ASK THE PROS: The Best Time of Day to Run

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If you’re a runner, it’s likely you know what time of day you prefer to run. Maybe you feel lighter than air first thing in the morning or super speedy and energized on an after-work jaunt. Sure, there are clinical studies that explore the physiological, anatomical, and gastrointestinal details, but that preference is probably just based on your experience and maybe even dictated by your life or schedule. The pros and cons list is long and extensive, but there are some distinct advantages.

“For the early riser, you get to run on an empty tank and not feel as heavy,” says Josh Maio, co-founder and head coach of Gotham City Runners.  “You can replicate and rehearse race day rituals [since most races happen first thing in the morning] and know exactly what works for your body and its timing for dealing with GI issues.  You also have the added incentive of getting your workout done before the day is in full motion, thus checking it from your to-do list without it hanging over your head,” he says.

In terms of morning running, there are some downsides as well. “You actually have to get up early in the morning and not everyone is a morning person,” points out Maio. “With your whole day in front of you, it is easy to become overwhelmed with stress as well, which can adversely affect your workout.  Furthermore, especially heading into the summer months, you are going from the cooler overnight air into the heat of the day, which can be less than tantalizing depending on your geography,” he says.

That being said, there are certainly advantages to running in the evening. “You might not have to worry as much about GI issues.  You also have the opportunity to monitor your nutritional intake and hydration throughout the day, ensuring you are properly fueled and ready for your workout,” says Maio. “Psychologically, night runs can also help you decompress from your day and relieve stress that built up through the day.  Perhaps most importantly, during the summer months, you are running as the day cools off, making it all the more comfortable and manageable.”

Either way, it’s a good idea to look for a group or a friend to run with. “There is nothing more motivating than an ‘accountabili-buddy,’” says Maio. “A group or friend proves that extra bit of motivation and accountability.  It makes things a lot easier knowing that you aren’t going to be the only one battling the morning cobwebs or declining the happy hour invitations to get your run in.  That camaraderie makes all of those early mornings and late nights palatable and more often than not something you look forward to,” he says.