A year or so a go, a friend responded to a survey asking him to state the one word that best encompassed what running means to him with the word “routine.” There is a lot of power in that concept, as it’s the attitude of creating a routine (and therefore a habit) that gets you out the door every day (or most days). And since consistency is the key to long term success as a runner, regardless of your goal, making it routine can be a real asset.
But there can be a point where routine becomes limiting. The negative connotations of the word include “boring”, “repetitive”, “unexciting”. So it should be easy to see that too much routine can lead to getting into a rut, or to burnout. Worse, when you have tunnel vision about the manner in which you train, you miss opportunities that are even only slightly different from what you are used to. This in turn can lead to shortfalls in your performance, as it is often new opportunities that bring the biggest growth opportunities
One topic I’ve struggled a bit with as a coach and in designing my own training has been how to integrate hill training into the program. I’ve ranged from one extreme (structured hill repeats with goal times and the distance and repetitions progressing through the season, in preparation for the Akron Marathon) to the other (nothing structured but just incorporating hills into long runs to get ready for the Towpath Marathon).
We all know the potential benefits of running hills regularly:
But how do we best realize these gains and make the most of the time (and energy) we invest in hill workouts?
This author gives no quarter in his support of running in the predawn, and continues to believe it is the best time of day to run (for validation, see the post describing 20 reasons to run in the predawn). However, he also advocates employing flexibility in your training schedule, both to better deal with unexpected circumstances and to make you a more versatile runner. Thus there are, begrudgingly, valid reasons for running at times other than predawn.
There are many benefits to mixing up the times of day you run. Such benefits include:
With this in mind, let’s look at the benefits and drawbacks of four other common times of day for running.
I often refer to this as “postdawn,” and it used to be my most common time for weekend long runs. One would typically have breakfast before this type of run (and maybe some coffee), but would still finish well before lunch. This might be a good time for you to run if you are a stay-at-home parent and need to send kids off to school or daycare, or if you have a flexible enough work schedule to allow it.
The benefits of the early morning run include:
Drawbacks of the early morning run are:
In summary, the early-morning run is often a second-best option if time permits, allowing for a wide range of workout types while still getting your run out of the way before life interferes.
While I view this as an occasional indulgence, there are many runners who make this a regular part of their routine (presumably, eating lunch after the run). The benefits of the lunch run are:
There are some drawbacks to a lunch run:
The lunch run can be the most productivity-boosting of runs, but also the most challenging from a schedule and facilities standpoint. You are truly privileged if you can fit in many of these.
In the past year-plus, I can think of only one time where I have managed a pre-dinner (i.e., late afternoon) run. This is probably the toughest one to schedule for me at least, and I am seldom able to do so. For those who can fit it in, though, there are several benefits:
The drawbacks are also notable:
The pre-dinner run may be an occasional appetizer to break up your routine (unless you regularly commute by running), so enjoy it when conditions and schedule permit.
I have to say that some of my most memorable runs have come postdusk (even better if you can catch the sunset). In the summer, the weather and traffic conditions become manageable (though neither are as good as the predawn), and the mind can reflect on your day. Other benefits of the postdusk run include:
There are some drawbacks to consider before planning or spontaneously embarking on a postdusk run:
The postdusk run can really be a great experience, especially on a long summer holiday weekend. I recommend you try to find ways to mix some into your schedule.
So while I’ll always advocate the values of the predawn run, there are plenty of other options throughout the day to find ways to bring extra variety to your schedule. What are your favorite other-than-predawn times of day to run?
A few months ago, I participated in a chat hosted by Run Your BQ’s founders Jason Fitzgerald and Matt Frazier, with the topic being how to become a predawn runner. While I be blunt in stating that the chat was nominally a waste of time (there were maybe six attendees, though I understand that it was archived on the site for future viewing), I did have one valuable takeaway from the session. The biggest barrier to predawn running for most athletes (besides the whole “getting up early” thing) seems to be not knowing what to eat before running.
This amazed me. My answer has always been pretty simple – “nothing.” Perhaps because I’ve always done it that way, not having food before I run has never been an issue for me. Not before the short recovery run, not before the tough tempo or repeat workout, and not before the 20-mile-plus long run.
As the parent of a child with autism, I support efforts to create a better life for individuals and families dealing with this challenging condition. As opposed to awareness or research organizations where it’s tough to make a significant impact as an individual, I prefer organizations that are focused on delivering practical solutions to families today, especially in the upcoming era of tightening health care dollars.
When Abbey Faris of the YAI Network inquired about advertising on Predawn Runner for the Central Park Challenge, of course I was interested. And as I learned more, I wasn’t really interested in selling ad space to such a good cause – I wanted to give them a free platform to promote this outstanding event.
It’s nearly impossible for a running blogger to avoid writing about the events in Boston this week, as any other topic seems trivial. While many have written about what it means to the running community or to the author as a runner, it’s important to discuss the broader aspects of what happened.
The natural tendency for a runner, especially one who has or aspires to run Boston, is to view the tragedy through that lens. To visualize the typical activities at a finish line and compare that to the videos we see repeated time and again. To turn to other runners for consolation and understanding or to express grief or fear. To view this as an attack at the soul of what it means to be a runner.