There’s no denying the struggle of adhering to a grueling training schedule while balancing an active social life and a full-time job or college course-load. The key to managing it all may simply lie in appropriately scheduling your workouts. Moving your daily runs to the morning can free up your afternoon and evenings so that you don’t have to sacrifice quality of work product or time with your loved ones. Not only can training in the AM help you find the perfect run-work-life balance, it can benefit you in other major ways on and off the pavement:
- Better cross training: Testosterone levels in the body are elevated shortly after waking up. By performing strength-related exercises during early hours, the body is taking full advantage of these peaked hormones, rather than expending them later in the day after they have decreased. Mornings are prime time for building muscle mass and tone which is crucial for achieving your next PR. Not to mention- machines at the gym are far less crowded in the morning.
- Boosted metabolism: It’s no secret that exercising can speed up your metabolism. This phenomenon is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Specifically, exercising in the morning can increase your metabolism and keep it speedy all day long. When you eat during the day after an AM workout, instead of the body using these calories as a source of energy or storing them for later, it uses them as replenishment of what was lost during your workout. Plus, a recent study found that exercising on an empty stomach- aka right when you get up- can burn as much as 20 percent more fat than exercising after a meal. Less fat: more speed!
- Increased productivity and attention span: Exercise can play an important role in keeping your brain sharp and focused. Studies show that working out in the morning can increase mental clarity for 4-10 hours post-exercise. As any runner knows, training also produces endorphins that promote feelings of happiness and rejuvenation. With increased focus and that extra pep in your step, you’ll be ready to tackle the day after your early run.
- Better sleep: Studies have proven that athletes who work out in the morning have deeper, longer and more high-quality sleeps than those who work out at night. Additionally, research has shown that physical activity in the evening can actually have a negative impact on sleep. This is because exercise releases adrenaline throughout the body and raises the body’s temperature- two phenomenons that combat restfulness. A good night’s sleep is an enormous component in a high-quality training run. To ensure you get both, run in the morning.
The next time you make plans with friends after work, also make plans with the gym or the track or the road before work. Be advised- your first 6am wake-up call will not be pleasant. But stick with it- the routine will soon develop and you’ll be happy to call yourself a morning runner.
As runners, we are programmed to run. We’re fiercely loyal to our routines and days off don’t exist unless scheduled within our training programs. This is why taking ‘sick days’ is so unbelievably difficult for us. Regardless of how tough it is to sleep in an extra hour instead of hitting the park for a 6-miler, resting while sick is essential for overall health, fitness and training quality. So how do you know when your illness requires you to sit this one out?
- Your symptoms are below the neck:
- Chest cold
- Bronchial infection
- Body ache
- You have a sinus infection
- Your temperature is above 99 degrees
- Your symptoms are above the neck (running can actually help in these cases!):
- Runny nose
If your sickness requires you to rest, take the appropriate time off and don’t try to get back in the game too early. If you’re dealing with a sinus infection, it is a good rule of thumb to take 3 full days off of running. Anything less than 72 hours puts you at risk of pneumonia or other major respiratory infections. If it’s just a fever or the flu, wait to hit the pavement until the day after your symptoms disappear.
It is also essential that you ease slowly back into your running routine after an illness hiatus. Wait one to two weeks before resuming your pre-illness fitness level to prevent a relapse. It can be helpful in your first few runs back to fluctuate between walking and running in order to gain back stamina and endurance.
Remember- it takes 10 days without exercise for running fitness to be compromised, so a few days off won’t hurt if an illness forces you to rest. Listen to your body and take it easy. Forcing a run can only worsen your symptoms and might have you taking more days off in the future. One recuperation day now can pave the way for many strong training days in your future!
Running shows us all that our bodies and minds are capable of. It provides a new perspective with which to self-reflect; a perspective of gratitude for the body and its physical potential, and a perspective of love for the mind and soul which have allowed us to set goals, overcome obstacles and keep going even when it gets tough. Running promotes sustainable self-love that goes far beyond physical appearance. For that reason alone, keep running. ❤
Running alone can be cathartic and at times necessary for sustaining mental health, but it doesn’t always produce the best race results. Although it’s entirely possible to PR and even BQ through a strictly solo routine, there’s no doubt that it’s more difficult. Work smarter not harder by training with other runners! Here’s how it can help:
- Social Facilitation: This proven psychological theory states that humans experience performance improvement as a result of the presence of others. During a group run, you might find yourself subconsciously running faster to keep up without even having to think about it!
