Pre-Dawn Blues

Posted: June 16, 2011 in Motivation, Run, Training
Tags: ,
  • (Easy) Run (click to see stats)
  • 10.92k (58:20)
  • Avg. Heart Rate = 139 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate = 159 bpm
  • Avg. Pace = 5:20/km
  • Best Pace = 4:26 /km
  • Calories = 1034
  • Temp = 20º
  • SOTD: Day 1 of ‘The Great Went’  by Phish (08-16-97)

Brace yourself for I’m about to drop the bomb of all bombs.  Ready?  I think I’m actually beginning to enjoy morning runs!  Yes, it may actually be true.

No, the rivers have not turned to blood nor have frogs begun to rain from the sky.  In fact, all is good…very good.  Previously, as it has already been well documented here, that of all my workouts running has been my absolute least favorite – morning ones especially.  And believe me, I don’t fail to see the cruel irony in that I have to work harder at, and therefore, more often at the one thing that I enjoy the least.  Before, if time, energy or health ever prevented me from completing all my scheduled workouts then running would be the one I’d bail out on faster than a three-armed pirate on a boat full of woodpeckers.

However, as of this morning, I actually caught myself enjoying a moment of bliss while out on one of my early runs.  Fleeting as it was…there it was.  The sunrise was reflecting off the swirling greenish rapids of the Twelve Mile Creek…duckies paddling around without a care in the world…cool breeze through the overhead trees…the light crunching of my footsteps along the gravel path…I know, right?  Nobody is more shocked than I am.

Today was a double duty  workout day so I was up early to get in an easy 60 minute jog around the neighborhood.  Usually, waking up early has never been easy, nor a preferable thing for me to do, so the fact that I was up moments before my alarm clock this morning and actually excited to go out was completely new.  Wtf?  But the sun was shining, birds were singing, and I had pre-loaded my iPod last night with tons of Phish; time to get moving.

Before, running was just something I suffered through for necessity sake.  Now, I like to take the opportunity to enjoy a little ‘me time’ and run along any one of the local trails here that either run along the old canal, follow the Twelve Mile Creek, or loop around any one of the manicured parks in my area; hey, they don’t call it the ‘Garden City’  for nothing!  I wonder what changed to have me feeling so differently about running today?

The temperature was a bit cooler than the usual mugginess I run in in the evenings, and there is definitely much less traffic on the roads and paths in the morning.  I’ve come to enjoy this solitude while also not having to suck in all the exhaust fumes from the multitudes of passing buses and motorists.  This morning, for example, I ran for a spell along what’s known as the Green Ribbon Trail   that stretches from Martindale Rd. to Third Ave. through a designated class one wetland.  When it’s that quiet early in the morning, there is lots of indigenous flora and fauna to observe.  Today alone, I observed families of ducks, Canada Geese, raccoons, and an ever-present shitload of song birds so that I could even turn off the Phish for a while.  At other times, I have seen rabbits, woodchucks, possums, beavers, coyotes, deer, as well as some pretty funky looking flying insects.  Other times I prefer using the Participark Trail, a 2-kilometre stone dust path winds through St. Catharines along the west bank of Twelve Mile Creek valley between St. Paul Crescent and Glendale Ave.  Neither of these trails provides me enough distance to conduct all my long works in completely, but they sure do provide a brief respite from running through the urban sprawl of local neighborhoods and along those desolate country roads.  Needless to say, it’s a bit easier on my poor knees and quads as well.  Then there’s the Merritt Island Trail  which is significantly longer at 11k that runs through my old neighborhood growing up.  Consequently, this is the same trail I used to follow as a kid when running to Nana’s house.

What I have also learned is that after I run in the morning I’m infinitely more productive throughout the regular work day.  It’s as if my jog somehow supercharges my brain and gets all my creative juices flowing and, hey, why not?  Everything else happens to be leaking from my body, why not creativity too?  This probably has to do with the release of hormones called endorphins, which have a peaceful, calming, and refreshing effect on your mind and body.  So why not kick in those powerful endorphins early in the day?  If you know you’re going to have a rough day ahead of you, a good way to preemptively combat those stresses is to run in the morning wouldn’t you say?  Try it out; you might just find that your work day seems a lot less stressful than it usually is.  When I returned to my apartment this morning, I fed the cat his breakfast (like hell the little furry bugger is going to eat before me!), and temporarily relaxed with my chocolate mango protein smoothie to strategically plan out the rest of my day before heading into the office.  Sweet!  Before, I would just roll out of bed, shit shower and shave before groggily heading off into work blindly.  Today I was infinitely more in tune with the demands of the business and what I needed to achieve today – which, as luck fortune would have it, was very little.  Funny how that goes, eh?

