Early Bird vs. Night Owl

When it comes to specific workouts (long runs, tempos, track intervals), I’m pretty consistent about what time of day I run. Part of this is because I train with the Central Park Track Team and our Tuesday track workouts and Thursday tempo runs are always at 7pm. 800m repeats at sunrise? A 5-mile tempo before breakfast? Not gonna happen. I’m sure this isn’t big news, but in the mornings I feel slower. My body temperature is lower due to 7+ hours of sleep, I’m still groggy, and my muscles haven’t moved around enough to get loose. So, I tend to reserve the early morning hours for long and easy runs. Taking things nice and slow allows my body (and brain!) a chance to warm up.

It’s tough getting myself motivated to run fast later in the day (7pm workout time means late dinner, later bedtime) but at least physically I’m at the top of my game (or more so than I am in the morning). I was recently perusing an article on Chronobiology for Runners and it got me thinking about my own circadian rhythym. I’m not an early morning person, but I’m not really a night owl either. I generally feel my best at around 9 or 10am. In an ideal world, I’d do all of my running then, but alas – I’m usually cubicle bound.

Anyway, the point of this ramble is…I do certain kinds of runs at certain times of day. And if I’m running long, I like to get it out of the way early. I’m running a leg of the Cherry Tree 10-miler in Prospect Park this weekend (each leg = 3.34 miles) and although I could “add on” miles in the form of warm-up/cool-down I feel like it wouldn’t be the same as a continuous long run. SO. I decided that I’d try to run long before work this morning. Getting up at 6am wasn’t super fun, but thankfully the weather was warm AND I had a running buddy (thanks Jacqui!).

The run itself was pretty uneventful – kept the pace easy, picked it up a bit in the last mile or two.

The best part about pre-dawn runs? I reward myself with Starbucks!! It gives me something to look forward to. My go-to drink lately has been a tall misto with 2% milk.

My work days have been getting longer and so, the office cafeteria has been my go-to source of breakfast and lunch nearly every day this week. Add in the free cupcakes I’ve been scoring from co-workers and I’ll never have to buy groceries again! Hah. Kidding. Except maybe not really.

Breakfast today was the usual pb & j on flax bread and fruit with cottage cheese. Anddd more coffee. I almost always eat breakfast when I get to the office – even on days when I run long. I have my dinner pretty late (9-10pm), so I find that I’m still well-fueled for morning runs.

It feels good to have this long run done and done – more time for frolicking tonight and tomorrow! However, my left hamstring/gluteus muscle is being a pain in the ass (bwaha, pun intended). I think it needs some stretching and a yoga class asap.

Are you an early bird runner? Or do you feel your best mid-day? In the evening?

  • Alisha

    love, love, love the early mornings. My rule of thumb is the later I wait to go, my percentage chance of going running drastically goes down! I have a great group who I meet. It is my social time. We run at 5:00 or 5:15 a.m.!

  • I am pretty much exclusively a morning runner. If I try to run after lunch/dinner I am screwed – my body is tired, I’m hungry, my stomach starts hurting for whatever reason. It totally doesn’t work for me. And I feel like I’m a lot faster in the morning. But who knows, maybe I could train my body to be a later-in-the-day runner? I also just love getting it out of the way and having my evenings to do other stuff and hang out with people. I actually feel more tired and kind of “off” if I don’t get in a morning workout. I will definitely be checking out that article, because I’m so interested in this topic!

  • Funny, I just wrote about my love for morning runs this week! I find that if I push my run to after work, I’m slower.

    My hamstring has been tight too…and I have a 20-miler tomorrow (yikes!). Coincidently, I haven’t been to a yoga class in over a week. Must get to a class this weekend.

  • AR

    The last time I tried to do a hard workout before the sun was up I fell asleep in the shower.

    Enjoy that mental image.

    But it doesn’t really work for me. And if I have to race early? I have to start drinking coffee REALLLLLLY early because that seems to be the main issue. D’oh.

    And now you have another awesome mental image.

  • I am definitely an early bird runner. If I’m not in my sneakers by 8 am, it’s probably not going to happen. I run before work during the week and usually set an alarm for long weekend runs. I look for you sometimes when I’m out running in the morning! Creepy? Cool? I’m not sure… Hehe.

  • My run varies from morning – early for me is 9AM, to late at night. The 2 things that probably most greatly affect my run is being hungry – I can’t ignore a rumbling tummy, and feeling rushed – I just can’t concentrate on the run and end up giving up.

