Eat, sleep, run, repeat.
It may sound like a simple formula, but there's so much more that goes into maintaining a healthy balance between everyday life, work and fitness goals. While you can likely squeeze out a few runs a week on minimal sleep, not only is this not feasible long-term, but it can lead to an increased risk of injury and potential burn out.
But let's face it, mornings before a run are tough no matter how rested you are. Give yourself every advantage by preparing as best you can the night before; this will maximize how late you can sleep in and will help you feel more prepared, recovered and not as rushed once the alarm goes off.
It's a win-win.
From laying out your running clothes to filling up your bottles, here are nine things all runners should do before bed to streamline their mornings before a run.
Prep Your Coffee Maker
Mmmm, coffee! Go through the ritual of grinding your beans, filling the coffee maker with water, adding the filter, etc. the night before, and set the timer to go off 30 minutes before you're planning to wake up. While your alarm won't be pleasant, waking up to the smell of a fresh pot of coffee will help you ease into your morning routine. Better yet, by drinking it early, you'll have time to prime your system and take care of "business" before you head out the door.
Check the Weather
The whole "rain or shine" adage is highly overrated in our opinion. Running in inclement weather can increase your risk of getting sick, and running in seriously bad weather can leave you stranded in a sometimes-dangerous situation. Check the weather before bed, and if it's not looking good, figure out a Plan B in case you wake up and it's still not ideal.
Lay out Running Clothes
After you've looked at the forecast and know what to expect weather-wise, pick out your running gear to match those conditions, and set it out before you go to bed. For example, if it's going to be hot, a singlet and running shorts will likely do the trick, or if it's windy and cold, opt instead for a light windbreaker and tights. If you're expecting a particularly early morning, some runners will sleep in their workout clothes for one less step to worry about once the alarm goes off.
Charge Your Devices
No matter if you run with your phone or with a GPS watch, be sure to plug them in the night before so they're fully charged and ready to go in the morning. This also includes charging things like your Bluetooth headphones or any visibility devices you might run with, too.
Fill up Bottles
Don't let the morning roll around before you realize you haven't filled the Brita and your favorite bottle is in the dishwasher. Make sure you fill your bottles the night before, and feel free to mix in any electrolytes, too. If you're expecting a hot run, leave your bottles in the fridge to chill overnight, and give them a good shake in the morning if there's any undissolved powder in the bottom of the bottle.
Roll and Stretch
A foam roller is a runner's best friend. By creating a regular habit of foam rolling and stretching before bed, you'll not only unwind and relax, but you'll also promote a healthy range of motion while combatting the effects of your previous training efforts. Pair this with a good night's rest, and you'll wake up feeling refreshed, recovered and ready for your run.
While you might be inclined to scroll through Instagram or watch Netflix while foam rolling and stretching, it's better to avoid screens for at least an hour before trying to catch some shuteye. Opt instead for a favorite podcast or audiobook, or if you've already finished your routine pick up a real book instead.
Check in With Your Training Partners Some running groups have a Google Calendar invite or a meetup app of some kind where you can look for updates and say if you'll be attending. If that's the case, check where and when to meet and confirm you'll be there. If you're running with a friend or two, give them a call or text and figure out the details—this will save you an early wakeup if they aren't going to be around.
What is the purpose of the morning's workout? How does this workout help you reach your running goals? What do you love about running? Running is hard and can test your motivation over time, so by taking a couple minutes and asking yourself some introspective questions before bed (or as you lie in bed), you'll keep your training in focus while fostering the love for the sport. Remembering why you're doing what you're doing and what attracted you to running to begin with will help justify the early mornings and hard efforts.
Best Ways to Refuel After a Hard Run
There are five factors you should take into consideration for fueling after your run:
1. What was the duration and the intensity? Gauge your effort and track your distance to understand how many carbs you need to replenish your glycogen and rehydrate.
2. What were the conditions of the workout? The weather, temperature and humidity have a significant impact on your performance. Your body will have to work harder and sweat more when it is hotter outside. Use this calculator to determine your ideal pace based on weather.
3. What can you stomach? Eat what your body can tolerate. Liquids are best since they can be absorbed quicker by the body and digested more easily.
4. What is accessible? Make something that is easily transportable. This can be a protein bar, fruit or toast that can go in a plastic bag ready for you to consume post workout.
5. What do you have planned for tomorrow? Your post workout meal helps you recover for your next run. This is where the nutritional composition and timing of the meal matter.
Guidelines for Refueling
As a runner, keep these guidelines in mind when refueling.
No matter what the latest diet fad says, carbs are not the enemy; as a runner, you need them. Glycogen is the body's preferred source of energy during moderate- to high-intensity exercise. A resting muscle glycogen content of an untrained person consuming a mixed diet is around 80 to 85 milimoles per kilogram of muscle while a runner is around 120 milimoles per kilogram. To adapt and recover you need to refuel with carbohydrates.
Add Some Protein: Be sure you have a 3:1 or 4:1 carb to protein ratio. After a hard run, you need to replenish your glycogen stores and rebuild muscle. A study conducted in 2014 found ingestion of protein post workout stimulates muscle protein synthesis and inhibits protein breakdown. So, before you decide to indulge in a pastry, get in some quality carbs like rice or sweet potato with a happy helping of protein like chicken or whey powder.
Eat Enough Calories and Replace Fluids:
A study published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine recommends a carbohydrate intake of 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you plan to eat a meal with carbohydrates and protein, the same study recommended 0.8 grams per kilogram for carbs and 0.2 grams per kilogram for protein of body weight. For re-hydration, drink between 12 to 24 ounces for every pound of body weight you lost during exercise. If you use a sport drink to replace electrolytes, count those as your carbs.
Time Consumption Based on Next Workout:
Most research agrees that the sooner you refuel, the better; but the general consensus appears to be within 30 minutes of activity. Restoring glycogen as quickly as possible is more important if you have a workout in less than 8 hours. The best way to do this is to consume high-glycemic foods; this is more effective in small feedings over 4 hours. If you have more time to recover, timing is not as important.
Refueling Based on Various Workouts
Now that you have factors and guidelines that influence refueling, look at it based on various distances.
Recovery Run: Aerobic exercises, such as a recovery run, uses oxygen and rely on fat for fuel. After a run like this, you really just need to eat a healthy, balanced meal within 4 hours. Aim for a 3:1 carb to protein ratio.
The goal of tempo runs is to stay just below your lactic threshold as you sit on the border of aerobic and anaerobic systems. Restoring your glycogen stores after a tempo run is critical to recovery. Consume 4:1 ratio of carbs and protein on the lower range of 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight within 30 minutes. Avoid consuming fat for this meal because it will slow down the metabolism for the carbs and protein that are needed to recover.
Intense Track Workout:
These workouts will be strictly anaerobic, without oxygen, which means your body uses glycogen as fuel. These workouts are often short and require resting between sets. If your stomach can tolerate it, the best way to refuel is with a high glycemic and high carb sports drink between sets.
If you plan to do over 1.5 hours of activity, it is important to fuel before and during your workout. Runs like this often start as aerobic and then switch to anaerobic as your body starts to fatigue and your heart rate rises. After a long run, you need more calories with the 4:1 ratio of carbs and protein on the higher range of 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight. Aim to consume most of the calories within 4 hours of the activity in small feedings.