For a healthier lifestyle, wake up earlier

Runners were encouraged to do cardio warmups before the fun run. —PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE ANG-BUBAN

When the 3 a.m. alarm went off it should have started a familiar routine that involved hitting the snooze button a number of times, closing my eyes again, and thinking of excuses for welshing on a commitment.

To say that mornings are rough is to make an understatement. But this was no ordinary morning engagement, and for my wife and I who go to bed late and struggle to get up in the early morning, it should not be a reason to be a no-show at a fun run in which a friend and former office colleague was involved. 

We had promised to be at the April 30 event—called “KonsultaMD’s #IWantToBeHere ColorFest!”—and I had agreed to participate in the 5-kilometer run. (My wife’s bad knee prevented her from joining the runners.) Then I figured: Why not report on it? 

The setup was quite challenging. The fun run was scheduled to begin at 5 a.m., which meant that we had to get up at 3 a.m. to reach the venue at Vermosa in Imus, Cavite—18 kilometers away from our house in Las Piñas. We decided not to use our car; we had always wanted to take an early-morning bike ride when the roads are mostly empty and free of impatient vehicle drivers, and when the sun’s heat will still be bearable when we head back.

Besides, I was intrigued by what University of Surrey professor Debra Skene had found about sleep patterns: “Establishing simple routines could help night owls—persons with extreme late sleeping and waking habits—adjust their body clocks and improve their overall physical and mental health. Insufficient levels of sleep and circadian misalignment can disrupt many bodily processes, putting us at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.”

For us who intend to get old and healthy together, this finding is important. 

Skene, whose study was published in the June 2019 issue of “Sleep Medicine,” suggested that late risers do not necessarily have to resort to medication and the like to improve their body clocks. Rather, they can make simple adjustments to their sleep cycle.

Related: What’s a guy in his 70s doing trying to ride a bike?

Tweaking the pattern

Our plan was to gradually tweak our “night owl” sleeping pattern so we can experience what the experts say about people who rise early: They have more time to get things done; they have better concentration, better eating habits (we often skip breakfast) and, more important, a decrease in depression and stress. Who doesn’t want these health improvements?

April 30 fell on a Sunday, so when my wife and I headed out on our bikes at 4 a.m., Alabang-Zapote and Daang Hari roads were almost empty of vehicles. Still, we made sure that our bikes’ rear red blinkers were at their brightest: Portions of Daang Hari remain sparsely lit, and we needed drowsy drivers to see us from half a kilometer away.

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Participants are showered with nontoxic and biodegradable colored powder after passing the designated “checkpoints” of the run.

I was glad KonsultaMD organized this event that called on people to put health on top of everything else. This telehealth service provider—an undertaking by Globe Group, Ayala’s AC Health, and Salud Interactiva—makes on-line consultation 24/7, on demand or by appointment, more convenient and reliable for its subscribers. 

By using the app, one can have full healthcare support from a doctor via chat, voice or video call. The doctor may also provide medical documents such as e-prescription, e-laboratory request, and e-medical certificate. It also has licensed mental health professionals trained in tending to a subscriber’s mental well-being.

Of course, all the advice would be useless if we don’t follow what our physician tells us. Some of us tend to be lax in following up with our doctors, citing various reasons like having no time due to work or family errands, or just because the discomfort or the symptoms of an illness have disappeared. It is hoped that the KonsultaMD app will change all that, with the convenience of being able to talk to a doctor anytime, anywhere, especially in emergency cases.

Doing the unexpected

To make the fun run more exciting for the participants, the organizers used colored powder markers which were hurled at the runners as they crossed a number of checkpoints. My plan was just to run faster and make sure not to catch all the powder so I wouldn’t be pedaling home looking like a human rainbow. I completed the 5-km run in over 30 minutes, almost the same time as those who did the 10-km run. Those latter runners were something else. 

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The author, along with the other runners, received a silver, pocket-size token after the event.

My wife and I truly enjoyed the early-morning event, proving that we could will ourselves to do something unexpected. In fact, we are now looking forward to getting up early every day and biking around our village, and perhaps making a 30-km bike ride a weekly activity.

These days when sleeping well may seem like such a difficult goal—compounded by all the online distractions that we have imposed on ourselves, as well as eating the wrong types of food at dinner, etc.—we should just heed one simple piece of advice from the experts: In order to enjoy a good night’s sleep, commit yourself to waking up early in the morning.

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