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The Benefits of Running in the Morning

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
The Benefits of Running in the Morning
Running early awakens your body. Photo Credit PointImages/iStock/Getty Images

You may be tempted to hit snooze when your alarm goes off extra early so you can fit in your run before the rest of your day starts—don't. Running in the morning has distinct advantages.

Not only will you get your body up and moving, start burning calories and invigorate your muscular, skeletal, cardiovascular, nervous and respiratory systems, running early will ensure your workout happens. Once it becomes a habit, a morning run may become one of your favorite fitness routines.

Read More: Morning Vs. Evening Cardio

You Get It Done

The biggest benefit of a morning run? Guaranteeing it gets done. The longer you put off your workout, the more likely you'll bail. Your resolve to run may lessen as you tire from work or the day's activities.

Even if you have a high motivation to run later in the day, it's very possible scheduling demands get in the way. Work may run late, unplanned meetings may pop up or your kids may have a pile of homework with which they need assistance.

In the morning, fewer schedule conflicts are likely to arise last minute and get in the way of you pounding the pavement.

Morning Air

Unless you're running in the dead of winter in a northern climate, the morning is likely the most cool and refreshing time to run. If your route takes you on roads, you'll be out before most commuters. This means clearer air that has yet to be polluted with car exhaust.

Race Benefits

If you run to train for a race, morning runs prep you for the time of the day you'll be required to perform at your best. Most races, whether they're 5Ks or marathons, begin before 8 a.m. Running in the morning gets your body accustomed to moving at the time you'll have to race. It also gives you a chance to try out pre-run fuel and hydration techniques at a similar time of day.

A morning run gets you accustomed to rising and performing early.
A morning run gets you accustomed to rising and performing early. Photo Credit Elenathewise/iStock/Getty Images

Fat-Burning Potential

If you jump out of bed and head out the door for your run without any food, you might burn a greater percentage of calories from fat stores than you will if you run later in the day. "Fasted cardio," as it's called, is the practice of working out first thing in the morning without fueling beforehand.

In the morning, you naturally have less glycogen, or fuel derived from carbohydrates, available in your muscles and liver. As a result, your body is more likely to dip into your fat stores to keep you running.

The net benefits of fasted cardio are controversial, however. You're best off doing your run at a slow and steady pace to reap the fat-burning positives — if you've got intervals or speed work planned, fuel yourself with 100 to 300 calories prior to ensure you can perform at your best. The benefits are short-lived; over time, your body adapts to fasted cardio and you get less fat-burning benefits.

Also, the percentage more fat burned when fasted versus being non-fasted is negligible. You may burn about 60 more fat calories during a 3-mile run done early in the morning, but if it makes you feel miserable and perform poorly, you might be better off eating a little something before.

Early Morning Modifications

If you do choose to reap the benefits of running first thing, remember that it will take your body a little longer to warm up. Your body temperature hasn't reached it's peak and you may feel groggy from sleep, so be patient as you may need a mile or two to feel like yourself.

Read More: The Best Time to Run to Lose Weight

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