I used to say the hardest thing about 5am workouts was the 5am. Not anymore. The hardest thing about 5am workouts is the workout.
As you know I have an apartment in Memphis and usually that is where I am on Tuesday and Wednesday. So the hardest interval training is planned for those two days.
I have a trainer, my old touring Cannondale from the Lewis and Clark ride, a PowerTap, rubber mats covering the floor, fans, and a TV and an IPod.
My alarm rings at 5:05--coffee started at 5:00. I measure my heart rate, weigh, and try to be in the kitchen by 5:15. I need to get some food in me that will get me through the high intensity workout to come. That is usually Kashi waffles with lots of syrup. I could just drink the syrup because it is just the glucose I am after but that would be gross. I also put some butter on the waffles for no good nutritional reason.
I want to be on the bike at about 5:30 to 5:40. I need at least 30 minutes of warm up before I start the hard intervals. I stretch, hit the bike, go for about 10 minutes easy, stretch again, start alternating one minute easy and escalating intervals and stop again at about 25 minutes for a last stretch. Then I ride about 5 more minutes and if my courage is up I go.
That is the hardest decision of the day. Not whether to get up but whether I am really going to do that interval knowing that it will hurt and that it is very hard work. How hard? Typically I burn about 15 calories a minute during the SS intervals and they are 15 or 10 minute intervals. That is close to the limit of what I can do. So whether you are stronger or weaker than me, it is all you can do for that period of time.
Once I get started on the first interval I usually don't have any problem finishing it. But the tough decision comes back after the rest between intervals. Can I get myself ready to do another? I have learned to push extra hard during the first two minutes of each subsequent interval otherwise I won't really commit, I will be lazy, and the first two minutes will be below the power level I want. Then I do quit and I am back to forcing myself to make the decision to do the interval.
After the intervals are over I have to go into my recovery routine. My favorite recovery drink is chocolate milk. Maybe not as good as some of the commercial recovery drinks--I also like PowerBar Recovery--but it is quick, tasty, available everywhere, and inexpensive. My hardest problem after the workout is replenishing carbohydrates. Remember block training. I am not just trying to recover from the workout but am recovering for tomorrows workout. Recommendations vary but I need about 2-3 grams of carbohydrates per kg of body weight. That is more than 200 gms. That is about 40 oz of gatorade. Of course I don't have to eat those carbs in the next hour but I do need a lot of those carbs and protein immediately to start the recovery.
So 5am is easy but it is also easy to quit, be lazy, or rationalize. I am alone in this apartment away from home trying to convince myself that I really am going to do this exercise. Perhaps I am weak and you are snickering at me. But I bet there are a lot of cyclist out there who aren't working hard enough to understand. And I bet there are a lot who know how hard this is and some of them have to fight with themselves at 5am to move their butts and not be lazy.
So to all you who are also up at 5am arguing with your lazy selfs. I am with you.