It’s dark o’clock, which means it’s time for a run most of the year… that could mean in the morning or running at night. It’s not ideal to always head out in the dark, but getting a run in whenever you can is ideal.
Is running at night bad?
It turns out there are actually a number of benefits to evening runs for many people.
Though you hear many of us talking how how we have transitioned to morning runs because that ensures we get it done… you don’t have to do that!
For years now, I’ve risen without an alarm clock, slipped on my running shoes and headed out to sweat.
But I have other friends who may not find time in their day until 7PM and if that’s all they have, then that’s what works! There are a few potential drawbacks to running late at night.
- Safety is often a bigger issue a night with more cars on the road – so get reflective running gear
- The increase in adrenaline and cortisol can make it harder to wind down for sleep – but not for everyone!
What matters the most is CONSISTENCY.
Research back in the 1980s showed that training at a specific time of day preferentially improves your performance at that specific time of day.
Now I find that trying to run much later in the day throws me for a loop. My brain isn’t ready, my body isn’t ready and yet…sometimes you gotta get in that run!
So whatever time you’d like to run, just try to be consistent for your body and brain to both get on board!
Benefits of Running At Night
Let’s start with the motivation side of things because sometimes just flipping our mind set is enough to make the workouts easier to get done.
First thing in the morning and immediately after work there’s a massive influx of crowds at the gym, so if you’re hitting the cross training or snagging a treadmill the later evening time might give you some more flexibility and even the option to ignore the posted “30 minute cardio machine” limits.
A number of studies have shown that our bodies are primed for a harder effort later in the day.
Take advantage of that to get in your speed workouts or attempt those plyometrics that just sound too horrendous when first rolling out of bed.
Pound Out Frustrations
We know that running can be a great time to think and relieve stress…at the end of the work day it can also be a great time to let a little bit of those frustrations fuel you to push the pace or go a little further.
The bonus is not just a great workout, but getting those mood boosting hormones flowing so that you can let it go for a better night of sleep.
To the chagrin of many morning runners, most organized group runs are in the evenings!
So switching up your schedule gives you a chance to run with new people, enjoy this crazy run community and take advantage of their energy to push you just a bit harder some days.
Is it bad to run right before bed?
The duration and intensity of your run could change what you experience, which means it’s important to pay attention to how it all effects you.
One of the main drawbacks to night running is that for some people it interferes with sleep. And we know that sleep is the key to better performance, optimizing recovery, better moods, and even controlling that sweet tooth.
Not every runner experiences that.
- Look at your schedule and see if you can give yourself at least 90 minutes from finishing the run to starting a bedtime routine, which helps you mentally wind down.
- Test it out and keep a running log to see how your sleep changes the closer you run to bed.
- Shorten your run if going means you’ll be getting far less than 7 hours sleep.
How do You Prepare for Running at Night?
If you’re a morning runner, there’s a routine that goes in to what you’ll be eating, when you’ll be stopping by the bathroom and just how much time to a lot for shower, dress, out the door.
Evenings means you have a whole day of potentially uncontrollable moments to impact your run.
1. Stay on Top of Fuel
After a full day, you’ve probably eaten, but might be in that gray area of not having truly fueled since lunch and not wanting to scarf down dinner before hitting the road.
Time for my favorite meal: the pre-run snack.
It doesn’t need to be large or super filling, just a little something to top off the tanks. Otherwise you’ll end up like my husband, who finds himself slightly dizzy from hunger at mile two and cutting the entire run short because the intensity hits the point where you might get sick if you don’t eat!
- Grab a banana, a slick of bread with nut butter, a yogurt, a granola bar.
- Something light and yes generally a little higher in carbs.
- After your evening run, then it’s right on to that perfect post run meal to help improve recovery.
- Plan ahead for optimal food. You gotta feed your body well.
Is running after dinner good?
It can actually be a great way to put the fuel you ingested to good use, though there are others who recommend you wait 3-4 hours. I’d never get a run in if I always had to wait 3-4 hours, but if you have stomach issues while running this is good advice.
- Some studies show that movement after a meal is a great way to help control blood sugar levels.
- Your body is busy digesting a big meal which meals when you start running it slows the digestion and can cause side stitches while running or stomach aches
- Again, keep a log of what food causes issues and what doesn’t. One good option is to have a light dinner of soup and some chicken pre-run, then post run have something with more fat and fiber.
This often leads to a plethora of questions:
Can I run 30 minutes after eating? Yes, if it’s a small snack (up to 200-300 calories).
Should I run on an empty stomach? No. We’ve talked about fasted cardio and it’s not ideal for runners.
Can I run on a full stomach? Maybe. Every runner is different, but as noted it’s generally not recommended.
2. Don’t Neglect Electrolytes
Sipped all day long electrolytes for runners help to ensure you stay hydrated and keep your levels balanced.
Drinking tons of water flushes out the body, which is great until you start sweating and you have no electrolytes left to keep you from feeling lightheaded or cramping.
Consider carrying an electrolyte drink on your run or using something like Saltstick tablets to stay on top of it.
3. Prepare for Any Weather
Morning or night, you don’t have much control over the weather, but what often catches us by surprise in on night runs is how quickly the temperatures can drop or around here the wind seems to always pick up!
Don’t let yourself out of a wet run because you forget something to cover your iPod or a hot run because you don’t have one of the thousands of mysteriously vanishing ponytail holders.
- Have the right gear for running in the rain
- Keep a gym bag with a running outfit in your car or at work
- Have a good running jacket and you’ll be ready to tackle most weather
- Layers, layers, layers
4. Never Skip the Warm Up
Though you’ve been moving about all day, the dynamic warm ups we do for AM runs are still required.
The body equally needs to be primed after work, especially if you’ve been sitting creating tight hips and maybe making you feel a little lethargic.
- During a workout, up to 80 percent of blood volume is shifted to the active muscles.
- Warming up for 12-15 minutes helps the body transition from rest to action without creating stress on the organs or brain.
- Do some glute activation movements, do some hip openers and dynamic stretches
You’re almost always guaranteed a better run and worst case it becomes your “I’ll just do 10 minutes, then I can quit.” Which we all know is never just 10 minutes.
5. Practice night running safety
The main thing that keeps me from heading out super late at night is that I love sleep, but safety is the next one to come to mind.
- Review my complete list of running safety tips
- Invest in reflective running gear
- Run in areas you’re familiar with or even better with a friend
- Choose confidence: if this is your time to go, then go and enjoy it
Finally I saw a question on a message board that I simply had to address:
Is it ok to run at 10PM?
Yes. I have a friend who found that she did all of her best marathon training late at night when she finally had a moment to herself and because she is not a morning person.
I saw a response that said something inside like “no you should only jog between 5-7AM”. This is bananas.
- Find what works for you!
- Ethiopian runners do a few random middle of the night runs during training to force themselves out of their comfort zone and I LOVE this idea.
- Ultrarunners could be running all day and all night, so learning how you handle night running is hugely important
- Ragnar runners always find themselves with at least one overnight run and it’s usually my favorite part of the entire race
All right there you have it, the short and sweet of how to prep mentally and physically to have a great run when it’s outside your normal routine!
How do you manage when you have to shuffle your normal runs?
Or do you run anytime of day?
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