You've tried it all — running morning, noon and night. Your work and life schedules probably dictate when you can exercise. For example, you have an hour every morning to slide in a nice run with a warm-up and cool-down without feeling rushed. Yet, you're way more powerful and faster if you run at lunch time. You would if you could, but there's the whole showering thing and eating lunch part that cramps your time. When you run, you're likely outside so the weather plays a role in this timing question, too. If you're at the gym, there are only so many treadmills so you really want to make sure you can grab one. (Is running on the street the same as the treadmill? Click here to find out.) This is getting tricky! The answer will surface if you break down the reasons you run, like you're running for performance and competition versus running for pleasure or decompression. Keep it simple.
The competitive runner: If you're running 5K races and half marathons throughout the season, you're clearly in this category. You love the thrill of crossing that finish line and checking out your time. Any other time you run, you're practicing. You're trying to maintain and improve at the same time. Running is important to you because it fuels your happy place. In order to get the most out of your run, you'll need to put your body through the workout that mimics the race.
- If you have a race scheduled for 8 a.m. on a Saturday, you should practice your runs between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. That way, you body gets used to waking up and running. You're able to digest whatever breakfast you have and your body's hydration patterns are in sync.
- Avoid high heat times or shorten your distance with heat and humidity. Slowly acclimate your body to heated runs as the summer kicks up; adjust accordingly.
>> Up late? Easy Morning Exercises for Night Owls
Running for fun: You fall into this category if you're beginning to run or running provides you with a sense of relief and routine. You're not worried about your time or planning for a big race every week. You still push yourself and try to commit to routes and distance for your own goals and reasoning.
- There's no need to wake up at the crack of dawn and bust out four miles. In fact, the body isn't ready for running then anyway. Your body temperature is naturally low and your muscles are stiff. You'll probably exert more energy on the same exact route in the morning versus the afternoon. You're better off getting more rest.
- Mid-morning to lunch time your body temperature is higher and you're more awake. Warmer muscles mean more mobility and therefore, more power. If you can swing it, try to make this your time.
- If you struggle with asthma or allergies, you might want to schedule your runs around the time when they feel the strongest. Late afternoon to evening is when your body temperature is at its highest. That, paired with improved lung function (6 percent better in the evening), evening times are the most ideal.
If you don't have a choice in time, shift gears into becoming a morning runner. Click here to stop snoozing and start sweating.
Early morning: Run early morning if you are training for a race that will start in the early morning or if you're trying to squeeze in a maintenance run. This is not the time for trials and top performances.
Mid-morning to lunch: This is a better time to try a run. Clear your head and get your exercise in for the day. If the heat is too much, try to shorten or slow your run. Be aware that the body tends to slow most of its functions as it gears up for the second meal of the day.
Afternoon to evening: The body heats up, lubricating the muscles as your lung performance peaks and the blood oxygen levels top off. Running during this time is ideal to avoid injury and max the benefits.
>> Read more: Exercises Every Runner Should Rock