One of the most challenging parts of running can be fitting it into your schedule. Should you shoehorn in a run before work, or should you take a run around the park on your lunch break? Should you go out at night with a headlamp, or should you brave the frosty morning with reflective gear? When is the best time to run?
The best time differs depending on the person, their situation, and their goals.
- Morning runs are best for jumpstarting your metabolism and starting your day with a burst of energy.
- Evening runs are best for low-intensity runs and recovery, though they may interfere with sleep.
While there is no wrong time to run, different times have different sets of advantages and disadvantages. It’s not an exact science, though there are some reasons you may want to choose one time over another. To figure out what the best time to hit the asphalt is for you, read on.
Running in the Morning
Running in the morning is one of the best ways to start your day. Sure, coffee helps shake the cobwebs off, but running a few miles will prime your body for the waking world. Besides being a great way to get your energy up for the day ahead, running in the morning comes with a bevy of benefits. Though, those morning runs also have a few downsides.
Running in The Morning: The Advantages
Most of the world is still asleep, and the streets and trails are yours for the taking. For some of us, morning runs are the only way we like to go. Here are some of the significant pros of dragging yourself straight from bed to the blacktop:
- It’s Out of The Way: For many, this is the most important reason to run in the A.M. It’s over and done with. For those who tend to procrastinate hardcore when it comes to working out, getting it over and done with is a must. Before life comes a-knockin’ get that run in.
- Your Metabolism Is Primed: Running before breakfast puts your body into overdrive and the benefits of a ramped-up metabolism follow you throughout the day. For weight loss, morning runs are hard to beat.
- The Air Is Better: If you beat the morning traffic, you beat the morning smog. With less traffic on the road, you breathe in less carbon monoxide and brake dust. If you do run in the morning, one of the first things you’ll notice is that crisp, clean morning air.
- Stay Cool: In the middle of the summer, morning is going to be the coolest part of the day, no matter where you live. So, if you want to avoid overheating, stay cool by beating the sun.
- Stay Safe: With fewer cars on the road, your chances of being struck by an inattentive driver drop significantly. If you live in a busy city, the morning might be the only time you can safely run if traffic is crazy during the day.
- Fewer People on The Trail: Not only are there fewer cars on the road but fewer people in general. If you like to run the popular trails, cruise along the touristy boardwalk, or go straight through downtown in the morning, it’s all yours: no more dodging walking groups and dog walkers.
- Mother Nature Is Waiting: The birds are singing, dewdrops sparkle on every blade of grass, the sun is cresting through a sea of orange-pink clouds. What could be finer than running alongside mother nature in her glory first thing in the morning?
Running in The Morning: The Disadvantages
Mother nature and light traffic aside, there are still some reasons why running in the morn might not vibe with you. It may be the favorite of some, but there are reasons why morning runs are despised by many:
- It’s Harder: Let’s face it, mornings aren’t easy for everyone. If you need to rush out of bed and squeeze in your run before work, it can be more than challenging to get your butt out the door with your shoes on.
- You May Be Stiff: Before our bodies are fully awake, our ligaments, joints, and muscles are likely to be a bit stiff. Especially so as we age, so, a morning run may call for extra stretching and warm-up.
- It Can Be Dangerous: Running with few people and cars around can be peaceful, but it does put a runner at certain higher risks. If you are injured, there may be no one about to help. You’ll also need to be more aware of strangers and wild animals on the trail.
- Conditions Can Be Bad: Cooler weather isn’t always preferable. Neither are darkness, low-visibility, and frost. The morning is often a harsh mistress, and you should take extra precautions to stay safe and warm.
Running in The Evening
For the night owls among us, the morning may be better spent with coffee and quiet reflection. The evening is when the rubber meets the road. The evening may be the only time of the day that you have to squeeze in a workout, and good on you for making it happen. But how is an evening run different from a run in the morning? Let’s take a look.
Running in The Evening: The Advantages
Sometimes a cold beverage and a sit on the couch are the best medicine to treat a stressful day at work. We posit that a solid run, a sweat, and a well-earned shower are even better. What makes evening runs so special, you ask?
- Running Is Relaxing: For the uninitiated, running may seem like nothing more than a strenuous chore. Those in-the-know know that a good run can be utterly unwinding. After a long day, a run is a perfect place to reflect and unpack the day.
- Better for Speed: Later in the day, your body is more awake, alert, and flexible. Working on speed drills, intervals, and sprints are better reserved for midday or evening runs.
- Lower Your P.M. Blood Pressure: Running in the evening is more effective at lowering blood pressure. So, for better heart health and an easier time relaxing, nighttime is the right time.
- Lower Risk of Injury: Lower blood pressure, greater flexibility, and better situational awareness are critical factors in keeping you from getting injured. In the evening, you’re less likely to suffer running-related injuries.
- Avoid Bad Habits: If you’re cutting back on unhealthy habits, junk food, drinking, gaming, etc., adding a run to your nightly routine can help turn things around. It’s easy for us to get into a stagnant routine, especially if our work makes us tired. Running can be a great and healthy escape from that.
Running in The Evening: The Disadvantages
While the health benefits of an evening run are kind of astounding, there are still some negative aspects to nighttime exercise:
- Evening Runs Might Interfere with Sleep: As running engages our metabolism, it wards off feelings of sleepiness. This can be great for mornings, but at nighttime, when sleep is sort of a big deal, it can be a problem. A simple solution is to run a bit earlier in the evening if it seems to keep you awake.
- The Air Isn’t as Clean: Whereas the morning air is squeaky clean, the evening air has already been through a lot. After a day’s-worth of traffic and industry, the air quality can be significantly worse than in the A.M.
- Visibility Is Worse: As the sun sets and darkness falls, it gets more difficult for you and motorists to see. We don’t have to spell out where the danger lies here. Accidents involving vehicles and runners are unfortunately too common. So, if you’re running at night, always wear reflectors, lights, and high-visibility clothing.
So, Which Is Better?
The morning is the best time to run if you’re looking to have more energy throughout your day and accelerate weight loss, whereas evening is the better time if you want better R&R and you’re trying to improve overall heart health.
But let’s remember that whatever time you choose to run, it’s going to be one of the best things you can do for yourself.