  • Early bird all the way. My runs usually start between 5-5:30am on weekdays, and between 7-8am on weekends. It’s fun to train with the “resistance” of not being fully ‘biologically awake(?)’, because I feel so much fresher and ready to rock at races, which often aren’t until 9 or 10am around here — lots of time for my body to wake up compared to my training runs.

    I am impressed with how fast you run in the afternoons (evenings, really)! I feel like I’m wading through freshly poured concrete on afternoon runs… I’d be toast at a CP track workout.

  • Mornings definitely, but no weekend alarms here! I rarely do less than 6 miles at a time, and on weekday mornings I give myself just enough time for that. Don’t think I could get myself out the door any earlier than 6:30! I miss the days of no class till 11 am (i.e. 9 a.m. runs) in college…

  • hooray for Starbucks treats after early a.m. runs! You know I’m an early bird – I think my body would be shocked if I tried to run at any other time. Going to give a few miles a try this weekend – fingers crossed! have fun on Sunday 🙂

  • I can run in the AM as long as it’s not an intense workout. My body hates trying to do anything too intense early. Sometimes I have to do it because of work.

    Good luck on Sunday! I’ll be out there as well on a relay team. This is one of my favorite races – have done it every year since 2005 I believe:)

  • Wow 10 miles before work sounds intense. I like morning workouts when choosing night vs. early morning to get it overwith, but agree that 9 am is pretty perfect! I like having my nights free and like knowing I accomplished something early in the day.

  • Anne

    Cool work-out ! Poor you, I wouldn’t be able to eat in plastic plates everyday… I think I would bring my own plates, more environmentally friendly 😉

  • i think i’m the strongest in the morning a couple hours after breakfast, but like you, i am at a desk by then. i definitely prefer to exercise in the morning and generally don’t have a tough time getting myself out of bed, but it’s not always possible when you’re dealing with a yoga studio’s schedule.

    the best part of this post is that if you look at a couple of your slower miles, i almost ran as fast as you yesterday. or really, you almost ran as slow as me. 🙂

  • i wish i could run before work but as a teacher, i think that means getting up wayyy to early. so on weekdays, i usually go in the afternoon (around 4-5 pm) so even in the winter, i can be outside mostly before dark! weekend long runs are definitely in the morning. i set an alarm. once the weather is consistently warmer and the sun is up sooner,i will try a short morning run before work to see what my body thinks!

  • J

    I am totally an early bird but my running team meets at 6pm for runs. I think its nice to switch things up. I always tend to start out slower in the mornings and speed up.

  • I try to breathe less deeply on runs, in the interest of being environmentally friendly. Less C02 in the air!

    In any case, I was always always always a morning runner, until recent life changes made me a late afternoon/evening runner. Frankly, I hate it – morning running sets a great tone for the day – but I have discovered that I run much better and faster later in the day. Good to know, but since most races are in the morning, this doesn’t seem to help me out much.

  • i used to be an early morning runner. especially in winter. something about coming back to a warm house and warm oats made running before work in the freezing cold totally worth it. now i exercise in the afternoon during my sons afternoon nap. i would love to get out in the mornings again… hopefully soon.

  • I’m best in the late afternoon. That goes for running, strength training and abs. I don’t know why but it just works. I used to end my work shift at 4pm and so I’d go home and do that right away so that may be why. But now I’m a stay at home mom and I still do it that way!

  • I am so envious that you can get up early and run. I try, but just can’t get up early enough. I do have good energy in the afternoon, although, it would be nice to have it done for the day!

  • Eileen

    I have to be flexible because I have three little kids. My “best” time is mid-morning, when two are in school and one can come to the gym babysitting room. However, when they were younger and didn’t like the babysitting room, I’d squeeze in running a.) first thing in the morning b.) when my husband came home c.) while they had their dinner or d.) after the kids went to bed. The only one I really DIDN’T like was the late option … too much food in my stomach, and too tired. But I think it’s good to be able to run in a variety of times and settings.

  • I’m about to go for an early run but I’m waiting for the sun to come up a little. I get nervous about running in the dark. I run at my college campus in the early evening some times though because there are always lots of people around. I find late runs easier but I like knowing my workout is finished all day if I do it in the am. I don’t run in the afternoon since I live in Florida, it’t too hot!

  • Katka

    I have no choice, but somehow i end up with similar times of the day:
    intervals and shorter, faster runs in the evenings during the week (when the kids are in bed and husband in), long run saturday morning (sometimes 5.30, just to be back in time – dont ask, its tough).
    Ideal time would be after breakfast, at between 9-10 a.m. – keep on dreaming 😉

  • I prefer to run early (no matter what the mileage is), but my work schedule makes me run at night and weekends, I run in the am.