We all know that we need to get our runs in. It can be tough. Hectic schedules, overtime at work, shuttling the kids around to school and activities…life gets in the way of our fitness plans all. The. Time.
Talk to a time-management expert, and they will tell you: set a schedule. Get into a routine. If you specifically set aside the time to exercise, you are more likely to do it. And in terms of routines, we all know a person of every type, right? The one who gets up at 4:30 a.m. to crush the morning. The co-worker who ducks out at lunch for a quick 5k. The night owl who uses evening runs to decompress from a stressful day.
This might leave you wondering: is there a best time of the day to run?
We’ll break the day into several sections and look at the advantages and disadvantages of each time frame. The final decision? You have to pick what works best for you so that you’ll be motivated to get your runs in!
Morning (5-7 am)
You either tend to be a morning runner or not. It can be hard to get yourself out of bed when you just want to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep. This is especially true in the winter, because it’s a rare type who braves the cold for an early run.
Here are all the reasons why mornings are the best time to go running!
You’ll Get Your Run In
You’re not going to be dealing with an angry child or a frustrated client at 5 am, so there is nothing that will prevent you from getting your run in. By doing it in the morning, you ensure that you’ve run before the day gets crazy. Or even before everyone else wakes up.
You’ll Get to See Beautiful Scenery
Although every day won’t be gorgeous, many days you’ll get to see the sunrise, see the dew on the grass and flowers, and just get some time alone in the early mornings. It will be very peaceful even if you live in a city, because fewer people will be out.
You’ll Get a Good Start to the Day
There’s nothing like starting your day off with a run. You’ll get endorphins from running, so you’ll head to work happy and ready to go with some extra energy. You’ll also have a satisfying feeling knowing that you were productive even before you got to work. You might even find that you don’t even need that cup of coffee anymore (heresy, I know).
Here are some reasons why morning runs aren’t as great as you might think.
You’re More Vulnerable to Injuries
Since your core body temperature is lowest in the morning, your muscles are stiff. This means that you could be a more likely candidate for injuries. Your oxygen inflow and outflow are also low, which can impact your ability to breathe.
It’s Super Cold in the Winter
While it’s great to run in the mornings in the summer when it’s nice and cool, it can get quite cold (and perhaps even dangerously cold) in the winter. Make sure that you bundle up for early morning runs in the winter.
You Might Need the Extra Sleep
While it is true that morning runs can result in better sleep quality, there are some times when you just might need the extra time in bed.
Mid-Day/Lunch Time (11 am – 2 pm)
Depending on how flexible your company is or what type of job you have, you might be able to sneak in a run during your lunch break.
These are the reasons why it’s great to exercise in the mid-morning to early afternoon.
You’re Still Getting in a Run Early
While it’s not as early as before work, chances are that things aren’t too crazy at work yet. This means that you can still ensure getting a run in if you do something before 2 pm.
Your Brain Typically Needs a Break
You can only do productive work for so long before your brain needs a break. Instead of wasting your time on social media, go out for a quick run. You’ll likely find that any problems you’ve been trying to work through will be solved when you get back to your desk.
A Good Option in the Winter
Running in the early morning might be too cold in the winter, but running in the mid-morning might be just right. You get the benefits of running in the morning without the freezing cold temperatures.
On the other hand, here’s why you might not want to run during mid-day.
Not Conducive For Many People
If you work from home, you might easily be able to run in the middle of the day. But this is harder to do if you work from an office. How do you shower after you run? Can you fit in a good workout in your hour lunch break? For most people, the logistics make this option challenging.
Breaks Up Your Day
Some days, you might appreciate a mid-day break to go for a run. But if you’re making good progress on a project at work, the last thing you want to do is have to go for that run you planned.
Afternoon (3-5 pm)
Although it’s challenging for many people who work to get a run in during this time, it is a really good time to get out and run. If you’re in school, you’ll definitely want to consider running then.
Here’s why you’ll want to get out and run in the afternoons.
You’ll Build Muscles Better
The ratio of testosterone and cortisol are at the optimum level for muscle growth. Testosterone isn’t being cancelled out by cortisol, as is the case during morning runs. This is the time to hit the hills!
You’ll Run Longer
Because you’re at peak lung capacity, you’ll want to do long runs in the afternoon. Studies have shown that people who work out in the afternoons have the best performance on a variety of physical tests like endurance.
Your Core Temperature Is At Its Peak
Because your core temperature is at its peak between 4 and 5 pm for most people, your muscles will be strongest and most flexible. This means your body should be ready to go, and therefore you’re less likely to experience injuries.
Now here are the reasons it can be hard to get out there in the afternoon.
It Can Be Super Hot
In the summer, running in the afternoon heat is not what anyone signs up for, especially if you live in the South. It might not be as bad if you’re able to run on shaded trails, but it will be wicked hot in full-on sun.
Hard to Motivate Yourself
Depending on your work schedule, you might not be able to run during this time. And even if you are, you might not want to run after a long day at work. You might also have obligations with family and/or friends that make it challenging to squeeze a run in.
Evening (5-7 pm)
If you haven’t been able to get a run in yet, you might try squeezing one in later in the day. If you like to sleep in, or have a hectic schedule during the day, evening runs are a way to still get exercise in.
Here’s why you should run in the evenings!
Good Way to Relieve Stress
There’s nothing better than a run to relieve stress. If you’ve had a long day at the office, a run can be a great way to decompress and do something productive in the evenings instead of binge watching Netflix.
Cooler in Summer Months
Evenings and mornings are the best time to run in the summer. While the evenings aren’t quite as cool as the mornings, they still feel great. Plus, there’s a good chance that you’ll get to see the sun setting.
This is why you might not want to run in the evenings.
If you have a family, running in the evening might be challenging with dinner time, bath time, story time, bed time. Scheduling your run around eating might make it just too complicated. It also might be the last thing you want to do once you get home from work.
Can Impact Your Sleep
If you run too close to your bedtime, you’ll interfere with your sleep. Make sure that you shower soon after your run because that will encourage your body to get ready to go to sleep.
Night (After 7 pm)
If all else fails and you haven’t gotten a run in, there’s always after dark. You just need to be more aware.
Here are some reasons why running at night is great!
Peaceful And Quiet
Just like an early morning run, an evening run is going to be peaceful and quiet because fewer people will be out. You’ll be finished with everything from your day, and you’ll be getting the last thing in—a run.
Good Way to Unwind From the Day
Whether you’ve had a great day or an awful one, an evening run is a great way to unwind and relax as you prepare to go to bed [somewhat] soon after you get back. If you work a night shift, it could also be a way to get you up and going before you have to head into work.
Here’s why running at night isn’t as great.
Running at night requires you to be more alert than during other times of the day. You’ll experience reduced visibility, and you’ll need reflective gear and a headlamp to stay safe when you’re running. If you’re a female, running alone at night might not be the best idea.
Impact On Sleeping Patterns
While it’s possible for an evening run (5-7 pm) to impact your sleep, it’s even more true for a night run. Make sure that you give your body plenty of time between your run and when you need to be in bed. Otherwise, you might keep yourself up later than you intended.
In the end, running is running, and you should be running. It doesn’t really matter so much when you run, just so long as you get your run in. You might want to try running different times during the day so see what works for you. And it might be a good idea to mix it up every so often.
Try running long in the afternoon or doing nice easy recovery runs in the mornings. It could be that different runs work better at different times. And, to tell you the truth, your body will adjust to the time of day you decide to run, no matter what time that is.