Scientists have found that the late afternoon is probably the best time to run, as our muscles are loose from almost a full day’s activities, we’re hydrated and full of glycogen and our body clocks are revved up and ready. That’s well and good for most high school runners, but when it comes to picking a time to run each day, most of us do not have the luxury of choosing an optimal time to get our workouts in according to our circadian rhythms.
That being said, when choosing a time to run we all know why not to pick 5:00 a.m. – the dark, the cold, the stiff morning muscles, the slower pace (at least for me), the digestive system not being onboard with the plan, the overwhelming urge to hit the snooze button. Even so, I choose early mornings for many of my runs and what I’ve found in these last few weeks of adjusting to early mornings is that getting the miles in before most people step out of bed is so worth prying my weary mom body out of bed.
1. Getting it done and not having to worry about when you can do it later. For me that means no treadmill and not having to worry that I’m a terrible mother for forcing my kids to sit in a stroller for an hour+. I find that if I don’t run first thing in the morning, I often feel anxiety about when I’m going to fit a run in! But now that I know I can do any run I need to do early, I feel a lot more at ease. Plus, the extra time doing stuff with the kids and my husband is priceless! Another weird thing I’ve noticed, is that I can run more miles in the morning. I don’t feel so stressed to rush my workout and I think those first few miles I’m half-asleep so I don’t really notice them!
2. Witnessing day break. There is something so precious about witnessing the sun come up. It is an indescribable joy. I know I sound like some drippy cheeseball, but get out there, experience it and try to tell me you didn’t feel a little more connected to the Earth.
3. The feeling that you’re a super badass. You’re already a badass because you run (right, Chad Stafko?), but when you run in the wee hours of the morning you’re a megabadass. One morning I ran a tempo around a neighborhood loop. The loop was almost 2 miles long and every loop I passed a house in which a large digital alarm clock glowed out the window. It felt strangely empowering to know I was out there busting my butt while that person slept waiting for that alarm clock to go off. By my third loop, the light in the bedroom was on and I was almost done. Yeah!
4. It megacharges your metabolism. Well, that is, if you don’t eat breakfast beforehand. This is because when you exercise in a fasted state, as you would right after waking up, you’re body has less available sugar (glycogen) to burn and instead opts for fat as fuel. This is great for getting lean, but probably one of the reasons I’ve been struggling to hit faster paces on my early morning runs (noted to eat a little something before my next early tempo!)
5. When you race at 8:00 a.m. it will feel like the afternoon! If my early morning workouts will produce faster race times, it’s way worth leaving the warm confines of my down comforter and hitting the cold dark streets. If I’m used to running with stiff morning muscles with little glycogen at the ready in the dark and half asleep, surely running warmed-up, with glycogen oozing out of my muscles in the day light while fully caffeinated will feel easy! RIGHT?!
How about you? Are you an early morning runner? If so what do you love about it? If the thought of running early makes you cringe, why?
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