Do you ever try going for a run in the morning — feel terrible, quit — and take another stab at it later in the day with success? That’s an example of using timing for the best run possible. I think one of the reasons running is less popular than it could be is it’s an exhausting endeavor that’s difficult to integrate into our complex, busy lives, and yet you have to do it pretty often to actually get addicted and enjoy it.
If you’re the average working person, running fits at the margins of your workday. If you go beforehand, you’re waking up early, and eating little to nothing before stumbling off into the morning darkness on cold and sleepy legs. The alternative is going after work, possibly 4-5 (or more) hours since your last meal, footsore and fatigued.
Either way, you’re fighting inertia. If you run during the week, I encourage you to run on the weekends also, and experiment a little. Choose a time when you’re rested yet awake, within an hour or two of a light meal. Chances are you’ll find you can run longer or harder than usual – and feel good doing it – especially if you’ve done the legwork of getting out the door during the week.
If you’re running on the weekends, you also get to a day or two off during the workweek. Even though I don’t always enjoy rest days, I notice that they do correspond to more energy and optimism the day after. It’s a nice perk, midweek. It’s also a lot harder to take a day off from running on the weekend, when life is slower and you usually have more free-time.
Of course, what you do for work matters. Nevertheless, I have 3 general rules:
- Run slow and easy if you go in the a.m. before work, less than an hour. Your stomach’s empty and you have a full day ahead of you. You don’t want to burn out early or be inconveniently hungry later on.
- Do a light warmup, and short speed intervals if you’re running after work. It’ll help you decompress, so you’re mellow and pleasant when you get home. The short bursts will also circulate blood and adrenaline, waking you up enough to deal with kids, chores, and/or homework.
- Caffeinate. Diet soda, coffee, tea — doesn’t matter what so long as you get 8 oz. 30 minutes or so before your run. Even the soda is worth it, if it makes the difference between going out, and not.