“Aurora aurum in ore habet “ or, as we often hear people say, “the early bird gets the worm.” But is that what you think when the alarm goes off and you have to get ready for your 6 a.m. training session? It’s worth pointing out that waking up early is a favorite habit of great leaders and powerful people. Go on, admit it… does that fact make you feel so much better?!
A few things to note before we start talking about early-morning practice. Recent studies* have shown that evening training:
1. Allows you to perform better because the body temperature is higher in the afternoon.
2. Allows you to train harder because your strength reaches its peak and your muscles are looser.
3. Allows you to recover from the stress that has built up during the day.
So, why morning practice? What makes you climb out from under your nice warm blanket, put on your swimming suit that’s still wet from the day before and keep on saying to yourself, as if it was some sort of mantra “Okay, go on…one stroke after the other!?”
Only you know the answer to that and it will certainly be better than any study on the topic.
Nevertheless, it is a good thing to know beforehand how your body will react when training in the early morning.
Your cortisol level (also known as the stress hormone) is at its highest in the early morning, because the amount released increases under certain conditions of mental-physical stress. Cortisol production increases your cardiac output meaning that your body is physically less well prepared for physical exercise in the early hours of the day.
Don’t worry! Testosterone is ready to come to your aid. Like cortisol, the highest level of testosterone is released during the early hours of the morning. Testosterone helps release more Erythropoietin (EPO) that controls red blood cell production and allows more oxygen to be transported to your muscles, thereby increasing your strength and speeding up your reaction time.
Glycaemia or the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood is something else to be taken into consideration. When this level is too high, the body produces insulin to control its levels. Your body actually stops this from happening during physical exercise, in order to prevent a sudden drop in blood sugar and consequent loss of energy.
Morning training can actually be extremely advantageous, but in order for it to be effective you need to follow a few simple rules.
1. REST: Rest reduces stress and sleeping at least 8 hours-a-night has numerous benefits for your organism. Even a short 30-minute rest in the afternoon can really help our organism, particularly if we have trained in the morning.
2. EAT and DRINK: Eat breakfast containing carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index to prevent hypoglycaemia and/or sudden insulin releases. After fasting overnight, the body needs to re-stabilise its glycaemic level that drops during the night.
Remember to drink both during and after training to help get rid of toxins and avoid any risk of dehydration.
3. FOLLOW A ROUTINE: Always try to maintain the same sleep-wake patterns, but do not be too inflexible. If you have a late night out with friends or family, make sure you take the time required to recover. Remember: a bit of extra rest is better than a poorly performed training session.
4. PLAN YOUR TRAINING: Make sure your morning training sessions are not too long, particularly if performed on an empty stomach. Training on an empty stomach leads to hypercortisolism or, in other words, an increase in cortisol production. If you can only train in the morning, try and find somebody who can help advise you how to organise your training sessions more effectively.
Last but not least, remember: knowledge and understanding what makes you tick are extremely important. Follow clear and precise rules, this will help your body feel better and allow you to achieve great results.