I was chatting recently with a runner friend who was quite surprised that I manage about 75% of my running/race training in the evenings after working all day long. A morning runner himself, he claimed there was no way he could find the motivation and energy to pump out any number of miles after putting in a full day in the office.
In 2011, I did almost all of my training runs in the evenings. Most of my “long runs” were done on Saturday or Sunday mornings, but it was not unlikely to find me jogging through my neighborhood for six miles on any given Tuesday last summer, especially.
I’ve tried to be an early morning workout superstar like some. I abide by the belief however, that not everything is for everybody [or every body, in this case] and that in order to be successful we must find what works best for ourselves. Evening workouts work best for me.
PM Running: Tips, Tricks, & How I Get It Done [disclaimer: I am in no way a pro. or a coach. or any sort of health professional. This list is simply what I've found to work for me in training to participate in road races and events.]
- Get quality sleep at night time. About six months ago, I really started to track how much sleep I was getting every evening. I aim for at least 7 ½ quality hours each night, but I really love when I get 8-9 hours. It’s amazing [though not at all shocking] how much better I feel during the days after I’ve accomplished this goal, compared to the days I roll into work on 6 hours. And running after a full work day when I’ve neglected a full night’s sleep is just not something that I can manage. I am cranky, whiney, and can easily talk myself out of ANYTHING with a “poor me” and “I feel like crud” outlook. Sleep is KEY to a successful workout in my books.
- Pay attention to my eating schedule. It’s important to remember that everyone is different and my body will most likely react differently than your body to any number of factors. There is a lot of trial and error when you are a beginning any type of fitness activity. One thing that took me a bit of time to figure out, and perhaps I’m still learning, is how my eating schedule affects my running.
On days I don’t run, it’s not unusual for my lunch break to take place at 2:30 or 3:00. I’m often so busy with one task or another at my desk that I don’t notice that so much time has passed since breakfast. Especially when my mid-morning snack is heavily protein based. [I’ve been on a major nut kick as of late – pistachios, almonds, cashews, oh my!]
If I am planning a 5:30 run, however, I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to take lunch NO LATER than 1:30. I want to be finished eating a meal by 2:00 PM so my body isn’t doing a bunch of heavy digesting while I’m jogging around all bouncy and ungraceful. I also eat a snack a little before 4:30 PM to “fuel” my run and hold me over until dinner time. An apple with a teaspoon of PB, orange slices with some walnuts, or if I’m running more than five miles, my pre-run sandwich works wonders.
- Hydrate throughout the day. I always keep a water bottle at my desk to sip from throughout the day. [Especially now with my five focuses for weight loss I’ve got going on.] When an evening run is on the plan, I pay extra attention to how much water I’m taking in. Naturally, whenever I think about my plans to run, I take an extra-long drink. [As you can imagine, as I’m writing this, I’m taking lots of extra-long drinks!]
Hydration is super important to my evening running plan because when I am dehydrated during a run, I can tell almost instantly. I burn out fast, I feel uber-exausted, and I hate myself. It’s best when I don’t hate myself, so the H2O intake is a must.
- Wait an hour or two. As the summer creeps on in [and especially early this year in CDNY, might I add] I am much more likely to schedule a sunset run than a 5:30 PM run. Each morning I check the hourly weather report via weather.com to see where the temperature is expecting to be around 5:00, 6:00, and 7:00 PM. Sometimes a small difference in temperature makes all the difference in my running plans. Running for 40 minutes as the sun starts to set when it’s 71 degrees feels a lot different than running 40 minutes when it’s 79 degrees.
- Tell someone the plan. I’ve found that when I say “I am running tonight” to someone, I am more likely to do follow through with the plan.
Sometimes I say it out loud to Nicholas, my boss, or the UPS man. [I know all three of these people will ask me how my run went later.] Other times, I send an email to Jen or Laura, informing them that I am struggling to get excited about my pending run and needed to tell someone who would understand, in order that I would get over my laziness and just do it. And, of course, I turn to twitter quite often for accountability. If you ever know you should run, but can’t find any reason to lace up the sneakers, turn to twitter. Including the #fitblog hash-tag in a plee for encouragement will no-doubt find you someone willing to push you out the door with their inspirational words.
- Bring running clothes to work. If I change in workout gear at the office, even if I’m not running out the door but instead waiting until I get home to start the running, I am, without a doubt, going to log some miles that evening. It also gets me in the “I am going to run and like it” mindset early, as my walk home from the office seems a lot more like an easy warming-up of the legs than a commute.
- Save your IPod bests. On days I am dreading the work out [because honestly, not every day is all “HOORAY RUNNING!” – some days it really sucks. A lot.] I reward myself DURING the exercise instead of after. I often save a podcast I’m way excited to listen to for when I am on run, as a little extra treat for following through on what is good for me. Recent cases include: Doug Love Movies at SXSW and NPH on The Nerdist. [Doug Loves Movies is probably my most saved-for-the-run podcast, because laughter is a great distraction to wanting to quit running and start lying in the grass.]
The same can be done with songs you are digging at the moment: add them to a “running-only” playlist. Golden treats of motivation in your ears!
- Write yourself a note or read something you wrote. Occasionally, I face days at work, like most of us, in which I’m calling for happy hour by 10:30 AM. Stressful projects, long to-do lists, busy schedules and general “uggggggggggggh” days often leave me debating skipping my run for a bar trip. Once I recognize that I am starting to talk myself out of the work out, I stop. It’s time to motivate myself.
There are three little tricks I use to motivate myself:
1) write myself a note sharing why I love running and what benefits I will get from taking the time to run a few miles.
2) I reread old running revelation posts I’ve written on THS. My posts Running Story, About Yesterday and Self: Day 109 are all great motivators to get my attitude back on track.
3) I reread some of my favorite race recaps. I even have started a Pinterest board of recent favorites to turn to when I am in the need of motivation.
If none of these 3 mind-games work, I tell myself to run one mile and then I can be done. I hardly ever stop after just one mile, and when I do, I run it hard and fast to make it worth it. [One hard and fast mile also really helps to get the frustration out from the work day, as one might assume a kickboxing class would.]