Does The Time Of Day Affect Your Run?

Have you ever got back from a run and just felt a bit, well…deflated? As though something isn’t quite right, that although perhaps you feel as though you’ve given it 100%, the Strava stats just don’t add up?

Maybe you’re running at the wrong time of day!

Now, if only I could tell you that a particular o’clock is the prime time for a run…ha as if it is as simple as that. Nope I’m afraid there’s far more to it and, like most things, everyone’s different. What I can do however, is draw on my own experience and explain some of the factors that influence your body at certain times of the day, so that next time you have a duff run, maybe, just maybe you might not be so tough on yourself.

Morning

Personally, this is my favourite time to run, because more than anything else it means I’ve got it done and out of the way, but you’ve got to be careful and time when and what you eat for breakfast wisely. I know some people who find it easier to run without eating anything before heading out, that is so not me! I need the fuel, which means I have to factor in eating something small and then allowing it time to go down. Depending on how early I go out, I either eat a banana beforehand and then come back for something more substantial afterwards, or I have a small bowl of porridge about 40 minutes before running. Both seem to work out OK for me and leaves me feeling energised and strong enough to get through a 5 – 10k run.

And it really helps set me up for the day, it’s like I know I’m already winning. The fresh air has invigorated me, filled me with intention and motivation, and of course there’s that rather lovely rush of endorphins. Plus I have absolute proof that when I start my day with a run, I am way, WAY more productive at work and I’m just generally a nicer person to be around.

I’m not saying it’s for everyone, certainly if you’re not a morning person it may not work, although in saying that…it may be exactly what you need!

Yay To A Run At The Start Of The Day!

  • If you don’t eat breakfast before going out, your body will burn calories faster.
  • It allows time for your body to recover for the rest of the day – through food, hydration, stretching, movement and rest.
  • Smug factor of getting it done!
  • Far less likely to put if off, or not go.
  • It’s more peaceful – less people about means more time to yourself and to think about the day ahead.
  • Most races are held in the morning, so if you’re in training for a race it is best to practice at the same time of day.

No Way, I’m Still Yawning At That Time In The Morning!

  • It’s colder – great in Summer, not so in the Winter, and your bed is oh so warm and cosy.
  • Your body temperature is lower in the morning, which means your muscles are stiffer and you are therefore at a greater risk of injury. Remember those cool down stretches!!
  • Fitting in when to eat – gotta get it right or risk feeling sick, faint, or weak.
  • During the Winter months the ground can be very slippery first thing.
  • Lung function is pretty poor first thing in the morning – breathing may feel tougher.
  • Statistics show that morning running is linked to more cases of heart attack and stroke – although arguably if this is the only time you can fit in exercise, then that’s got to be better than doing none at all!

Midday/Afternoon

Now, I haven’t actually ever gone out for a run at this time before, I mean it’s tricky isn’t it, because most of us are either at work or picking up the kids from school etc., it’s the busiest time of the day and it all just seems a bit, well indulgent. But for some, getting out of the office for some fresh air and running over the lunchtime break, is the perfect way to re-energise ready for the afternoon stint.

Yep, I Have A Hunch I Run Better When I’ve Had Some Lunch!

  • Your body temperature tends to be higher at this time of day and this makes you perform better.
  • If you’re able to fit it into your lunch hour it means you can save time else when.
  • Perfect for mental clarity and to help get you back on track and firing on all cylinders for the rest of the day.

Nah, I’m Starting To Sway When It’s After Midday!

  • There’s the teeny tiny matter of hygiene, does you office have shower facilities, if not you are gonna proper honk!
  • It’s the middle of the day, it eats into time WAY too much.

Evening/Night

I’m OK running in the evening, as long as it’s in a group – thank goodness for the Runnyhoneys! On my own, well there’s no chance, ‘cos I’m incredibly good at coming up with literally any kind of excuse for not being able to go. The kids’ lunchboxes need making, I’m washing my hair, the rabbits need their nails trimming, ummmmm I need to alphabetise my food cupboards…? Yep, anything to get me out of going. But, if you’ve committed to a run group then that makes you accountable and that is PRECISELY what gets you out that door!

Research shows that actually there are not real physical problems with going out at this time, it is the mental barriers that you’re going to have to compete against. In fact, muscle power, reaction time, aerobic capacity and core body temperature are all at their peak later in the day, which means you should notice your run times are better, you feel stronger and you’re performing better.

Yeah, My Feet are Alight When I Run Into The Night!

  • The perfect way to end a day and wind down from whatever events have been thrown at you – great for reflection and relaxation.
  • Worried about what you look like when you run? Darkness conceals a LOT! (just remember those reflective strips and head torch)
  • If you’re running of an evening, it means you’re not sat on your backside, glued to the tellybox, shovelling Malteasers down your gullet – bad habits be gone!
  • Some people find they have a much better night’s sleep after doing exercise.
  • You’ve had a whole day of food and water – you are proper powered up!

Nope, I Just Can’t Dig Deep When All I Can Think Of Is Sleep!

  • You’ve had a long, stressy day at the office and all you really want is that glass of wine and a slob out – pretty tough to convince yourself to go out for a run at this time of day!
  • When it’s dark it can get scary out on them streets.
  • Some people feel wired after a run and find it harder to get to sleep.
  • Energy levels are likely to be lower, especially if you’ve had an early start.

But of course, it isn’t as simple as that, there are soooooo many other factors, for example have you got your period, are you unwell, are you tired, what have you eaten, when have you eaten, then there are the environmental factors; what’s the weather like, too hot, too cold, raining? All of these things play a part.

And a lot of how well we perform on any given time of day all boils down to the body’s natural biological clock, known as circadian rhythms. These rhythms are small fluctuations within bodily functions over the course of 24 hours, and naturally everybody’s is different. What it does mean is, that in theory if you can work out when certain rhythms peak, you should be able to work out when your best time of day is to run. If you take this running lark seriously it’s definitely worth keeping a run journal, tracking how you feel both physically and mentally, and over time you should start to notice a pattern developing. In total our bodies have more than 100 of these circadian rhythms, so yep it’s not a simple process; try to focus specifically on body temperature (performance is better when it is higher), sleep patterns and hydration levels.


Do You Run Better At A Certain Time Of Day?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, so please get in touch!

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