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Runners Do It Morning, Noon, and Night

June 18, 2009

The following is a guest post from my good friend, Thad McLaurin, also known as Runner Dude who writes the Runner Dude’s blog (what else did you expect?!).  Thanks Thad for your insights and exhaustive research that we’ve all come to know and respect about you and your passion for running.

Runners Do It Morning, Noon, and Night!

Do you like it in the morning or in the afternoon? Or do you prefer a nooner? To run, that is. Seems like there are three camps—ones who get up before the crack of dawn, ones who run during their lunch break, and still others who prefer to run after work.

Usually the time you run boils down to the time you have. Many morning runners do so because they either work late hours or have commitments after work that don’t allow the time. Others run at lunch because they need that break from the chaos of the office or work setting. And, if you’re like me, you’re an afternoon runner because you’re getting kids off to school in the morning and your workplace has no shower facilities for cleanup after a noon-time run.

I wondered, though if there was any science behind which time was best to run. Here’s what I found.

NOT A LOT!

Well, there is more research being done on exercise in general but not so much on just running. Even when focusing on general exercise the findings are somewhat controversial. Elizabeth Quinn of About.com reports that there is some research supporting the best time to exercise being when your body temperature is at its highest. This usually occurs in the afternoon around 4 or 5 PM. Your body temp is at its lowest just before waking. She also reports that your strength and endurance levels increase in the afternoon hours by about 4-5%.

Other things to consider, however, when determining the best time for running are things like climate conditions. Often in the summer, when the kids are out of school, I’ll convert to being morning running for two reasons. First, I’m no longer a daily catering service (official bag-lunch maker) or shuttle service and second, the heat and humidity can be overwhelming in North Carolina during the summer months. So, it doesn’t really matter if I’ll have 4-5% more strength and/or endurance in the afternoon, if I’m puking on the side of the trail from heat exhaustion.

The best advice that seems to abound, however, is that whichever time of day helps you stick to a regular running routine, is best time of day for you to run. Regular exercise on daily basis far outweighs any benefits (if any) related to doing it at a specific time of day. So, it seems to all boil down to personal preference. What I did find were reasons why you might choose one time over another.

Morning Running:

  • If you run in the morning other things are less likely to “get in the way” to keep you from running.
  • Some research has shown that people who exercise on a regular basis did so in the morning. So, running in the morning may possibly increase your chances of sticking with it.
  • Exercise does increase mental sharpness for 4-10 hours after your exercise. So, this may be helpful to you during the workday.
  • Some people report having more energy during the day when they exercise in the A.M.
  • Some people say running in the morning helps them eat less during the day.

Afternoon Running:

  • Your muscles are more flexible and warmed-up from the day’s activities, which decreases your chance of injury.
  • Your strength is at its peak in the afternoon (about 5% higher)
  • Your endurance is greater in the afternoon (about 4% higher)
  • Helps relieve the stresses of the day.
  • More of your colleagues or peers may be free to run with you in the afternoon.

So, go ahead. Do it in the morning, noon, or night. Doesn’t matter when.  Just do it! Hey, doesn’t someone already have that slogan?

If switching to a morning run will give me this much energy, I think I may just switch!!

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