Tuesday 23 January 2018

How I beat the alarm clock to train very early

Wakey-Wakey: Clocky will wheel away to wake you up.
Wakey-Wakey: Clocky will wheel away to wake you up.

Deirdre Hassett

A few years ago a clever MIT student invented an alarm clock (Clocky) which runs away on wheels and hides if you hit the snooze button once too often. I had a moment of clarity as I crawled out of bed at zero-dark-30 o'clock for the third time this week to work out. It's all about that initial escaping alarm-clock moment that gets you from horizontal to vertical – she who hesitates is lost.

Now, while I consider myself to be a morning person, I've strenuously resisted morning workouts for the most part for many years, keeping my swim-bike-run regime to evenings and weekends. With my new coach, the no-mornings plan has had to change. To make the most of my coaching group, which works out early – VERY early on weekday mornings – I've had to totally rethink how I train.

There are huge advantages to training early, time efficiency being a major one for the time-crunched. Exercising before work has also been shown to boost endorphins and improve mental clarity for several hours, so it's a great way to energise your day.

To succeed with flipping your training schedule from evenings to early mornings, there are some rules.

Firstly, if you're like me and adore a solid eight hours sleep, your evening pattern has to adapt. It's not realistic to crash into bed at midnight, and expect to feel good on a 6am run (and to remain good-humoured for a day's work). So early rising means an early bedtime – I've been adjusting my sleep time to hit the pillow so that I get as close to eight hours as possible.

Sometimes this means clambering into bed ridiculously early, when it's still bright outside.

Every last minute in bed counts, so this means no deciding what to wear to work, no finding training gear, no packing lunch. It should all be done the night before so all you need to do is grab your bags and run out the door.

Depending on how intense or long the session is, you may or may not need to fuel. It can be hard to stomach food before early morning exercise, and an amount of trial and error is required to figure out what works, but I've found my routine with a banana, some dried cherries – and coffee.


The week started with one baby step at a time. It started with my high-intensity track workout, which I shifted from Tuesday evening to 6:15am.

I couldn't sleep the night before my first early track session but, to my surprise, I survived it with no more physical effort or discomfort than an evening session, and with the bonus coolness of an early California morning.

By 8am, I was showered, changed and at my desk at work, breakfast in hand and with 4 x 1 mile at 5km pace under my belt. I'm always charged with runner's high after my track workouts so I find myself bouncing around the office, buoyed for the first few hours of work – a bonus.

Next up: swimming. I've avoided early morning swimming as much as possible. I reluctantly reset the schedule for some puffy-eyed early swims at 5:30am.

I genuinely thought I would never, ever get up in time. But over a couple of weeks I have made the swim sets on time.

Getting extra attention of coaches to tweak my stroke is sufficiently motivating, and also helps me get through the long distance sets that I just love to shirk.

Not that I've ever suffered from insomnia, but I'm pretty sure that I have found a cure. I should patent it.


Don’t forget to pick up FIT Magazine every Monday with the Irish Independent. And you can now join in online at www.FITMagazine.ie for all the tips, race reports, advice and stories from the fitness world.

And join us for the FIT Magazine City Series 5k/10k down in Cork on Sunday July 13th. Great prizes, goodie bags and all levels welcome. Sign up here

Health & Living

Promoted Links

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in Life