You’re Running at the Wrong Time – Find Out When is Best

Download the Transcript

Find this podcast on:

(Or search 'Trees Dlake' in your favourite player)

Discover the ideal running schedule for optimal performance in this article. Learn about the benefits and challenges of morning and evening runs, the flexibility and stress relief offered by evening workouts, and how to maximize your gains by combining morning and evening routines. Plus, explore the impact of afternoon workouts on speed intervals and strength gains.

Trigger warning:

  • All runners need to run in the morning.
  • All runners need to run in the afternoon.

Which one made you angry? Which one did you agree with?

I hope you’re screaming at your screen with your answer and cursing me out. No… I don’t hope that, but yeah, engagement for the algorithm right?

In this quick post, I’ll touch on the following;

  • Morning Habit Formation & Flexibility
  • Evening Habit Formation & Flexibility
  • Combining Morning and Evening Routines with Afternoon Considerations
  • And more

This is all so that you can squeeze out more gains from the hard work you’re putting into your run training and possibly enjoy it more if you can better fit it into your lifestyle.

Morning Habit Formation & Flexibility

I’m sure you know this and have heard it from all the run influencers but it’s cliche for a reason with some science to back it up. Starting your day with a morning run sets you up on the right foot, making the most of those peak morning testosterone levels to build muscle and fire up your metabolism, helping you burn fat all day long.

It’s like giving the day’s potential distractions a big ol’ “not today,” ensuring you stick to a solid routine and put your health at the top of your to-do list right from the get-go.

I love morning training for many reasons, and you could not have told me I would have loved morning running 20 years ago. The main reason is for control. I like to make sure I get it in before the time thieves take my precious time from me. There are two types of time thieves; one thief is people who ask you for things and disrupt my deep work-like states. The second is actual time itself. Time is always moving, and urgent non, important tasks seem to creep up on you, making you have to prioritize and move around otherwise non-urgent and important things. The paradox is so real that I just choose to get in my workout and avoid all of the inevitable stress.

Time thieves aside, science also says that testosterone reaches its peak levels between 7 am -10 am (for males 30-40 years old) and this could be a great time to do some of your faster/harder running or strength work.

But… in the same breath, your body temperature is low—meaning your muscles will feel stiff—lung function is poor, and you’re unlikely to have had any substantial food intake for about ten hours—so your energy stores will also be depleted. This all increases the chances of injury.

This leads us to the evening option.

Evening Habit Formation & Flexibility

Evening runs are perfection for people who need flexible schedules, even though some could argue getting it done in the morning is the ultimate flexible flex. Evening runs let you tweak how hard and long you work out, depending on how your day went. Plus, you’re fueled up from the meals of the day, which could mean better performance and fewer instances of hitting the wall and bonking.

I’m personally not a fan of evening runs/training but I have started to slowly appreciate them as a nice transitional buffer between the workday mental puffs of exhaust smoke that my brain is generating into my normal adulting responsibilities (parenting, life admin, being a good present human, etc.).

Bonus: If you get it done early enough (a few hours before bedtime) and keep the overall load moderate, you could kickstart a better nighttime routine to help you sleep better, which starts the cycle for better recovery and improved performance.

It’s all connected but also might be confusing, which dovetails into the hybrid last option.

Combining Morning and Evening Routines and Including Afternoon Workouts

This is a very obvious “duh” hack, but a hack nonetheless. If you plan early enough and/or have flexibility in your schedule, you can easily sprinkle in morning and evening runs throughout your week.

I tend to do this with track workouts as my track doesn’t open up until 3:30 pm (annoying but I kinda get it). This is to my advantage as I’ll get to it shortly.

Integrating morning and evening runs into a training schedule allows for leveraging the metabolic and psychological benefits of morning exercise and the flexibility and stress relief of evening workouts.

Afternoon runs might actually be the best time of day for runners, according to this Runner’s World Article.

“It has been known for some time that most physical activities are best performed in the mid-to-late afternoon, as this is when body temperature peaks, meaning the muscles are at their most supple and running at speeds that feel tough in the early morning will feel much easier. Recently this has been bolstered by a study by Dr. Boris Medarov of the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York, which found that lung function was more than 6 percent better in the afternoon than at other times during the day. ‘Everything just feels easy and relaxed, and the miles go by that much quicker,’ said East. So this is definitely the time of day to run if you’re going for a personal best.”

If you focus on speed intervals and strength gains, the literature supports afternoon sessions as optimal due to peak muscle performance and coordination. This period maximizes strength and endurance, making it perfect for intensive track workouts or heavy lifting sessions in the weight room. Scheduling harder sessions around your hormonal body clock can improve performance outcomes and personal bests, offering a comprehensive approach that accommodates a wide range of fitness and training goals.

Putting It All Together

If any of this makes you roll your eyes, here’s the deal: nailing your run schedule is all about variety and syncing up with your body’s clock while keeping the work-training-life balance in perspective. Adding some afternoon action could seriously up your game, especially when your body’s primed and ready to crush those faster runs or heavy lifts.

Want to learn more? I had a fun deep dive argument discussion with my content brother from another mother Remy B Reel and special guest, Instagram comedic runner Laura Green where she acted as judge and told us who was wrong and who was right. Click here to watch and listen to it.

Links & Learnings