Liz Hufton has some top tips to get you out of bed and hitting your running targets – no matter what your morning routine
You probably know that training in the morning is the best way to fit triathlon into your life. Trouble is, it’s just so much nicer to stay in bed an extra hour.
There’s a good reason it feels so hard: your body’s circadian rhythms, controlled by your internal ‘body clock’, mean that your temperature is lower and your hormone levels are working against you first thing. That doesn’t mean you should give up, though. Squeeze in a workout and you’ll feel a sense of achievement throughout the work day.
Even for very early risers, a run is an easy workout to fit in. It’s generally the fastest session us triathletes do, you don’t need it to be light outside or the pool to be open. You can just get up, and run. Here’s how.
Wake up before you go go
If an all-consuming desire to hit the snooze button is what’s stopping you running first thing, don’t fight nature – work with it. Your sleep runs in cycles through the night, with periods of deep sleep and periods of wakefulness. If you’re setting an alarm at an arbitrary time, you could well be trying to drag yourself out of a very deep sleep. Use a smart-phone app such as Sleep Cycle (for iPhone) or SleepBot (for android) to wake you when you’re naturally halfway there.
See the light
One of the beautiful things about running early is getting to see the sunrise. The downside of this is, of course, that it means starting in the dark. Studies have shown that exposure to strong light has a huge influence on our body clocks and, while nothing matches up to the strength of a real sunrise to wake you up, you can use special lights developed to help people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder to help you crack the dawn rise. The Lumie Bodyclock (lumie.com) mimics sunrise at your bedside to help you feel more alert when you rise.
Get your kit out
Sound organisation is key to getting your early run in. Lay your kit out the night before, check the weather forecast so there’s no need for last-minute rain jacket hunts, and you’re good to go. If it’s cold, put the kit on a radiator or even under your covers so it’s inviting when you jump out of bed. Have your route and workout plan ready to go too – a sense of purpose is key to getting you up and running.
Eat, drink and be merry
One of the reasons running feels harder early in the morning is lack of fuel. Unfortunately, because it’s the discipline that drives your heart-rate and body temperature highest, many people find it hard to run on a full stomach. So line up something short, sweet and fast to eat before you go: a ripe banana, one piece of toast with honey, or even an energy gel should do it. Many morning runners swear by an espresso too: a quick caffeine boost to get your heart rate going and wake up your senses.
There’s no getting around the fact that your muscles and core temperature will be cooler if you’re running first thing, so give yourself a fighting chance by performing a longer-than-usual warm-up. If you’re short on time that might just mean starting every session slower than usual, with 10-20 minutes of jogging sprinkled with short, easy sprints. If you have longer, try a dynamic warm-up before you leave the house: leg swings are a good start, or learn a yoga sun salutation to wake up body and mind.
Two easy running tricks
Weekday long run
Free up valuable weekend time by running to work. Either leave a set of clothes there the day before, or invest in a running rucksack – the extra weight will help you keep your pace steady.
Staying close to home can be mentally easier in the morning and means no journey to the track. Choose a 10-minute loop (1.5-2km) from your front door. Start with one steady loop, then two loops at threshold pace, with a final cooldown loop.