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What time of day should you run?

 

Morning

With all apologies to committed fans of early morning runs, the morning is not the best time to train. There are a few reasons for this:

- Body temperature is at its lowest, resulting in a certain degree of muscle stiffness. Generally difficult to spring into action: the first few kilometres are challenging.

- Pulmonary capacity remains mediocre, no matter the runner's level. This causes the feeling of effort to often be more brutal in the morning than it is later in the day.

- Glycogen stores have been depleted during the night – even if you eat a balanced breakfast before running. The body therefore has fewer reserves and gets tired faster.

Despite these physiological drawbacks, training at the beginning of the day remains an excellent way to start your day and get ready for the work day in a dynamic way. Running in the morning is also an exercise that promotes a good mental state. Plus, don't forget: road race start times (10km, half-marathons or marathons) are generally set at 9:00 or 10:00. Training when you wake up will therefore better prepare you for the big day.

The morning session to choose: From 40 min to 1 hr at endurance pace (under 75% of your maximum heart rate) without trying to increase pace. 

 

Mid-day

Many runners choose to run during their lunch breaks (at the risk of skipping a real meal) to avoid cutting into the leisure time that follows their work day. The body – though not at its peak – performs better than at the early hours of the morning. It is therefore possible to plan for a higher-quality workout. With these advantages:

- Training at mid-day rather than the evening leaves time for the body to process sustained workouts which increase heart rate. This makes it easier to fall asleep at night.

- Mid-day sessions are often more concentrated, since the general fatigue level is lower than it is after a full day of work.

Other than the weekend, it is rare to be able to find a significant period of time in the middle of the day. It is therefore preferable to plan out your session in advance, in order to schedule it as precisely as possible.

The mid-day session to choose: After a warm-up of at least 20 minutes, do an interval workout (on a track or outdoors). For example: 10x400m or 6x800m (on track), 6x3min or 3x6min (outdoors). Finish with a cool-down of around 15 minutes.

 

Late afternoon

The body is at its most competitive between 5:00 and 7:00 PM. According to many studies conducted on runners (but also swimmers and cyclists), performance increases by 5% to 10% at the end of the day. Muscle power and pulmonary capacity: all lights are green.

It is logical to try to train before your usual dinnertime, whenever possible. However, keep in mind that it is sometimes difficult to get motivated at the end of the day. It has been found that morning runners train more regularly than runners who prefer the second half of the day.

The late afternoon session to choose: After a warm-up of at least 20 minutes, work at the target pace for your upcoming competition. And finish your session with a series of sprints (10 times 30/30 or 5 times 2 minutes fast, 1 minute jog). Cool down for around 15 minutes.

 

Beyond its relationship with performance

Running should be built into your family and work schedule as harmoniously as possible. It is certainly worth making a few sacrifices – particularly as a competition approaches – but training should never be a source of imbalance at a personal level.

It is better not to get obsessed by the time of certain sessions and to make peace with the part of yourself that dreams of the ideal training conditions and constantly improving your performance. Morning, mid-day, or late afternoon: one kilometre is always 1,000 meters long. It is the pleasure of running that should drive you!

 

Wiser not to get hung up on a training time – or on a particular programme. It is by constantly challenging your body in different ways that your progress will be most regular.

 

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