When is the Best Time of Day to Run Outdoors?

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A breath of fresh air fills your lungs. While standing up, you grab your foot from the back and pull it towards you, stretching your hamstring. You do the same for the other leg. You look up to see the sun and sky above your head. Exhaling the air from your mouth, you start your jog. That sounds rather nice doesn’t it? A sound run does the body and mind good, especially when you are outdoors on a trail. But When is the Best Time to Run Outdoors? As many lawyers say, it depends. This article will answer just that question, so let’s get started.

The Short Answer – Run When it Fits Your Schedule

Some people start work up at 5 AM and can only run the afternoon once work is done. Some people can take a relaxed morning and a run then is just perfect. The best time to run outdoors is when it fits your routine. As I will explain in the next section, since I am a morning person, I prefer brisk, early morning jogs as soon as I wake up. That fits with my personality. I like the cool calm of the morning.

Because each person is different, you need to take your personal habits into account. Some people can rely on themselves to take that afternoon jog, but others will be consumed by the day so they have to do it in the morning or else it will not happen at all.

If you just cannot make the time in the morning, then you might want to push it back. Whatever time you do decide to run, strap on the tennis shoes whenit is convenient for you.

Adapt your routine to fit your lifestyle.


Before we dive further into this article just know that, while hiking is certainly not running, both are quite similar and carry almost the exact same benefits, especially when you run outdoors. In a previous article, I wrote about the Mental Health Benefits of Hiking. If you pretend that the “hiking” in the title is really “running,” I won’t tell anybody. You experience pretty much the same benefits. Click on the link below and learn about the mental health benefits of an outdoor run.

==> I Want to Learn about the Mental Health Benefits of Outdoor Running <==

If You Want to Burn Fat, Run Long in the Morning

Morning time comes after a long ten to twelve hour fast. You do not have any food in your belly. This makes a morning run splendid for fat burn. Your body cannot burn anything in your belly, so it is forced to shred fat. You will burn fat best in the morning. When you take a long or extended run in the morning, you increase your fat burning metabolism, shedding off the pounds in no time flat.

As I said earlier, this is when I personally go running. I admit that I am biased. I think the morning is the best time to run. What you start the day off with sets the tone for the rest of the day. A morning run sets a productive tone. You are going to get stuff done. It is an excellent way to kick start your day. When you run as soon as you get up, your body will wake up. You do not need coffee after a morning run.

Also, I do not know about you, but morning time is my time. I have greater control of what happens then than at any other time of day. Before the responsibilities of work and school kick in, I get to decide what I get to do with my time. No one is texting me asking for help on their essay or leaving me a long email complaining about so-and-so at the office that I have to respond to at just this minute. No, none of that happens in the morning. The day takes on a much slower pace and I can ease into things with a bright and early run.


Early morning is also the coolest time of the day to run. You will not have to worry about running too hot. The fresh, brisk air will be sure to put a damper on that. It is safer that way. You do not worry about overheating. In general, I find the morning time to be a safer time of day to run. Hooligans are not out patrolling the neighborhood then.

Morning motivation, that is why I recommend this time above all others. Your body kicks into gear with a run, propelling you through the rest of the day. When your run falls in line with sunrise, that is a marvelous feeling that is sure to energize you for the rest of the day. To see the sunrise on your run is like watching a teammate cheer you on. You push yourself harder.

As we will see later, science says morning is not the best time to run, but it also says morning runners are more likely to stick with their workouts. If you run first thing in the morning, you will stick with it on a regular basis. If you push it back into the afternoon or evening, you can give excuses like “I have a paper due at midnight” or “my kids need me.” While all those excuses matter and I understand hurdles do pop up, they do not appear in the morning.

As Bruce Li would say, “long term consistency beats short term intensity.” With morning runs, you are planning for years down the road.


