Thursday, November 12, 2009

When To Run - An Exhaustive Scientific Study (or Exhausting - depending on my mood)

It’s Thursday, which means that I should be blogging about a book. However, this past week, though heavy on running and eating, did not involve a whole lot of reading. I just finished The Poet of Baghdad last night, and will be starting on Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan today. So look forward to that post next Thursday.

In the mean time, I’ve been considering the pros and cons of running in the morning versus running in the evening. People assume that to be a runner, you must hop out of bed every morning at ungodly-o-clock, and skip out the door for a refreshing and lovely run. 

Bzzzt! Wrong. At least that’s not how it works for me. I would love to be that girl with the flipity pony-tail and trendy outfit, cruising along at a brisk pace without a care in the world every morning. But let's be real - I am more of the roll-out-of-bed with a groan, grab the least offensive-smelling pile of clothing, and throw myself out the door (both eyes may or may not be open yet) kind of person.

But maybe it’s just because I’m not used to running in the morning. I mean, who’s to say that once I get in the habit of a.m. runs, my quality of life will improve ten-fold? Doubtful…but possible.

Let’s do this scientifically, shall we?

Flashback to Mr. Garrett’s class – freshman year of high school (where I once lit a trashcan on fire accidentally…proper disposal of chemicals…whoops!).

Anywho, nobody died. Here we go!

Objective: To determine the best time to run.

Hypothesis: One time of day is preferable to others.

Materials:

-       Me.

-       Running shoes.

Procedure:

  1. Run in the evening for a few days.
  2. Run in the morning for a few days.
  3. Weigh the pros and cons.

Data:

Running in the Morning:

Pros

-       I spend the rest of the day doing whatever whenever, and eating whatever whenever, because as far as I’m concerned, I have already accomplished everything I need to do that day.

-       It’s light outside.

-       There’s not much traffic.

-       When I run in the morning, I shower in the morning. This results in clean blow-dried hair for work. But wait...I’m not impressing anyone at work…so this might go into the pain-in-the-ass category…which makes it more of a con than a pro.

-       When I get off work, I can meet up with friends, go to evening events, or just lay on my couch - totally guilt free!

- Races are usually in the morning, so it might be good to be used to running at that time.

Cons

-       Getting out of bed.

-       Eating breakfast at work. (Of course, I could get up earlier to run, which would give me time to eat breakfast and read the paper at home before work…but well…see Con #1.)

-       My legs feel much heavier and tighter in the mornings. I can’t run as fast.

 

Running in the Evening

Pros

-       Re-energizes me after a mind-numbing day at work.

-       Gives me something to look forward to in my day. (This is also a con…see below)

-       I am much more likely to have a good run in the evening than in the morning.

-       I have time in the morning to relax, eat, and get stuff done before work.

 

Cons

-       Running at night can cause insomnia.

-       I get off work at 6. So I don’t start running until 6:30ish…which means that by the time I’ve cooled down, stretched, and showered, it’s 8…and so I don’t sit down to eat dinner until 8:30 at the earliest.

-       I sometimes spend my day thinking about how much I don’t feel like running!

-       It’s dark. (Damn you daylight savings!!! Seriously, only like 2% of the U.S. population is farmers…so why do we still do this clock change shebang???)

Analysis:

So there you have it. The pros and cons.

To address the possibility that I may just not be used to running in the morning, I refer to the fact that I have been doing morning runs for the past week…and they haven't gotten any better. I have done the morning run thing for extended periods of time. I worked at a summer camp where we had a staff meeting at 6:30 every morning, and from there worked all day until lights out at 9:30. Thus, every morning my alarm went off at 4:50 am. I saw the sun rise every day that summer, which is kind of awesome, but kind of awful at the same time...

Some days, I’m really glad I got my run over with in the morning. But some days when I run in the morning, I miss running after workI don’t know what to do with myself because I feel like I should run, but I actually already have. Weird, I know.

Conclusion:

Ok, the truth is that this whole “study” was a farce. Because I already knew my conclusion. Yes, I realize that all signs point to the fact that I should run in the morning. Except for one all-important fact: I don’t like to! Of course I can, and due to evening activities, I often do. But in an ideal world, I would do all my running in the evening (well, if we’re talking ideals – then I would do my runs at 3pm. However, employment gets in the way a bit).

Here is a progression chart to illustrate (in order of goodness):

1. Great Run (pm)

2. Ok run (pm)

3. Great run (am)

4. Ok run (am)

5. Bad run (pm)

6. Bad run (am)

What I’m saying is that my best-feeling morning run is only as good as my ok-feeling evening run. Got that? And a bad morning run is a whole new level of awfulness!

(The biggest reason I hear from other people for running in the morning is that if they don't do it first thing, they won't do it. Personally, I'm going to run. Period. No matter what. So that's not my issue. But it is worth considering if you're debating your own pros and cons list.)

Thank you for bearing with me through this “very scientific” analysis. Everyone has their own preferences – those are mine.


Here are some other opinions on the subject:

Late Afternoon is Best for Exercise
Research shows that the optimal time to exercise is when our body temperature is at its highest, which, for most people is 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. (body temperature is at its lowest just before waking).

Tips for Running in the Morning (if you must, you might as well do it right!)

Morning RunsMorning is the waking time, the being time, the small part of the day when we remember who we are.

When To Run - RW Article

Eating for Your Morning Run - this is a major issue for me! And probably one of the main reasons I don't like running in the morning. Empty stomach = tired, hangry, and a bad run. 

 

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