Lastly, running in the early morning is a great way to burn added calories – or so I’ve heard anyway.  One of the primary reasons regular runners pound the pavement is to burn calories and to lose weight – myself included.  Some experts, however, believe that running on an empty stomach in the morning burns more calories than any other time of the day.  This has to do with two things: if your body’s metabolism gets turned on early, it keeps going longer, thus burning off more fat.  Therefore, it’s like I’m kick-starting my calorie burning engine early for the remainder of the day.  Secondly, if you run on an empty stomach, your body is forced to use the energy that is most available to it at the time, which on an empty stomach is your body’s store of fat; and this particular fat guy sure needs all the help he can get!  After this mornings run, I burned exactly 122 calories more than my last 60 minute run.  Can’t argue with the numbers, can you?

Lastly, I have found that by running in the morning all of the typical excuses for not exercising (e.g., a lack of time, being too tired after work, or missing happy hour with your buddies) can be put to rest, and ”quitting’ is just not in my vocabulary these days.  However, once I’m finished with my morning workout, I can then spend those after-work hours taking care of errands or loafing around on the sofa with the cat completely guilt-free.  Getting your exercise done first thing in the morning also gives you that jump start you need to keep moving throughout the day, which helps rid you of excuses for other important tasks that you would normally not feel like doing – like completing your second workout of the day!

Of course, this all sounds well and dandy, but it’s all subject to my (you) actually getting out of bed in the first place, and I don’t know about you, but this is never easy for me at any time as I also loves catching me those extra Zee’s.  So, for others of you out there who may either enjoy running in the morning but can’t quite commit to the whole getting up early part, or those of you who are contemplating giving it a try, here are some suggestions to make getting out of your bed and out the door a little easier.

1.  Sleep in your running clothes.

This trick may seem a little bit silly, but take this lazy runners word for it – it works.  Of course, I don’t recommend sleeping with your running shoes on, but it sure makes that bed-to-front door transition a hell of a lot smoother.  Personally, I’m not bothered by any ‘stink’ that might have set in overnight as it’s only 6:30am and there’s nobody around to notice anyway.  But if you don’t feel like sleeping in your clothes, at least lay them out all ready to go.  Having your clothes right there will make it much easier to get dressed and get out.

2.  Put your alarm clock well out of reach.

When that alarm goes off early in the morning, it’s tempting to keep hitting that snooze button like a lab rat on meth and just skip your running plans altogether for a few more winks; I have done this on numerous occasions myself.  However, if your alarm clock is across the room, then you’re already out of bed and a lot less likely to say, “Just 10 more minutes…”  Likewise, having a hungry cat in the morning to initiate that process of waking up sure helps as well; I can turn the alarm clock off or throw it against the wall, but I can’t switch off my cats empty belly so easily…well, without the Humane Society getting involved anyway.

3.  Think about your plan the night before.

Plan out your morning run the night before – how far, for how long, what course you’ll run.  Hopefully, doing so either before bed or whilst falling asleep will help you get more motivated and ensure that you have enough time for your run before you start the rest of your day.  Personally, I mentally plan out my route including which trails I want to pick up or what neighborhoods I want to explore, etc.  I know, for example, that on most mornings before 6:30am, I can catch a whiff of the freshly baking bread at Buns Master Bakery not far from my front door.  Sometimes, I like to run out to the end of the Pier in Port Dalhousie and watch the sunrise over Lake Ontario before returning home.  Every morning is a new adventure.

4.  Find a morning runner partner.

This may be easier than it sounds as just getting yourself out of bed is a challenge, never mind someone else.  However, if you are lucky enough to find another wacko triathlete crazy enough to get up and run at the crack of dawn, having that kind of commitment will definitely make you reconsider pressing the snooze and rolling over.  I, however, have had no such luck and like I mentioned before, I enjoy the solidarity.  I have found another source of motivation though, by planning out a nice breakfast for when I return.  I will usually do the prep work the night before so all I have to do upon getting home is toss it in the oven, frying pan, toaster oven, whatever.  Knowing I get something special as a reward for getting up and running definitely makes those early mornings more bearable.

  1. Mike says:

    So do have anything to eat/drink before a morning run or go completely empty aside from say H2O?

  2. I typically hydrate well through the day anyway, so providing I hydrated well the night before I will go sans water in the AM. Usually, I don’t carry water for anything under 90 minutes unless it’s really hot – and I only eat afterwards, seldom before.

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