January 11, 2012

Early Bird

Last week, in some kind of fit of superhuman motivation, I managed to drag myself out of bed every day before work to hit the gym. In the interest of full disclosure, I did have Monday off, so the "week" was truly only four days. Still, for an unabashed non-morning person (just ask poor Toby, the typical recipient of my glares and growls as I force my feet to hit the ground), this is a pretty impressive accomplishment. 
I go through phases like this every once in a while -- weeks where I am consistent enough about running in the mornings that my body either gets used to it or just resigns itself to the whims of my crazy brain. These good weeks, however, tend to punctuate months where I only make it to the gym a few mornings a week, or, in some rare cases, never at all. On days that I can't rouse myself early enough, I always run in the evenings... but only after I've sat at my desk all day wrestling with the guilt that comes with skipping my morning run.
Now, however, we come to the real anomaly of last week: not only did I manage to run every day before work, but three out of four days, I also spent time at the gym after work. One day I ran twice, and the other two afternoons I hit the elliptical after longer runs in the morning. Inspired? Definitely. Crazy? Possible.
I'm not a stranger to two-a-day workouts -- back in the summer and fall when I was training for races I tried to squeeze in two runs a day (or a run and crosstraining) at least once a week. Three times in one week, however, is certainly a first. These days I am running fairly reduced mileage thanks to the on-and-off pain in my right shin and the fact that I don't have any races on my calendar for at least two more months, so even with a high volume of separate workouts, I'm nowhere near the training level I was in August and September. My runs during the week were also exclusively pounded through on the treadmill (although I did manage to get outside during daylight Saturday and Sunday), so they weren't exactly 100% effort or fancy tempo runs, even though I did maintain paces that satisfy my craving for speed. Still, nine sessions of decent sweat over six days is nothing to sneeze at around here.
This week has been much more normal so far -- I made it in Monday morning, but opted for the extra hour of sleep yesterday and today. Last night I finished my longest run since before Halloween, and I plan to follow it up with a 5k distance (-ish) recovery tonight. That little guilty voice has taken up its spot in the back of my head again, though: "It's good to start your day with a run," it says, "You should have gotten up." Damn voice. It's especially loud after a week like last week.
It makes me wonder, though -- is it really better to work out in the mornings? Sure, it's nice to start out the day knowing my run is out of the way and I can relax after work. There are lots of days that I know if I don't do it in the morning, I won't have time to run at all, so there's that. And it is true that once I manage to get out of bed, I feel good about starting off my day by sweating -- it wakes me up and allows me to feel accomplished first thing in the morning. But honestly, there are plenty of other benefits to running in the afternoons: I can burn off both the stress and the calories of the day, I'm not in a hurry and can go as far as I'd like, and it seems that my body is happier, too. There are days when I get home from work and it it only takes Dan one glance before he gently guides me to the closet to change clothes -- he knows that a run is the ultimate bad-mood killer after a long day for me. Besides, one of the cardinal rules of training is to mix it up with different routes and different speeds to keep my head engaged and committed. It would seem that varying the time of day would be a no-brainer.
So while I do feel pretty proud of myself for weeks like last week, it's definitely time to stop beating myself up over it. Sometimes my body needs that extra hour of sleep much more than it needs to be set atop a moving belt and asked to keep up while only half awake. That treadmill isn't going anywhere, and especially when it's a choice between 3 rushed miles before work or 6 quality miles in the afternoon, the right answer is pretty clear.
That said, tomorrow I'm determined to get my run over with before work, because words can't express how much I don't want to go spend time on the treadmill right now. Is it spring yet? I miss the roads...



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