Every runner has their own time preferences during the day for their training runs, but which time is ideal for running – morning, afternoon or evening?, asks Nandini Reddy
Have you felt that you run your best in the mornings? Or do you feel more energetic when you run in the evenings? Whether you are a newbie runner, running club member or elite marathon runner, you will have a personal preference for the time you run. One early morning runner said that running in the evening improved his timing? So does that mean there is actually a good time during the day to run? Are their scientific reasons for why we run better at a particular time?
One of the biggest scientific finding is that runner perform better when their body temperature is higher. Generally early mornings are the times of lowest body temperatures. So you need a longer warm up routine to read a good body temperature to have a good running performance. By evening, your natural body temperature is higher so many runners find themselves running better during the evenings. Also the lungs are at their best during the evenings thus you might be able to reach better times and run longer too.
If we consider the morning, afternoon and evening times, there are a few factors we can study in order to better understand how our body works at different times of day and what might be best suited for running.
Bodily functions are the worst early in the mornings. Muscles are stiff and body temperature is low. Also you haven’t eaten in 8-10 hours, so even the energy stores will be low. Mid-morning, after you have had a breakfast is technically a better time for your body because you are the most energetic at this time. Although for people who work this time might not work at all. But this time is best to try the more strenuous trail runs or hill runs. Also testosterone is highest during this time and its a vital hormone for muscle building. The afternoon times are when we are lowest on our vitality. The body functions go into a lull at this time making it a less preferred time to run. The lunch time runners might disagree though. By late afternoon your body temperature picks up and your muscles are most supple, making it the best time to run. Many runners have been known to achieve their personal bests during their evening runs.
Chances of Injury
The chances of injury are the highest when the body temperature is low. So early mornings needs a good warm up routine if you wish to avoid injury. Running cold is the worst thing any runner can do. This worsens your running performance and increases your chances of injury. Also when the body is feeling tired or low on energy don’t try to push and run. You will end up hurting yourself. Generally the highest injury times are early mornings and noon.
While there may be a lot of science on the physical factors that you should consider while choosing the best time to run, sometimes the biggest determining factor will be your mind. If you have busy work days then you might find it easier to run in the early mornings. But many of us aren’t early risers so the evening might be a referred time to run. We may even want a mid day boost and running is the best way to boost your energy, so the lunchtime runners would argue that they prefer running at that time.
While physically you may be able to adapt to any time of the day, psychologically a time preference seems to dominate when we choose to run. If you have a regular choice then try a couple of days at an alternative time just to check how your performance is affected.