“I like to run in the morning, but I’m often tired and wonder if I’m getting the most out of my runs. What’s the best time to run?”
Whenever I run in the morning, I always feel like I gained an hour or two during the day. Without the pressure of having to squeeze in my run, my day feels less chaotic and I’m way more relaxed than when I run in the evening.
However, I usually feel better during my afternoon or evening runs — and there’s definitely some science behind that. Research shows that the optimal time to exercise is when your body temperature is at its highest, which, for most people is 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. Indeed, studies have found that exercisers perform better on physical performance tests, including endurance, strength output, reaction time and aerobic capacity, between 4 and 7 p.m.
Although you may run best in the late afternoon, you’re more likely to stick to your running habit if you run in the morning. Research shows that morning exercisers are more consistent with their workout regimens than late-day athletes. Morning runners also tend to fall asleep faster and sleep better than those who run in the evening.
But other research has shown that your body can adapt to the time of day that you train. This is more good news for morning runners, since most races are held in the morning. So, if you’re training for a race, try to do at least some runs, especially your long runs, in the a.m.
Another important factor, of course, is the weather. When it’s hot and humid out, it could be downright dangerous to run between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. In the summer, morning (before sunrise or right after) is the coolest time of the day to run since the roads have not heated up during the day.
While it would be great to always run at the time when we’ll hit our peak performance or when the weather conditions are most favorable, it just doesn’t always work out that way. Personally, I run whenever I can squeeze in some miles, depending on my work, personal, and childcare schedules. But even if I’m forced to do a very early morning or late night treadmill run, I’ll take it. Running at a ridiculous hour is still better than not running at all.
What’s your favorite time of day to run?
Also see: How to Find Time to Run