Saturday, November 7, 2009

Wake-Up Ritual for Runners

Do you love running in the morning, but have a hard time getting up? Or are you up, but spinning your wheels and not getting anything done, and before you know it your running time has passed? I fear I'm the latter. Because of this I'm usually squealing into the parking lot just before the time my running group starts our Saturday morning long run. My running buddies have a saying, "Thad's here, it's time to go!" If I'm early, it really throws them off.
Because I carpool/commute 77miles (one way) four days a week with another student to my personal trainer school, I needed some help getting myself better organized in the morning. I discovered a handy book by David Allen—Getting Things Done—that's been very helpful in my organization quest.

In his book, Allen, presents the concept of Next Actions lists. Each list is a task you need to complete. For each task, you list in order how you'll physically get the task done. I used this plan of action to help get my butt in gear on weekday mornings as well as on the weekends for my early morning runs.
When it comes down to it, the Next Action list really is a method for creating a ritual—in my case a running-morning ritual. In order for the list to work and for you to formulate and instill this ritual in you brain, you need to be as detailed in your list as possible from the time your alarm screams in your ear to the time you walk out the door. Here's what my Running-Morning Next Action List looks like:

RunnerDude's Running Morning Ritual:
1. Shut off alarm
2. Make Coffee
3. Get the newspaper
4. Fix breakfast
5. Eat/Drink coffee/Read newspaper
6. Drink 16% of water
7. Fill water bottle for run/Put in backpack
8. Put sports gels in backpack

9. Put on running clothes/shoes
10. Put post-run dry clothes in backpack
11. Double check that wallet, keys, and phone are in backpack
12. Brush teeth/Take care of other bathroom needs
13. Grab backpack
14. Head to car

Seems like a "Well Duhhh" list, right? I thought so too, but it really does help. For the first few times, have the list out and use it almost like a check list. The key is doing the same steps in the same order each morning. Eventually, the steps will become second nature and you won't need the actual paper list.
Creating the list also helped me realize that I needed to do some things the night before. For example, I needed to make sure I had clean running clothes and a set of post-run dry clothes. If I lay them out the night before, I'm not running around waking-up the rest of the family looking for clean clothes. I also realized I needed to dedicate one spot in the kitchen for me to place my wallet, phone, and keys. For me, this ended up being a backpack that I hang on the back of my chair at the kitchen table.
The night before, I toss my wallet, phone, and keys in the backpack. The next morning, the backpack is the destination for my filled water bottle, my sports gels, the dry set of clothes, and my gloves and hat (if it's cold). No more running around like a madman! Oh yeah, be careful. If you have a beagle like mine (that will eat anything and everything), you may want to wait to toss in those sports gels until the morning. Let's just say JayJay (my beagle) was in the "doghouse" for while after I woke up to a virtual backpack explosion one morning.

The morning ritual is very helpful when training for a marathon. Remember those super long marathon training runs where you get up before the crack of dawn walking around in a stupor tyring to get fed, dressed, and out the door? Well, if you have a morning ritual, your body and mind will actually work together on autopilot and this time they'll be doing all the right things!

Do I still squeal into the parking lot at the last minute? Of course! But at least now I have everything I need for the run and I haven't forgotten anything! I still have work to do on Step 5 of my list. No body's perfect.


Kerrie said...

Cool! I'm gonna try this tomorrow. I recently wrote a post that touched on how slow I am in the morning. Thanks for the tips!

Kenley said...

I like how you put the bathroom needs delicately. How diplomatic of you. lol. Thats usually number one on my action list. My wife teases me because I do the same thing in the morning, or when I wake up, ALL the time no matter what. Keep Writing and Keep Running. Later

RunnerDude said...

Hi Kerrie!
Cool! Let me know how it works for you!!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Kenley! Well the "bathroom needs" may be throughout the morning ritual. LOL! But, definitely before heading out the door! LOL!

Dena said...

I love a list! And I love the sneak peek into your morning routine. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Beagles aren't the only dogs who like gels. I've also learned the hard way not to leave them where my border collies can get at them. They're hyper enough without the extra energy!
Great post.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Dena! I thought you'd like this one! LOL!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Debbie! Wow! A Border Collie on an energy gel!! How long did it take them to stop spinning in circles?! LOL!!

Lorenda said...

I pack everything the night before and usually put the backpack in the car. I try to have as little as possible to do in the mornings when I go to a group run as I am NOT a morning person. (I work mostly nights so I'm not used to getting up at 5 or 6am) I put a note by my key to get water bottle out of fridge and especially if Garmie is on her charger-can't forget her!
I have even been known to sleep in my running clothes a few times!! (like the time I had to leave at 5am to go to a race 2 hrs away)

RunnerDude said...

Hi Lorenda! Packing the car the night before is a great idea! Course, if you live in a really cold part of the country you might have to wait on the water bottle until the morning of. Sleeping in your running clothes on those super early morning runs is a great idea! Nobody can see you in the pitch black hours of the early morning anyway! Good ideas Lorenda!

Paul and Beth said...

Hi Thad,

Wrote my list this evening... quite lengthy in the end! If I save a couple of seconds on each it'll be worth it. I'm normally a lay everything out the night before person .. forgot at the weekend went without road id, iPod and cap!!! ... also had some ill fitting shorts which revealed some interesting tan lines!! ;0)

Zoë said...

This is an interesting idea. I've been meaning to start running in the AM again, so I might just give this a try. (And I'm a to-do list kinda gal)

Kerrie said...

I forgot to tell you that I tried this out! I wrote about it in my Nov. 8 blog post. I think it worked really well and will definitely use it again for my next morning run and for the a.m. of the Seattle Half. Thanks for the sharing the idea!