Guest Post: The 2nd shift runner – Fitting a training schedule into a workweek of 12-hour shifts

This post was initially submitted by Run Oregon reader Dorian Briggs in 2011. We loved it so much, we wanted to bring it over here. Feel free to Submit a Guest Post in the “Contact Us” tab if you are wanting to write a preview or recap your running experiences as well!

On the night shift ...
My eyes open to a room shrouded in darkness. The gentle hum of a fan masks sound from the outside world. Peeking through heavy curtains that keep my bedroom dark, the sun is almost down and light is quickly fading into tomorrow. It’s no surprise, because Fall is setting in the northwest and daylight hours are shorter. “Oh well, such is life,” I mutter as I prepare to start the graveyard shift at Intel by packing my workout bag.

My shift is 12 hours long, and the best opportunity to follow a workout schedule is during a lunch break. If my workout schedule calls for running, then I’m typically on the road at 3a. When my schedule requires a long run, it’s best accomplished during my days off.

However, on my off days it feels odd running during daylight hours. There’s a constant audience of cars, during the day, filled with people who resemble wild animals glaring at potential road kill. At 3a, the road is lonely with only the sounds of my feet pounding the pavement and the path illuminated by my headlamp. Night running is great stress relief, because I can shake my fist, fuss, cry, think deeply, pray and push through the darkness without an on-looker wondering if I’ve lost my mind. When I return to work after lunch, the world is a better and calmer place.

The biggest challenge to a workout schedule at night is when to eat as opposed to what to eat. I’ve lost many eating battles on graveyard shift because the 3-5 rule is difficult to maintain at night. The 3-5 rule says that I must eat every 3 hours without snacking, and never going more than 5 hours without eating. The 3-5 rule for nights would mean eating times of: 6pm-9pm-12am-3am-6am. Biomechanically the body is ready to sleep and wants to eat less at night, so I forget to eat or my choices are poor; therefore I’ve paid a price and break the 3-5 rule often.

When my 7am bedtime rolls around, my body wants 2 eggs over easy, coffee, potatoes and toast … nooo, I have to sleep now! Every time I step onto a scale showing weight loss, I imagine a slim, blue, Avatar like creature shaking his fist and shouting, “Eywa has heard you!” While weight gain resembles an old Marine with a strong southern accent telling my fat cells, “Keep it tight people. First round of burgers, fries and milkshakes are on me.”

Of course, no matter how difficult it is I’ll never give up. Coming off night shift isn’t an option, so making the proper choices and remaining vigilant are my best tools. Discipline isn’t born; it’s developed. I can be a bit rough on myself when I don’t achieve a goal that I’ve set. Later, I’m reminded of an old French proverb: praise the God of all, drink the wine, eat the cheese, and let the world be the world. In other words: chill out dude,  there’s always another race somewhere.
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