Saturday, January 24, 2009

Get up and run?

One of the first things that appealed to me about the 12-week training course I'll follow for my first half-marathon was the Tuesday/Thursday runs. They are shorter runs as they start off at 2-3 miles and I believe don't get any higher than 5 at their peak. For a more experienced or a competitive runner, this may not be ideal but for me it's going to work well.

Anyway, the shorter runs got me to thinking about running in the wee hours of the morning. There was a time last year that I was running before 5 a.m. Most days, I wake up before 5 a.m. During the week, my wife gets up between 4:40 and 4:50 usually (that's around the time the alarm goes off) and I get up with her every morning. I've been accustomed and conditioned to wake up early so no sleeping in for me on the weekends either.

I don't remember for how long I ran early in the morning. I remember blogging about it here so I may go back into the archives to figure that out.

Still, I was wondering about running early and eating. I eat breakfast every day without fail. It may not be a full-on eggs-and-bacon-and-toast-and-coffee breakfast... mostly because I don't like eggs... but I eat something. Usually it's either an energy bar or cereal. But if I were to get up early and run, I would just get up and run. I wouldn't get up, eat, wait for a few minutes to let it settle and then run.

But is running without eating good for you?

This story from Runner's World says no, that eating something before a run is essential. Now, I tend to agree with that. I need fuel in my body before I push it to its limits. I hate the way I feel when I run and/or exercise without having eaten properly or eaten at all beforehand. I like a cup of coffee as much as the next guy but I won't drink coffee if I know I'm going to run or play soccer. I just won't do it. I struggle with it (But it's funny because I was talking to a professional soccer player last year about this very subject and he drinks several cups of coffee about an hour before games which I thought was insane!).

Still, I'm not sure that squeezing in a 2-mile run at 4:50 a.m. without breakfast would be a bad thing necessarily. As the article says, the body has been fasting for quite a few hours by the time you wake up and the glycogen levels are down and all but would it really be that bad on a shorter run? I guess to me it seems as if I ran within 15 minutes of waking up I'd be good to go for 2-3 miles. More, I'd probably not want to go about it that way but for a short run it doesn't seem like my legs would seize up on me midway through the second mile.

I'll be debating this until I actually try it again - if I try it again. I don't remember having any sorts of problems before when running in the pre-dawn hours. I kept the runs short back then, so it'd be about the same types of distances as they are now. And one thing I enjoyed about that was that after my run - maybe not right after but sometime that morning - I could still drink my coffee!

I think by the midway point of the schedule this will all be a moot point as I won't try a 5-mile run without an energy bar beforehand. That's a 45-minute investment in time and I'll need as much fuel as I can for that.

But unless my wife's schedule changes drastically - and I don't foresee that happening since she has a great job with the only drawback being the daily commute required to get to it - runs at 4 a.m. will be an option for me that I may want to explore either for this training or in general for the future. It's nice to get a run in early in the morning and get on with your day afterward, but it's not nice to struggle through a run, no matter what time of day.


5thsister said...

When I ran early in the a.m. I didn't eat. But I wasn't losing the weight I wanted to either. How long do you have to give yourself to digest the food and what foods are best just prior to the morning run? Oh so many questions! I'd be curious as to other's thoughts on this.

thrasherswife said...

Eating breakfast ANY morning is hard for me - i just don't like to eat it. I never fail to have my coffee, I just have to make sure I give myself at least a half hour before I run or I'll get a side ache. I did read in a runner's mag that banana's are a great source of energy for runs, and I have experienced great runs after eating banana's (if I remember correctly, two banana's is good for 90 min of sustained energy). I've also read that drinking coffee prior to runs is a good thing as well, I think it was because of the caffeine but I don't remember, I might have to research that. But I think with short runs, you'd be fine not fueling up if you don't get the chance to do so.