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Best Time Of Day To Run: When to Schedule Your Run and Why

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5:00 p.m. appears to be the ideal time for optimal performance. 

Avid runners often feel like they have a sweet spot for performance when it comes to getting in an excellent workout. 

Stopping by a group run and ask what is the favored time of day to run and you will get various different answers. 

It stands to reason that because people are so different, the best time to run might vary from one person to the next. 

Have you ever wondered if there is the best time from a psychological and/or physiological perspective? Are there advantages to one over the other? Or does it really vary by the individual?

What Time of Day Should You Run?

If you are wondering when is the best time of day to run, you are not alone. Although most runners have clear preferences, there is actually science and evidence pointing to some times yielding better performance metrics than others. 

However, you should know that there are some things that do come into play in determining if you are a better morning runner, afternoon or evening runner. 

Variables that Impact Performance

  • Psychological: Some runners feel they are at their freshest in the morning. If this is you, that psychological advantage is very real and you should go with it when it comes to your running routine.
  • Type of Exercise Performing: Although you might find benefits in moving your physical activity, you may also find that a long, steady-state exercise is best early morning. 
  • Sleep Norms: What kind of sleeper are you? Do you wake up alert and ready to go? Can you go to sleep after exercising in the evening, or does it amp you up and leave you restless? Sleep quality is important to consider. 
  • Fueling and Stomach Response: If you struggle with certain foods in your body and exercising, morning exercise might simply be best for you. As an early evening runner, I have found that if I have certain foods for lunch, my stomach can revolt through the entire workout. 

Is It Good to Run as Soon as You Wake Up?

Many runners thrive on early morning runs as soon as they roll out of bed. In fact, I have many running buddies who set their running clothes out the night before. When their alarm goes off, they just turn it off, roll out of the bed, and change. 

If you get up and start running before your brain even registers you are awake, you might find that the time passes quickly. There are a couple of things to consider about this, however. 

First, you should take at least a few sips of water first. You might find your mouth gets super cottony feeling if you do not. Also, make sure you are awake enough to be aware of your surroundings. The last thing you want is to be unsafe. 

Be certain you warm up properly before turning the gas on. If you are like me – there is no danger of you going out of the gate too quickly. Take it easy to start off.

If you try to run first thing in the morning and it does not work for you, don’t worry about it. 

After all, just because it is okay to run as soon as you wake up, does not mean everyone should!

Is Running in the Morning Good for You?

There are many who believe that fasted running burns more calories than if you have eaten. That is actually not accurate. 

However, running first thing in the morning does rev up your metabolism and helps you to burn more calories throughout the day. 

For that reason, you will read that the best time to workout for weight loss is in the morning. That does not necessarily make it so for everyone, though. 

Another huge benefit to working out in the morning is that your workout is behind you. Some people struggle with working out after putting in a long day, and for them, the best time to run in the morning is right when they wake up.

Is It Better to Work Out in the Morning or at Night?

Most of the research points to the evening as the time for peak performance for the majority of athletes. According to Prevea, a large medical practice here in Northeastern Wisconsin, early evening is the best time for a few reasons. 

Your body temperature is at its peak, and your muscles are well warmed up after your day worth of movement. Lung function is also approximately six percent better at the end of the day. 

Just because you ask someone when is the best time to workout, and just because they have an answer, does not mean it is a one-size-fits-all. 

Please note that even researchers are quick to note that there are outliers and anomalies in any research. 

When is the Best Time to Run at Night?

The best time to run is late afternoon or early evening. The sweet spot is somewhere between 4:00 – 6:00 p.m., for most athletes. 

According to a review in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, regular evening runs can actually expand the performance gap. 

In other words, if you regularly work out at 6:00 p.m. and do so for any length of time, your morning workouts may become increasingly more challenging. You also might feel like they are much more difficult. 

There is evidence pointing to optimal running performance becoming part of your body’s routine. It expects your workout to occur at a certain time and adapts to that.

Wondering about other types of workouts? The best time to workout for building muscle or marathon training is early evening, just like with running. 

Is it Okay to Run at Night Before Bed?

When discussing the best time of day to workout, sometimes athletes are discouraged from doing so right before bed. 

Although some people do find that an evening workout leaves them restless and unable to sleep, there is an equal number of people who have no ill effects from this practice.

There is research that points to a deeper and higher quality of sleep among those who workout within 4 hours of going to sleep. 

This could make the best time of day to run dependent on the time you go to bed if you are hoping to improve sleep habits. 

Still Wondering the Best Time to Workout?

For those of us with complete flexibility in our lives, 5:00 p.m. appears to be the ideal time for optimal performance. 

However, if you thought you would get a clear-cut answer to when is the best time to workout, you are most likely disappointed.  On the one hand, there is a lot of evidence pointing to early evening as the best time of day to yield results. 

What it really comes down to is this: when choosing your workout time – you have to do what is best for you. This includes your body, schedule & family. 

Looking at the big picture and finding out what works for your life is far more important than any research out there.

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