Springing Forward

By Scott Ludwig

I can count on one hand the number of times I went to bed before midnight while I was a student at the University of Florida in the mid-1970’s.

In fact, it was particularly rough as a freshman since our class was always last in scheduling our classes. Those 8:00 a.m. first period classes? Inhumane! Once I earned enough credits to classify as a junior I was able to schedule my classes in front of the freshmen and sophomores so I was able to get the more desirable classes later in the day—the 1:25 p.m. 6th period, for example.

When I landed my first real job after college and I met with my future manager for the first time, he welcomed me and said he’d see me at 5:00 the next day. I instantly thought I was being assigned to a second shift. I hesitantly asked him if he was referring to 5:00 p.m. He didn’t: my new gee-I’m-so-glad-I-went-to-college-for-this job was requiring me to be at work at 5:00 a.m.! And I thought an 8:00 a.m. first period was inhumane!

For several years my afternoon runs were a drag. Imagine waking up every day at 2:30 a.m. (my average bedtime in college) and getting home around 3:30 p.m. and then doing your daily run. It only took me a few years to decide the afternoon runs just weren’t going to cut it.

Fortunately a few years later my assignment at work changed and my new start time was 6:30 a.m. I left my alarm clock set for 2:30 a.m. but my routine changed slightly: bathroom-coffee-bathroom-run-shower-drive-work. It was great getting my run in to start my day. After all, starting your day with an 8-mile run at 3:30 in the morning made the rest of the day—no matter how difficult it might be seem relatively easy in comparison. Imagine how much easier my days became when I started running 10-13 miles every morning!

However, in the mid-1990’s all the free time after work posed a problem: what to do until Cindy came home from work? Most days I did what came naturally: I ran. Again. Soon two-a-days outnumbered the one-a-days. This was the period of my life which I refer to as ‘training to exhaustion.’ From sleeping well over eight hours a day in college, I was now getting by on barely five hours a day. And yes, that included weekends.

The side effects of training to exhaustion? I’m able to literally fall asleep on command. I can take cat naps anywhere and at anytime. It’s not uncommon for me to be ready to go somewhere and if Cindy says she ‘needs another five minutes’ I can set my internal alarm clock, fall asleep on the bed and wake up five minutes later. On the downside I have to sit up straight to watch television or a movie. I can’t lie down (no matter how rested I think I am) or even lie my head back while I’m sitting up because as far as being awake is concerned, either one is the kiss of death.

Today I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve stayed up past midnight over the past two decades. That would be exclusive of the runs of 24 hours/100 miles or more that require running through the night, of course (no, I wouldn’t sleep during these events—as long as I could stay on my feet I could stay awake and continue).

Where am I going with all of this?

With the onset of spring every year, the calendar asks us to ‘spring forward’ one hour. That day is undoubtedly the worst day of the year for me. (Conversely, the day we’re asked to ‘fall back’ is the best day of the year for me.) When you barely average six hours of sleep each night, losing an hour is losing 17% of my daily allowance. (Conversely, the ‘fall back’ day adds 14% to my daily allowance.) That’s a lot of sleep when there’s not that much to begin with.

But it doesn’t end there. When sundown isn’t until 8:30 p.m. or later, I would love to be able to sit out on the back porch enjoying my favorite German beer or playing a quick nine holes of golf after work. However, I’m more likely to be going to bed well before the sun sets. At first it was hard to get used to (imagine getting ‘tucked in’ by your five-year old) but now it’s pretty much a regular part of my daily routine. I prefer the winter months when it’s pitch dark well before 6:00 p.m.

What is my current schedule, you may be asking? I changed companies in 2003 and since I don’t have to be at work until 7:30 I can sleep in until 3:30 during the week.

However, since the majority of the year falls under the ‘spring forward’ logic, I guess I’m still actually waking up at 2:30.

Boy, I can’t wait to ‘fall back.’