Friday, August 17, 2012

Morning Runs

I am an avowed sleeper-inner. I don't put on makeup, I don't blow-dry my hair. I wake up at the last moment necessary to shower, dress, grab breakfast and lunch to go, and get to work. I hated the idea of morning workouts. We did afternoon runs on the shadiest possible trail as long as possible before it just got too hot. And then, because I signed up for a fall race (what was I thinking?) we had to become morning runners.
Source

We've been at it for 3 months now, as our Disneyland Half training comes to an end. The biggest challenge I've had with the morning runs is my changing schedule. Everything is fine when I'm working 8am to 5pm like a normal human. But working until midnight makes it impossible to get up at 6am for a morning run... I tried, but it was not going to happen. The overnights present a different problem. Every minute of exercise I put in, I wonder if I am taking away energy I will need later to make it through my shift. So instead I try to exercise after my shift, if there's any energy left. For the first few days, there isn't. (Not so fun fact: I've actually fallen asleep at a stoplight on my way home from an overnight shift before. It was only a couple minutes, I jolted awake to find the light green and the car that had been in front of me long gone. Its hard to even describe that kind of tired which comes from willingly defying one's inner clock.)

But, when my schedule stays normal, we managed to be pretty regular morning runners. Here's what I've learned:
1. People say if you do something for 2 weeks it becomes a habit. They're right.
Except for a few late shifts leading to lazy mornings, I actually began thinking of run mornings as my usual wake-up time and days when I didn't run as getting to sleep in. Even days when I had to be in to work early, it was easy because the time I wake up to run is the same time as I need to get up to get to work by 7. This doesn't mean that a few times the early morning alarm was met with contempt, and it doesn't mean I got up every time. But for the most part, it was not so bad.

2. Leisurely mornings are pretty pleasant.
When we don't have to be in until later (I've mentioned many negatives of my weird work schedule, but a positive is that- unless you are scheduled for something- nobody looks at you funny for strolling in around 9am) we cool off from our run by lounging under the ceiling fan, catching up on the blogs, and gulping down water. We might even eat breakfast at the table, rather than taking it to go. It's nice to hang out and start the day relaxed instead of rushed.

3. It's really nice to be done with your workout early and not have it hanging over your head at the end of a long crappy workday.
I'm sure you've been there too! Sometimes after a long day at work the last thing you want is to be all upbeat and exercisey. It's nice to be able to go home, cook dinner, chill on the couch, and go to bed early. Just like mornings are rushed normally, so are afternoons: fight rush hour traffic, fit in an hour workout, cook, eat, clean up... by the time you look up it's bedtime and you never felt relaxed for a second.

4. It still sucks to have to go to bed early on a weekend night to get up super early and run.
This impacted us in a major way when we had a visitor the weekend of our first 10 mile run. Due to my work schedule and impending overnight shift there wasn't a way to move the run without impacting training. So instead of going out on the town Saturday night, we stayed in, rented a movie, went to bed later than we'd like, and got up at 5am anyways to go for a run. Even without guests, going to bed before 10pm on a weekend is really lame.

Conclusion:
The burden on your nights (weeknights and especially weekends) to go to bed early is really a struggle. I look forward to having a little more freedom to snooze without the weight of a training plan and an expensive destination race weighing on me. But I think, in general, I'm a fan of the occasional morning run and will be bringing them back (in moderation) next spring when the days get long and the heat gets ridiculous again.

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