, a necessary evil that will eat up the time that you scheduled for exercise. Or the traffic might be really bad, causing you to cut your workout in half or even give up on the session altogether.
The point is, you have absolute control over how you spend the early morning. This cannot be said for any other time in the day. This schedule control is ultimately what breeds the amazing consistency gains that you can expect when you start training in the morning.
Benefit 2 – You Avoid The Willpower Drain
In the past, it was thought that willpower is an unlimited resource that humans can draw upon at any time of the day. However, modern research has established that willpower is more like a fuel tank that runs out of gas as the day goes on.
The good news is that by choosing to run in the morning, you can avoid the willpower drain that we all experience. Better yet, because exercise releases endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, going for an early run can actually boost your willpower levels for the day. It’s a bit like adding extra capacity to your willpower tank.
Benefit 3 – Your Sleeping Patterns Will Improve
Technically, you don’t have to run in the morning in order to enhance both the quality and the quantity of your sleep.
However, you do have to run consistently during the week in order to maximize the potential sleep benefits.
According to Dr Michael Breus (aka the Sleep Doctor), people who experience difficulty sleeping are most likely to benefit from cardiovascular exercise that is consistent and routine.
This brings us back to the first major benefits of running in the morning, namely, consistency. Because it is easier to run consistently if you train in the morning, you will be better able to accumulate the amount of cardio needed to really unlock the sleep benefits of regular exercise.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week in order to improve your sleeping patterns. For most people, that means 3-5 solid cardio sessions. which is actually quite a lot of exercise. Fortunately, training in the morning will make it that much easier to hit this target.
Benefit 4 – You Will Burn A Ridiculous Amount of Calories during the day
The simple reality is that running is one of the best ways to burn calories.
In a research article put together by business insider, running was ranked number 1 on the list of calorie burning exercises. It beats swimming, cycling, flag football, tennis, cycling, rollerblading, Taekwando and just about every other sport that people can participate in.
So it’s safe to say that you will smash calories if you add running to your training schedule.
But what about running in the morning, specifically?
Again, you don’t have to run in the morning in order to experience the benefit. However, you do have to log those miles, and morning runners tend to log more miles than their evening runner counterparts.
In addition to logging more miles, running in the morning is a great way to kickstart your total calorie burn for the day. You literally get a massive head start, where you can comfortably burn anywhere between 250 and 1000 calories during your morning session.
This can make it much easier to achieve a calorific deficit if you are hoping to lose weight, which is a key priority for a lot of runners out there. It will also make it easier to manage your weight if you are just looking to maintain your current physique.
The key here is momentum. When you start your day with a solid running session, you are literally taking a giant leap toward your total calorie burning goal for the day. It acts as a gigantic domino that will have a positive effect on all the other health related decisions you make during the day.
Benefit 5 – Improved Mood During The Day
Imagine if you could take a pill each morning that gave you a massive boost of positive emotions, without any negative side effects, while making you a little bit smarter and more optimistic about life in general?
I think we can all agree that if such a pill did exist, most people would take it without hesitation.
Here’s the thing. That pill already exists. It’s called cardiovascular exercise, and running is the purest form of cardio. Let’s explore why running is so good for improving your mood.
By running in the morning you will release 3 of the most powerful mood enhancing neurotransmitters early in the day. When you engage in intense exercise such as running, your body (and brain) will release the following 3 chemicals: endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. This concoction of chemicals is comparable to what an ecstasy user might experience after popping a pill, except it has none of the negative side effects.
Let’s take a quick look at what each of these chemicals actually do.
1) Endorphins: An article on WebMD sums up what endorphins do quite nicely. “Endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.”
Whichever way you look at it, endorphins make you feel really good, and running triggers the release of those endorphins. This is the very definition of a win win situation.
2) Serotonin: The importance of healthy serotonin levels cannot be overstated. It plays a governing role in mood regulation, social behavior, appetite, sexual desire, memory and sleep.
Because serotonin plays such a key role in all of these functions, increasing your serotonin levels is actually one of the best ways to improve the quality of your life.
In my opinion, the 2 simplest ways to increase your serotonin levels are:
1) Regular exercise such as running
2) Take probiotics consistently (this will increase the amount of serotonin that your gut produces over time)
3) Dopamine: Dopamine is tied directly to the reward center of your brain and it plays a key role in human motivation. In simple terms, a release of dopamine makes you feel really good. Perhaps more importantly, it will encourage you to repeat the behavior that lead to the dopamine release in the first place.
The danger here is that you can get stuck in a destructive loop. For instance, eating sugar laced foods will release dopamine. The problem is that your brain will then look for more sugar laced foods, in order to release more dopamine. This cycle can continue for years and ultimately lead to obesity, which remains one of the biggest health risks to modern society.
Fortunately, getting hooked on running is possibly the healthiest way to produce consistent releases of dopamine. Unlike other activities like gambling, smoking, junk food and alcohol consumption, running will give your brain the reward it desperately wants, without any negative side effects.
In many respects, running can act as the miracle drug that we are looking for to improve our health, fitness, intellect and well being. But to unlock these amazing benefits, we need to find a way to run consistently. Running in the morning is the best way to do exactly that.