I used to think of myself as a night owl rather than an early riser. I would generally struggle to get up in the morning and my first activity of the day would always have to be a three course breakfast and a cup of coffee. Two children and nearly three years later and, well, I’m not quite sure what I am, but I am probably more of a morning person than I used to be. Which, when it comes to running and racing, might be no bad thing.
The combo of small children and lack of sleep is pretty well documented so I’m not going to go into detail on it, suffice to say I am not probably a glowing example of health right now and the sleep deprivation is going to take a while to subside. But it’s getting better. And thanks to a 1 year old who often likes to wake at 6am and an early morning coaching schedule, I have begun to adapt from a night owl to a morning lark, which I am hoping, if nothing else, is going to make me run faster on race day.
It’s something that’s easy to forget, or not even consider, when you’re training for a race. You know you’ll need to run, so you practice by running a lot. You may practice running at your race pace to get your body used to it. You may practice your race day nutrition to get your body used to it. Everything is practiced over and over before the race. Apart from that one thing – how to get yourself out of bed. Because if like me, you’re intrinsically more of a night owl than a morning lark, then getting up at 6am for your morning race is going to be a bit of a shock to the system.
The moral of the story? Don’t let your circadian rhythms be your downfall come race day. If you want, you can borrow my one year old to get you up at 6am, or otherwise just start to set your alarm clock that little bit earlier each day for at least a few weeks before your race so that your body is less in shock when it comes to race day. And then once you’re up, you need to run. The key is training your body to run in the morning. Now I’m sure a lot of people are already training in the mornings. Indeed many are out there well before me! But if you’re not and you’ve got a morning race coming up, then you should be. Again, there is no point in perfecting your race pace, nutrition, toileting, warm up, cool down etc etc if come race day your body starts to wonder what the hell is going on, when you start running before midday for a change! Make sure you get at least one or two runs a week done in the mornings, get your body used to it, and if you’re training for a longer distance race it wouldn’t do you any harm to have minimal breakfast before you go out either, to start to mimic how you might feel on race day during the latter parts of the event.
Our bodies like routine and habit. Like our minds, they like to know what to expect. So if you want a fairly easy fix to help to make you run quicker, then give it a go. I’ll admit this is just a hunch, but I think it makes sense, and based on some of the findings mentioned in this recent BBC report, it’s surely worth a go. And probably don’t go booking an early morning race for this Sunday, as with the clocks going back too that is going to be pretty tough to get out of bed for!