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To Be Determined Journal

To Be Determined is a journal of cycling, adventure and photography, curated by a NYC-based cycling team known as TBD Racing or Team TBD. From criteriums to cyclocross to product reviews and travel diaries, it is all part of the TBD Journal.

Our Business Case for Waking Up Early and Training in the Morning

On the TBD team Slack we’ve been debating lately whether “morning riding” or “evening riding” is better. There have been good arguments made on both sides, but here’s where we objectively net out on this important issue: You’re a complete idiot if you train at night.

I’m kidding, of course, but—no, seriously—there are advantages to waking up early and working out in the morning. Therefore here is our business case for training in the AM; and also why night workouts are bad:

Sleep: We should all be getting about 8-9 hours of sleep for best recovery and general good health. 7 is acceptable only if bookended by other days that are 8 hours. 5-6 is simply not enough to recover and heal muscles, restore oxygen everywhere, etc. Even if you wake up after 5-6 hours and “feel” great, that’s just your body faking it by giving you enough adrenaline to get through the fatigue. The pros aim for 9-10 hour nights.

Night workouts are the worst when it comes to causing a bad sleep—which then leads to causing bad recovery; meaning no gains. There are two ways this happens:

1. When one works out at night, usually one ends up eating dinner too late. From there, you either a) go to bed shortly thereafter and sleep poorly from not allowing enough time between dinner and bed; or b) you just stay up later and go to bed late, and add fatigue from the longer day and risk not sleeping enough. Either way, bad.

2. Your body doesn’t have enough time to calm down before bed after a hard workout — and the huge adrenaline and dopamine release you just created prohibits you from falling asleep or sleeping well throughout the night. This is my personal least favorite—when your legs throb and feel “hot” in bed and you can’t get comfortable. This is the reason why I don’t race Floyd.

Nights mean more reasons to miss workouts: There are more pressures at night to test your ironclad resolve to do your workout. Work, family, colleagues who want to “grab a drink”, etc—they’re all there to ruin your plans to crush that 2x20. Whereas the early morning workout typically has fewer outside influences to distract you.

Family: Conversely, Morning workouts mean you can be 100% present and correct for your spouse/family/work buddies for the entire evening. Every night can be date night, movie night, etc. You’ve already done your work for the day. Be a good spouse and spend the whole evening together.

Science: The “science shows night workouts are better” is bad science. You can fuel before a morning workout too; chug a bowl of instant oatmeal and have a gel and you’re good. We’re not riding for 3 hours after all. And you don’t need a day of food to hit your numbers in the morning. Your body just had the best fuel it can get for 8 hours — rest. You’re fine.

Train when you race: Our races are all in the morning. All of them. It’s a real shock when the body is used to doing hard efforts at night but suddenly you’re asking it to race at 6am. Train when you race.

This post was presented by me sleeping badly because I rode a bike at night, ate too close to bedtime, slept badly and was up between 2-4. Night riding can go f*ck itself. I’m tired.