Shape's nutrition editor doubled up on her half marathon training runs and experienced a surprising epiphany
One of the biggest advantages to morning workouts is that you get them out of the way first thing. But that mindset—treating exercise as a chore on a to-do list—ignores one really huge aspect of fitness: fun.
Which is not to say I don’t enjoy my morning workouts—I do. And once I made a.m. sessions a habit, I saw a lot of improvements in my health and happiness. But there’s something special about unwinding after a tough day with a run outdoors, watching the sunset as you go. (When Is the Best Time to Run?)
That’s why I found myself feeling envious this past Wednesday night when I was on my way home from work. It was New York City’s first 70-degree day of the year, and as I walked, I passed one runner after another taking advantage of the warm weather. And I felt kind of jealous! I’d already logged four and a half miles that morning, and had a cross-training session scheduled for the next day. My plan for the evening included leftovers and TV.
When I got to my apartment, I couldn’t get those runners out of my mind. And for whatever reason, I was buzzing with energy. Instead of settling into the couch, I changed, laced up my running shoes, and headed out, telling myself I’d take it slow and keep it short.
Once I got started though, I felt surprisingly fast. And when I hit one mile, and then a mile and a half, I didn’t feel like turning around. So I just went with it and kept running, listening to my body instead of my GPS. The city looked gorgeous, I felt strong, and more and more of the day’s stress left my body with every step. Four pretty-fast-for-me miles later, I finished up and stretched out, glad to have gone with my gut instead of sticking to the schedule. (Check out the Best Gear for Running After Dark.)
I wondered, though, if there was a downside to an occasional twice-a-day workout, especially since coaches and trainers emphasize that your body gets fitter, faster, and stronger while you rest. So the next day I checked in with Chris Bennett, the global head coach for Nike+ Running clubs (they have sessions for runners of all levels, with coaches and pacers to help you improve—you just have to reserve a spot!), who reassured me that following my instinct was the right move—and that doing so is a crucial step towards becoming your own best coach. Plus, he said, twice a day workouts can be a great way to fit in extra miles, as long as you get at least eight hours of rest in between them. (Find out How to Properly Rest from Your Workout.)
More importantly for me, after a week of crappy runs, it felt especially good to be out there because I truly wanted to be. As someone who has had a love-hate relationship with the sport (true story: on my middle-school track team, my running group was nicknamed “the turtles”) I’m just happy to be finding this fun again.