Starting in my late teens, I typically had a very difficult time waking up in the morning. Of course, having a full time job as a high school teacher and a passion for racing helped me to overcome that issue, but until my mid 30's, I was often a multiple alarm guy. Even though I evolved into a person who could get up, sometimes very early without an alarm, I still typically did not train early in the morning. When I was a bachelor and wasn't working over the summers, this would sometimes lead to getting in my bike much later than anticipated and riding through the hottest part of the day. Or, even worse, sometimes starting in the afternoon and riding into the evening, only to come home all jacked up and finding it difficult to fall asleep. Which of course, led to training later the next day, and the cycle continued.
Well that was all fine and good when it wasn't significantly impacting my life, but over the past 3 years I've have some awesome life changes (getting married and having a son) which made it necessary to be more flexible and yet more scheduled for my training rides. And although many days I do train in the evenings, I've become accustomed to training at the butt crack o' dawn, or even well before it. I dare say I even I enjoy getting out that early.
I saw this cool article on Bicycling Magazine dot com that gives some nice tips: 9 Ways to Make Riding in the Morning Easier
While I'm not a huge fan of the suggestion of skipping breakfast, I think the rest of them are great. As far as the food goes, I believe a little something in your belly to get you going is important. I would often do some peanut butter on toast with a banana. I eat this pretty much as soon as I get up so I have the time I'm getting dressed and getting my bike ready to digest a bit.
I really love the "don't check e-mail" tip. That goes for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. They are black holes of time and before you know it, you've eaten up 15, 30, or even more minutes of valuable training time.
Another tip I would add if you're going to get out super early is get yourself a great tail light and head light. I purchased my first bar and head lamps back in 1995 for my first 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race. Over the next 10 years of 24 Hour Racing, I picked up a new light or two, but no new purchase since 2004. Boy, has the technology really progressed. I purchased a Niterider Lumina 550 from Cycle Craft. It's a one piece unit that's USB rechargeable and super bright. I've found it sufficient for light night mountain biking, and perfect when supplemented with a head light. I picked up and extra bracket so I can swap it from each of my training bikes and not spend time in the morning swapping things around. Sometimes just the novelty of starting in the dark in the morning is enough to get me fired up.
The more prepared you can be, the better you'll be in the morning. As the article suggest, get your clothes all set, but also get your bottles and food ready to go. This way you can just roll out of bed, grab a little grub and coffee if you do that sort of thing, get in your kit, snag your bottles, and you're off.
It also helps to have good quality gear. My team kit has provided me with plenty of options for my tops and bottoms, along with good jackets. Additionally, I always knew my head, hands, and feet would be well cared for regardless of the conditions thanks to my incredible Sealskinz pieces. It's worth the investment to keep yourself more comfortable and warm. It also eliminates excuses if the weather is unfavorable!
And there is certainly something to be said about looking back on your day on knowing that you've gotten several hours of saddle time and it's only 9 am. A little smugness never hurt anyone...just make sure it's only a little!
Now get out and ride your bike!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.