If you’re new to running, you might wonder when is the best time to run. Do you only have time in the morning or on your lunch break? Are you a night owl who feels the most motivated at night?
While not everyone can choose at what time of the day to run during the week, you’ll still find benefits to running in the morning, afternoon, or late evening.
See our breakdown of the pros and cons of running at various times of the day, plus our tips for maximizing your performance.
Benefits of running in the morning
There are plenty of physical and mental benefits to running in the morning. For those who struggle with motivation, getting your exercise out of the way first-thing can be a good way to form a healthy habit.
On the other hand, it can be hard to set the alarm clock an hour or two earlier in the morning and push yourself to get out of bed if you’re still groggy.
A jog or run in the morning can give you an energy boost that keeps you going throughout the day and improves your concentration.(1)
Additionally, running in the morning gives your body a healthy dose of oxygen. The higher oxygen content in the morning air makes it easier to breathe.
Running in the morning can feel harder than other times of the day.
Right after you get up, your joints might feel stiff, and your muscles tense and inflexible. This means that you don’t have the necessary muscle control and coordination when you are running.
Make time to incorporate a dynamic warm-up routine in the mornings before you run, so you aren’t fighting resistance in your muscles while running.
Running at Lunchtime or Early Afternoon
Want to avoid an afternoon slump? Going for a midday or early afternoon run is a great way to break up the day and fight fatigue.
The middle of the day has the best conditions for a high-intensity run. You’re not too tired from a long day at work, and you’ve had breakfast or lunch to give you energy.
Plus, it’ll give you more energy to finish off your tasks at work. Just half an hour of moderate exercise can clear up cognitive fatigue.(3)
Running after lunch can be very strenuous.
Your body needs more time to digest depending on how heavy and rich your lunch was. In order to avoid having to deal with digestive problems (e.g. stomach cramps) during an intense interval training, follow these guidelines:
- Wait about 30 minutes after a light snack before you go running.
- If you ate a large lunch, wait 1.5 to 2 hours before your run.
- If running after eating doesn’t make you feel good, do your training before lunch.
However, it might be harder to run because your energy stores are not entirely full.
Nutrition guide for runners:
Do you want to know what you should eat before, during, and after your run? Find out in the nutrition guide for runners.
Running at night or in the evening
For some of us, running at night or in the evening is the only time we have for a workout. It can also be a great way to blow off steam or unwind after a long day.
While it’s best to avoid high-intensity runs right before bedtime, running in the evening overall can actually help you catch more Zs.
Are you stressed out at the end of a hectic workday and have trouble unwinding? An easygoing endurance run can help you blow off some steam. You might also have more time in the evening for a proper warm-up and stretch.
Traditionally, we’ve been told that exercising late in the evening can affect our sleep schedule due to the production of cortisol, a stress hormone.
However, a 2019 study concluded that exercise at night can aid sleep—as long as it’s more than an hour before bedtime.(4) That means you should schedule your runs at least 2 hours before sleep and avoid high-intensity exercise such as interval training or running.
Find the best time to run according to your individual goals
No matter the time of day that you run, there are advantages and disadvantages as well as different training effects. Think about your individual goals when you schedule your runs. Do you want to lose weight, reduce stress, get faster, or run farther?
One study looked at the optimal training times for men and women. For men who want to lose weight, evening exercise has been shown to increase fat oxidation and reduce systolic blood pressure and fatigue.(5) In the same study, exercising in the morning for women reduced abdominal fat, while evening workouts were good for muscle function.
The adidas Running app has a goal-setting feature. You can decide between a daily, weekly or monthly goal. Set your target calories, distance, duration, and more!
No matter the time of day you run, there are advantages and disadvantages.
Here are the main takeaways:
- If you want to maintain your performance level, you can train at any time of the day.
- Make sure you warm up properly.
- Midday runs are best for intense interval training to boost your performance.
- Training runs for general rest and recovery are best done in the evenings.
Basically, the best time for you to run is when it feels easiest for you. Factors like daily schedules, sleep patterns, work, leisure time, family, and meal times usually play a major role when planning your runs.