How to Wake Up Like a Professional Distance Runner


Sara and I often get asked about our pre-run morning routine, so I thought it would be fun to tell you what a typical morning looks like for us. I’m definitely a morning person—I usually jump out of bed well before Sara, and I’ve developed a routine that I quite enjoy. It keeps me feeling good on most of my runs*, and I think it could help you, too. Here goes…

6:30 am—Wake Up without an Alarm

Sara and I hardly ever use an alarm clock. As professional runners, we have the luxury of sleeping as much as our bodies crave, which is typically between 8 and 10 hours each night. I rely on my Fitbit Surge to show me if I’m getting enough sleep, and to assess the quality of those hours. Seeing how restless I am is extremely useful, because interrupted sleep is a tell-tale sign of overtraining and can signal the need to push a hard workout to another day.

6:31 am—Check In with Your Ticker

Another important marker I track with my Fitbit Surge is my resting heart rate. I’ve noticed I often have an elevated heart rate right before getting sick—even before I start having other symptoms, like a scratchy throat or stuffy nose. Running sick is never fun, so that’s another signal to back off the intensity.

On the other hand, a low resting heart rate is a good indication that I’m well-rested and ready to train hard. Last week I was at the end of a reduced-load training week (I run once a day and cut my mileage in half, compared to a high-load week with twice-a-day runs and a weekly mileage of 100), and upon waking my resting heart rate was 26—my lowest ever! This was a sign to me that I had recovered well in my down week and was ready to ramp things up again.

6:35 am—Hit the Bathroom Scale

After using the restroom (assuming that this isn’t one of the once a month random early morning knocks on the door by USADA for drug testing), I step on my Fitbit Aria scale. I keep an eye on my weight because sudden losses or gains can indicate something is not quite right with my body.

For example, a couple days ago I noticed I was two pounds lighter than usual, and I realized I was dehydrated—probably due to a cold I picked up while traveling. I knew this would mean a day of poor workout performance. I was mentally ok, because I could anticipate it—my body was battling something other than the pavement.

I also track my weight because I don’t want to be too lean between competitions. I’ve learned from professional cyclists and runners I’ve trained with in Africa, it’s healthy to put on a good amount of weight after a big race. I get really lean—somewhere in the 4 to 6% body fat range—leading up to a competition, and then go back up to about 9% body fat after, which is a much healthier place to be year round.

6:45 am—Drink (& Fuel) Up!

Every morning I drink 20 ounces of water while making breakfast. I picked this trick up from Clyde Wilson, a nutritionist at Stanford University—it’s an easy way for me to kick off my hydration for the day.  

The real fun starts when I get the mixing bowl out and prepare my signature Molten Lava Cocoa Teff Pancakes. They’re loaded with healthy carbohydrates and protein to fuel your muscles. Sara and I have them every morning without fail—we’re addicted! (Keep your eyes on the Fitbit blog, I’ll be sharing the recipe next week.)

7:30 am—Feed Your Soul

After enjoying our pancakes, Sara and I spend half an hour feeding our spirits. We’ll sip a warm beverage (have you ever tried buttered coffee?), and center ourselves through bible reading and prayer. It’s a great way to connect with our faith and with each other before the day gets hectic.

8:00 am—Warm Up & Hit the Road

After completing some warm-up moves, Sara and I hit the road for our runs, which range anywhere from 5 to 25 miles depending on our training schedules and upcoming competitions.

And there you have it—our typical wake-up routine. Sleep, resting heart rate, weight, proper hydration, nutrition, and spirit all contribute to our performance. I hope this has been insightful, and that you’re able to pick up a few tips to help improve your workouts, too.

*Let’s be real here, some runs feel terrible no matter how perfect your morning routine—it comes with the territory when you’re training hard.


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