Running has always been a great way to get exercise and clear my mental space no matter the time of day. Running is a favorite way to exercise because it is easy to do anywhere and has minimal barriers to entry. Then my life changed when my daughter was born. My daily schedule was no longer my own and my world revolve around her life. My running schedule got blown to bits! It took me nearly 6 months to find a routine to get back into running on a regular basis.
Since her birth, I’ve been modifying my days to find the best time of day to continue running. I’ve found my new favorite time to run is in the evenings. I felt more refreshed and less exhausted by changing my runs to the night. Running at night is something that I will likely continue even when my schedule allows a return to normal as my girls get older. See 6 reasons why I’ll continue to run at night versus any other time of the day.
It’s Quiet at Night
Once the sun goes down most of the world tends to go inside. This makes running at night noticeably quieter and much more peaceful. Running with whisper-quiet nighttime air have become contagious for me since my days are filled with chaotic noise. I spend all day conversing with people and then come home to my second and more important job of “Dada.”
The quiet time helps my brain reset. The internal noise and the replaying of the day disappear as my brain adjusts to the quiet surroundings of a sidewalk or a dirt trail. The prospect of going through another day of alarms beeping, horns honking, dogs barking, rude patients or another zoom meeting seems much easier after I’ve completed my run and able to recharge my batteries.
All of Your Other Senses are Heightened
You can thank biology for this one. With the sun down and the world in full darkness, your body automatically adjusts and heightens the rest of your senses. This is especially true regarding the sense of sight, sound, and touch. Your body automatically sends more resources to those areas of the brain. Imagine a shot of “brain focus” each night while running. These same areas of heightened senses are the ones we used to challenge daily as a hunter-gather. Unfortunately, those areas of the brain rarely get stimulated in the same pattern in today’s lifestyle.
Your eyes are able to adjust to the lack of light and you use a higher percentage of the rods inside of the eyes. The rods see shapes and size better in low light than the cones. You also use the periphery of your vision more to look for obstacles to help safely navigate your way on the run.
Your sense of smell also gets a bump. Fallen leaves, dew on the grass, and the smell of a light nighttime breeze all become more noticeable and obvious. When is the last time you took the time to notice the smell of your outdoor surroundings?
Finally, since you’ll be running in the dark your sense of touch become ever more important but maybe not the way you’re thinking. Each step now gives your brain more sensory input and becomes a navigation tool. You’ll land softer and more intentional to assess your position. Are you on a slant, is there gravel or sidewalk underfoot? This softer and more focused landing is actually beneficial to our joints and tendons.
The Weather is Calmer at Night
Even though storms do happen at night, the weather tends to get calmer in the evenings. The sun heats up the atmosphere and the ground during the day causing a change in pressure as the heat rises. This creates weather changes and patterns such as storms, wind, and moisture.
In the evening, the cold air begins to settle back down and creates a stable atmosphere. This means that during windy and stormy days that would typically force my workouts to the dreaded treadmill, I can now happily run at night. The nighttime weather is often quiet and calm allowing for a great run with cooler but refreshing temperature.
It’s Less about Speed and More about the Journey of the Run
If you are a competitive runner then running at night isn’t going to help you increase your speed. You have to slow down to become more aware of your surroundings and become less persistent on how fast you are running.
The focus shifts from speed work to simply making it through the run safely. Your attention is drawn to obstacles on the ground, shapes in the corner of the vision, and sounds you are unsure if you really did hear. The accomplishment of finishing a night run unscathed becomes the ultimate award once you complete the run. The joy of running is back to simply running for running sake.
The Stars Are Amazing
When was the last time that you spent more than 5-seconds looking at the stars? Most nights the cosmos put on a dazzling display of a light show with the more frequent than I remember possible shooting star. You’ll find yourself looking up at the sky marveling at the number of stars and the vastness of the night sky.
You’ll catch more shooting stars than you thought were possible in a half-hour run and the darker the sky the brighter the stars seem to twinkle. Take a few minutes during each night run to take a few deep breaths and enjoy the show. The scenery of the start-lit sky against the shaded-out landscape of the night sky is amazing.
Fewer People and Animals to Dodge on the Run
How many times are you out running but it feels like you are dogging people and other dogs the whole time? Well, that is rarely an issue when running at night because people aren’t out. I’ve rarely seen another person out at all. You can let your dog off-leash (if they respond to voice command) and can worry less about other people. This allows you to get into your happy headspace while running and not have to worry about other distractions.
Plus, if there are people out at night you’ll be able to spot them easily in the distance because their headlamps are obvious to see. You can spot people from afar, get your dog on-leash again, or change routes and avoid them all together.
Benefits of Running at Night
You’ll Make Healthier Choices During the Day
If you know that you are scheduled to run that evening you’ll have no choice but to plan your day accordingly. Happy hour drinks after work? Not if you’re going to run that evening. Large lunch with fried food for a meal? That’s a tough meal to run on bouncing in your stomach. You’ll be forced to eat better, stay hydrated, and will likely drink less alcohol if you’re trying to run that evening.
Sleep Better After Running
If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping then running in the evenings might be the answer to help. Running will tire out the muscles, reduce stress, and improve blood flow through the body. It helps regulate hormones and burns through caffeine and stimulants that we might have consumed during the day. Who doesn’t drink too much coffee right?
Better Stress Relief Before Bed
Running releases plenty of endorphins and hormones which are responsible for the “runner’s high.” These hormones released during running are happy hormones and include serotonin and dopamine. This means each run is a shot of positive mood-boosting hormones that make it impossible to go to bed stressed and you’ll wake up with more energy and a better outlook the next morning.
Burn More Calories Through the Night
Finally, who doesn’t want to burn more calories while they are sleeping? After your running workout, your metabolism will be working in overdrive and this continues long after you’ve quit exercising. This means that you’ll be burning more calories while your sleeping as compared to not working out before bed.
Running at night is a great option for anyone that is a big nighttime eater or a chronic nighttime snacker. One you won’t be able to snack or eat as much if you are going to run and two, you will be burned off those extra night-time calories by running in the evening.
Try Running at Night for the Next 2 Weeks
Just when you start to get into a running groove, your schedule changes, and your time running suffers. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Running at night with the stars, intense quiet, and calmer weather has become my new favorite way to exercise and still provides an excellent time to workout. It’s now even my preferred time to get in a run.