If habits are learned behavior than sleeping patterns and productivity times are something that my brother and I clearly picked up from our parents, albeit in opposite directions. My brother takes after our mom — a night owl, working best in the evenings and able to stay up late.
I, on the other hand, have the pattern of my father and in the vein of Benjamin Franklin am an early-to-bed-early-to-riser. My most productive time of the day is first thing in the morning, right after my first cup of coffee. In fact, there are days when I will begin writing predawn and realize at lunch time that I’m still in my pajamas.
But days when I’m training, that’s when I find early rising so valuable.
There is something peaceful about working out while the rest of the world is still thinking about rising from its slumber. It has a calming effect on my workouts, particularly when I get to do them outside.
This of course means going to bed early. For a 6 a.m., I need to set my alarm for anywhere between 4:30 and. 5 a.m. (depending upon if I packed my gear the night before and how long it will take me to travel to my workout destination). And since I’ve learned to value my sleep, that means curling up in bed around 9:30 p.m.
I am a senior citizen early-bird special without the AARP card.
Granted, there are days when I’m up late because of work, family, friends or a really good Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode. There are days when I’m working on five or six hours of sleep.
But mostly, I really do try to make it a priority to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
Sleep is one of my secret weapons.
A few years ago, I interviewed a woman who worked with college student-athletes and along with arranging things like study halls and community service, she talked about trying to get the kids to practice healthy habits — including getting eight hours of sleep a night.
They can’t do everything we ask of them if they don’t get enough sleep, she told me.
The premise stuck with me.
Increasingly we see research about the importance of sleep to our every day lives. Whether you’re searching for more productivity in your work life, better moods and relationships or better overall health, sleep seems to be a key component. It’s not a luxury — it’s a necessity.
And so, I’m in bed by 10 p.m. on nights when it’s available to me. I take naps when my schedule allows. And after a hard, long run? Well, part of the long run training regimen includes not just refueling with pancakes and chocolate milk, but following that up with at least a 30-minute nap. My friend Sue tells me that’s what the Kenyan runners do after long training runs — they nap. We call it our secret Kenyan training.
Even on days when secret Kenyan training isn’t called for, the early to bed early to rise offers me great training opportunities.
This morning, I was up at 4:45 a.m. to meet Sue in downtown Buffalo. While it was cold, there wasn’t much wind and the streets were pretty clear. We took advantage of the calmness of the hour and ran our 45 minutes of easy pace outside. It was refreshing. Slow and bit sloppy at times for sure, but a nice change from the drive of the treadmill.
It was a peaceful way to start the day.
And worth my 9:30 bedtime.