Starting your day with a run is one of the best ways to build positivity, self-confidence, stress reduction, and overall well-being into your life. Life likes to get in the way of this though. Getting up early is a challenge for many of us and for the most part, we aren’t hard-wired to rise in the wee hours of the morning.

Over the years I have tried and failed many time to get implement an early morning routine. I can finally say I have figured out my magic combination that has had me successfully rising early for the last year. Here are 9 strategies I use to help me get going each day:

1. Go to bed early – Maybe it goes without saying, but sacrificing a good nights sleep in order to rise early is not a good long term strategy. Like a diet of all watermelon, it might work the first day or two through sheer strength of will, but I promise you it won’t last. Determine what time you want to wake up and then count back 7-8 hours. That’s your bed time. I rise at 4:30 or 4:45 each morning. Sometimes earlier! This means a 9pm bedtime for me and I honor it.

2. Make a date with friends – Convince some of your other crazy friends to get up early with you. It’s much easier to roll out of a warm bed and get moving when you know you have a friend who will be left alone in the cold waiting (and super pissed I might add) if you don’t show up.

3. Smile – When you walk in the bathroom to brush your teeth and get dressed, give yourself a big smile in the mirror, even when you don’t want to! Smiling has been shown to release endorphins and act as a natural pain killer. I can’t say enough about the power of a smile. Smiling will help keep you up and stop that voice that is trying to convince you to go back to bed.

4. If its cold, drive to a favorite running spot – Getting out of bed is hard enough when its cold out. And the bathroom floor is always cold and unforgiving. So after you dress, climb in your car and crank the heater. Its help you warm back up and gives you a few more minutes to wake up before taking that first running step. Your run becomes more enjoyable and therefore you might start looking forward to it (or at least, not dread it so much).

5. Give yourself enough time – When deciding what time to wait up, be sure to give yourself enough time to get everything done you need to before heading to work or getting kids to school or whatever your day holds. If your morning because a frenzied rush from one action to another, it won’t be enjoyable and will create more stress. We all run to feel good and if your morning becomes toxic because it is so hurried, you won’t enjoy it anymore. 15 extra minutes can make a world of difference!

6. Practice, Practice, Practice – we all know about building muscle memory for our physical body, but the same is true for our brains. The more you do it, the better you get at it because it becomes routine. We all are designed to be creatures of habit at least to some degree.

7. Implement the Old Standby – if nothing else, tell yourself you will go for at least 10 minutes, or a walk or something less intimidating. Once you’re out there, 9 times out of 10, you will decide that 10 minutes isn’t enough. And for those times that 10 minutes is all you really want, you practiced getting out of bed which is valuable in itself (see #7).

8. Plan of Attack – Plan the night before where you will run, what time, with whom, what you will wear, etc. Our brains don’t make wise choices when we are tired so don’t leave any choices for the morning when your brain is still waking up cause I promise you it will tell you that staying in bed is the wiser choice. Must…Be…Robot.

9. Celebrate – Think of getting up early in the same way as training a dog. I know it sounds funny, but bear with me. When you teach a dog to sit, you give them a treat every time they sit – Right? And eventually they sit because they hope that this time there will be a treat, even when it isn’t always there. What’s a special treat for you? A fresh roasted cup of coffee, a yummy breakfast sandwich, a hot bath, climbing back in bed for extra snuggle time….Reward yourself for your accomplishments, especially in the beginning as you build that muscle memory of the brain. (Caution: Don’t over indulge…a brownie bite might be okay, but probably not the whole pan)

By implementing these tips, I have been able to revolutionize my way of looking at my world, myself, and my physical fitness. When you start the day in such a positive way, you feel like you can take on anything big or small. You feel like a Bad Ass!!! Try and see for yourself.

And one final BONUS TIP : Move to Phoenix (at least for a summer) – lots of these tricks were hard for me to implement until living in Phoenix through the summer months when running any other time than o’dark thirty is not an option. Helps when you don’t have any other choices. You either go or you don’t. While maybe Phoenix isn’t the place for you, you can recreate this in other ways by making plans for the evening or building your schedule in such a way that the choice is no longer there. It’s amazing what we can all do when we have no other option.

If you enjoyed this article by Emily, you can read more about her experiences on her blog: Delicate and Dirty.