Are you about as sprightly as a hungover student first thing? It doesn’t mean you can’t tackle those early morning runs with a bit more gusto, you lazy sod.
words: Graeme Hilditch
Although it might be hard to believe, there is actually a sound physiological reason (other than laziness) why some runners train and race far better later in the day than first thing in morning. You early risers might roll their eyes at us late risers as you set off for your 6.30am five-miler, but we have a good excuse to not be as up for it at that time of day as you are.
Often (although not always), you’ll find runners who have a good level of natural flexibility are the ones who perform well in the morning, and who feel their body is willing to head out for a run. The inflexible runners, like me, generally find running in the morning feels harder going, with everything feeling sluggish and unresponsive. Late risers find their bodies are far happier performing later in the day, when their legs feel far more awake and alert - and for good reason.
As humans, our core body temperature peaks during the mid-afternoon, which for the inflexible among us, helps to make our leg muscles far more pliable and functional during a run. In the morning, when we are at our coldest, our muscles just aren’t happy setting off for a run, as we feel tight, unprepared and far from athletic.
For the lucky ones who were born with a naturally high level of flexibility, they tend to find their legs are happy to run whatever time of the day, so if you enjoy racing, you’re good to go whenever you like.
Rise and shine
So, what should you do if your body would rather be in bed at 9:30am than out racing a 10K? Should you avoid morning races altogether? Not necessarily.
Love it or hate it, you can’t escape the fact that the vast majority of races in the UK start in the morning; so as far as choice is concerned, you have little option but to accept that no matter how much your body prefers running in the afternoon, you’re going to have to teach it how to tolerate morning runs better.
Sadly, there is no magic pill you can take (other than perhaps caffeine) that will help you do this, so the best way is simply to set your alarm even earlier than your more flexible counterparts and focus on doing a thorough warm-up and stretching routine - even before you’ve left the house. By initiating plenty of movement in your legs several hours before the race and performing a series of muscle-stimulating dynamic stretches, you can help wake up your nervous system and get the blood coursing through your veins.
Although you might prefer to race in the afternoon, to give yourself the best chance to break your PB, by waking up early and warming up your ‘engine’ well, it’s possible to invigorate your legs and mind well enough to make your body feel race ready when the gun fires at 10am.