Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Waking up, working out

Early morning workouts have been a part of my life since high school when I used to have 6am practice for the swim team. But even after thirteen years of waking up before the sun, I still struggle to get out of bed.

My alarm is set for 5am everyday and I typically need about 20 minutes to get out of bed. More often then I’d like, 20 becomes 40, 50, 60… When I finally do get out of bed, I need about 20 minutes before I start my run.

There are plenty of reasons to exercise in the AM. Morning exercisers tend to work out more consistently both in the short and long term. In addition, there are significant calorie burning benefits if you work-out on a light breakfast or cup of coffee. On an empty or almost empty stomach, your muscles have to get energy from your fat.

Over the past year, as I have trained for my half-marathons, I’ve had to run up to 7 miles on a weekday morning. There is no room for hitting the snooze button on these days. Moreover, once I get out and running, there is not enough time for an off-day where I can trudge through the run at 11 min per mile pace. I have to do it on-time and on-pace.

To make morning work-outs a meaningful part of my training regime, here’s what I’ve found works:

Sleep with the blinds open. In the summer, the natural light helps me wake up.

Don’t let your room get too cold. I know it’s nice to snuggle under layers of blankets, but if the air is chilly when I wake up, it’s that much harder to climb out from under the covers and into my running gear.

Change up the alarm sound frequently. I use my cell phone as an alarm and change the alarm ringer frequently. This way I don’t get used to the sound and sleep through it.

Have everything ready to go for a run. This means charge my ipod, have clean clothes ready, a route and distance planned, and if I’m getting ready at the gym I’ve packed my bag the prior night. In fact, some advice I don’t follow but probably should: plan my outfits ahead of time so I don’t waste precious time getting ready for work.

Drink some water, and for me, I have a few sips of coffee with soy milk. Everyone is dehydrated when waking and caffeine will provide a nice kick.
Go to bed at a reasonable time the prior night, and at a regular time. I try to stick to bedtime between 10 and 11. This doesn’t always happen but when I wake up at 5am, 1am just doesn’t work as a bedtime.

Tips for when workouts are 5+ miles

Get some calories in you first thing: I eat an energy gel which usually carries me through about an hour and twenty minutes in the morning. However, this is not recommended by the experts, so don’t do this if you aren’t sure you can handle it. I am used to running on an empty stomach, so I really only need the energy to power through anything more than 5 miles. You can go for oatmeal, an energy bar, even a piece of fruit to get you through your run.

Eat dinner. Make sure dinner has some carbs and protein. Since it’s not a long run, I don’t think much thought is necessary, but I would say it’s probably not the best night to have just a salad, 5 beers, or a large ice cream instead of a meal.

Have a new song or two ready to go on your play list. Nothing energizes me more than a new favorite song.

Do you have any other tips that you find helpful? Is so, please share them with me, because even though I found some things that work, it’s still hard to wake up.

Of course, after a morning run, I’ve never once regretted it.

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