Cause, or effect? Plus a Sunday Morning Medicine signal boost, and meditations on death.


Not my typical morning run.

On days when I haul my butt out of bed at 5 a.m. and get out for an early morning run, I have lots of energy the rest of the day and can even stay up a little longer in the evenings. On days when I can’t manage to get rolling early and when I don’t go for a run, I have much less energy and frequently must go to bed early.  We hear that it’s the exercise that causes us to be more focused and alert for the rest of the day, but I wonder:

Is the geting-up-early-and-running the cause of my later-in -the-day energy, or is it merely an effect of my having more energy? That is to say, I’m skeptical that it’s the exercise that’s doing it for me. Being able to exercise early in the morning seems more predictive than generative of energy and focus.  Whatever!  It’s getting sunny so I’d better hit the road before it gets too hot to run.


Memento mori, friends!

What is your experience?

If you’re looking for other means by which to avoid your exercise routine, why not click on over to Nursing Clio for their Sunday Morning Medicine round-up, featuring 85 years of Nancy Drew (including a shout-out to University of Wisconsin historian Nan Enstad) and a 1690s London advice column featuring this Edgar Allen Poe-esque setup:

Q. My father had a dog, which he kept a great many years, in which time I had two brothers and one sister that died. And it was observed that this dog—always the day before they died—went about a hundred yards from the house and laid his nose towards the church where they were all buried, and howled in a strange, hideous manner for an hour or more at a time. And when my father died, he did the same. Now it seems as if this dog had some prophetic, or what to call it, knowledge in these matters.

(Does the caller have a question?)

NC also links to an article on the letters that Martha Washington didn’t burn which contains the astonishing fact that most of the Washington family papers–as opposed to the Papers of George Washington–have never been published!  Who knew?  As someone who writes about women much, much more obscure than Martha Washington, I’ve assumed that all of the so-called “Founding Fathers”‘s First Ladies had had their due (except Deborah Read Franklin, of course), but it just goes to show you:  fame is no defense against being patronized and dismissed as historical subjects!

To quote my husband recently on the subject of other physicians:  “I [effin’] hate my tribe.”  But I love to run!  Let’s all do what we enjoy in the fresh air and sunshine, friends–as I’ve said before and I’ll say again too soon, I’m sure:  it’s a short movie.

8 thoughts on “Cause, or effect? Plus a Sunday Morning Medicine signal boost, and meditations on death.

  1. I’ve never been a morning exercise person, but I can imagine that it metabolically activates and releases more of whatever it is that constitutes that category we call “energy” and thus propels it later into the day. I haven’t thought about whether the late-day exercise that I prefer gives you a better finishing kick. I would say probably sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t.

    Abigail Adams has certainly had her due. I bet Rachel Jackson would have given them some real hell-to-pay if she had lived through two full terms in the White House. That muddy-boots-on the-damask-chairs on Inaugural Day “thing?” Not gonna happen!!


  2. Historiann,

    I think my most productive time in research and writing was when I was single and living in the capital of the Peoples Republic of Megalomania on a Fulbright. I do think running was a factor, but not the cause of my productivity. My schedule went something like this

    I ran about 5k every evening (five days a week), followed by a quick stretch, a bath and a couple of cigarettes. Eat dinner out with friends, close down the bars at midnight, go home and sleep it off.

    Wake up at 8am (well, 9am but I meant to get up at 7, so lets split the difference), wash down a chocolate croissant and a cigarette with nescafe in the metro station, get to the archive or library late and hung over. Work until lunch.

    Lunch was a ham sandwich, a beer, and more cigarettes.

    Work for two more hours in the national library. Go to a cafe and eat a tasty cake, with more coffee. Jot down random notes on my project. Go home on the bus, Text friends to find out what they were up to and make plans for the night. Nap. Wake up around four or five. Go for a run and repeat.

    The health effects were deleterious, but it was a delightful way to spend a year. I did a ton of research, my language skills were the sharpest ever, I wrote a conference paper and a deeply flawed introduction to my dissertation (despite the flaws it helped me outline the diss, even if I chucked it later). I kept a similar schedule when I was on a dissertation fellowship, but without the cigarettes and I trained for a marathon. I was in the best shape ever and I completed a dissertation. 2004 was a great year.

    I think the main variable in my health and writing routine is a generous fellowship. If I have that, any goal is achievable and made more pleasurable with plenty of cake and lots of running.


  3. The best tasting cigarette in the world is the first one that you smoke right after a long run. Its totally perverse. I don’t smoke anymore, but I don’t run either. My morning workout consists of walking the dog for twenty minutes. (I could probably get the dog to run with me, but he still is a puppy and not that great on a leash.)

    I remember talking with one of my mentors about smoking and writing. He quit smoking while he was writing his second book. He said the hardest thing about quitting smoking was learning how to write again. I’m so glad I did not develop that association.


  4. I would probably isolate the critical variables in Matt L’s narrative as a) national library, b) jambon sandwich, and c) chocolate croissant, in roughly that order. I also note that it doesn’t capitalize TastyCake (r), so this otherwise salubrious episode presumably didn’t happen in or anywhere near Philadelphia.


  5. I turned into a very early morning runner because I live where it’s hideously hot for much of the year. I’ve been running since I was 12 years old, so well over 30 years now, and until about 4 years ago running was almost always a late afternoon or evening activity. But when it’s still nearly 100 degrees outside at 9:00pm, one learns to adapt! 5:00am running it is! I do find I’m much more alert and productive on days that I run in the morning, even though I get less sleep. Also, I’m not in a tizzy about trying to figure out where to make time in my schedule for running, since afternoons and evenings are now pretty packed with kid / family stuff.


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