If you’re wondering if there’s an optimal time to run during the day, you’re not alone. Many people debate whether it’s better to lace up your sneakers first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Others question if it really makes a difference, as long as you get moving at some point.
While there are benefits and drawbacks to running at different times, in the end what works for one person may not work for another. Each person has different time constraints, work and family commitments, and varying levels of energy and motivation throughout the day. Although there are differences in how your body functions in the morning and at night, ultimately the best time of day for you to run is whatever time you’re most likely to do it.
If your schedule is flexible and you’re interested in how the time of day can impact your performance or motivation, here are some things to consider:
Almost all bodily functions are at their worst first thing upon waking. Things improve later in the morning, but many people don’t have the luxury of working out during mid to late morning, except on the weekends. On the other hand, morning is typically the best time of the day to go on a run when it comes to psychological factors.
Here are the pros and cons of morning runs:
- You’re more likely to be consistent with your workouts. This is because you get your run in before other demands are placed on your time or you can come up with excuses to skip your workout.
- Running to start your day is motivating and can set you up for a more productive day. Many runners feel that after getting a run in early, they have a more positive outlook, get more accomplished, are able to focus better and are more committed to eating healthier.
- If you’re trying to lose weight, this may be the best time to run because your body is likely to burn fat stores quicker. However, because energy levels are lower, you may burn out quicker.
- Body temp is at its lowest. This means your muscles will be stiffer and you’re more prone to injury. If you run in the morning, it’s important to warm up and stretch adequately.
- Energy stores are depleted because you haven’t eaten all night.
- The same level of exertion feels harder in the morning compared to later in the day because your metabolism is slower and there’s less circulating adrenaline. Lung function is also at its lowest because your airways are more constricted after a night of sleep.
Studies show that most physical activities are best performed later in the day, when bodily functions are at their peak. However, it may be harder to find the time or to motivate yourself to run after a long day, which means you’re less likely to do it.
Here’s what you can expect in the p.m.:
- Body temperature is at its highest so your muscles are supple and you’re less likely to get injured.
- Lung function is at its best and your metabolism is higher, so the same level of exertion feels easier later in the day. This means you can often run longer or faster without it seeming like you’re working harder.
- Once you get moving, you may find running more relaxing because you know there’s nothing else left for you to do before bedtime. Running is also a good stress reliever after a tough day.
- It can be difficult to find the motivation to run after a long day of work. It’s also easier to come up with excuses or you may have other demands competing for your time. So even if you have good intentions, it’s less likely that you’ll consistently get your run in if you leave it until the end of the day.
- If you run too close to bedtime, it can be difficult to fall asleep because your metabolism and body temperature are elevated. Give yourself some time to wind down so you get a good night’s sleep.