The Short Answer – Run When it Fits Your Schedule
Some people start work up at 5 AM and can only run the afternoon once work is done. Some people can take a relaxed morning and a run then is just perfect. The best time to run outdoors is when it fits your routine. As I will explain in the next section, since I am a morning person, I prefer brisk, early morning jogs as soon as I wake up. That fits with my personality. I like the cool calm of the morning.
Because each person is different, you need to take your personal habits into account. Some people can rely on themselves to take that afternoon jog, but others will be consumed by the day so they have to do it in the morning or else it will not happen at all.
If you just cannot make the time in the morning, then you might want to push it back. Whatever time you do decide to run, strap on the tennis shoes whenit is convenient for you.
Adapt your routine to fit your lifestyle.
Before we dive further into this article just know that, while hiking is certainly not running, both are quite similar and carry almost the exact same benefits, especially when you run outdoors. In a previous article, I wrote about the Mental Health Benefits of Hiking. If you pretend that the “hiking” in the title is really “running,” I won’t tell anybody. You experience pretty much the same benefits. Click on the link below and learn about the mental health benefits of an outdoor run.
If You Want to Burn Fat, Run Long in the Morning
Morning time comes after a long ten to twelve hour fast. You do not have any food in your belly. This makes a morning run splendid for fat burn. Your body cannot burn anything in your belly, so it is forced to shred fat. You will burn fat best in the morning. When you take a long or extended run in the morning, you increase your fat burning metabolism, shedding off the pounds in no time flat.
As I said earlier, this is when I personally go running. I admit that I am biased. I think the morning is the best time to run. What you start the day off with sets the tone for the rest of the day. A morning run sets a productive tone. You are going to get stuff done. It is an excellent way to kick start your day. When you run as soon as you get up, your body will wake up. You do not need coffee after a morning run.
Also, I do not know about you, but morning time is my time. I have greater control of what happens then than at any other time of day. Before the responsibilities of work and school kick in, I get to decide what I get to do with my time. No one is texting me asking for help on their essay or leaving me a long email complaining about so-and-so at the office that I have to respond to at just this minute. No, none of that happens in the morning. The day takes on a much slower pace and I can ease into things with a bright and early run.
Early morning is also the coolest time of the day to run. You will not have to worry about running too hot. The fresh, brisk air will be sure to put a damper on that. It is safer that way. You do not worry about overheating. In general, I find the morning time to be a safer time of day to run. Hooligans are not out patrolling the neighborhood then.
Morning motivation, that is why I recommend this time above all others. Your body kicks into gear with a run, propelling you through the rest of the day. When your run falls in line with sunrise, that is a marvelous feeling that is sure to energize you for the rest of the day. To see the sunrise on your run is like watching a teammate cheer you on. You push yourself harder.
As we will see later, science says morning is not the best time to run, but it also says morning runners are more likely to stick with their workouts. If you run first thing in the morning, you will stick with it on a regular basis. If you push it back into the afternoon or evening, you can give excuses like “I have a paper due at midnight” or “my kids need me.” While all those excuses matter and I understand hurdles do pop up, they do not appear in the morning.
As Bruce Li would say, “long term consistency beats short term intensity.” With morning runs, you are planning for years down the road.
Run Hard in the Afternoon and Early Evening
As much as my own opinion prefers to disagree, science says the afternoon is the best time to run. Your body temperature peaks between 4 PM and 5 PM and as late as 7 PM, so research data says this is the best time. Whereas during the morning you will be groggy for a morning run, you will be wide awake in the afternoon. Strength and physical endurance peaks then. Your whole body falls into focus.
You are less injury prone then. By the afternoon and early evening, you are awake and cognizant and have moved your muscles around. In the afternoon as opposed to the morning, you are not struggling to wake up like a new born giraffe. Instead, the day has primed and warmed up your muscles in time for the run. Unlike say a morning runner, you can then take less time to stretch. Your body is at its highest temperature, so the muscle fibers are the loosest then.
Another benefit of afternoon runs is that you get a better night’s sleep. Exercise at this time loosens up the body and lowers the blood pressure, putting you into a relaxed state. As soon as you hit the mattress, it is lights out for you in minutes. Morning people will also get this boost, but at a much lower rate.
I do not know about you. But once I hit 4 PM or 5 PM, I am stressed out. The tension reaches into my shoulders and turns my mind to jelly. It just wants to do something easy like endlessly scroll on my iPhone web browser. Fortunately though, an afternoon outdoor run will snap me right out of it. When you run in the afternoon, you release stress. It lets loose all the meetings and events you had throughout the day, reenergizing you for that late night crunch.
Other Important Factors to Consider
We are not just considering the here and now, but your future self.
Event Timing – Structure Your Running Workout Routine for that Coming Race
Some of us run casually while others train hard. An outdoor run is a great way to train for a marathon, but not all marathoners are created equally. Some train for years before racing, while others only train for a month or two before the big race, so be sure to structure your regime to take the coming event into account. Make sure to put in time for recovery and long runs. If you can set aside three days a week, then that is splendid. If you can set aside six days a week, then that is excellent. I recommend training at least three days a week to fully prepare your body.
Usually if you are racing, you want to win or at least beat your past self, so be sure to set specific goals. You do not want ones that are flimsy, but actionable. I am talking about Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results-focused, and Time-bound (SMART) goals. This type of goal setting increases your follow through rate and your chances of success. You are running to be better than who you were yesterday.
Mix Up the Workouts to Force Your Body to Adapt
When I was living at home in Los Gatos, I only did slow, twenty minute runs, nothing that would push me too hard. I realize now that was a bad idea. Like a DJ, you need to mix it up. In other words, change up the time, distance, and elevation you run at. Your body grows when it is outside its comfort zone.
If you are used to running only in the morning, the occasional afternoon run will be sure to shock your body out of its pattern. If you are not a morning person, decide to wake up early one day and go for a run. It will do your body some good. If you only run in the park in a straight line, then it might be time to drive out to the trail. If you do not run on the sand, your feet will be challenged with a beach run. Varied workouts increase your performance, challenging the body in new ways. These types of workouts help those training for racing events.
Are You Going to Get Outside this Week?
Well, you should be all set to go. You now know the answer to the question you asked. Now it is time to slip on the socks and lace up the running shoes. If you do not know where to go for your outdoor run, then I suggest you check out AllTrails.com. If you are looking for an excellent running trail, then you are bound to find one near you on this handy dandy site. So what do you say? Are you going to get outside this week? Click on the link below and challenge yourself to try something new.
If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!