When Is the Best Time to Run? A Look at Your Options
There is no one size fits all in running. One person’s perfect pre-run breakfast can leave someone else feeling queasy. And your ideal warm-up might seem way too short for another racer. So much is up to personal preference, including the best time to run.
I’ve written before about how I prefer running in the morning, but I know it’s not for everyone. Some people fare better later in the day. So, how do you know which time is right for you? It can help to take a side-by-side look at the advantages and disadvantages of the different options. Let’s explore your choices.
When is the Best Time to Run? Morning Pros & Cons
Pros: A.M. Running
One of the best things about running first thing in the morning is that I don’t have to worry about my food choices derailing a workout. Eating too much or simply chowing down on the wrong thing can lead to uncomfortable GI distress, not to mention a lackluster run. Runner’s World mentions wheat, dairy, and artificial sweeteners are common culprits. I don’t eat a meal before running, so this isn’t a problem for me.
Another great advantage of morning running is it can help wake you up. I truly feel more alert when I work out before starting my day at the office. I need more coffee to get going if I didn’t run or hit the gym before work.
Cons: A.M. Running
Some days are just difficult. If I didn’t sleep well the night before, I definitely notice during my workout. It can also be a challenge to get out and moving when it’s dark and cold during the winter.
Hydration can be an issue as well. I had to go through some trial and error. Now, I make a conscious effort to drink plenty of water during the day so I’m good to go in the morning. Every so often I slip up, though.
When is the Best time to Run? Afternoon Pros & Cons
Pros: Mid-day Running
If you’re all about efficiency, it doesn’t get much better than running during your lunch break. Your muscles will also be a little more warmed up since you’ve had several hours to move around. There’s even some research to suggest you’re work performance can improve if you exercise during the day.
Running sometime around noon during summer also means you’ll be running during a pretty warm portion of the day. While that might sound like a con, it’s actually an advantage if you’re aiming to get acclimated to the heat. After a few weeks, you’ll be better adjusted to the hot weather.
Cons: Mid-day Running
Runners typically point out two cons of running in the middle of the day. The first is time. While a 40-minute run is respectable, those training for longer races aren’t going to be able to squeeze in their full workout. The other issue is grooming. If you’re not lucky enough to have access to shower facilities, running during the day probably isn’t feasible.
When is the Best Time to Run? Evening Pros & Cons
Pros: P.M. Running
The evening is great for those who like running buddies because it’s your best opportunity to hit the pavement with others. Most clubs schedule group runs after everyone is done with work for the day. Even setting up your own group workouts will likely be easier if you aim for something in the evening. You don’t have to account for varying wake-up times and work schedules.
Perhaps the most notable benefit of running at the end of the day is that it provides a great opportunity to blow off some steam. Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. If you had an overwhelming day, chances are a post-work run can help.
Cons: P.M. Running
Most of us find ourselves with an unexpected project or tight deadline at the end of the workday every so often. If you’re an evening runner, this might force you to change your intended workout. It may even mean having to skip your run that day. It’s frustrating for anyone, but even more so if you’re training for something specific.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning some people find running later in the day makes it difficult to fall asleep. I know it’s an issue for me. Unfortunately, you likely won’t know until you experience a sleepless night after an evening run.
The ideal time to run is probably different for everyone. And don’t feel as though you need to always stick with one method. Play around to see what works for you!