How early morning exercise sets you up for the rest of the day
Yesterday morning, I woke up at 4am, lay in bed for a while, then went downstairs to sort myself out with a coffee and a banana. By 5am, I had got dressed, jumped into the car to head towards the beach track, parked at my destination and was at the start line ready for my planned one hour run.
With the temperatures and humidity still high in the UAE, I was not particularly surprised to see that I was not alone. Waking up early to work out – whether it’s paddleboarding, running, cycling or boot camp style activities – is not unusual, particularly during the summer months. In fact, during my marathon training over the summer, I began a couple of runs at 4am, in the hope of completing them before the dreaded hour of 7am.
As much as I dislike getting out of bed at such an hour (I’ve cursed my alarm clock and pressed ‘snooze’ more times than I’m willing to admit), I’ve come to the realisation that I love early morning running. Yes, some people must think I’m a little odd for sacrificing those last few hours of sleep, but what I gain from a good, solid early morning run more than makes up for it.
I’m not somebody who deals with the heat and humidity very well. My heart rate increases as my pace slows, and the mental battle feels like it is being lost with each heavy step. Although I do make use of the treadmill and the indoor track during July and August, I still believe that, despite my complaints, nothing beats running outside. In the hotter months, the only way to do this is to get up early. Although the UAE offers perfect training conditions in the winter months, even then, it’s still beneficial to avoid running between 8am and 5pm. We are all familiar with the risks of becoming dehydrated and battling heat exhaustion, and this is something that must still be considered during the cooler months. In the mornings, this is not so much of a concern. At 5am yesterday, the temperature was teetering around the 31degrees mark, with a humidity of around 66%. Whilst still not ideal, it made for a much better run, and I certainly felt relieved to be finishing my run just as the sun had risen above the buildings that surround the track. Had I left it any later, I would have certainly paid for it.
There’s also something about simply being up at that time: setting off in the dark or twilight, with very few people around you, watching the sun rise as a whole new day begins, and certainly not least of all, having completed your exercise before most people are even out of bed! At the beach track, I’m not that strange woman who gets up at an unearthly hour to run. There are plenty of people, of all different nationalities, backgrounds, and shapes and sizes, who run or walk before getting on with the rest of their day. I’m simply a face amongst the crowd, another busy person who fits in what I enjoy when I can, and who is dedicated enough to do it properly.
Running, or doing any exercise, as the sun rises is motivating. The prospect of a whole new day ahead of you makes you pick up the pace, run with a spring in your step, and imagine all there is to look forward to and all that can be achieved. It makes you feel alive, fit, happy, and grateful. On the other hand, there’s always that sense of dread as the sun rises: how much further do I have to go? How much longer before the heat becomes unbearable?
Of course, running every morning is not always possible, and running in the heat/humidity does have its benefits (raising your heart rate, which means that you may run at a slower pace, but when the weather cools down you’ll find yourself able to run a faster pace with the same amount of effort). It’s just nice, a couple of times a week at least, to drag yourself out of bed, pull on your trainers, and greet the day the way you mean to go on: pushing forwards, challenging yourself, and breaking your own personal records.
Top Tips for becoming a morning person
• Make sure you set your alarm. Try to give yourself something to look forward to upon getting out of bed, such as a nice cup of coffee.
• Lay out everything you need the night before. That way, you don’t have to think about what to wear or what to bring with you.
• Arrange to meet a friend. Making plans like this will make you less likely to roll over and go back to sleep.
• Make sure you sleep early the night before
• Getting up early to exercise does not mean having less sleep, although we are all guilty of this at some point. Ensure you get adequate rest by turning off technology in the hour or two before bed, and by avoiding large meals late at night.
• Know when you need to rest
• Of course, there are bound to be times when a sleep in is needed for the good of your health. Learn to recognise the difference between needing an extra hour of sleep and making excuses.
Words by: Rachael Bruford
Photos by: Supplied