As recreational runners, our training schedules are often determined by our working hours, pitting the bulk of our runs in the early hours of the morning or the dim hours of the evening. Yet it seems like we all have that friend, running club or workout group that swears their pre-dawn (or post work, pre-happy hour) regime is the better way to go.
So, what gives? Is it actually better to run in the morning, or at night? We broke down the pros and cons to help you find your best workout hour, below.
The Case for Pre-Breakfast Miles
Beyond battling the snooze button, there are several factors that make early morning miles difficult. For one thing, your body temperature is low when you first wake up, meaning your muscles will feel stiff and your lung function is poor. And if you run before breakfast, your energy stores will also be depleted. All of these factors combined mean that doing any type of activity — especially running — might feel more difficult at this hour than say, later in the evening when your body is ‘warmed up.’
OK, but now that the negatives are out of the way, here’s what works about serving yourself miles for breakfast: Not only do you accomplish your workout first thing, making it less likely to get interrupted by, say, a post-work happy hour or impromptu social gathering, but a more difficult run means you may be boosting your mental training just by getting yourself out of bed in the morning. Plus, you’ll be starting your day with a healthy amount of endorphins and a sense of accomplishment you can only get from crushing a difficult run.
The Case for After 6pm
Science suggests that our bodies are at their peak performances in the mid-to-late afternoon when our body temperatures have risen and our muscles are at their warmest. Research shows that our lung function increases in the afternoon as well. So it seems like if our bodies had anything to say about the matter, they’d clearly go with the twilight run.
However, despite the physical benefits — including the increased chances of getting to sleep past 6am, potentially leading to a more well-rested you! — there are a variety of psychological drawbacks that may sabotage your workout. Not only are plans more likely to pop up after work (people are much more likely to invite you to happy hour at 6pm vs. 6am!), but after a full day of being on your feet, thinking critically or performing tasks all day at work, it can be mentally difficult to muster up the motivation to hit the streets.
While both AM and PM workouts have their benefits (and drawbacks), the ultimate time to workout is what works best for you and your schedule. If you just can’t seem to beat the snooze button in the morning, make sure you can be regimented enough to refuse non-running invitations in the evening.
Either way, the most important thing to remember is that both pre-dawn and twilight runs often make you less visible to traffic, cyclists, and others out on the road, meaning reflective clothes, a heightened sense of awareness, and specialty gear like Night Trek Shoe Lights are a must-have for both call times. With a clear, visibly and brightly-lit path ahead of you, it’s hard to go wrong — no matter what time of day it is.