Running before bed can be a great way for busy runners to keep up with their training plans.
Many new runners struggle to maintain consistency and stay on the training plan, facing obstacles that generally stem from the biggest issue: time.
Finding the time to stay on track can be crucial in training, especially if you’ve got a specific goal in mind.
Missing a few workouts may not seem like a big deal in the moment, but skipping ahead in a plan and taking on too many miles too quickly (before your body is ready) can result in injury – so sometimes fitting in an evening run can help keep you on track.
In this article, we’re going to look at:
- The Benefits of Night Time Running
- How Running Before Bed Affects Your Sleep (According To A Sleep Expert)
- Is It Safe To Run At Night? (Safety Tips To Follow)
- 4 Extra Tips To Optimize Your Evening Run
Let’s jump in!
Benefits of Night Time Running
Whether you’re a natural night owl or crunched for time, running at night is a great way to balance training with work, family, and everyday life.
While I generally recommend runners try to fit in morning runs when possible, there are benefits to running in the evening – here they are!
Related: When Is The Best Time To Run?
Better Nutrition and Digestion
One of the perks of an evening run is that you’ll have ample time to eat and properly digest during the day. Generally speaking, it’s beneficial to have at least two hours between your last meal and the beginning of your workout to reap the benefits of the fuel and avoid any gastrointestinal issues.
If you’re running before bed and after dinner, still make a point to have a snack when you get back. Protein and complex carbohydrates after an evening run will help your body replenish and grow stronger.
Related article: Here’s What To Eat Before Running (And What Not To Eat)
Many runners feel more motivated to run in the evening. They look forward to a chance to decompress from the day, without the temptation of sleeping in.
Consistency in Your Training
If you’re not a natural early bird, getting up early to run may be more of a dream than a reality. Whether cutting miles or the run altogether, early morning workouts can be risky for the less regimented among us.
Running is all about what’s best for you: what makes you healthier, happier, and finish your training plan! So find a groove that works for you and stick with it.
Form a Running Community
Neighborhood groups and running clubs offer planned workouts followed by a reward of dinner or beer. You can find these groups by joining Meetup or local Facebook groups. Having the companionship (and sometimes competition) of a running group can help you stay motivated and on track.
Let’s take a moment to consider the health benefits or repercussions of running before bed.
Running Before Bed: Healthy or Unhealthy?
To answer the question properly, I’ve contacted a certified sleep science coach and a performance health coach and researcher to weigh in on the results of running before bed.
Alex Savy, Sleep Science Coach and founder of Sleeping Ocean, says, “Running before bed (if you don’t do it too close to your bedtime) can offer a couple of benefits.
The biggest one, in my opinion, is stress relief by the end of the day. We face a lot of distressing situations during the day, which often affects how we feel and prevents us from falling asleep normally at night. Additionally, stress can negatively affect one’s sleep, even causing a reduction in sleep hours and decreased sleep quality.
Running at night can help you blow off some steam by the end of the day. As a result, you return home relaxed. Naturally, it’s much easier to fall asleep in such a calm state rather than when being wound-up because of the stuff that has happened during the day.
However, you need to be careful with nighttime running if you want to keep a healthy sleep schedule. Avoid physical activity a couple of hours before bed, as it can make you feel too alert to fall asleep easily.”
Nick Urban, Performance Health Coach, CHEK Practitioner, and Researcher at Outliyr, confirms with his opinion:
“Between self-experimentation and my coaching client data, I usually find that running before bed does more harm than good. Running, and extended workouts in general, elevate core body temperature. In order to begin the recovery process that takes place during deep sleep, body temperature must drop.
I quantify my sleep and recovery through use of a minimalist wearable called the Oura Ring. I reliably spot a pattern where exercising before bed interferes with my body’s key recovery vitals like resting heart rate (RHR), respiratory rate, and heart rate variability (HRV). Others report similar effects from long sessions within an hour of bed. I recommend finishing runs 2-3 hours before bed to maximize recovery and sleep quality.“
So based on Savy and Urban’s advice, night time running can be beneficial to your overall health, as long as you finish your run 2-3 hours before lying down to sleep.
The Late Night Run: Is It Safe to Run at Night?
So you’ve now decided that your evening run is a great idea as long as you give some time to recover and cool down before sleeping. But you still have one important question: Is it safe to run at night?
There are 2 main concerns with night time running:
1. It is more difficult for you to see cars and bicycles, and more difficult for them to see you.
2. The safety of your neighborhood or running spot is always an important factor.
However, with the right precautions, running at night can be perfectly safe. Consider these ideas to avoid any issues.
- Wear your lights: Even in a relatively well-lit neighborhood, you want to be sure you’re visible to everyone on the road or trail. Red or color-changing blinking lights paired with reflective gear will help others, especially in cars or on bikes, see you from further away and avoid accidents.
- Light up your path: Head or waist lamps and hand-held flashlights can help light the path in front of you to avoid any unanticipated bumps, holes, and uneven turf – You’ll reduce the chance of sprained ankle, wrist, or busted knee.
- Be aware of your surroundings: While many runners love listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks during training, it’s less advisable during a late-night run. Combined with limited sight from the darkness, inhibited hearing can lead to dangerous accidents. Consider leaving the earbuds on low or at home when running outdoors at night.
4 Tips For Your Evening Run
Here’s how to make the most out of night time running.
1. Take It Easy
Run easy, and only long if you have to.
Keep the exertion level as low as possible to avoid releasing large doses of endorphins into your bloodstream. Those will keep you awake well into the night.
2. Stretch It Out
Perform a hearty stretching session before you go to bed. A YIN form of yoga rather than vinyasa is recommended to make sure you don’t do anything too strenuous. YIN involves holding poses for at least 5 minutes without moving; gravity does the work instead of your muscles.
“You may want to do something relaxing after your evening exercise, like taking a warm shower, stretching lightly before bed, reading, drinking herbal tea, meditating, etc. Aromatherapy might also help you wind down after running, so consider using such essential oils as lavender, bergamot, ylang-ylang, chamomile, sandalwood, and so on.”
4. Stay Away from TV
Many people like to fall asleep while watching TV or scrolling on their phones, but this can be harmful to your sleep a well. The blue lights on the screens restrain your body’s ability to produce melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep.
This increases your alertness at night, making it hard to go to sleep, but it also affects your circadian rhythms. In turn, that makes your alertness in the morning go down as well.
So try to read a book at night, even it’s just 15 minutes before closing your eyes.
Should I Be Running Before Bed While Training for a Marathon?
The best way to train for a marathon is to stay consistent. If that means a late night run, then that’s a great way to train.
But if you’re training competitively, for say, the Boston Marathon, or you’re training for an ultramarathon or cross-country running, training in the morning has the best results.
When you run in the morning, you train your body to get up at the time you’ll be starting your race. You’ll get a rhythm going for preparing your body for the race, and you’ll ultimately perform better.
To make the most out of your marathon training plan, sign up for our free Marathon Bootcamp for guides, tips, and thorough training to help you get started.