I never go into a big day without running first thing in the morning.
There is no doubt that running in the morning makes me better at work throughout the day — I think more clearly, multi-task better, and overall have a more optimistic outlook on work and life.
Knowing I’ll be sharper all day is exactly the motivation I need to get out of bed at 6am when sometimes my body is screaming for more sleep. The overall health and fitness benefits are nice bonuses, but it’s really the mental benefits that keep me running each morning, day after day.
Morning is also the time when nothing else gets in the way. When I used to put off working out until later in the day, something would inevitably pop up — being buried in work, an unexpected meeting, last-minute requests, a co-worker’s birthday celebration, or just general laziness and fatigue. But nobody is looking for me at 6am (helped by the fact that I don’t check my iPhone before lacing up and heading out)!
I find that my morning run also gives me a great opportunity to think about the day ahead and my top priorities. Sometimes this gives me the aha moment I need to have a breakthrough at work, and at the very least it gives me a chance to think about things — work or personal — without being interrupted or distracted. Once I get to the office, the day is often jam-packed with meetings, conference calls, and other demands. So my morning run really sets the tone and calibrates me for the day ahead.
And I see all of these benefits with just a 30-minute run at a very manageable pace (9–10 minute mile). I rarely run any longer on the weekdays, but it’s all I need to feel better for hours and hours after the run finishes. Maybe it’s mental, but now when I don’t run, I feel lethargic, cloudy, and more irritable. My thinking isn’t as crisp and I’m sure my friends, family, and co-workers notice a difference in my attitude.
I will admit it is really hard to actually get out of bed, but once I do, it’s pretty easy to throw on a pair of shorts, t-shirt, and running shoes and go out for a 30-minute jog. Even on days when I’ve slept poorly the night before, I find that pushing myself to go out for the run actually makes me feel better than if I would have gotten an extra 30 minutes of sleep. But I definitely highly value my sleep and aim for 8 hours per night if possible (asleep by 10pm).
And it’s a nice bonus that I run in the mornings with my wife and push our 2-year old daughter in the running stroller. So it makes for a little extra family bonding time.
I started running in the morning about 10 years ago and it has changed my life and career. So I wanted to share my routine just in case it might be right for you too.
I’m sure there are other forms of excercise that produce similar mental benefits, but running is what I do and what works for me — Inexpensive, limited equipment, and available right outside my door. But first thing in the morning is the key.
I just finished an inspiring new book by Tom Rath called, “Are You Fully Charged?”, and in it he notes that just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise has been shown to improve mood and make people feel better for 12 hours afterwards. So I’ll include a short passage from his book to finish this post that sums up why I run in the morning — hope it helps!
“Working out in the evening is better than no activity at all, but if you work out late in the day, you essentially sleep through and miss the boost in mood that exercise produces. The more activity you get in the morning, the less likely that 12-hour mood boost will go to waste…Instead of thinking about exercise in the morning as something that will drain your energy, as it sometimes does over the first few days of a new routine, keep in mind that it will eventually give you more energy throughout the day. Even brief activity can produce major gains in creativity and productivity. You simply think better when you are active.”