Tag Archives: quick thoughts

Is Getting Up Early to Work Out A Good Idea?

view of sunset on road

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So a lot of people make themselves work out early in the morning because it’s easier to find time then to work than it is to work out towards the end of the day. It’s less likely something will come along to derail your workout, whether circumstance or flagging motivation following a busy day.

I will note that in my long fitness history I’ve tried both working out very early and working out in the evening. I personally find there’s a lot I need to do to prepare for and get to work each morning, and I’m not usually clear headed enough to efficiently do most morning workouts either way. Others’ mileage will obviously vary.

The reason I don’t just set the alarm and wake up earlier is because the negative effect of losing sleep is greater than the positive effect of a morning workout, even if bio-rhythmically I come correct and learn to wake up earlier (and I already wake up naturally around 6am).

What happens if the previous night runs long or I otherwise have trouble getting to sleep? Now I spend the following day sleep deprived, along with all the negative hormonal effects of not getting enough sleep. The resulting cortisol and loss of growth/recovery hormones is actually a key behind lacking training results, faster aging, aging in general, not to mention illness and other psychological/health problems.

It’s more worth it to me to fit a workout in after work during the early evening, and it helps that I’ve developed the discipline to consistently do those workouts. Now and then I am able to get in a productive 6am workout after having slept well, but I realize that cannot be a daily thing with my current schedule and lifestyle… plus some workouts are too long for 6am to be a sufficient starting time.

So this leads me to talk about a couple things:

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Training progressions, stabilization, and running health

I’m learning a borderline unfathomable amount of information from my Personal Trainer course, and a lot of it applies just as well to running as it does to general strength training.

It’s hard to get into much of what I’m learning right now, especially given I’m studying for new material through the accelerated program and I need to focus on processing all that information on top of still trying to ingrain the previous information.

One thing that sits with me is the NASM structure to training progression known as the OPT model. The basic premise is that, before you should work on maximizing strength and athleticism, you first need to work on and improve the stabilization of your existing muscle systems.

The idea is that your muscles have some natural imbalances, and jumping right into swolework or athletic drills not only can risk injury but also further solidify and thus complicate those imbalances.

Someone with an incredible amount of strength or athletic development might actually be surprisingly weak in a key core muscle group, and if this person has recurring injury or performance problems that weakness could be a key factor in their problems. It may seem like a step back to work solely on stabilization basics, but in reality improvement here avoids bigger, longer setbacks in more serious situations.

Going back to running… even prior to this training, I could watch someone run for a few moments and immediately point out what kind of injury problems they either have dealt with or will deal with. I could see mechanically what was limiting them.

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Addendum on practicing marathon fueling: When should you practice it?

I recently wrote about the training benefit in strategically fueling and hydrating during long runs to mirror your usage of aid stations.

However, do you want to do this in every long run? I’d say certainly not. You definitely don’t want to do it in every training run. Never mind the hassle of carrying fluid: Race-day fuel isn’t cheap in large quantities. Do you really want to buy pounds of gel every week?

First of all, there is a training benefit to training without any fuel at all. Along with practicing some glycogen depletion and possibly improving your overall glycogen storage, you also will produce crucial aerobic stress that improves your aerobic capabilities.

That said, there comes a point where the losses from a lack of fuel start to hurt you more than the depletion stimulus of training without it is helping you.

Jeff Gaudette once noted that the body can handle about 2 hours of marathon pace running before running out of relevant lower body glycogen. Granted, you’re typically not running at marathon pace for most (if not all) of your long runs. This is a key reason behind most running minds’ stop-loss limit of 2.5 hours for long runs. That’s about the farthest you can go at an easy long run pace without fuel before your body taps out of glycogen and really begins to give out overall.

The suitable middle ground for easy runs is probably near the upper limit of a run’s peak aerobic benefit: 90 minutes. Anything above 90 minutes probably can be completed without fuel, but it may help you more to fuel that run than it may to deplete yourself running without it.

