Why Morning Runs are Worth the Effort

Michele Tan details the little things to help make it easier to train early in the morning.

BY | UPDATED 2 WEEKS AGO

Words Michele Tan
Photos Emma Simpson

I have often wondered why it is always easier to wake up early for races than it is to wake up for training. Then I thought that it must have been because for a race, I have paid for the registration fees, all of my peers would be present, and I am supposed to meet so-and-so at the baggage counter to race together. These reasons give me a sense of purpose, but weekday morning runs? Well, that is harder, almost resentful and I needed to change that.

Many of the successful businessman, not to mention elite athletes, are early risers and they embrace morning workouts. Much is said about their success, but little is known as to how they get there.

REALISATION

I had to realise that being the best is not about winning one time (as in a race, or a hard session) but to consistently prove myself through hard work (nailing workouts regularly, including those easy, mundane, and slower runs). I had to internalise it into me that having a morning routine that includes morning workouts would make me feel more accomplished, less depressed and happier about myself.

I have to constantly remind myself that attaining my fitness goals is more mental than it is physical. When I complained to a running comrade that I was having trouble waking up 1.5 hours earlier than I would normally do in the morning to run (because that is how long I needed if I were to include getting ready for work and not step out of the house looking dishevelled and low-maintenance), I was then told that it is because I am not wanting ‘it’ enough, that is, wanting to run enough. Easier said than done. What I was probably not told that the simple act of waking up in the morning is easier done than imagined if I follow through these couple of steps and routines. Since humans are creatures of habit, it must be right when Aristotle said that, we are what we repeatedly do, and excellence is not an act, but a habit.

PRIORITISING 101

Of course, not all of us have to be as strict and extreme as the animated dude in the YouTube video “I’m training for an Ironman”, but it does hold true that adequate sleep and some sacrifices goes a long way. Living in Singapore made me want to do as many things as possible within a day and just as much as I wanted to hang out with my friends till late or stay back at work just so that I could reach my KPI, all of those did not matter if I do not attain my fitness goals. I needed to do so some serious prioritising and weigh the importance between accepting an invitation for a late night out with friends or waking up fresh for a morning run.

Getting the workout out of the way first thing in the morning also frees up your mind for the day because you know you have given yourself some ‘me’ time before the grinding of the day begins.

RESPECT THE TIME

Determine your ideal waking time and work towards it (most of us don’t have the luxury of waking up to the morning sun, or have someone at home who wakes up earlier than us and fumbles in the kitchen creating so much noise that you wake you up, or a dog that nudges you to take it for a morning run).

HAVE A MORNING ROUTINE

Follow in the footsteps of successful people such as politicians, entrepreneurs, celebrities, and athletes, they all have morning rituals or patterns which they would follow, rain or shine, weekdays or weekends.

At 4.30am, the coffee queen Michelle Gass, president of Starbucks, goes out for a run.

At 5am, Kobe Bryant used to practice at the high school and shoots 400 times a day.

At 5.45am, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour starts her day with a tennis match.

At about 5.30am, Square CEO Jack Dorsey is jogging.

At 6am, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns works out with her personal trainer.

At 6.45am, Barack Obama does a combination of cardio and strength workouts.

VISUALISATION

If it has helped elite athletes to visualise success before even competing, so too does it help us mere mortals to visualise having a strong will to wake up in the morning regularly to train. Re-evaluate and reflect your training programme and fitness desires to instil the belief in yourself that it will work.

LIFESTYLE CHANGE

Of course waking up in the morning to train before the distractions of the day make you tired, is hard but it is the key to attaining your fitness goals. But one must also balance sleep and rest to avoid injury, no matter how much care you took to train properly.

Align everything else in your life to your fitness goals. If you usually work late, run in the morning. If evenings are family time, run in the morning. If your job does not allow you to train and you feel miserable, run to or back to work, or during lunch. Tailor your life to your training schedule, while still having time for family.

