Here you are, hopefully, practicing what I preach and planning out your run schedule. So, you get the most of your training, but you’re trying to figure out what’s the best time of day to actually go run.
If you haven’t been with me here on the channel before, I’m Jesse Funk. This is a show I like to call Runner’s High, where we talk everything running, from food to training, to silly side rants, anything I can think of that you want to know about, I cover here on the channel Tuesdays and Thursdays every single week. Now, talking about when is the best time of day to run, we have to decide what’s our parameter, right? What makes it best?
Now, I’m being a little nitpicky, of course, but you have to decide what makes it best for you. Is it simply a matter of timing? Or are you looking for the best physical performance? We’ll talk about a few different ways to kind of quantify it here.
But know that there is no one single best time of day for most people. Because you and I both have work schedules, we have to coordinate around those. Maybe you’re in school, and you have to go to school before you can work out and your coach maybe has early morning practice, or late afternoon after school gets out.
Whatever the case is, there are other things in our lives that we have to fit in around running or running around them. However, you only looked at it. Which means that we can’t always perfectly time the physical aspects of running to our schedule. Now that we get that out of the way, let’s talk about the different times a day and the pros and cons for each of them.
Now if we want to talk mid-morning, which is just splitting hairs a little bit but I’ll say like 09:00 to 10:00 in the morning, after most of you are at work. This is often when I get my workouts in. I pretty much wake up and I’m on the computer working almost immediately, anywhere between six and seven in the morning and I get a couple hours work in, then I go work out.
This is a little bit better time because, at least for me, I have an opportunity to eat something, I can begin digesting food for the day, I can get some water in, a little bit of hydration after I’ve been sleeping all night. Lung function is starting to improve, body temperature is starting to rise. I apparently can’t talk because I’ve already expended all my energy and my workout for today. And these things are kind of increasing. So, mid-morning is getting better.
But when we’re talking about optimal time physically, we really are talking about early to late afternoon. It’s like early afternoon to early evening, sometime in that time slot. This is when physiological functions peak. Body temperature is going to be the highest, which means muscles are going to be the most useful, the most supple, the most mobile, meaning we can have a better performance.
We have eaten stuff and digested plenty, so we’ve restored any kind of glycogen that may have been a little low, top that off, basically. We also end up with what is often the warmer part of the day. So, especially as I’m filming, it’s wintertime, if you end up with cold and it’s cold, dark, lonely in the morning, that’s obviously not great psychologically, but mid-afternoon, you get end up with a very, very nice temperature for most of the year. Summer aside because it can get scorching in that time of day.
But mid -- early afternoon to early evening has the most physiological benefits and some of the psychological benefits from waiting to do it throughout the day without getting dragged down later on. Now, the problem with mid -- this kind of time slot is that you’re probably working, right? Your boss isn’t just going to let you off to go. So, a lot of people do this over the lunch hour, get it in then.
That’s going to work for shorter runs, but if like me you have a day or a couple of days where you have a longer run and it takes a considerable amount of time, well, that’s probably not going to be a great option for you. But if you’re doing a shorter run, it’s only going to be maybe half hour, then over the lunch hour, maybe a good time because it then gives you an opportunity go, get it in, get some lunch, come back to work, have it out of the way before you get into the evening where things kind of start to pile up.
Early evening as we move into late evening and night, kind of as a transitional period where a lot of the benefits of that early afternoon, physiologically speaking, are still present. But if you run too late into the evening, you could actually potentially hamper your sleep. And that ends up putting you into a whole cycle of maladaptation. Which means that you don’t sleep well, then you don’t recover enough, and then you don’t sleep well, then you don’t recover enough. And it can become a whole cycle that sends you down, down deep into a dark abyss of sadness and poor performance.
Beyond that, evening is going to be psychologically harder for most of us because we’re drained, right? We already did all of our things for the day. We went to work, we did those extra projects, we picked up the kids from school, we prepared meals, we got all these things out, we did all this stress, and then now we’ve got to train.
Now, there may be a few of you, you in particular who may be watching this video, and it’s your time to de-stress and that run is perfect for you. That is fine. I’m not judging. I’m simply saying, for most people, I think it’s going to be very difficult. But you do want to not go too late in the evening. In part because when we workout our body temperature rises. And we know an elevated body temperature makes it harder to sleep.
So, that is the biggest thing I want to say about the evening into night kind of runs that make it tough to make it a normal part of your routine. Now, I am guilty, guilty, guilty of going on night runs. There are even times when I could not sleep very well so I went for a run. And we’re talking like midnight and 01:00 AM. There was a period of my life where I simply wasn’t sleeping well all together. Actually, two periods of my life. One was in college when I was overworked, overstressed.
Remember that deep, deep, dark hole abyss, I just spoke about, yeah, I was there. And then a post-college time when I don’t think I was eating enough was the case that time. Again, lots of stress, couldn’t sleep. So, you know, I remember a couple times, not often, but maybe once or twice a month, I would end up in the middle that I go into workout.
I remember a time I went to the gym and did my pool session at like 01:00 AM. It was ridiculous. They shouldn’t have even been open. But they were, one of those 24-hour fitness places. In any case, it didn’t help me sleep. You know, I eventually got back to sleep when I got back home. But again, I was hot.
Now I was even more exhausted. I hadn’t eaten anything. And it’s just -- it’s this terrible place where, at time, I believed it was better than doing nothing. But it was really not a great option overall. So, if you could optimally pick a time of day to go run, it’s going to be that afternoon lunch to early evening kind of time slot. But psychologically, it’s going to be tougher, the later in the day goes for most of us.
So, if you are one of those early morning runners, make sure you’ve got a very good warm up routine set so that you can actually get your body up and moving for the day instead of being hindered by where our body is at that time of day, which is not optimal, physically. Do you have any questions for me that you’d like answered in another video? Hit subscribe so you can stick around, see that video come out on the channel, and leave your questions, your comments down below in the comment section so I can make a video just for you. I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.