For many of us, the only way to squeeze a run into the working day is by getting up at the crack of dawn. Unfortunately, though, not is it tough – mentally – finding motivation to prize yourself out of a warm bed and into the icy darkness but, physically, your runs are likely to feel much harder than usual, too.
Your body has its own natural clock, the circadian rhythm. Taking its cue from changes in daylight, it controls your body temperature, blood pressure and hormone secretion over a 24-hour cycle. The changes mean that your body reaches peak performance as the body warms and hormone levels rise – usually mid-morning and again later in the afternoon. However, some people have more extreme body clock settings than others, making them natural morning larks or night owls.
If early running doesn’t come naturally, you can still adapt your body clock to make you perform better earlier in the day…
■ Set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier and get straight out of bed as soon as you wake. Do this for a few days and, once you adjust, set it another 15 minutes earlier until you reach your desired waking time for running.
■ Head out for your run as quickly as you can after waking – but don’t forget to stretch and warm up before upping the pace.
■ Avoid napping during the day, as this can make it harder to get to sleep in the evening. A good night’s sleep is the key to early waking. Avoid using backlit devices, such as mobile phones and computer screens, in the hour before bedtime because these can stimulate your waking-up hormones.
■ Wind down before you go to bed: have a milky drink, read for a bit and ensure your bedroom is dark and quiet. Avoid eating or exercising too late at night.
■ Open your curtains and try to get as much light into your eyes as soon as you wake, to kick-start the body clock into full wakefulness.
■ Spend more time outdoors. A report in Current Biology found that spending time outdoors and away from electric light helped people wake earlier. The scientists discovered that a week camping helped even night owls wake more easily at dawn.