Save for the most hardcore of runners, this indicates you likely will just practice fueling on the weekend long run. Daniels 2Q runners will also need to do so in a long mid-week run (as most of those workouts will exceed 90 minutes), but most everyone else can just fuel and hydrate runs by comfort the rest of the week.

And of course, you will typically fuel and hydrate throughout more aggressive sessions such as speedwork and pace runs, plus should copiously hydrate warmer runs regardless of circumstance. Don’t consider my advice a mandate *against* intuitive fueling and hydration by any means. My recommendation was simply to consciously practice fueling and hydration based on the aid station patterns of your goal pace.

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Pace goals and getting the most out of your easy runs

boy runs at the street while people looking at him

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Let’s say you want to run a sub-4 hour marathon, and know your goal marathon pace is 9:00 per mile.

Many training plans advise your long runs be done at a pace about 60-90 seconds per mile slower, i.e. do your long runs at a 10:00-10:30 pace.

While this is not a bad idea, it’s rather difficult to do if you’re also not paying any mind to the general pace of your regular midweek easy runs. While you want those runs to be low-pressure, it may not be a bad idea to also have the same “pace goal” in mind for your regular midweek runs.

If the pace is practiced everyday in 3-8 mile chunks, then trying to do it for 2-3 hours becomes less daunting.

I understand the idea of these runs being “recovery runs” where you don’t want to put yourself under any pressure other than to run.

If you don’t struggle with focus and don’t struggle to maintain pace in a marathon, then sure, don’t worry about it. Just run.

If you don’t have a pace or time goal, then of course don’t worry about it. Just cover the distance or time required. Relax.

However, there are two camps that could benefit greatly from focusing on an “easy pace” in regular runs. I just brought up the first group: People looking to nail a time goal who also have a pace in mind for easy long runs.

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An update on new endeavors for 2020

Recently I started a new job, and after a couple of nebulous months it actually feels great to lock back into a workweek routine.

Even with work to do, I find the workdays strangely relaxing. It certainly helps with recovery that I once again need to sit at a desk for hours each weekday. And, of course, it feels good to have a predictable income once again.

During this coming year I plan to study and train quite a bit outside of running. After years of developing my nutrition knowledge through self study, trial and error, and a legion of research… I decided to make my knowledge “official” and study for Precision Nutrition’s L1 Nutrition Certification. This fills in a lot of gaps, and codify (with sources!) a lot of the knowledge I’ve carried over the years. Plus, as nutrition certifications go, Precision Nutrition is considered among most the best of the best.

I’ve also decided to elevate my running knowledge by becoming certified as a personal trainer. Starting next month I will study with Life Time Fitness at their Academy to earn my NASM CPT certification.

Does this mean I will scale back my running work? Absolutely not! If anything, a key goal in these two projects is to make my running work more robust. Coaching from the certified knowledge of a nutritionist and personal trainer will make my work more complete.

Many runners and coaches only operate from a thin, general idea of nutrition and other physical training. Again, I want to fill in the gaps and be as complete a runner and coach as I can. I want to go beyond generalities when discussing nutrition. I want to go into depth on quality strength training, knowing how much a runner can and should handle, and (runners or not runners) get specific with work that will fully develop an individual’s health and performance.

And, of course, I’m still training for marathons. All of this is part of a larger study in utilizing nutrition and outside strength/conditioning work to maximize my health and development for Vancouver 2020 as well as Victoria 2020.

So, there will be more to come on that front. I will also write more going forward on concepts and lessons I study from the two training programs, with thoughts on their impact on not just my training but how it impacts training of others.

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Thoughts on the benefits of building your own training schedule

Most people pick someone else’s training plan and just follow that to the letter. That’s probably alright for most, though having a life or other complications can make following most plans a problem.

For example, a Hal Higdon marathon plan follows a fairly set schedule. The intermediate plan has cross training Monday, three easily doable runs in a row on Tuesday through Thursday, Friday off, a moderate run Saturday and then the long run Sunday.

What if you run in the evenings after work but have a commitment on Thursday night that interferes with that run? Or what if you run in the mornings before work, but the 7-8 mile Wednesday runs later in the program are too long to do before work?

