Morning Running vs. Afternoon Running

As some of you might know, I recently converted from being a morning runner to an afternoon runner.  There are many pros and cons to each — this is my take:

Morning running – PROS:

  • Get your run out of the way
  • Start your day feeling productive
  • Might get to see the sunrise, which is cool
  • One shower/day and you’re set (if you’re a morning shower person like me)
  • Likewise, one change of clothes and most likely in your own house/apartment
  • Relatively easy to accommodate more mileage by waking up earlier

    I call this, "flaming sunrise over the BART tracks".

    I call this, “flaming sunrise over the BART tracks”.

Morning running – CONS:

  • Having to wake up really early
  • Takes longer for your body to wake up and warm up
  • It’s dark out, so a safety vest and headlamp are required
  • Routes limited to neighborhood loops, due to time constraints
  • I have to be more cognizant of when and what I eat for dinner.
  • Have to plan for possible bathroom stop, and most public bathrooms are closed early in the morning (sorry, TMI)

Afternoon running – PROS:

  • For whatever reason, I always feel faster and more energized on afternoon runs
  • Since I work in Berkeley, I have a lot of different routes to choose from, varying from flat-ish to extended climbs.
  • No bathroom stops, usually.
  • It’s nice to run during daylight hours.
  • I’m not as stressed about when I eat dinner, or what I eat.

Afternoon running – CONS:

  • I have to be more aware of what I eat for lunch and making sure I’m hydrated for my run.
  • I usually get on BART all sweaty and gross.  Luckily, I’m not a very smelly person (or at least I don’t think I am).
  • I get super rungry after my run.  (I’ve been eating a handful of peanut butter pretzels right after my run to counter this runger.)
  • I have to take 2 showers on run days.
  • It’s sort of embarrassing to be seen in running clothes at work.
  • I have to pack all of my gear the night before and carry an extra bag during my commute.
  • I haven’t done this yet, but I can only imagine how annoying it would be to go directly from my run to a social engagement.  I brought wet wipes and a towel to work, but still…

Even though I was initially anxious about switching over to afternoon running, I’ve come to really enjoy it.  Part of the reason I was worried about the change was because I used to talk myself out of afternoon runs all of the time; that’s why I became a morning runner to begin with — I was too tired first thing in the morning to make excuses.  But now that I’ve been consistently running for 3 years, I guess the habit has stuck.  I’ve also had fun exploring new routes and also revisiting old ones, and the “cons” aren’t nearly as bad as I thought they’d be.  Finally, I should note that I’m grateful for a somewhat flexible work schedule and an understanding boss who was supportive of the change.

You might have noticed that I didn’t even bring up evening running.  The few times that I’ve worked out after dinner, I’ve had a really difficult time falling asleep.  I think I get a boost of energy immediately after a run, and it takes a few hours for my body to come down from that.  So, unfortunately, evening runs are out of the picture for me.

I’m curious – what’s your preference?  Do you like to run at a specific time of day, or just whatever works best?


Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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18 comments on “Morning Running vs. Afternoon Running
  1. Dan says:

    I recently changed jobs and that has motivated me to switch over to morning running. I agree with pretty much all your points, though mine are slightly different because my afternoon workouts start at home (I don’t have to bring gear to work). Big one big CON of morning running is that you’re hungry all damn day. At least I am, anyway.

    But I’ve learned that the biggest obstacle is literally sitting up. Once you’ve done that, then you’re basically up and at ’em. It’s just so tempting to snooze and tell yourself that you need a rest day, or that you’ll do it after work. I guess it’s just a matter of getting used to it. It certainly doesn’t help that I started this in winter, when it’s frigid AND pitch black outside at 5:45. Maybe once spring comes along this’ll get easier.

    • Jen says:

      Waking up and motivating to run when it’s still dark out SUCKS. No two ways about it. I think one thing that helped me get out the door was not being able to hit the snooze button because my boyfriend is such a light sleeper. If it were up to me, I’d hit snooze for up to an hour, but I feel bad whenever it goes off at 5 or 5:30 and wakes him up.

      I think you’ll get used to the all day runger thing. Or just learn to have a LOT of snacks on hand. I had adjusted to morning runger, but after switching to afternoon runs, my stomach was like, “Wait a minute. We’re not used to this!” And I was really tired too after the first couple of afternoon runs, even though the mileage was roughly the same. It seems like so much of it is getting your body used to a new routine.

  2. Hillary says:

    God, I’m an afternoon/post-work runner all the way. I can count on both hands the times I’ve worked out before work, and while I always feel *awesome* for having done so, I never feel good enough about it to counteract the fact that my alarm is set to a time that I pretty much didn’t know existed. Weirdly, my morning workouts are almost exclusively gym workouts (even just to run). Not really sure why, as it’s way faster for me to just hit the lake path.

    One of my biggest challenges post-work was making sure I got a snack or ate a solid lunch on those days. Sometimes, I fall into holes at work and forget to eat (or don’t eat enough), so I started packing snacks (nuts, apple, cheese stick, granola bar) to eat around 4 or 5 to keep me going. Mentally, I fall apart when I think/know that I’m calorie-deficient and I immediately go to “this slight tired feeling means I need to stop before I die.” Along those lines, I developed a Pavlovian response to the gym during my last marathon training cycle because I got in such a habit of eating Chipotle for dinner right after my workouts (next to the gym, and cooking wasn’t going to happen at 8p). To this day, when I think of going to the gym, my mind goes to, “mmm burrito bowl.” I think another big challenge post-work is that I can’t let my ass hit the couch or it’s game over. My commute is pretty long, and forcing myself to basically Clark Kent into my running attire once home isn’t always easy, but it’s pretty much necessary.

