While prancing along on the treadmill this weekend, it occurred to me that as of today, there are only 13 days until my half marathon – YIKES!! Time has passed FAST, and I can’t believe it’s almost here. Training is going really well (even though my feet have definitely been in better shape and are certainly not sandal-ready), so there’s really no reason to worry. The only thing that makes me nervous is the weather, which I’ve got my fingers and blistered toes crossed really tight for, in hopes that we get a non-rainy, reasonably warm morning for the race. We’ve certainly been getting our fair share of April flurries and showers, so May better be full of sunshine and flowers!
Lately I’ve been getting lots of emails and questions from some of you who follow me on Instagram and Twitter. The most common question is how on earth I find the motivation to do my HIIT runs and long-ish runs so early in the morning. And today friends, I’m going to spill my secrets!
I should start by saying that I have long been an early morning exerciser. (I wrote a post about how to become a morning person a while back – feel free to refer to it for tips!) In my early teens, I’d go to the pool with my mum to swim laps before breakfast. After having gained a ton of weight when my family moved to the Middle East and realizing I wasn’t so cool with that, the first thing I did was added a 1-hour cardio session to my mornings before breakfast. When I moved back to Canada for university, I was one of the only people in our campus gym at 6am when it opened each day. (Well, along with the football team, and based on their zombie faces I could tell that none of them wanted to be up at that time.) I’m now 24 and my morning exercise habit is going strong. In fact, a day that doesn’t start with a good sweat just feels…. weird.
The main point here: This has been my routine for years. If you’re a night owl, it might take a little while to get into this habit, but it’s certainly do-able so have faith!
Alright, so with that said, I’ve got three tricks that I use to set myself up for awesome early-morning workouts. Here they are, in order of simplest to most detailed:
1. Get a decent amount of sleep.
The amount you need will be unique to you, but it’s really important to figure out what this is and to adjust your schedule accordingly. I’m up at 4, which means that ideally, I’m in bed by 9. I know, I know, you were probably 10 years old the last time you were in bed that early, but that’s just how my body operates. Sleep is so crucial to the muscle recovery process, and without it, your workout won’t be as effective and you run a greater risk of injury. Not only do your muscles need to be rested, but you need to give your brain a chance to wind down too. Enduring intense workouts requires stamina, so if your brain is fatigued, chances are that the rest of your body will follow suit. (And I know it’s hard because I struggle with this too, but repeat after me: “Shut. the. laptop. It will be there in the morning.”
2. Get your hardest workouts done near the beginning of the week (or whenever your body feels most energized).
I don’t know about you, but my desire to work really hard in the gym usually fades toward the end of the week. If my muscles had voices and I tried to do a tough HIIT run on a Friday, they’d be like “Whhhaaaaaat are you doooooooing!!?!?” By the time rest day (Sunday) comes, my bod is more than ready to relax. It’s because of this that I tend to schedule my hardest HIIT and hill runs on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays when my muscles and mind are fresh. What if Sunday isn’t your rest day? No problem – just try adjusting your schedule so that the first couple of days after your day off are used for your most intense efforts.
3. Fuel yourself properly.
Ok, this could be an entire post in itself and I have a lot to say about sports nutrition, but let’s just focus on pre-workout today. Up until about 6 months ago, I’d roll out of bed, throw on my gym clothes, and head out the door – no food in the belly, nothing to drink, just get up and go. This had worked for me for years. In fact, it was when I did try to eat something prior to my early morning workouts that I started having digestive issues and cramps mid-run. And let’s face it – who really feels like eating at 4am? Not I, and that’s coming from someone who loves food. I’d do my workouts, I’d sweat pretty hard, then go home, shower, and have breakfast (my biggest meal of the day) to refuel and help my muscles repair. I was training hard, but not smart.
One day when I was cooking up a storm in my kitchen (I believe I was making Lean Mean Green Apple Juice), I began thinking about my fitness goals and ways I could get closer to achieving them. It occurred to me (in what now seems like one of those ‘duh’ moments) that unless I made some changes, my body was going to stay the same. I decided to experiment with pre-workout drink formulas on my most intense gym days, and noticed an enormous difference immediately. Not only did my runs feel less strenuous, but I felt that I had more energy to go longer and faster, and to lift heavier weights afterwards.
Now that I’m training for a half marathon at the beginning of May, I’ve been sticking to my pre-workout nutrition routine religiously. So what does that involve? Right now, it’s a scoop of Vega Pre-Workout Energizer, or jetfuel as I like to call it, which is a powder that is mixed with water and ideally consumed 20 minutes before working out.
Here are all the reasons why I love it:
- It’s plant based and allergen free (no corn, soy, dairy, or wheat) like the other fabulous Vega products
- Two of the ingredients are yerba mate and green tea which contain a bit of natural caffeine to help your body metabolize fat more efficiently (meaning you don’t burning away hard-earned muscle!)
- It also contains rhodiola, an adaptogenic herb (meaning a herb that helps your body resist stressors) which has been shown to boost endurance and improve mental focus.
- There’s ginger and turmeric, both are known inflammation fighters (so really, you’re promoting recovery before you even start your workout!
- It’s super easy to digest – just shake it up with 1 cup of water and knock it back
- I feel more awake and energized within about 10 minutes of drinking it.
- I can work harder and endure longer workouts (and therefore become a better runner)
- Like all other Vega Sport products, there are NO artificial colours, sweeteners, or flavours.
Pretty fantastic, right? Note that I’m not being compensated for talking about Vega, but am doing this because I am in love with so many of their products and like to share when I find fabulous things!
Let me tell you, I definitely notice a difference in workout quality if I don’t drink my Pre-Workout Energizer beforehand! Unlike other foods that tend to upset my stomach if I eat them prior to running, I have yet to have an issue with this product. I can’t say I’m a fan of many others that I’ve tried – this one by far reigns supreme in terms of clean ingredients, the way it makes me feel, and my performance. But what if you don’t want to spend money on powders? There are plenty of options for that too! Of course, it depends on a few things, including…
- What type of workout you’re planning to do (strength, speed, endurance etc)
- How long you have to consume and digest your pre-game fuel
- Your overall fitness goals
- The strength of your digestive system (and knowing what it likes and doesn’t like)
This post is already getting long so I’m just going to focus on what I tend to eat for a 1 hour run with an hour or less to digest. All of these things are high in carbs and low in protein and fat. They contain glucose (sugar which is absorbed into your bloodstream quickly and provides energy right away), and fructose (also a sugar, but a slower-digesting one).
- Fruit – berries, oranges, tangerines and bananas
- Cereal – a lower-fiber one (because too much fiber can mean nasty digestive issues when your energy is flowing to your muscles, not your stomach) like puffed rice
- Dried fruit – dried apricots are my faves, followed by mango, pineapple and cranberries. Dates also have a good glucose/fructose profile, but I’m not a huge fan of their taste
To sum up…
it’s one thing to work out regularly and go through the motions. But it’s quite another to work out, feel awesome, AND get results. if your routine feels stale, your mind is bored, and you’re not noticing any improvements in your fitness, it might be time to crank things up a notch. This certainly was the case for me, and the three secrets (which aren’t so secret any more!) have helped enormously.
So tell me…
- Do you have any tips or tricks for finding more energy and motivation to work out?
- What are your favourite pre-workout snacks?