If you want help getting up early to cycle, then I think I can help…
I’ve been waking up early my entire life. 0515 on a workday, and 0615 on a day off.
It’s not like watching a movie, I don’t jump out of bed embracing the morning singing songs o f joy and laughter. I do, however, have a job a long way from home, and a hobby that takes a lot of time which has meant I have refined my technique!
If you’re on this site to find great techniques for getting more time out on your bike, then riding early has to be one of the best ways to maintain your work/bike/life balance. It it’s time you would otherwise have spent in bed, then it’s a win-win. More time cycling, and then more time with you family.
Let’s get it out of the way though – getting up early isn’t easy. Your body is going to fight you hard. On the flip side, a lie in is like eating a whole bar of chocolate. It feels pretty good at the time, but you’re gonna feel guilty for the rest of the day. Ok, that may just be me, but it just seems there are so many advantages of getting out of bed early to cycle. The sunrise, getting back to see the kids, freeing up the rest of the day, less wind, less traffic…
It may not be for everyone, but for those who need some help getting up early here are My Techniques For Getting Up Early To Cycle….
1. Lay Out Your Kit The Night Before
You’ve probably heard this one a hundred time before, but it really does work. In those first waking minutes after getting up early our memory, reaction time, ability to perform basic tasks, alertness and attention all suffer. You need to make it is simple as possible for your groggy mind to work through the steps to push you out of the door.
I lay out everything I’m going to wear alongside all the gear I need so that nothing gets left to chance. I can then run on autopilot the following morning if needed. I would suggest creating a list of the things you take with you every time, so that getting things ready becomes an even simpler task. If it’s cold outside, leave that kit on a warm radiator too. Nothing better when you get out of a warm bed on a cold day than to slip on some pre-heated clothes! It only takes five minutes before you go to bed to complete this step, but don’t underestimate the mental block it will remove the following morning.
2. Plan In A Route
I love planning my route for the following day. I appreciate this may not be for everyone and some like to go where the wind takes them, but for me it’s a way of getting excited for the ride the night before. It sends me to bed in a clear mindset as to what I’m taking on the next day, and is another reason to stop me pulling out.
If I can, I will try something new. This gets me really excited. It might be a new road, or just my normal routes in a different direction. Maybe planning in some hill repeats, or getting out on the mountain bike instead of the road bike. All of this helps me to visualise what I’m going to go, and starts to get me excited about the unknown of the following day.
I plan in how much time I’ll be out, so I know when I’ll be back to see the family. One of the main reasons I ride early is to get more time at home later in the day. Just heading out and riding makes this time at home a bit less predictable. If I know I have planned in a 50km route, I can work out about the time I will be home, and start to figure out the rest of the day. Some of you may not appreciate this level of organisation, but for me I think it’s key in maintaining the bike/life balance. So plan in your route the night before, and take one more variable out of you reasons to stay in bed.
3. Make Your Alarm Impossible To Ignore
A lot of these techniques are about eliminating the barriers to getting up early. And that snooze button is probably the biggest one of them all! Ahh, another 10 minutes of heaven. The amount of times I’ve used that to fix all my problems!
The reality is it’s doing more harm than good. You are actually making the process of waking up more difficult. If you do manage to drift off back to sleep, the likelihood is you are going to start a sleep cycle again. And this is the worst possible time to be woken up! So when that alarm goes off again, you have suddenly made the whole process a lot harder.
Turn Off The Snooze Function Completely!
This may seem a little radical, but given what you’ve just read, why would you keep it? As with many people, my alarm of choice is an iPhone. Did you know you can remove the snooze function completely? Have a look at the photo on the right. Head into you alarms, and edit them, it will bring up this screen. If you then tap on the snooze button, voila, you have snoozed the snooze! Go on, be brave….
Put Your Alarm Clock the Other Side Of The Room
This one is certainly not going to help your work/life/bike balance if you sleep in the same room as a partner. Your skin to bruise ratio will certainly increase though! For those people who don’t have this added danger to worry about, then this may be the perfect tactic to get you out of bed early!
