When is the Best Time Of Day To Run? Morning, Noon, or Night?

We explore the pros and cons of running at different times of day.

Every experienced runner will have their preference for the best time of day to run, whether it be before the sun comes up, a midday lunch run or an evening run to wind down after a busy day at work. 

Putting preferences aside, is there an actual ideal time of day to run to ensure top performance? 

Deciding when the best time to run is will depend on several personal factors, such as your work and family life schedule, whether you are a morning person or a night owl, and how your body physically feels at each time of day.

In this guide, we will discuss the pros and cons of running in the morning, afternoon, and evening so you can decide when the best time of day to run is for you and your running routine. 

A person running in the morning.

What Time Of Day Is Best For Running To Improve Performance?

Numerous studies have been conducted on whether it is better to exercise in the morning or evening, and the results have been varied.

One study showed that the participants who exercised in the morning displayed peaked VO2 Max levels and increased heart rate compared to the evening subjects.1Seo, D. Y., Lee, S., Kim, N., Ko, K. S., Rhee, B. D., Park, B. J., & Han, J. (2013). Morning and evening exercise. Integrative Medicine Research2(4), 139–144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2013.10.003

‌However, a contrasting study showed a more significant work capacity for the evening group.2Seo, D. Y., Lee, S., Kim, N., Ko, K. S., Rhee, B. D., Park, B. J., & Han, J. (2013). Morning and evening exercise. Integrative Medicine Research2(4), 139–144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2013.10.003

The conclusion: Results will vary depending on the individual. 

Therefore, it’s best to sift through the pros and cons of each time of the day and pick the fit that works for you and makes you feel best, both physically for peak performance during workouts and psychologically for your day-to-day mental health and happiness. 

So, are you a night owl who feels the most motivated to run at night? Or more of an early-bird-catches-the-worm type who needs an early morning run to get their day started? 

A person running at sunrise.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Running In The Morning?

Pros:

#1: You Get It Done First Thing 

One of the benefits of running first thing in the morning is that you can immediately check it off your to-do list and make sure you get it done.

When you first wake up and get out of bed there is a lesser chance that things may just “come up” that you have to take care of.

On the other hand, it’s more likely that during the day work, family commitments, or emergencies can come out of nowhere and throw a wrench in the works of your running plans. 

If you kickstart your day with a morning workout, you won’t have to worry about trying to fit it in later on.

#2: You Are Less Likely To Experience Digestive Distress 

One of the most beneficial things about running in the morning is that you are not weighed down by the numerous meals and snacks you have consumed throughout the day. 

As a certified running coach and runner myself, I do, however, suggest you always eat a pre-run snack before heading out instead of running on an empty stomach.

As we fast throughout the night, our glycogen stores become depleted, making it essential to refuel and ensure our energy levels are up to par. Some light pre-run snack ideas to top off energy stores are oatmeal, a slice of toast, or a Stroop waffle. Get those carbs in!

This way, you will have enough energy to get your workout in but not feel heavy and full after eating several meals throughout the day.

Two people running on a track.

#3: You Start Your Day Off Right 

Checking off your run first thing in the morning provides a great sense of accomplishment, and morning exercise energizes you to have a full and productive day no matter what the world throws at you.

#4: It May Improve The Quality Of Your Sleep 

According to a study that investigates the effects of aerobic exercise timing on circadian rhythm and sleep, early morning running may be the best time of day for aerobic exercise to ultimately improve sleep quality.3Collier, S., Fairbrother, K., Cartner, B., Alley, J., Curry, C., Dickinson, D., & Morris, D. (2014). Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives. Vascular Health and Risk Management, 691. https://doi.org/10.2147/vhrm.s73688

#5: It Allows For Improved Double Session Performance

If you are an experienced runner, your training plan most likely has a couple of days a week where you must run and strength train on the same day.

By running in the morning, you get your priority session done first on fresh legs, and then you can save your strength training workout for the evening, with a nice break in between. 

An alarm clock on a nightstand.

Cons:

#1: You Have To Get Up Early 

For night owls, waking up before dawn may not be the best option, as you might feel groggy and too tired to perform well. 

If you haven’t had a good night’s sleep because you were up late with a sick child, finishing a project for work, or reading a page-turner, you may not be able to get in your 8 hours and feel refreshed if you run early in the morning. 

If you plan to run first thing in the morning, do everything you can to get 7-9 hours of sleep, depending on your individual needs. Try to shut down devices about an hour beforehand and begin your bedtime routine to help you wind down. 