- Increased Accountability: Running with a group makes you less likely to miss a workout, knowing that everyone else will be there. This bit of social pressure can keep you committed to your training schedule and well on your way to your next personal best.
- Increased Motivation: In all likelihood throughout your pack runs, you will come across athletes that are faster than you. These speed demons can be an amazing tangible source of motivation in efforts to increase your speed.
- Learning Opportunity: What do runners like to talk about while running? Running! This makes it nearly impossible not to learn something new- whether technical, like how to improve cadence or experiential, like what to expect at the start line of the Boston Marathon. Run to learn and learn to run!
- Support On and Off the Track: The old adage says that distance running is 90% mental. If that’s true, than this benefit of group running is perhaps the most important. A running group gives you access to fellow runners who know what you’re going through and want to see you succeed. This familiar support can make it easier on your mind to keep going when the physical side of running gets tough.
The fastest way to get faster is by running with a group. Go online and find a running club in your area, start a team at the office or go with friends. You might even make some new ones along the way!
When your training schedule calls for 5 miles but the forecast says 100% rain, don’t fret. Although dragging your butt outside might take more mental energy than normal, remember the awesome benefits of running in the rain:
- Burn more calories. Although this benefit relates more to weight loss than training, for many people, losing weight is a major running motivator. When training in the rain, precipitation prevents overheating so your body stays cool for the entire run, forcing it to burn more energy.
- Run faster. Without conscious intention, you might find yourself running faster in the rain so you can get back inside sooner. The badass feeling of toughing out the weather can also propel you to new speeds!
- Build up muscle. The slickness of the road during a rain shower forces you to adjust your normal stride to prevent slipping. Maneuvering the wet ground and sustaining balance will activate more muscles than in a typical run, helping you to grow stronger.
- Improve mental toughness. From preparing for a rainy run to forging through it and avoiding shortcuts, your mental stamina is put to the test. If you can get through the rainy run successfully, you will be in a better place to thrive during tough races, regardless of the conditions.
The next time you face in-climate weather, throw on a sweatshirt and an angsty playlist and hit the road- your body and your mind will thank you later.
When you start getting faster and can make it up those hills without the sound of your breath drowning out the music in your headphones, know that it’s because of the work you’ve put in. When it comes to running, there are no flukes. What you give is exactly what you’ll get. So continue to push. Continue to leave all you have out there on the road and enjoy the deserved results.
Although I shy away from using the term “fartlek” with my non-running peers because of its silly pronunciation (fart-leck), it is a word frequently on the brain during training. A fartlek, Swedish for “speed play,” is a training routine crucial for building endurance, speed and stamina.
How to run a fartlek
Just as its meaning suggests, a fartlek is run literally by playing with speed. It is an interval workout without the rigidness, accomplished by alternating between sprinting and recovery paces within varied distances. Many times when completing a fartlek, runners might choose an object in the distance to which they will sprint, then another object to which they will run at a normal pace. The magic of the fartlek is that these sprinting and recovery distances are totally up to the runner. More structured fartlek routines do exist however for those looking for more organized workouts.
When to run a fartlek
It is most effective to start incorporating 1-2 fartleks per week into your training routine once you have about a month’s worth of base training completed.
Why fartleks are so effective
Fartleks are massively helpful because they allow athletes to practice running fast. Although it seems obvious, in order to run faster, you need to practice running faster. These workouts require you to push your speed more than in a normal run. A fartlek also simulates a real race situation when bursts of speed sporadically occur. It is a way to practice navigating these bursts economically and practice staying quick afterwards.
To sum it up, adding fartlek workouts to your training routine can help amp up the speed without amping up the effort! Always remember to incorporate the proper warm ups and cool downs before and after fartlek-ing.