Best Time To Run: Pros and Cons for Morning, Afternoon and Evening Runs

When is the best time to run? This might be one of the most hotly debated questions in the running community. Whether it’s in the morning, afternoon or evening, nearly every runner has an opinion on the perfect time of day to get their miles in. 

Some choose their run time based on their own routines that they don’t like to disrupt. Others see health benefits of running at a certain time of day. Although everyone has different tastes, there are some common benefits for running at different times throughout the day. In this post, we’ll look at the pros and cons of running in the morning, afternoon and night.

Best Time to Run: The Morning

Your alarm rings and you’re out the door. “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2 is blasting through your earpods as you hustle up the neighborhood hill. There are barely any cars out on the road; the world is still asleep. The sun hasn’t risen yet. The birds are just waking up. This is the magic of a morning run.

PROS: Running in the Morning

Some of the many pros of an early morning run include starting the day off right, burning more fat throughout the day and getting your run out of the way while you have time.

1. It starts the day right.

Some runners believe there is no better way to start your day than with an early morning run. In the stillness of the morning, you’ll have time to clear your head and focus on the run. Some runners like to use that time to think about their plan for the day and make a mental list of everything they need to accomplish. 

2. You’ll burn fat throughout the day.

Woman running by water

Morning exercise on an empty stomach can help you burn more calories throughout the day. In addition, it might discourage you from eating unhealthy carbs later in the day. An early morning run would likely set the tone for healthier decisions in the hours to come. If you woke up and went for a run, why would you want to indulge in junk food in the afternoon? You’ve already started off on the right track; you’ll feel pressure not to blow it!

3. You can check it off your list immediately.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, morning runners get their physical activity out of the way immediately. Now don’t get me wrong, I love running and always look forward it. But we all know what can happen if the day starts to get away from you. Other obligations fall on your plate, fatigue from the challenges of the day appears, and pretty soon you’ve cancelled your run and are looking ahead to tomorrow. By running in the early morning, you’ll keep yourself accountable by making it your first objective of the day.

CONS: Running in the Morning

Although there are many benefits of an early morning run, there also are a few negatives including less sleep, harsh conditions and impending soreness.

1. You might get less sleep.

Some people are just not morning people. For night owls who struggle to wake up, running in the morning might not be the best routine. It can be tough to leave your warm bed and head outside to get a few miles in before work, but these early morning sacrifices will pay off when it matters on race day.

2. Morning conditions can be harsh.

Running in the morning can present a few different challenging conditions for runners. First and foremost, it will be dark. This can pose dangerous health implications for runners if they aren’t wearing reflective gear and a headlight. Without a light in their path, oncoming traffic might not see them or they might twist their ankle in a hole or pothole. Morning temperatures will also be colder and more relentless without the sun’s warmth.

3. You might feel sore for the rest of the day.

It can be tough to climb up your office’s stairs after completing a 10 mile run just a few hours before. You’ll have to get through your workday with potential soreness in your legs and a general tiredness throughout the body. You’ll even have to smile casually as your co-worker who just rolled out of bed complains that he’s so tired. If you work in a stationary job, your body might not appreciate the lack of your ability to stretch, move around and get the lactic acid out of your legs throughout the workday.

Best Time to Run #2: The Afternoon

It’s been a productive morning, but now the lunch bell is ringing and you’re off for a run. The afternoon sun beams gently on your skin for a solid helping of Vitamin D. The air is cool and you feel refreshed. You have just enough time to get the exact number of miles you need before you head back to work. 

PROS: Running in the Afternoon

Afternoon runs are enjoyed by people all around the world. Some benefits of a mid-afternoon run include the way it breaks up your day and the safety aspect of its timing.

1. You’ll enjoy a nice break in the day.

Woman running in field

Running in the afternoon can provide you with a nice break from the monotony of your life. It separates your morning from your evening and gives you something to work towards after your day begins. A mid-afternoon run can serve as a reset, allowing you to get away from your desk and get some fresh air to exercise and clear your mind.

2. It’s generally safer.

While bad things can happen at any point of the day, mid-afternoon runs happen when the world is most awake. The sun is out. People are going about their daily lives. Parks and sidewalks can be crowded with onlookers and fellow runners who are getting their miles in. Recent studies show that 40% of runners feel safer when they’re with others. By running in the afternoon, you’ll have the greatest chance of running when others are outside.

CONS: Running in the Afternoon

Some negative aspects of running in the afternoon include the hassle of timing your meals perfectly and struggling to fit the run into your schedule.

1. Timing your meals can be a challenge.

If you’re running in the afternoon, when should you eat? Runners often face this dilemma as they strategically plan out their day. You don’t want to have a huge lunch and then go for a six mile run. On the opposite side, you don’t want to run on an empty stomach and be starved throughout the duration of your run. Mid-afternoon runs can make your eating schedule and diet more complex as you try to strike the right balance for both.

2. It can be difficult to complete the run if you’re busy.

Mid-afternoon runs always sound like a great idea until you start to get tired after a long day of work or you forgot your running shoes at home. There is a bit of planning that needs to go into your afternoon runs—more so than morning and evening runs. If you’re at work and something comes up, you might be inclined to push the run to later or skip it entirely. Life happens and circumstances change, so afternoon runs are sometimes tough to fully execute as planned.

Best Time to Run #3: The Evening

It’s finally quitting time at work. The day’s responsibilities are behind you. Now, it’s just you and the open road. With nearly unlimited time to get your run complete, you can do a warm up and cool down with no added pressure. You focus forward and begin, ending your day the perfect way—with an evening run. 

PROS: Running in the Evening

1. You can clear your mind.

Person running at night

Evening runs are the light at the end of the tunnel for most people. After a long day at work, you’re ready to get exercise and block out everything around you. It can be a renewing and relaxing experience. Evening runs can be beneficial for mental strength, because they can help you clear your mind from the challenges and problems of the day.

2. It depletes your energy stores for the day.

At the end of the day, you should use up as much energy as possible. There is nothing more satisfying for runners and exercisers than capping off their day with a draining run or workout that uses up their energy stores for the day. After, they can lay in bed, fully relaxed, knowing they harnessed all of their energy for the day. They’ll be tired and will fall asleep more easily, increasing their sleep quality after a long day.

CONS: Running in the Evening

Running in the evening does have its drawbacks. Some negative aspects of evening runs include exhaustion from a long day and the lack of flexibility with an evening run schedule.

1. You might be exhausted from a long day.

By the time the evening arrives, you’ve already lived through an entire day. You’ve spent time with your significant other, solved problems, worked, ate, and completed a handful of other tasks. The last one on your list—and potentially the most important (in our eyes)—is getting your physical activity for the day. Evening runs can be difficult if your energy levels are already depleted. 

2. There’s a lack of flexibility in evening runs.

If you hold off your run until the evening, you’re passing up the opportunity to run in the morning or late-afternoon. All of your marbles are in your perfect execution for an early evening run. But what if it storms? You can no longer push the run back. You’re out of time. For morning and afternoon runs, you have the rest of the day to work with. If you wait until the evening, you don’t have any other option available.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are pros and cons for running at any point of the day. In some regards, there really isn’t a singular best time of day to run. You need to just find the ideal time that works best for you. 

Try running in the early morning, afternoon and evening to see which you enjoy the most. I’m confident you’ll find a part of the day that’s a clear winner for you.