#2: You May Feel Too Stiff

If you are one of those runners who gets out of bed and walks the first few steps like Frankenstein, you may not want to jump out of bed and straight into a run first thing in the morning. 

Some of us need more time to warm up so our joints and muscles can become more mobile and prepared for workouts. 

If you feel stiff when you get up but must run first thing in the morning, add a long warm-up complete with dynamic stretches and 15-20 minutes of jogging before you begin your running workout.

A clock about to strike noon.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of A Lunch Run?

Pros:

#1: It Breaks Up Your Day

A lunch run or afternoon run can be an excellent opportunity to take a break from your busy schedule and split your work day up.

Taking time to clear your mind and get some fresh air can help you start the second half of your day refreshed. Your productivity for the afternoon will also benefit from your midday session. 

Cons:

#1: You Need A Place To Shower

If you plan to run mid-day and don’t work from home, you will need access to a shower and a place to change.

If you don’t have access to a shower at your office, you can ask around at local gyms to see if they offer an option to use the facilities. 

#2: You May Not Have Enough Time

Depending on the length of your run and the length of your lunch break, you may be tight on time to squeeze everything in. 

Consider that you will need to change before you run, run, shower, change again, and at some point, each lunch. 

Two people running at dusk.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Running In The Evening?

Pros:

#1: It’s A Great Way To Unwind

After a long day, what could be better than taking some time to enjoy your favorite hobby?

Whether you had a stressful day and need to blow off some steam or just want to relax before you call it a night, running in the evening can be a great way to end your day.

Cons:

#1: It May Not Be Safe

If you can’t run late afternoon or early evening and have to go out late evening, running in the dark may cause some potential risks.

Traffic, inconsistencies in the sidewalks, or lack thereof that may force you to run in the street, or in unlit neighborhoods all of which could be cause for concern.

If you must run in the evening, ensure you wear reflective clothes or a vest so traffic can see you, along with a headlamp to light your way so you can see.

#2: It May Affect Your Sleep

Although studies show that exercising in the evening doesn’t necessarily affect your sleep, an intense workout less than an hour before bedtime may affect your total sleep time.4Stutz, J., Eiholzer, R., & Spengler, C. M. (2018). Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine49(2), 269–287. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0

People running in the dark.

#3: Something May Come Up 

As I mentioned, the earlier you get your run done, the less likely something will come up during the day that you may need to attend to that could get in the way of training. 

The later it gets in the day, the more probable you could get tied up.

#4: You May Feel Too Tired After A Long Day 

If your job is physically demanding, or you have to be on your feet all day, the evening may not be the best time to run because you may already be fatigued. 

This could affect your running session and discourage you from training because you know you just won’t feel at your best. 

Consider The Weather

It’s also essential to consider the weather when choosing the best time to run.

If you’re in the long, dark winter months, you’ll want to look for the warmest and brightest time of day to run. 

On the other hand, running early in the morning or at the end of the day may be best to avoid the hot sun and high temperatures if you are training in the summer. 

A person running at dusk.

When Is the Best Time of Day to Run?

As you can see from our list of pros and cons for the different times of day to run, it is really going to depend on your day-to-day schedule, personality, and how you physically feel at different points throughout the day.

Morning runs are great to check off that workout and get on with the rest of your day. They can help you feel energized as you have already accomplished something significant. 

Midday runs can be great for parents to sneak a run in while their kids are still at school or for someone who just loves to maximize their time and take advantage of that break in the day. It can also give you a much-needed escape from a hectic workday. 

Evening runs can be great for those who are not morning people looking to wind down and clear their minds after a long day.

Ultimately, your needs come first, so choosing whether to be a morning runner, afternoon runner, or evening runner will come down to what motivates you best to be consistent with your training.

Get started training today with one of our free training plans.

References

  • 1
    Seo, D. Y., Lee, S., Kim, N., Ko, K. S., Rhee, B. D., Park, B. J., & Han, J. (2013). Morning and evening exercise. Integrative Medicine Research2(4), 139–144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2013.10.003
  • 2
    Seo, D. Y., Lee, S., Kim, N., Ko, K. S., Rhee, B. D., Park, B. J., & Han, J. (2013). Morning and evening exercise. Integrative Medicine Research2(4), 139–144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.imr.2013.10.003
  • 3
    Collier, S., Fairbrother, K., Cartner, B., Alley, J., Curry, C., Dickinson, D., & Morris, D. (2014). Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives. Vascular Health and Risk Management, 691. https://doi.org/10.2147/vhrm.s73688
  • 4
    Stutz, J., Eiholzer, R., & Spengler, C. M. (2018). Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Medicine49(2), 269–287. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-1015-0
Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.