When's the Best Time of Day to Run?

woman running in the morning

Are you a runner that lives for a sunrise miles? Or does the thought of exercising before noon exhaust you? Whether you love a morning run or crave the sweaty stress relief of an evening jaunt, there are pros and cons to both approaches. But if you find yourself struggling to wake up early (or log miles in the afternoon), it might be due to biology more than anything else. A 2015 study published in the journal Current Biology suggests that humans have a genetic preference for morning exercise (larks) or evening exercise (owls). 

It's easiest to lean into your type and run when your body feels best, but if you can't, creating a solid running routine can help. Ready to run? These might be the ideal times of day to run when it comes to specific workouts.   

Morning

If you have a busy schedule or tend to get caught up in other things as the day goes on, a morning run is probably your best bet. Waking up early and getting it done ensures no one else is competing for your time. It can be all too easy to bail on a run and spend another hour in the office (or happy hour or your kid's t-ball game), but a morning run makes it a priority. 

On the other hand, you may feel creaky and slow in the morning (especially if you are new to the early alarm). Try to schedule easy runs in the morning, or if you must log a tough tempo or interval workout, give yourself plenty of time to wake up, eat breakfast and warm up your muscles.

Noon

Many runners consider the "runch" run (a run during lunch hour) to be the perfect combination. It's especially appealing during the winter at higher latitudes when it might be the only time you can run when it's light outside. How great would it feel to knock out a quick mid-day run to break up the day?

As appealing as it may be, for some runners it's just not possible, likely due to scheduling constraints (or the need for a shower). If you can't make it happen on a weekday, a mid day weekend long run might be a nice change of pace, especially during cooler months. 

Night

A run commute is a great way to multitask at the end of the day; change at the office, stash essentials in a small bag and avoid the rush hour traffic. If you prefer running when you get home, it can be a great way to shake off the stress and worries of a long day. If you have a fast speed workout (or race), evening might be the best time to do it. Studies have shown that in the late afternoon, our muscles are warm and primed for tougher efforts.

But of course there are downsides to evening running. Anything from a growling stomach to a last minute work meeting can throw a wrench in your plans. And runners with sensitive stomachs may struggle with exercising after a day of eating.

Bottom line: The best time of day to run is probably whenever you can fit in the miles! If you want to mix and match runs at different times of day, go for it. Like much of running, when you run is about personal preference and lifestyle.

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