There are a lot of benefits to running in the morning: cooler conditions, a boost to your metabolism and a chance to clear your head and reflect – not to mention the sense of achievement (and yes, even smugness) that comes from getting a workout in before the distractions of the day interrupt. Here are some tips for getting going in the AM…
Geek that I am, I like to lay my clothes out the night before and make sure that everything is in a decent condition. When I started running, I was living in South Korea and getting up for my runs at about 6AM. So, I would make a running pile right by the front door – shorts, vest, underwear, socks, trainers, water and a fully charged ipod. Not only did this mean I didn’t end up waking up my boyfriend by snuffling around in the dark like a badger scrambling for socks, the sight of the pile itself was motivation to get up and use it.
(Note: This also helped me make it to 6.45AM yoga classes).
Skip The Snooze Button
When the alarm goes at some ungodly hour and you can’t imagine a happier place than the coccoon of your duvet, the temptation is to hit “snooze” – after all, how much of a difference will 5 or 10 minutes really make to your run?
The problem is that hitting the snooze button actually often makes you feel sleepier – plus, I’ve been known to hit snooze for about 45 minutes, resulting in muggy sleepiness and a missed opportunity for a morning jog.
The best thing to do is get up AS SOON AS the alarm goes and down a glass of ice cold water. This will make you feel less tired, hydrate you for your run, and ultimately you’ll be done with your workout sooner.
Figure Out The Food Thing
What to eat and how much depends on the length and intensity of the run and how your stomach reacts. I rarely run longer than 45 mins in the morning. I used to have a banana or a small snack bar beforehand, but sometimes I just stick to water and make sure I eat a healthy breakfast as soon as I get home. Everyone is different, but figuring it out through trial and error will go a long way to making your morning workout strong and comfortable.
Go Go Gadgets!
There are some runners out there who can simply slip on some running shoes and pound the pavement nothing but the clothes on their back. I am not one of those runners.
It’s rare that I hit the track or the treadmill without my trusty iPod and these days there are so many apps and gadgets for everything from GPS tracking and route-mapping to calorie countings and pace-setting. One day I fully intend to have a job and therefore be able to blow some money on a fancy Garmin watch to do all of that and more. Until then, here is the technology that I can’t live without:
- Couch to 5K app – the ultimate beginners workout, which takes you from 60 second jogs to a full 30 minute run in just 9 weeks. Simply brilliant. It uses colour, sound and voice command to tell you when to run and when to walk, but there is a printout version if you want to go old school. Check out coolrunning.com. A Couch to 10K is also available.
- NIKE + I LOVE this app. It tracks distance, calories, pace, and time by connecting the GPS in my ipod to the Nike+ sensor strapped to my shoe. It’s not necessary to buy Nike+ compatible shoes with the space in the heel for the sensor to slip in. Amazon has a range of pouches that strap to your laces and hold the sensor snuggly.
Choose The Right Soundtrack
Some runners prefer the organic sounds of their surroundings – bird singing, the wind in the trees, the rush of breath through their own lungs – and find music to be a distraction. I, on the other hand, don’t know what I would do without it.
I use music to set the rhythm for my body and provide strength and relief to my mind. I don’t have the patience to calculate which songs have the requisite beats per minute to set a specific pace. Instead, I spend an inordinate amount of time constructing detailed playlists, each of which much contain one or more of the following:
- The Gear Shifter: something fast-paced and heart pumping for stepping up the pace from jog to spring or warm up to all-out. I save the best ones for the later part of my run, when my burning lungs and aching legs need to match the speed I started out with.
Sample tracks: Don’t Give Up – The Noisettes; Pump It – Black Eyed Peas; Sinnerman – Nina Simone
- The Rib-Tickler – I may be wrong here, but I thinkthat humour is the best mood booster and pain-surpressor,and that therefore anything which makes me break into a smile will surely help when I break into a run. I focus mostly on albums with names like The Best Rock Anthems…Ever!!! and the soundtracks to movies from the eighties.
Sample tracks: Eye of the Tiger – Survivor; Since You’ve Been Gone – Rainbow; Anyway You Want It – Journey
- The Heart-Helper – sometimes the mind gives out before the body and I need a mental boost to push myself those last few steps. On these occasions, I use songs that trigger memories of good runs and good times in general. I still can’t listen to U2 without thinking of watching the sun rise over the rice paddies on my runs in South Korea. Good times indeed.
Sample tracks: Beautiful Day – U2; Dog Days Are Over – Florence And The Machine; Sweet Desposition – The Temper Trap
Get Your Run On(line)
Sharing your runs and running ambitions is a great motivator, especially if you have like-minded and supportive friends. Tweet it, blog about it, update your Facebook status and don’t forget to check out all the online resources for runners (Cool Runnings, Womensrunninguk.co.uk and Runnersworld.co.uk are my particular favourites). Nike Running allows you to upload your Nike+ data and see just how far you’ve come.
Note: Feel free to hit the comments with suggestions for my running playlists. 🙂