I’ve been waking up early – really early. I’d say that my average wakeup time over the last two weeks has been between 4 and 5 a.m. For some of you this won’t sound so bad, but for others, this will sound torturous. It’s about 2 or 3 hours earlier than I was waking up – so to me, it feels pretty extreme.
Why am I waking up this early? Necessity.
I’ve been getting up to train for my mountain bike races before my children wake up in the morning – and I’m loving it.
I am a stay-at-home dad and in previous mountain biking seasons, I was waiting for my wife to get home from work to exercise. It was hard to predict when she would get home, so it was difficult to plan my training rides. Plus, I was never sure how energetic I would feel after watching my children all day. The combination of exhaustion and lack of mental focus would cut into the quality of my workouts on many occasions.
Also, for a large portion of the year I was racing to get my miles in before sundown. A flat tire could be enough to derail the best-laid plans. I have a light, so I could ride after dark, but you definitely can’t get the training intensity that you need riding the trail at night – or the safety that you need cruising on the road after the sun sets.
This winter I bought a spin bike for my basement and that has been a game changer for me. I no longer have to wait for the sun to come up to ride. And, I don’t have to worry about those chilly early morning rides either. Now I just stream a movie on Netflix or Amazon Prime and start pedaling.
Why not do this at night? Because frankly, I’m just worn out. Have you ever spent an entire day watching kids? It makes you want to sit in your comfy recliner with a glass of Franzia to watch Survivor.
Go To Bed Early
The key to making this work though is that you have to be willing to go to bed early. I am a big fan of sleep and if I don’t get 7-8 hours I become cranky and cantankerous. Your muscles need that time to rest and repair as well, so I don’t recommend getting up super early if you are doing it at the expense of getting good sleep. Lack of sleep over the long run will lead to burnout and might just make you give up on training all together.
As soon as I put my kids to bed each night, I grab my favorite book and slip under my covers. 2 or 3 pages later and my eyelids are heavier than a full-suspension downhill bike.
It’s Easier To Schedule Workouts in the A.M.
I’ve read that people who exercise in the morning do so more regularly and I believe it. I look forward to getting up in my quiet house and having some time to myself. There are not a lot of demands on my schedule at 5am. It gives me a chance to collect my thoughts and plan my day. I’m taking that wasted two hours of trash TV time at night and turning it into a productive movie viewing party in the morning. I have stumbled across some great documentaries and I’m often learning a lot while I ride.
Your body performs it’s best when you let it get into a good rhythm, so even on my rest days I am waking up early – usually using that time to work on this blog or check emails while sipping on a nice warm cup of coffee.
One disadvantage is that I can’t really ride the trail at that early in the morning. This is definitely a big concern of mine since my whole goal is to train for mountain bike races. My plan for this summer is during the week I will ride in the basement and focus on power & intensity through intervals, then on the weekend I will hit the trails at sunrise for a long endurance ride. This will allow me to build my stamina and practice my technical skills at the same time – while still getting back early for fun weekend family time.
After working out I usually feel great. I start the day with a positive mindset knowing that I have already accomplished one of my goals for the day.
Morning Workouts Help with Nutrition Planning
Working out in the morning raises your metabolism for the day – or so I’ve heard. I’ve put a big emphasis on nutrition this season after spending a big part of last year trying to lose weight. I like knowing how my workout turned out early in the day because it is easier to plan my eating. It’s important to save some calories for your post-workout recovery. When training in the evening, I was never really sure what kind of exercise I was going to be able to squeeze in – which made it really hard to know whether I should eat that leftover piece of angel’s food cake in the afternoon. Now I go into each day knowing where my net calorie count stands and I have a clear goal for success at the dinner table.
Warming Up Is Even More Important
One thing to keep in mind if you are thinking about getting up early is that your muscles are going to be a little tighter when you first wake up. This could lead to injury if you aren’t careful. Waking up late and trying to squeeze in a workout might inspire you to cut the warm-up short, but I think this is a mistake. I’ve incorporated a much more thorough 15-20 minute warm-up into each session to be on the safe side. I’ve found this to be especially important when my morning routine includes running.
So what do you think? Have I inspired you to get up early? What time of day do you find works best for your training? Let me know in the comment section.
Don’t forget to subscribe to Quickdirt or follow along on Facebook or Twitter. I’ve been using Facebook to post interesting training tips that I find on-line, while my Twitter account has been more of a training log. You can see what I am doing when I tweet my workouts and then see how that translates to results later. I hope you will join along for an exciting race season!
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- The Huffington Post: 6 Benefits to Being a Morning Exerciser
- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Running – Pg 56 & 57
- The Boxing Scene: Top 10 Reasons to Exercise in the Morning
- WebMD: Morning Exercise for Weight-Loss
- The Spark People: Learn to Love A.M. Exercise
- Livestrong.com: The Benefits of Running in the Morning