Clocking Your Run: Morning, Noon, or Night?
Are you worthless before you have your morning coffee? Are you exhausted when you get home from work at night? Do you head out on your lunch break to squeeze in a quick run and re-energize yourself? It seems like everyone you talk to can tell you that they just feel better running at a certain time of the day. Some folks are consumate morning people and others need the stress relief that comes with running after work. Of course, sometimes we don’t have a choice as to when to run and we need to squeeze it in whenever our schedule allows. Unless you are an elite runner who logs regular two-a-days and gets paid to run, you are typically working running in around the various other commitments in your life- work, family, etc.
So, is there a best time to run? I’ve often wondering if running at a certain time of day provides an advantage in terms of training, endurance, speed, or efficiency. Does my body recover better from a run if I give myself a chance to wake up in the morning? I know that having my regular morning coffee before I run is a bad idea, so that’s off the table. However, my Sunday runs are typically early afternoon runs, after I’ve had my Sunday pancakes and coffee, and had time to digest. I wouldn’t say that I feel significantly better or worse than after my early Saturday AM runs, but maybe I’m just missing something.
As I see it, each time of day has something to offer:
Morning: You are starting the day off right! The air is fresh and still, there is hardly anyone out on the roads, and you’ve accomplished more than most folks before you start your day. I love beginning a work day knowing I’ve already gotten something significant done. I end up having more motivation the rest of the day, and I haven’t noticed any decline in my energy later in the day.
Noon: When I’m working from home, a noontime run can be a great way to break up the day. I like to be able to set small goals for myself throughout the day, and having a run scheduled halfway throughout the day gives me an excellent milestone. It can be a refreshing start to a productive afternoon as well, and I don’t feel as much of a post-lunch slump.
Night: Running at night or after work can be a great way to decompress after a long day. Once the days get longer, being out running as the sun as setting can be a very peaceful time of day and the evening darkness allows you to blend in and emerse yourself in your run (just make sure you are wearing reflective gear!).
As you can see, I end up finding benefits in running at all times of day. I certainly hate getting up early in the morning, but I love having the miles in early. I also have days where waiting to run at night just makes me antsy and unable to concentrate on what I’m doing. There has been some research to suggest that your best time to run is based on your circadian rhythms, combined with body temperature and lung function. These studies suggest running in the late afternoon or evening is most ideal. Ultimately, I think everyone needs to decide for themselves and I’ll no doubt continue to mix it up.