By Penelope Shirey | Design Editor
Running has always been a part of my exercise routine. In high school, I was fortunate to have a 55-mile trail system run directly through my backyard, and I ran it as far and as often as I could. In college, however, I was repetitively sidelined by a seemingly endless string of lower body injuries that left me frustrated and seeking other outlets.
Working at the Lariat requires long and sometimes late hours. This schedule necessitated finding alternate times for exercise, and I was drawn again to running due to the flexibility of scheduling. Unlike the set schedule of barre and yoga classes that had filled my time while recovering, all I needed to run was a pair of sneakers and an open road. On the days before the print edition is published, I am in the newsroom until 11 p.m. or later. It was working around this schedule that pushed me to discover my love for running in the morning.
Running in the morning has its own specific set of challenges. Setting an alarm for before sunrise can be a mental hurdle all on its own. When I am curled up in my warm bed the night before and in the morning, the thought of lacing up and facing the outdoors can be daunting. Thankfully, Texas’ mild winters are considerably warmer than anything I ever faced while living in Michigan, so the early morning temperatures are not as much of a deterrent for me. The most crucial adjustment for me was learning to prepare. Laying out my clothes, preparing my breakfast and planning what I wanted out of my run the night before all became critical factors in me feeling ready to go.
Once I am out of bed, warming up is absolutely essential. Running right after waking up means that muscles are stiff, metabolism is slow and lung capacity is not what it would be if running later in the day. A study by a doctor from the Southern California Center for Sports Medicine even found that morning runners are at a greater risk for injury than people who typically run later in the day because of these factors.
However, for me, the benefits outweigh the risks. Running in the morning has become an automatic part of my routine, and I am more consistent with these runs than I was when I tried to run in the afternoon instead. Getting an early start means there are fewer things demanding that same time. I am less likely to put it off in the morning than if I wait until the end of the day when I am tired and want to relax after class. Additionally, the sense of accomplishment I feel after finishing my daily mileage before most people are even awake motivates me throughout the day. The endorphins after running are often the boost I need to kick-start my day, setting me up for success later on. I am more likely to be productive, having already accomplished this task, than if I had just rolled out of bed in the morning.
My absolute favorite part of running in the morning, though, is the serenity I find at that time of day. While I had to sacrifice some of my routes in favor of those better illuminated and with less automobile traffic, it was completely worth it to me. When the road stretches out ahead of me with the moon above and not a single other person in sight, all of my other thoughts can fall away. I enjoy the quiet, which I mentally absorb as a buffer to the loud frenzy that can sometimes find its way into college life. The sun rising when I am making my way back home is just one final refreshing element that is often the quickest to put me in a good mood to start my day.
However, even with all of these factors to consider, the most important one is knowing that any exercise is better than none. The morning run has become a key part of my fitness regimen. That does not mean it is the best option for everyone, but I do think that everyone should consider making the switch.
Penelope Shirey is a senior journalism major from Birmingham, Ala.