Thursday, 11 August 2016

How to become a morning exerciser - update

Back in 2013, I wrote a blog post called "how to become a morning exerciser".
At the time, I'd been running about 4 months and exercising before work for about 2 months.

I'd been planning to update the post for a while - it was nearly 3 years ago - but when I went to refresh it, I actually found that not much has changed, and a lot of my old advice actually still stands.

And yes, I've been sleeping in my running clothes roughly three times a week since 2013.

Being a morning exerciser is as big a part of who I am now as my blue eyes and my short legs. It's absolutely, 100% ingrained in me, and I cannot imagine anything different. 

If I didn't run before work I would never, ever have made it through my marathon training.

Don't get me wrong - it's an absolutely pain in the bum 90% of the time. I never, ever wake up at 5am and think OOH YAY IT'S TIME TO GO RUNNING NOW. I am tired all the time. There is not a time of the day when I could not happily nap.

If you think I don't have a moment every single morning where I think "I could just stay in bed", then you are wrong, my friend. 

But it's changed my life for the better. Running in the morning gives me no fewer excuses. It means there's no planning, no moving plans around, no rushing home after work to get my sportswear straight on. I've already done it. Some days I forget that I've done it.

It's even more important to me now I run a home. I get home from work about 6pm now, and I'm hungry. I have dinner to make, I have a flat to clean and tidy, I have a blog to write. I am not going out for a run, having a shower, and then starting to cook dinner.

So here's everything I knew then, and what I know now, about exercising in the morning.

Why I love exercising in the morning

  • It's convenient 
What else would I be doing at 5am? I never have to change my plans or rearrange my day or worry about missing my workout if I have to work late or if I'm working away. I don't have to worry about squeezing in a workout after a busy work day - I've already done it. This was particularly important to me during marathon training. I'm not going to pretend a 8 mile run was easy before work, but it was much better than having to go for a 90 minute run after I've already had a long day.
  • It's quiet
I live in the city centre now. If I try to run in the evenings after work I can barely get around people the pavements are so busy. I'm stopping at every crossing for cars. I just can't get momentum. First thing in the morning, the roads are quiet and I have the pavements nearly entirely to myself.
  • It's out of the way
I don't have to spend the day worrying about whether I'll have time to fit my run in. Most of the time I've forgotten I even went for a run by lunchtime.
  • I love having achieved something before most people are out of bed
There's something so satisfying about already having done your workout before people are even up for work. And you can be proper smug about it.
  • It's way cooler in the summer
Urgh running in the summer is the worst but doing it in the morning means it's oh-so-slightly less terrible.
  • You can totally justify more treats
Brownies at work? Well I already ran 5 miles this morning so...
  • I'm already a morning person
Just something to consider - I am a morning person anyway. I love to be in bed before 10pm, and I have absolutely no issue leaving a night out early to get in some zzzs for my morning run. So if you're a real night owl, I can't guarantee this will work for you (but it might!).

How I learned to exercise in the morning
  • I give myself a ridiculous amount of time to get ready
If I'm planning to go for a run at 6am, I'll set my alarm for 5.30am. I'll give myself 15 minutes to wake up, check my phone and slowly ease out of bed, then another 15 minutes or so to put in my contacts, get my stuff together and eat something. I'm not a jumping-out-of-bed person.
  • I sleep in my running clothes
Yes. Including a sports bra. I've been doing this for three years because it works. There is no motivation stronger than already being dressed, and no guilt worse when you know you're already dressed for a run and you roll over. Especially in my freezing cold flat in the winter. There's no way I'm taking my clothes off at 5am. It's my number one trick and an absolute game changer.
  • I have a little snack
For me, it's a slice of malt loaf. I find I really struggle without something if I'm doing anything over 30 minutes. Takes 2 minutes to make and eat and for me, makes a massive difference in my performance.
  • I try to be in bed as early as possible
Except for Mondays, when I don't get home from choir til 10pm, I try to be in bed before 10pm as much as possible when I'm running the next day. We try to avoid doing anything late midweek as a result, except on Thursdays because I don't run on Fridays (Thursday has become our designated cinema night). I'm still tired in the mornings, but it helps to try to squeeze in as much sleep as possible.
  • I have two midweek rest days a week
I run/exercise Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I rest on Mondays and Fridays. It makes me really appreciate Mondays and Fridays (and I get to sleep in my pyjamas!)
  • I give myself enough time to do my workout and not be late for work
Sometimes my Garmin will take 5 minutes to find my location. Sometimes the run will take longer than I expected. I try to give myself as much time as possible so it's not a mad rush when I get back. You just don't need it in the morning.
  • I try to stick to easy-ish workouts
I can never go as hard in the AM as I can at the weekends, so I try to make sure at least two of my workouts are easy midweek. This isn't always easy to do - especially not if I'm doing something like Insanity - but I try not to beat myself up too much if I'm not as fast as I am when it's not pre-dawn.
  • I do as much as I can in advance
When I have a run followed by a strength workout, I get my yoga mat and weights out, put the dvd on and have it ready to go as soon as I get back from my run. Minimise anything you need to do when you're already tired.
  • I always have a goal in mind
It's so so so easy to roll over when you don't have to run, so I always have a goal race or a training plan in place to keep me motivated. I always have something to work towards to make a 5.30am alarm worth it.
  • I enjoy my evenings
Even if it's just a quiet one blogging or watching TV. I'm always grateful that I got up early to do my run so I can enjoy having my evenings to myself.

Some caveats
  • Missing runs will happen
It's not fool-proof. I work away a lot now and sometimes I can't help but miss a run if I have a 6am train (I do bring my trainers if I stay anywhere overnight, though). Last week my alarm didn't go off. Sometimes you'll just feel drained or have a cold or you had a great night last night and fancy some more sleep. You will miss workouts sometimes.
  • Safety first!
With it being quieter first thing, it's also more dangerous. Make sure you always wear something reflective and use an app like Glympse (which I love) so your loved ones know where you are.
  • You have to have your morning routine down
You can't be late just because you're exercising early! I know if I'm washing my hair I need to be done by 7.05am at the latest, and if I'm not washing my hair I need to be done by 7.15am latest. This guides when I get up and when I set my alarm, depending on the length of my workout. Make sure you know exactly when you need to be finished, especially if you're doing something like a specific-length run or a DVD.
  • You will always, always be tired
But you'll feel like a superwoman so...

I know this isn't for everyone, but I do think a lot of people could give this a shot and might love it. If you have kids, ignore all of the above! but right now this works really well for me, and I've even convinced Phil to get on the morning exercise train.

Convinced and want to give it a try? More questions? Let me know on Twitter.

Charlotte x

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