Finally: Daylight in the morning

We recently passed a milestone on my running calendar: the end of daylight saving time.

I’ve been counting the days, looking forward to the time change. I know I’m in the minority here. Most people hate to see it get dark so early in the evening.

But I can’t stand waking up when it’s still dark out. I’m a morning exerciser, and I’d rather not run in the dark.

But it’s more than that. A dark, cold morning brings out the hibernation instinct in me. I don’t want to get out of bed. And too often, I don’t. In those last couple of weeks before the time change, there were many mornings when I set the alarm early, intending to get a run or swim in before work.

I ended up hitting snooze so many times (to the aggravation of my husband, who is not a morning person), it was too late to squeeze in a workout by the time I got up.

I have great admiration for friends who meet for their morning run long before I’m ever out of bed. They run early enough, they’re donning headlamps at this time of year — even after the time change.

I need some light in the sky, though, to get me up. And I was relieved to hear I wasn’t the only one who struggled with getting up in the dark.
Jay Jimenez of Urbana is a triathlete who trains year-round — the bulk of it in the early morning.

“If the days are short and it’s dark at 5 in the morning, it’s a lot harder to get up than in the summer,” he said. “I find myself laying in bed until quarter till 6. The last couple of weeks, it’s been really dark at 6:15. Pretty much my whole run is in the dark.”

Even when it’s dark in the morning, though, getting up to exercise can help shake that lethargic feeling brought on by cold winter days.

Exercise is recommended for people suffering from seasonal affective disorder, or SAD — feelings of depression, fatigue and low energy that coincide with the shorter days in the winter. Being active can help relieve stress and anxiety and improve mood.

The symptoms of SAD include craving sweet or starchy foods and a tendency to oversleep. Yep, sounds familiar. Spending time outside in the morning also helps, even on cloudy days.

Jimenez will do some of his runs or bike rides during lunchtime when it’s dark in the morning.

“I love being outside,” he said. “I work inside in the dark all day. Any little bit of sunlight I can get, I’m after it.”

Being on a training program and sticking with it is a big motivator for Jimenez, who runs the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon every year, as well as competing in triathlons.

“If I’m on a program, I need to stick to it,” he said. “If I didn’t have something on the calendar, I think I would have a hard time getting up and getting out in the dark and running. But when you know you’ve got to show up on race day, that’s the best motivation.”

My motivation — the feeling that there’s no better way to start the day than heading out for a run when the sun is just coming up over the horizon. And the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a workout before breakfast.

Even with the end of daylight saving time, the days are getting shorter. Soon enough, I’ll be starting my runs in the dark again.

But I’m looking forward to another upcoming date on the calendar: the winter solstice, when the days start getting (ever so incrementally) longer again.

 

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urbana1234 wrote on November 15, 2011 at 10:11 am

Winter is when I clock up most of my miles. I am prepared for most things like having to run in the dark (head torch and bright clothes, LED vest). I need this running on the small country roads but glad I do have some vision with all the corn cut down! It is much nicer that it is brighter in the mornings though, it does make a difference. Goes to show us time and time again about the mental side of running. Before we know it, it'll be time for marathon training again. :)