22 January 2016

how to be the early bird that gets the worm!

recently i've had some of my RunNinja friends query me about how i manage to fit in all of the running that i do (and believe me, i don't consider myself as someone who gets in a lot of training week over week), and my normal answer is that as part of the 'covenant' that i have with my family i have to run on my own time and not interfere with responsibilities as husband and dad.  that means that five days out of the week i get up a few hours before everyone else, get my workout in and make sure that i'm home in time to make breakfast, pack lunches and see kids onto their respective buses.

what you need to know is that i'm not naturally a morning person - although i have always enjoyed the times that i've gotten up early in the morning for whatever reason, for most of my life i have been a nighthawk.  and who needs a snooze button?  i just used to set my alarm for as late as reasonably possible.

not anymore.  now being out on the roads when day breaks is a regular part of my routine - and my body has gotten used to waking up somewhere between 5:00 and 5:25am on its own, alarm clock or not.

some of you are cringing right now.

i've had many a conversation with runners who wish they could be up and at 'em before dawn but have no idea how to go about it.  well, this is my own feeble attempt at explaining some of the keys that have made it possible for me to transition from a late-nighter to an early riser..
  1. go to bed earlier - duh.  i realize that that for many people this is easier said than done - depending on the sleep schedules of everyone else in your house, the tasks that get left over for when there's finally some peace and quiet.  that's why i deliberately chose the word "earlier" as opposed to "early" - because i firmly believe that everyone can choose to be in bed earlier than they might otherwise be.  and if you begin to do this with some consistency you can begin to shift the expectations that everyone else around you has of you ... they will soon realize that if they want something from you then they will no longer be able to drag it out at their convenience and unload it on you at the very end of the day (when most people have their lowest energy levels).  and as for the tasks that seem to always wait to ambush you at the end of the day as well?  guess what - they'll still be there at the start of the next day, and the world will have kept on spinning in the meantime.
  2. get a better sleep - this also sounds a bit glib, but there are small things that you may be able to do to help with this.  you want to try to get a better sleep so that the hours that you spend in bed are quality hours, enough to refresh you so that an early start in the morning seems less like dragging your butt and more like being recharged and ready to fire up.  so here are a couple of ideas that might help with the quality of your shuteye:
    • a sleep mask - i've worn one every night now for the past two years, and just blocking out that extra bit of light helps me to get to sleep faster and stay in a deep sleep longer
    • melatonin - a natural supplement that aids in the sleep process.
  3. have a workout motivator - for me this is normally breakfast.  yup, all that i down before my morning run is a giant glass of water to help kickstart the metabolism and help with hydration, and that's it.  then i spend the rest of my run envisioning what kind of delicious breakfast i will make for myself when it's all over.  that has always worked for me, but it may not work for you - so maybe your morning motivator will be to find a fellow nut who will run with you and keep you encouraged and accountable.  a few winters ago i would get out with my friend rhonda-marie who often was looking for companions for her "stupid o'clock" runs.  you know what they say - misery loves company. 
  4. share your workouts - pride may go before a fall, but i gotta say that there's something about posting your early morning workout on social media or a fitness tracking site (like Strava) that will give you a sense of real accomplishment.  when you wrap up a solid run by the time that many people are still clearing the sleep from the corners of their eyes, you're bound to feel pretty good about yourself.  maybe good enough to do it all again the next day.
how about you?  does the morning running thing work for you?  if so, what tips would you have to share?  teach us all something in comments below!



  1. Great post! When I do run (Tues/Thurs & Sun), I run at 6 am with two running friends. For me, having friends to run with makes it SO much easier to get up in the morning!

    1. hey janice - thanks for reading and for your comment! as a no-bones-about-it introvert i'm actually good with getting up and at it each morning by myself ... but i will say that when i have a hard workout planned for first thing in the morning i do appreciate any friends who join me on the "pain train"!

  2. I am still cringing :) I reserve those special early morning for my peak training only to get more mileage in...otherwise, I am probably the slowest mover in the mornings.

    You really fooled me into thinking that you were always a morning person...shows how capable you are of prioritization and compromise.

    I am fairly fortunately that I live close enough to my workplace that I can do my running on my way home since it would take roughly the same amount of time whether I use public transit or run...this not only avoids eating up precious family time but also saves me at least 3 bucks each day in fares. Win-win!

    Thanks for the great post Patrick.

    1. thanks stan - and cringe not! i know that everyone has their own biorhythm and optimal exercise windows. for instance, anytime between 12 noon and 5pm are the positively worst times for me to try to get a workout in ... i feel like an absolute slug!

      and there are times that i wish that i had more of a commute than descending the stairs from my bedroom to my basement office ... run-commuting would be a great way to get in the extra mileage! :)