Best Time To Run: Pros & Cons of Morning, Afternoon & Evening Runs

Man Running on Trail

When is the best time to run? Is it better to run in the morning or at night—what about mid-day? 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:

  • A morning run might be the best solution for a 9-to-5 employee with responsibilities throughout the rest of the day
  • An afternoon run might be the perfect time during a break from school or when the kiddos go down for a nap
  • An evening run works for just about any schedule, so long as you still have the energy when the time comes

Some choose their run time based on their routines that they don't like to disrupt. Others see the health benefits of running at a particular time of day. Although everyone has different tastes, there are some common benefits to running at various 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: Running in the Morning

Your alarm rings, and you're out the door. "Where the Streets Have No Name" by U2 blasts through your ear pods as you hustle up the neighborhood hill. There are barely any cars 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.

Running every morning has a special charm to it, but the benefits of a morning run aren’t enough to convince every athlete to escape the bedsheets and hit the pavement. Like with everything, there are pros and cons.

PROS: Running in the Morning Benefits

Is it reasonable to run in the morning? Well, I'll counter that question: Is eating a balanced breakfast reasonable? Should you brush your teeth first thing when you wake up? Yes, yes, and yes. Morning run benefits 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 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 mentally list everything they need to accomplish

2. You’ll burn fat throughout the day.

running in the morning benefits

Morning exercise on an empty stomach can help you burn more calories.  In addition, it might discourage you from eating poorly 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, morning runners get their physical activity out of the way immediately. Don't get me wrong, I love running and always look forward to it. But we all know what can happen if the day gets away from you. Other obligations fall on your plate, fatigue from the challenges of the day appears, and pretty soon, you've canceled 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 an early morning run has many benefits, a few negatives include less sleep, harsh conditions, and impending soreness.

1. You might get less sleep.

Some people are just not morning people. Running in the morning might not be the best routine for night owls who struggle to wake up. 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 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 tired. If you work in a stationary job, your body might not appreciate your inability to stretch, move around, and get the lactic acid out of your legs throughout the workday.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Running in the Morning

What’s the best thing to eat before running in the morning?

Great question! If you’re hungry before a morning run, keep it light and simple with a banana or Clif bar. Ideally, you want some carbs to give your body energy to burn, but this only helps if you plan on running for an hour or more.

However, putting a little food into your body before your morning run can settle any hunger pangs and kick-start your recovery.

What’s the best thing to eat after running in the morning?

After your morning run, you’ll want to eat carbs and proteins. You’ll need both to accelerate your recovery and get your body primed for the rest of the day.

This could be eggs and toast, a bowl of oatmeal, or a protein smoothie for breakfast.

How do you start running in the morning?

Starting a morning running routine isn’t going to be easy for everyone—and that’s okay! If you’re new to morning running, ease into it. Don’t set your alarm for 2 hours before you usually wake up. Instead, wake up a little earlier each day.

And start slow and low. When you wake up, you must do a sufficient warm-up to ensure your muscles are ready. Keep your mileage low when you’re just getting started to allow your body to adjust.

Is it reasonable to run in the morning?

There’s no universal best time to run for everyone. For some, it can be good to run in the morning—while for others, it might be a nightmare. You must find what works for you, your body, and your schedule.

Best Time to Run #2: The Afternoon

It's been a productive morning, but 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 miles you need before heading 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 how 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 give you 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 getting their miles in. Recent studies show that 40% of runners feel safer 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 needing help 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. Conversely, you don't want to run on an empty stomach and be starved throughout your run. Mid-afternoon runs can make your eating schedule and diet more complex as you strike the right balance.

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

Mid-afternoon runs always sound like a great idea until you get tired after a long work day or forget your running shoes at home. A bit of planning 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 and circumstances change, so afternoon runs are sometimes tough to 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 complete your run, you can do a warm-up and cool-down with no added pressure. You focus forward and begin, ending your day perfectly—with an evening run.

However, remember that running late at night and in the evening are very different things. When we think about running in the evening, we think of 5:00 p.m. to sunset. Beyond that, you're getting into nighttime (depending on where you live), and running late at night could be dangerous and interfere with your sleep.

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.

By the end of the day, you should have used up as much energy as possible. Nothing is 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. Afterward, they can lay in bed, fully relaxed, knowing they harnessed all their energy for the day. They'll be tired and 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 several 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 challenging 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 pass 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. You have the rest of the day to work with for morning and afternoon runs. If you wait until the evening, there are no other options available.

Find the Best Time to Run for You

As you can see, running has pros and cons at any point of the day—whether morning runs, afternoon runs, or evening runs. In some regards, there really isn't a singular best time of day to run.

You need to 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 your lifestyle.