Cycling at sunrise, the rewards for shunning a lay-in and getting out on two-wheels

Sophie Radcliffe is a cyclist, entrepreneur, writer, business catalyst and proud Ironman Wales finisher 2013.

Sophie writes about striving to achieve your best through physical and mental challenges, mostly involving cycling, triathlon and mountaineering. Sophie loves nothing more than take to her wheels, hit the hills and push boundaries on a cycling adventure with friends. Among her favourite cycling adventures is the 3 Peaks Cycle Challenge which involved climbing the 3 Peaks in the UK and cycling 450 miles between them over 3 days.

Here Sophie shares the joys of cycling at sunrise, the rewards of shunning a lay-in and getting out on two-wheels.

After falling off the wagon, Sophie had only one thing on her mind…

After writing a post on my blog about falling off the training wagon post Ironman Wales, I then became ill for a week. By Monday of the following week I had recovered but was still incredibly tired.

Finding myself struggling with low energy levels, there was no need to second guess why this might be. I know my body well enough to know that exercise gives me energy. When I’m not exercising, I’m not giving my body and mind what they need to feel great and there’s only one cure!

On Tuesday I was ready to get back on the wagon. Not one to do things by halves, I decided a 50kms bike ride at 5am was the best way to launch me back into the game.

Setting my alarm for 5am, I was actually really excited to get up – one reason why taking a break is a good thing. I had already debated about my layering system, laid out all my kit, pumped my tyres and filled my water bottles the night before.

Come the next day, I was out the door by 5:20am, happy to be on my bike and excited see what the morning had in store.

Boy was I in for a treat!

Sophie leaving her flat at 5:20am

Training in the winter can be tough. It can feel so alien to get out of bed when you’re all warm and cosy and head outside into the dark. However, some days, getting up early to train can mean we are privy to incredible scenery, sunrises or conversations with training buddies that we would have missed out on had we stayed in bed. This was one of those days.

First light appearing as Sophie crossed the River Thames

Living in London, means making the most of a pre-work bike ride can be tough, as you have to cycle a fair distance to find ‘open’ roads. My usual option is to head from East London to Richmond Park in South West London. I cycle along the River Thames and cross over at Putney Bridge. When I got to Putney, I could feel the temperature drop. This was definitely going to be a chilly morning.

Sophie’s cycle from East London over to Richmond Park

I arrived at Richmond Park at 6:20am and the gates were closed. It was still pitch black dark. I thought “you eager beaver!” However, I was happy to be out and went in search for an open entrance. I found out they were culling the deer so the side gates that are normally open were closed for a few weeks.

Admiring the view of Richmond Park through closed gates…

At 7am when I was just about to head back home, someone pulled up and let me in. I was the first person into the park and even though I had been admiring it from behind the gates, actually stepping into what felt like a magical wonderland took my breath away.

Richmond Park in all its glory at sunrise

It was absolutely stunning!

The mist, the colours, the deer, the crispness of the morning. I felt like the world was opening up around me, waking up and showing me what it had to offer. Perhaps the photos describe the beauty better than any words I could write.

Exploring the wonders of Richmond Park, before the day dawns and the masses descend

I must admit, I didn’t make it the whole way round the park because I was admiring the views. But that’s okay too, right?!

I’ve always loved Richmond Park, it feels like a Londoner’s wilderness paradise. It’s a chance to escape the traffic and rush of the city. However, if you go cycling there on a weekend, there are hundreds of cyclists. That’s why I like to get up early and make the most of it being so quiet.

Mornings like this feed my soul.

Admiring the views out over the capital, slowly waking to a new day

My hands and feet went numb, but I didn’t mind. The clock was ticking, I knew I had to get back to East London. I needed to be at work by 9, yet I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay there and watch this very small part of the world change as the sun continued to rise. I wanted to keep drinking it in and cycling though the cold morning air.  “It’s ok though” I thought to myself, “I can come back, everyday if I want to.”

I was home by 8:10am allocating myself 20 minutes for breakfast, shower, change.

The sun rising behind the Shard on Sophie’s way to work

I was in work by 9am with a big smile on my face. I felt a million times better than previous days. All day, I enjoyed that dull ache in my legs from the workout, I had missed that feeling. I had a great day and set up a meeting that could change the game of the company I’m working with. I felt awake and ready to make stuff happen.

9am, showered, refreshed and in work!

The hours of sleep I gave up for the bike ride were not a sacrifice, it was an honour to be alive and be part of that morning.

I know not all morning sessions will be like this, but it’s ones like this that make all the others worthwhile.

We’d love to hear from you about your morning workouts, what you love and hate about them. Get sharing in the comments section below! Are you a morning lover like Sophie or do you preview a pootle at dusk?

You can get in touch with Sophie Radcliffe via Twitter – FaceBook – LinkedIn – Blog


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