After grad school, when life became more predictable and routine driven and the metabolism began to slow down, of course after the babies started coming, I started trying to run on my own in an effort to "stay in shape". I had always been physically active, played team sports, was a lifeguard, regularly rode my bike, loved taking classes at the gym, running however was never something I did for pleasure it was just a necessary means to participating in the sports that I loved, especially soccer. However, I was no longer a part of any team, no longer a lifeguard, hadn't ridden my bike in ages, my gym membership had long expired, and I was starting to see and feel the difference and it wasn't good.
Running seemed a simple fix to my situation, but all the runners I knew were "serious" runners and they all trained in the morning. I am a classic night owl and have always felt more energized at night. As a non-coffee drinker it takes me awhile to wake up in the mornings and really feel like myself. However, some of my runner friends claimed to be natural night-owls too and made some good points about why morning running worked for them.
Pros for Morning Runs:
- You get it done and have the rest of your day to focus on all the other things you have to do, feeling good about the fact that you already got your exercise in.
- Mornings might be the only time in your day when you can realistically squeeze a run in.
- The endorphins and adrenalin that flow through your body post-run, can wake you up, put you in a good mood, and set the tone for the rest of day. It never hurts to start your day on the good foot, literally!
Cons for Morning Runs:
- You may be less productive for the rest of your day because you are tired and not wired to be up and active at that time of day and your body goes into a recuperative mode, making you feel sluggish and sleepy.
- You may have to get up earlier than you really want to (this is a big one for me, really any time I have to get up before 7 am is a struggle), because you will have to run and then still go through your morning routine after the run and as a night owl despite being tired you may not be able to get to sleep early at night.
- It might be so early that you aren’t hungry (I know I’m not) and therefore unable to “fuel” properly before your workout which will affect the intensity of your workout.
Pros for Afternoon/Evening Runs:
- You can work out when you want, and don’t have to miss any critical sleep time.
- You will have eaten at least 2-3 meals and 1-2 snacks and consumed enough water to be adequately “fueled” giving you the energy you need to do a complete or more intense workout.
- You’ve been on the move all day, so your body is warm, active, and limber from the day reducing your risk for injury, cramping, and/or susceptibility to aches and pains.
Cons for Afternoon/Evening Runs:
- Your work and/or family schedule may not accommodate this. You might have to stay late in the office putting in that overtime, or you are on the hook to pick the kids up from daycare and then you want to spend quality time with them and by the time they go down you are pooped and running is the last thing on your mind.
- Depending upon your profession, you may be exhausted by the end of the day and do not feel physically up for running at that point.
- If you can’t tolerate tread mill running (I hate it and won’t do more than 3 miles on a treadmill) it’s dark and not all paths are lighted, which makes night time running more challenging.
Think carefully about the times of day when you feel the most energized and when you feel tired. Are you a natural night owl or an early-bird? Do you feel lucid, and raring to go in the morning, or does the night life give you that extra spark of energy you need to power through? Once you can ascertain these things you will soon be able to deduce the time of day that might naturally work best for you. Then you have to make it work with your schedule.
Whatever you decide if your goal is exercise, weight loss, maintenance, general health or some combination of all of these things, consistency is the key. Pick the timing and training schedule that works best for you, plan accordingly, and STICK to it!