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 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 6 a.m. 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 6 a.m. (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. I like to think of my morning run as a form of active meditation -- it 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 (nine to 10 minute mile). That is 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 eight hours per night if possible (asleep by 10 p.m.).
I started running in the morning over 10 years ago and it has changed my life and career more than any other habit.
Best-selling author Tom Rath summed up many of the benefits in his book, Are You Fully Charged?, noting that just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise has been shown to improve mood and make people feel better for 12 hours afterwards. So getting your exercise first thing in the morning can set you up for success all day long.
Rath said it best -- "You simply think better when you are active."