Staying up late on the iPad, watching TV or chatting till the wee hours will all make it harder to be will a morning runner.

Value rest – seven to eight hours of sleep is the barest minimum to be fully rested and recover from the day’s training. You may have heard of exceptions that people could get by with four to six hours of sleep but that’s not sustainable in the long term.

Michele’s Note: When I was in a sales job, I used to hit the road after 11pm and even after just a mere one hour of training, back in bed by almost 1am and having to wake up at 6.30am for work almost killed me physically and mentally. I could only last four months before caffeinated blood and crappiness took a hold of me. Another job allowed me to have eight hours of sleep but not at a stretch, i.e. one hour on to way to work, one hour on the way back, and six hours at night. Somethings got to give, eventually I changed job because running and fitness was more important to me.

HAVE A STRUCTURED PROGRAMME - WRITE IT OUT & KEEP A TRAINING LOG

Even if it was 30 mins of jogging every morning, it helps to put it in black and white. Elite athletes too were once beginners, they start out small, did the research, and followed through. You are less likely to skip a training session when you know you have to complete your mileage in order move up a level.

Writing out your sessions (and diet, sleep, etc.) will help you to spot patterns that work for you, address weak points and even notice small improvements along the way. Top athletes have some sort of a record to reflect back upon.

SMALL INCREMENTAL CHANGES

If you are used to waking up at 7am in the morning for work, then waking up at 4.30am consistently may seemed like a faraway dream in a life belonging to someone else. But if you could try waking up 15 mins earlier each time every week until your body is used to it (just like increasing your mileage 10% at a time) sooner or later it would seemed easier and the quiet serene world of 4.30am is yours to workout in.

PREPARE EVERYTHING THE NIGHT BEFORE

Elite athletes lined up their clothes on the floor so that the moment they jumped out of bed (after a little detour to the bathroom) they are good to put on their gear on the way out the door. It is also the best time to wear those workout clothes you want to be seen less in but cannot bear to throw away because hardly anybody is awake at that time.

JOIN A MORNING RUNNING GROUP, OR CREATE ONE

It gives you that extra little push to get out of bed to run because you are less inclined to hit the snooze button and let someone down for not showing up. Always meet and engage like-minded runners (it helps if they live nearby). Meet up for easy runs at first, then eventually you would have built a network and you know whom you can rely on to do hard workouts with in the morning.

LINE OUT MOTIVATIONS TO GET OUT OF BED

Review your short and long term goals for running. You know for sure that if you miss today’s workout, you cannot possibly make it up and run double later in the evening or the next day because all of your workouts have to be spaced out equally, progressively and with maximum rest.

A pact that you and your buddy/peer may have made, frame it up on a wall in front of you. Nothing could motivate you better than knowing that somebody else is already out doing their miles and you are still in bed.

Use running quotes and motivational sayings that you live by to get you out of bed.  There are lots of them over the internet. I live by: Train hard, win easy; there is plenty of time to sleep when you are dead.

HAVE A QUIET MOMENT, AGAIN, NOT WHILE LYING HORIZONTALLY BEFORE WORKOUTS

Meditate and picture yourself nailing the workout and feeling awesome throughout the day because you are probably one of the few, if not the only, person in the whole entire township, or in the MRT ride to work, who did a morning workout before anyone else. Then act on it.

RUN TO WORK!

Singapore is an excellent place to run to work, with all the park connectors and pedestrian friendly roads. I find that no matter which part of Singapore I work at (I stay in the east and work in the west) I am still able to find a route to run to work. Some of my morning workout routines are easily achieved this way.

MOST OF ALL

Understand that waking up in the morning to train is never easy, if it were, then everyone would have done it. Getting through the tough is what makes great athletes great. Everyone, perhaps even the aunties and uncles and long-socks wearing guy walking circles at the neighbourhood track have had it tough waking up in the morning too, but since they are already doing it almost every morning, then what is our excuse?



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