    I agree about the all-day rungry that happens after morning workouts, though. I swam once or twice as a morning workout, and the level of all-encompassing hunger kind of frightened me.

    • Jen says:

      Your sentence about packing snacks totally speaks to me. I’ve started hoarding peanut butter pretzels, granola bars, and trail mix as if the apocalypse was right around the corner. I’ve got about 10 granola bars between work and home, and yet I just bought 10 more today. I’m beginning to think I have a problem. I can also relate to the Pavlovian response thing. For a while, I was doing all of my long weekend runs on the Bay Trail and there was a semi-decent donut shop on the way home, where I’d always stop. Even though the Bay Trail got really boring, I was like, DONUTS.

  3. Layla says:

    The biggest cons of afternoon/evening running for me are the heat (not an issue right now) and the traffic. Drivers are so much more aggressive and distracted after they’ve had a long day at work.

    • Jen says:

      Totally agree about both! One thing I loved about running so early in the morning was how quiet my neighborhood was — though I did have to watch out for half-awake drivers! As for the heat, I’m training for a 50K in July, so I consider that part of “heat training”.

  4. Cathryn says:

    If I could choose, I’d run early mornings any time – I’m quite proud of managing to run at least twice a week at 6am throughout the winter. It was the first time I’ve done that. But since Kaiser, my motivation to get up early has GONE and I’ve been so tired from college. I actually like running in the dark and I miss the sunrises. I don’t miss getting up at 5.30 though. So horrible.

    I’m glad you’re finding a time that works for you. Evening running is NEVER going to happen.

    • Jen says:

      It’s interesting how motivation comes and goes. You should totally be proud of waking up that early consistently throughout the winter! For me, it wasn’t *that* bad to wake up early, but it was horrible to wake up early and then not use the time efficiently (i.e., bathroom stops).

  5. Grace says:

    Ideally I’m a morning runner. That’s when it’s not pitch black (not a deal-breaker) and below freezing (possibly a deal-breaker) outside, though. I have no problem with morning OR post-work late-afternoon/ early-evening runs, and have been known to do AM/ PM doubles when procrastination cuts short a planned morning run. But for some psychological reason I have trouble with the concept of the lunchtime run, perhaps because I’m a slave to my stomach’s rhythms and idiosyncrasies. (You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry…)

    • Jen says:

      Oh, I totally understand. I can’t run during mealtimes – lunch or dinner – for the same reason. I’m in awe of people who can work out during lunch and then eat a salad at their desk. Like, that will never happen in my world.

  6. Jan says:

    I’ve tried all three. Years ago, I ran every day at 5:30 a.m. That was nice for the reasons you mentioned. Not much gets in the way of a 5:30 a.m. run!

    I also spent a good year running between 5-6 p.m. That was a little tricky with dinner (I had to snack to avoid bonking on the run) but energy-wise it wasn’t bad. I found I can NOT run right after work at 3:30 or 4:00. My energy level is the worst at that time of day.

    Now, I do a lot of running at 8 p.m., after the kids are in bed. This is mostly because my main running buddy often works until 8 and I wait for her. I did have trouble sleeping at first, but now I’m used to it, and I actually love the feeling of run-shower-sleep.

    I think around 7 or 7:30 is probably an ideal time for me, but it cuts into my kids’ schedule too much and I’m willing to wait an extra hour for a friend. Evening running is definitely my favorite. Although on weekends I like noon-ish runs.

    • Jen says:

      That makes a lot of sense, that your body adapted to your evening runs. I think that changing things up every once in a while is actually a good thing — keeps your body from plateauing, maybe? Anyway, having a friend run with you is a great reason/motivation to run at a specific time. It also feels more like a social call in the evening, rather than just exercise.

  7. bt says:

    I find that I’m consistently 10-20 seconds faster per mile in the afternoon than in the morning at the same effort level. I assume it’s ’cause the day’s activities have already warmed me up. It’s a false win, for me, though, since most races are in the morning… I prefer to get my runs done in the AM for the sense of accomplishment and avoiding the second shower. But, really, I’ll get ’em in wherever they fit. I also *never* run at night.

  8. Mike says:

    Honestly I’m happy running any time of the day… I prefer to run sans headlamp, though there’s something awfully serene about running along the beach with the surf breaking next to you in the dark. Morning is better because the stomach is empty, but then again afternoon is better because I’m a night owl and so morning runs often don’t fit into the workday schedule. Basically, as long as I can run I don’t worry too much about when it happens.

    That said, I will admit that I’m counting down the days until DST…

  9. pavn says:

    I was a morning runner. But due to a change in work schedule, I had to switch over to afternoon runs. Kind of feeling apprehensive about it and my body is taking time to adjust to the new routine. I also have to watch what to eat post my workout. Anyway, your blog gave me some confidence to have an afternoon run. Thanks…

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