Early morning runners love rising before the sun, basking in all that pre-dawn glory before the rest of the world has even hit the snooze button. But nighttime runners are hardcore in their own right, logging miles long after the sun has set and the kids have gone to bed. So who’s tougher – or rather, who’s smarter? What really is the best time for running?
According to some studies, the ideal time to engage in physical activity is actually the mid- to late-afternoon. Your body is warm, your muscles are loosened up, and you generally tend to feel awake, alert, and better overall. But, many runners argue that the best time to run is whenever you can get it done. Here’s what John Kenworthy, running coach at Siena College, has to say about the debate.
Is there an ideal time of day to run?
“Not across the board. It largely depends on your daily schedule and how running fits into it. As long as you’re taking care of the basics around your run, like sleep, hydration, proper nutrition, and a warm-up and cool-down, and the time you choose creates the most seamless fit into the rest of the day, that’s the best time to run for you and your situation.”
What are the benefits and drawbacks to running in the morning?
“Obviously, getting warmed up and ready to exercise is the first challenge. Rolling out of bed and straight into your running shoes can make your runs feel pretty sluggish. So oftentimes it pays off to have some time through the day to get your body moving first. Many runners are also fighting against time to get hydrated and get in a solid pre-workout breakfast in the early morning.
On the plus side, running early in the morning means you get your run done so you can focus on your day without having your training plan hanging over your head. It will let you eat what you want when you want, you can spend more time with your kids or friends, and it definitely starts your day off on a good note. Plus, running in the morning in the summer months can offer cooler temperatures.”
What about nighttime running? What are the pros and cons there?
“Night running certainly provides a chance to decompress from a long day, and I find that most night runners find more running groups and opportunities to train with people. And you can always head out for a drink after and make running even more social!
The downside of night running is that it can limit where you go to run. Many trails and unlit streets just aren’t safe for runners at night. And the dangers of some busier streets only increase at night. If you’re a night runner, it’s so important to always wear high-visibility, reflective clothing.”
And lunchtime running: yay or nay?
“Yay! Lunchtime running is a great way to chop up your workday, plus if you have some running friends in the office, it’s even better knowing you have a guaranteed training group most days. Just be sure to find time for an actual lunch elsewhere. Skipping meals for training means greater chances of sickness or injury. Don’t slack on your nutrition.”
Any advice for fitting training into a busy schedule?
“This is tough. The first step is acknowledging that life stress and training stress affect your body in very similar ways. When life gets busy, you have to simplify training.
If the morning is the best time to run for you, then acknowledge that keeping it simple and having consistent small victories daily will bring you further than swinging for the fences a couple days a week and striking out the rest. I advise planning your big workouts and long runs for the weekend, or pick one or two afternoons or evenings a week for the more intense sessions so you can just worry about your shorter, more relaxed runs in the morning.”
If a morning runner wants to become a night runner, or vice versa, what’s the first step to making the change?
“Transitioning into and out of morning or night running starts with your sleep schedule. You have to set up a sleep schedule that allows you to recover properly each day so you feel ready to tackle training. After that, consider what changes occur before and after training as well.
For example, you need to understand that your runs may start a little slower in the mornings, which is important so you can measure your training on the proper scale. Another example, running at night means you’ll need a couple hours for your body to come down from the run so you can sleep. Plan that into your day properly and you’ll find that it’s less of a burden to make the switch.”
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.