Early bird or night owl?

3 Jul

I was reading an article in this month’s GI News – the Official Glycaemic Index newsletter, about the body’s clock, which operates on a circadian cycle (Latin for about a day). The biological clock controls our circadian rhythm—the physiological processes that occur repeatedly on approximately a 24-hour cycle. Some of these processes in addition to alertness include body temperature, production of the stress hormone (cortisol), and cognition (mental alertness, memory, and intelligence).

And this got me thinking…

Are we naturally a morning person or a night owl? Are we one or the other or can we be a bit of both? If we are naturally, say, a night owl, can we learn to become an early bird or are we going to be forever fighting against our natural instincts?

I do know that I operate much better in the morning than I do in the evening which is why I was schedule my exercise at the start of the day, not at the end, when all I want to do is go home. However, by morning I mean around the hours of 7am onwards, not the uncivilised hour of 5.30am, but circumstances mean that’s when I have to get up and get going.

But I wasn’t always a morning person. No siree, there was a time when the thought of getting out of bed before 10am was anathema to my very soul. In fact, just ask my mum or other girls at the boarding school I went to, or when I was living at nurses’ quarters when doing my nursing training! In fact, just ask a couple of the charge sisters of wards I was working on at the time, when it came to punctuality and the…ahem…morning shift (7am start)! Yes, there was a definite pattern of struggling to get up early but I could party the night away with the best of them!

Of course, having children changed all that but even when the kids were a bit older, I still had to drag myself out of bed around 7am. And I had a multitude of excuses as to why I didn’t want to exercise in the morning…and basically, I didn’t!

Then one day, 17 years ago I decided I wanted to take up running and so I enrolled in a 6 week course that would get me ready for the Canberra Times 10km fun run. There were several challenges involved with this – running, running 10km, entering an event, and exercising. Shock, horror – it meant I had to do ‘training’ – that word I had always associated with other people, crazy people really, not some muggins like me who had this strange idea that maybe they could run 10km! And to do this training, because I had children, I really had to get up early to fit it in my day otherwise it was never going to happen. I won’t bore you with the details but it took a lot of coercion, persistence and grumbling to get me out of bed and out the door at some stupidly unbelievably early hour each day to do my training. And there were lots of failures to begin with. You know, the shouldas, couldas, wouldas, but didn’ts! Mr CJ was very supportive, not that I perceived it as such at the time – he would dig me in the ribs when the alarm went off to ensure I was awake and getting up.

But persistence eventually paid off. Gradually, over time I began to find it easier to get up, get dressed and out the door and once I was moving, I was really glad I made the effort. The payoffs were that I became fitter, I felt better, my health improved, I had more energy and I could run!

Over time, I proved that I could change to be more of an early bird. However it has meant that I am no longer a night owl. By the time night comes around I am definitely ready for bed though I have been guilty of burning the candle at both ends, to my detriment. Trying to get by on less than 6 hours sleep eventually catches up with me – I am constantly tired, I start getting sick, I tend to eat more and it’s not necessarily healthy food I crave, I drink more coffee and so it goes. It’s true what they – early to bed and early to rise makes CJ healthy, wealthy and wise!

The early bird CJ was up and on the bike on the wind trainer at 5.30 this morning. It’s been a while since I’ve been on my bike because of the location of the hammie tear – sitting on a bike seat was not comfortable up until now. As it is, I can’t use the upright bikes at the gym because those seats are a lot wider and this does irritate the injury. However I had no such problems this morning. The session involved 10 x 1min hard gear (1min easy spin) with a warm up and cool down. After this I then had 4 sets of 15 reps of push ups, 20 dips, and 3 sets of 12 reps of reverse crunches, straight leg scissors and scissors crossovers.

Whew! All that before breakfast! :)

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4 Responses to “Early bird or night owl?”

  1. Poppy 03/07/2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Ah, my biggest hurdle – mornings! I have definitely been a night owl since I was a toddler, although fulltime work has made me give up and go to bed earlier for the last seven years or so. Yet I still am not a morning person! I’m trying very hard and am succeeding most workdays to get up at 5am and exercise. But on weekends, or holidays like right now? It’s so hard! It sets the whole tenor of my day, though, and I know that I will feel amazing if I do it.

    • cathyn61 03/07/2013 at 10:45 pm #

      I love my sleep in day which is usually Sunday. And on my holidays I certainly don’t get up early unless I have a long run to do. But when I’m working, I need to get up early to do my exercise as there’s no guarantee I’ll get it done later in the day. And I can’t say I get too excited about having to head to the gym after work.

  2. healthychelsea 04/07/2013 at 12:04 pm #

    I think you are one or the other but can change it over time – it would take a lot of persistence.
    I used to have to wake up at 4:30am for my previous job – so now when I get up at 5:30am for exercise, it doesn’t seem that bad. The effects of winter are taking a toll and it is much more tempting to sleep in…but generally I can spring right out of bed, rearing to go.
    Like you, I must get 7ish hours sleep or there is just no way I will function.
    Some people say that can only workout after work vs early in the morning because they feel they get the best workout…I don’t think it matters for me because I have tried both :)

  3. energyandEmily 05/07/2013 at 7:27 pm #

    This is very interesting! I’m definitely, absolutely a night person but I imagine that things could change if I persevered enough with it.

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