After years of running in the mornings, I accepted a job that required me to clock in early, shift my schedule, and run at night. The experience was so bad I thought I would give up the sport for good and accept my life as a running has been. When I set off on night runs, my legs ached from long days at work, the heat made my body overheat, sweat dripped into my eyes, and my heartburn roared after having a full day of food in my belly. Everything was out of whack.
While I thought that changing the time of day I ran would be as simple as moving things around on my calendar, there were a lot of biological factors I didn’t take into account. What I thought would be solely a logistical challenge, was actually something that put both my body and mind to the test. To be honest, it was hard to feel like I was starting at square one with my running. I had worked so hard to build up a certain level of fitness and skill, and the consequences of my schedule change made me feel like it had all gone to waste. To put the dramatics aside, the adjustment didn’t take as long as I had feared. I eventually found a way to feel good during my evening runs, but it took a lot of experimentation and time. Here are some tips for making your switch.
Be patient with night runs
Our bodies become accustomed to our routines. This is why your stomach growls at your usual lunchtime, or you begin to yawn when you should be in bed. If you’re used to running in the mornings and would now like to run at night, expect your body to need time to adjust. You may feel antsy in the mornings at the time you’d normally be running, and you may feel sluggish when you lace up your shoes in the evenings. Don’t give up. Trust that your body will eventually fall in line with your new routine.
When you are first experimenting with night runs, it can be helpful to join a running group to hold you accountable to your new routine. When I first joined an evening running group, it was nice to know that I had at least one run on my calendar that I had already committed to and couldn’t make an excuse to miss. As time progressed, this group became a great community to blow off the end of the workday steam with. Once I became adjusted to night runs, not only did I not dread them, I craved them and soon found them to be a relaxing way to switch out of work mode.
Understand What Your Body Needs
When you change the timing of your runs, there are a number of factors you will need to consider. If you’re used to running in the mornings and now want to run at night, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- What will you eat for lunch and an afternoon snack to prepare for your run?
- What will your post-run meal look like?
- How fast can your body move after a long day?
- How long do you need to warm-up and cool-down given the time change?
- Is the weather cooler or hotter than you're used to? How will this impact you?
- Are you running so late in the evening that you're having a hard time falling asleep at night?
Key into the signals your body is sending you as you run in the evenings. The routines that worked for you before may not work for you now as you change your timing. Continue to tweak your runs and experiment with different factors. Again, this requires patience. It may take a number of months before you discover the perfect post-run snacks or your ideal schedule, but it will be worth it once you do.
Get the Right Equipment for Running at Night
Your favorite sweatshirt, long pants, and beanie may not be great apparel choices when you switch from running in the mornings to running at night. Think about the environmental differences between the mornings and the evenings and how you’ll need to change your running equipment to accommodate.
If you’re running past sunset, I would suggest investing in a good headlamp and reflective vest. The Bright LED Headlamp Flashlight is a great choice for headlamps, as it is waterproof and offers a number of light options. For a reflective vest, I would recommend the Reflective Vest with Hi Vis Bands,
Start Short and Slow
Think back to the first time you ever ran and how tired you felt after running what you would now consider a short distance. In some ways, changing the time of day you run is like starting over. While you may have discovered a perfect routine that optimized your runs for speed and comfort as a morning runner, that may all fly out the window when you run in the evenings.
Experiment with new factors and routines slowly. There’s nothing worse than committing yourself to a long distance run only to find during the first mile that your wardrobe doesn’t work for the humidity at that time of day or that you ate the wrong thing and now have an upset stomach. Be okay with running shorter and slower distances for a while. This will let you rebuild your running base on a foundation of new routines that work for your new time of day.
If you’re used to running in the mornings, it’s possible to change your routine to accommodate night runs. While it will take time and some getting used to, you can learn how to design an evening routine that you love. Stick with it and there’s no doubt you’ll be craving the sunsets as much as you craved the sunrises.