Or what happens if you’re exhausted and getting sick at the end of a week? Do you risk compounding that problem by getting your workouts in? Do you risk compromising your training by skipping the Saturday run (or heaven forbid, the very important long run)?

Never mind scheduling concerns: What if the weather is blazing hot and doing a 15 mile long run, even early in the morning when it’s cooler, simply is not do-able without risking serious health problems? What if doing the whole run on a treadmill or otherwise indoors just isn’t practical?

Conversely, what if it’s the dead of winter and windchills have dropped to a deadly low, or your locale just got hit with two feet of snow?

A lot of novice runners would just skip every workout that runs into such interference. And most will get to the start line of their goal race woefully undertrained.

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Forty One.

white and blue floral table lamp

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Today for me is birthday number forty one. Spending 41 at home with family, not worried about having to go to work today, is certainly not bad. (We might head out for dinner later!)

Taking stock: If I slowed down at all in the last year, it’s largely been due to a relative lack of training, and attention to other matters in my personal life. Also, while certainly not terrible, my diet certainly could have been better. Thankfully I haven’t experienced any noticeable age related decline. I could probably knock out the same 1:45-1:55 400-meter repeats, or 7 minute miles, if I resumed training to do so.

The important constant in my life is to keep moving and keep things mostly clean: Diet, lifestyle, work, habits. Las Vegas is far more sedentary than I’m used to but I make sure to get out and get moving every day.

I had considered not running any marathons next year, but Vancouver came calling and I realized I had to answer, so I definitely will run that. I’m starting to think this is an annual pilgrimage and I’ll achieve legacy status within the next decade.

I’m thinking about the possibility of a 2nd marathon late in 2020. Seattle at the end of November is a clear and obvious candidate. But some peers have mentioned Victoria BC in October, and visiting there again would be pretty cool. However, the training schedule (as Chicago was in 2018) would be cramped so soon after Vancouver. Seattle meanwhile offers more time.

I do have the option to still run Chicago next year (cancelling 2019’s bid came with the benefit of buying an auto-slot in 2020 if I wanted it), but never minding huge crowds, the hefty entry fee, a typically difficult trip into and out of Chicago, having to secure lodging since I no longer live there… it’s the same weekend as Victoria, and thus offers the same cramped training schedule problem. So maybe not.

Being back home with family in Vegas does make long runs and some other training more challenging. But it’s great to be near them again, and not have to air travel for family events.

I’m keeping my options open for work going forward. Barring a good offer for permanent employment, I’ll likely operate as more of a freelancer. I have some workable options that would at least allow me to pay debt and maintain bills through next year.

The key with work is having the flexibility to travel for Vancouver, and not interfering with my family events this next year. Some permanent roles could prevent that, so along with being obviously up-front about my plans during discussions I need to be selective.

A flexible schedule also makes training easier. Up until now I’ve had to plan my runs completely around a work schedule, like most. But if I can dictate when I do or don’t work, then I can do it the other way around, planning around training! A big benefit of this is being able to do longer workouts any morning of the week instead of just on the weekends.

Now, if someone offers me the right permanent role, forget about it (as long as they allow my travel next May!). I’ll go ahead and plan my workouts around work as before. There’s obvious benefits to a permanent job that would make it worthwhile. The benefits have to outweigh the drawbacks, and can’t come with any dealbreakers.

The plan for now, and I’ve been gradually working towards it these last few weeks, is to resume a normal moderate training volume. The cross training options I’ve developed for myself have helped a lot with bridging the gap and smoothing the resumption of regular moderate-distance runs. The goal is for the average daily run to be around 6 miles (which I was doing a couple years back), and from there I can ramp up into marathon training.

This is a good year to direct energy towards multiple projects, and along with continuing to provide content here I’m looking forward to expanding upon the material I’ve introduced here as well as lessons I’ve learned from my running training and research. I was working on and off on a larger project this past year, and now I can really focus on getting it off the ground. More on that later.

The key will be to remain focused and mindful of the big picture goals, to not get too self-indulgent and let that detract from the work ethic I’ve built over the years.

I’m looking forward to forty one.

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