Every morning, along your local shoreline, some brave soul is pioneering the day with a paddle in hand. Cooking up miles for breakfast is a powerful form of nourishment, promising benefits for everyone who can keep their finger off the snooze button. Sound too good to be true? Believe it or not, that silhouette on the horizon could be you.
The many benefits of a good morning paddle
“Getting in a paddle before most people are awake gives me a sense of accomplishment that carries me through my day,” says dawn patrol enthusiast and competitive racer John Beausang, co-founder of the popular Paddle Monster community. “Regardless of what I face, I’ve already ensured that at least part of my day was my own, enjoyable and challenging.”
Early activity wakes your brain
New research suggests that getting out on the water in the golden hour has lasting benefits on your physical and mental capabilities throughout the day. A study by PHIT America measuring performance by students in Illinois saw a 93-percent improvement in math scores and a 56-percent increase in reading scores after exercise.
“What’s good for kids has to be good for adults, too,” says Jim Baugh, founder of PHIT. “Getting active in the morning wakes up the brain, improves concentration and gets the brain ready to learn and be productive.” Plus, it fires out mood-boosting endorphins that stay with you for hours.
“By going out at sunrise you’re putting yourself first,
and that’s a powerful thing.”
Dawn patrol also offers greater opportunities for consistency. Evening paddling sessions risk being delayed, interrupted or abandoned entirely due to working late, running errands and getting blindsided by unexpected to-dos. There are fewer obstacles to getting on the water at 6 a.m. than at 6 p.m.
“I love getting that jumpstart on the day,” says Julian DeSchutter, co-founder of Vancouver-based outdoor group Chasing Sunrise, which organizes 4:30 a.m. adventures that have attracted as many as 800 participants. “Everyone else is still sleeping. By going out at sunrise you’re putting yourself first, and that’s a powerful thing.” The phone isn’t ringing, and there are no distracting emails or texts. “There is energy at the beginning of the day. A silence,” DeSchutter adds.
Morning exercise leads to sounder sleep
Research also shows that morning fitness promotes a better night’s sleep. Appalachian State University’s Dr. Scott Collier studies the effect of exercise on blood pressure. “Much to our surprise, 7 a.m. exercise was better in terms of reduced blood pressure throughout the day and greater sleep benefits than exercise at 7 p.m. There was little blood pressure or sleep benefit when exercise was done at 1 p.m.,” he says.
“We don’t yet know the physiological mechanisms that result in these changes, but we do know enough to say if you need to decrease your blood pressure and if you need to increase your quality of sleep, 7 a.m. is probably the best time to exercise,” Collier adds.
Slim down and wake up on the water
Finally, for fitness paddlers who are as motivated by losing weight as setting a new personal best, exercising in the morning boosts your metabolism and keeps it elevated for six to 10 hours afterward—you’ll burn more calories throughout the day thanks to a morning workout. Exercising on a pre-breakfast empty stomach has been shown to burn a greater percentage of fat for fuel, rather than carbohydrates.
Kaydi Pyette joined the team as managing editor for the Spring 2013 issues of Adventure Kayak, Canoeroots and Rapid.
Get up early and you’ll be able to capture awesome photos like this—along with a host of other lasting benefits. | Feature photo: Tony Felgueiras Photography