Try a Non Conventional Alarm
There are lots of different types of non conventional alarms out there but the one I have had most experience with is the Soleos Go. This is a conventional fitness armband, but has a really cool feature. You an set it as an alarm which vibrates on your wrist.
This really wakes you up quickly. Over the years you get used to being disturbed by noise, but being shaken will wake you up in any circumstance.
It also has a second, crucial advantage over a conventional alarm clock – IT WON’T WAKE UP YOUR PARTNER. This is truly marriage saving stuff!
4. Get Hydrated Fast
Imagine drinking nothing at all for 8 hours in the day. I can’t. But we do this every single night! So how long do you leave it before re hydrating in the morning? Are you out on the bike after just a quick espresso?
If so it’s time for a change.
Even low levels of dehydration have physiological consequences. Dehydration of just 2% causes an increase in perceived effort and is claimed to reduce performance by 10-20% A fluid loss exceeding 3-5% bodyweight reduces aerobic exercise performance noticeably and impairs reaction time, judgement, concentration and decision making, all vital skills on the bike.
I was given some advice by a surgeon friend of mine a couple of years ago. Now here’s a man well drilled on the art of waking early. In his line of work you can’t have a bad day, regardless of what shift you’re on. His advice was as follows:
“Drink an entire pint of water as soon as you wake up”
I now swear by this before my early rides. I feel it makes more of a difference to my performance on the bike early in the day than anything else on this list. This is a really simple change to make before your early rides, so set yourself the rehydration challenge before your next early ride!
5. Have A Simple Breakfast Plan
Eating before an early ride can be hard. I suggest you get up about an 1 1/2 hours before you jump on the bike and eat as soon as you can. I prefer the simplest breakfast possible. For me that is normally porridge and a banana. I know my body can stomach this on the bike, and it’s enough energy to keep me going for a couple of hours.
For the porridge I usually use the pre-made sachets that you just add milk or water to and stick in the microwave. 2 minutes later it’s ready to go. Add in some sultanas and a drop of honey, and this should be easy to get down quickly and settle before you start spinning those legs.
6. Meet Other People
Announcing your goals in public and having people help you stick to them is a well known technique for meeting goals. I always know I’m going to manage to get up early when I’m riding with other people. The guys I ride with call themselves the ‘Wrinkly Riders’ and early on in my time with them I earned myself the nickname ‘sick note’ for missing a few rides (I was genuinely ill!) Ever since then, I’ve never missed a ride that I’ve signed up for. We tend to head out early to miss the traffic, so that normally involves meeting my neighbour out the front at 0745. Hearing his cleats come clacking up the path is the last bit of encouragement I need to rush to the garage! It’s so much easier to say ‘I’ll give it a miss’ to yourself than other people, so sign up for a few early rides with your local club and you’ll soon be setting that alarm a bit earlier!
7. Make It A Positive Experience
My final point is around mindset. If you can convince your brain that this is a positive experience, then you are more likely to repeat it. There are so many benefits to getting up and out early, but it’s easy to focus on the hard things at first. Create a warrior-like mentality. You are strong enough to do this, and once you break though it will become a great habit that will give you more time doing what you love.
Write down the reasons why getting up early is important to you. They might be:
- I’m going to get more time with my kids this afternoon
- I’m going to see the sun rise
- There is no traffic about at this time in the morning
- I can get an extra 25km in by getting out an hour earlier
- I’m going to feel great the rest of the day after my exercise
- This is going to put me one step ahead of the competition
When you’ve got this list, tuck it away for future reference. Before you head out, have a quick read through to remind yourself why getting up early is important. Then when it gets tough, and those negative thoughts kick in, bring your thoughts back to your list.
If you win your mind over, your body is easy! The more positive you feel about this change the more likely you are to repeat it again and again. The tough things in life are normally the ones worth doing; a path without any obstacles normally leads to no where of any value. Dig in, get through, keep smiling, and enjoy the extra time you are going to get doing what you love!