I’m often asked for advice on how to stick with a workout routine. My answer may vary, but always includes this warning :: You have to do it first thing in the morning or it won’t happen.
Yet, I have a surprisingly large number of fit friends who are also self-proclaimed night owls a.k.a. morning-haters. You know who you are, so I’m not going to call you out. (Not today at least!) To be fair, some of these morning-haters have completed Ironmans — a feat that I have not accomplished, nor do I intend to any time soon. They amaze me. On several levels.
Channeling their success stories, I thought I could get back into shape without giving up my 7:00 a.m. alarm that I had grown to cherish since I stopped marathon training in May. But no matter how dedicated I was to my end-of-day workout plan, it rarely came to fruition. And when it did, it just wasn’t the same.
This morning, as I ran down our street in the dark guided only by headlamp and passing only a few ghost-like figures of other runners or dog-walkers, it hit me. There’s so much more to morning runs than it being the only way to fit running into my busy schedule.
Because mornings get a bad rep, because there are plenty of great reasons to justify getting up early, and because so many people seem to think I’m crazy for pounding the pavement in the dark, here’s my case for morning runs.
1. Peace and quiet. I guarantee you there will be less people, bicycles, dogs, children and cars on your favorite running route at 6:00 a.m. than at 6:00 p.m. You can hear yourself think. You can hear yourself breath (also a good training tool). You can enjoy the silence. Thanks to this peaceful, pensive time, I always finish a run feeling more prepared for the day than when I started.
2. Perspective. There’s something very optimistic about seeing the world before the sun comes up. No one is rushing around to get from A to B. Those who are up are enjoying the sanctity of their homes before heading off to work. And if you run long enough, you can catch a glimpse into the windows of people souls — rocking their little ones, enjoying their morning rituals, and spending time with family before the day gets underway. (Not that I’d ever stand around and stare into people’s homes, mind you.)
3. Priorities. Putting your runs first sends a clear message. You are reminding yourself – and others – that you are important, that your mental and physical health matters, and that you’re willing to make your well-being a priority. It’s not selfish. It’s survival.
4. Endorphins. If there’s only one thing I’ve learned in the last two weeks, it is this: There is a direct correlation between whether I ran in the morning and the goodness of my day. Coincidence? I think not. It is a scientific fact that your body produces endorphins during exercise, which act like opiates to produce analgesia (a pain-reliever) and a feeling of happiness. This also happens when you eat spicy food, which explains so much…
5. Creativity and Clarity. Maybe it’s the endorphins, maybe it’s the thoughtful quiet time, maybe it’s the confidence that comes with putting myself first. I don’t know, and I’m not sure I really care. What I do know is that some of my best legal arguments, favorite blog posts, and most decisive life plans have been born on the run.
6. Safety. This may seem counterintuitive, but think about it. What is everyone else doing between the hours of 5:00 and 6:30 a.m.? Sleeping. In the wee morning hours, you have the road to yourself. See #1. Just be sure you’re wearing bright clothes and some form of illumination. I highly recommend the inexpensive cap lights that you can find at your local auto-parts store.
7. Flexibility. While consistently getting up before 6:00 a.m. may seem rigid, it actually gives you infinitely more flexibility with the rest of your day. Get stuck in the office? Get a happy hour invite that you don’t want to refuse? Missed your afternoon snack so now you’re starving? Have a crummy day at the office and want to curl up in the fetal position as soon as you get home? No problem because you already got your workout in! It’s not hanging over your head. You can do whatever you want – or have – to do with the rest of your day and night.
Are you a morning person? What gets you out there?
If not, what prevents you from getting out there? Did I at least convince you to give it a try? For me? 🙂
~your busy little b and proud morning person