Run Hard in the Afternoon and Early Evening

As much as my own opinion prefers to disagree, science says the afternoon is the best time to run. Your body temperature peaks between 4 PM and 5 PM and as late as 7 PM, so research data says this is the best time. Whereas during the morning you will be groggy for a morning run, you will be wide awake in the afternoon. Strength and physical endurance peaks then. Your whole body falls into focus.

You are less injury prone then. By the afternoon and early evening, you are awake and cognizant and have moved your muscles around. In the afternoon as opposed to the morning, you are not struggling to wake up like a new born giraffe. Instead, the day has primed and warmed up your muscles in time for the run. Unlike say a morning runner, you can then take less time to stretch. Your body is at its highest temperature, so the muscle fibers are the loosest then.

Another benefit of afternoon runs is that you get a better night’s sleep. Exercise at this time loosens up the body and lowers the blood pressure, putting you into a relaxed state. As soon as you hit the mattress, it is lights out for you in minutes. Morning people will also get this boost, but at a much lower rate.


I do not know about you. But once I hit 4 PM or 5 PM, I am stressed out. The tension reaches into my shoulders and turns my mind to jelly. It just wants to do something easy like endlessly scroll on my iPhone web browser. Fortunately though, an afternoon outdoor run will snap me right out of it. When you run in the afternoon, you release stress. It lets loose all the meetings and events you had throughout the day, reenergizing you for that late night crunch.

Other Important Factors to Consider

We are not just considering the here and now, but your future self.

Event Timing – Structure Your Running Workout Routine for that Coming Race

Some of us run casually while others train hard. An outdoor run is a great way to train for a marathon, but not all marathoners are created equally. Some train for years before racing, while others only train for a month or two before the big race, so be sure to structure your regime to take the coming event into account. Make sure to put in time for recovery and long runs. If you can set aside three days a week, then that is splendid. If you can set aside six days a week, then that is excellent. I recommend training at least three days a week to fully prepare your body.

Usually if you are racing, you want to win or at least beat your past self, so be sure to set specific goals. You do not want ones that are flimsy, but actionable. I am talking about Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Results-focused, and Time-bound (SMART) goals. This type of goal setting increases your follow through rate and your chances of success. You are running to be better than who you were yesterday.


Mix Up the Workouts to Force Your Body to Adapt

When I was living at home in Los Gatos, I only did slow, twenty minute runs, nothing that would push me too hard. I realize now that was a bad idea. Like a DJ, you need to mix it up. In other words, change up the time, distance, and elevation you run at. Your body grows when it is outside its comfort zone.

If you are used to running only in the morning, the occasional afternoon run will be sure to shock your body out of its pattern. If you are not a morning person, decide to wake up early one day and go for a run. It will do your body some good. If you only run in the park in a straight line, then it might be time to drive out to the trail. If you do not run on the sand, your feet will be challenged with a beach run. Varied workouts increase your performance, challenging the body in new ways. These types of workouts help those training for racing events.

Are You Going to Get Outside this Week?

Well, you should be all set to go. You now know the answer to the question you asked. Now it is time to slip on the socks and lace up the running shoes. If you do not know where to go for your outdoor run, then I suggest you check out AllTrails.com. If you are looking for an excellent running trail, then you are bound to find one near you on this handy dandy site. So what do you say? Are you going to get outside this week? Click on the link below and challenge yourself to try something new.

==> I Want to Be a Better Person and Run Outside <==

If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!

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14 Comments on “When is the Best Time of Day to Run Outdoors?”

  1. Hey Alex,

    Great article. Like you I prefer the early morning runs and as you stated, I was more consistent when I could run early and then ease into my day feeling more energized. Now though that is difficult for me as a school teacher, my days start too early and I don’t get done till late, so I sneak in a run in the afternoons when I can and make it a point to get my runs in on weekends in the morning.

    I too feel that the best time to run is when you are able to run. When I run in the morning I will do meditations in the late afternoon or early evening, otherwise, I do breath work in the morning and then run in the afternoon.

    Great tips and love the vary your runs and workouts advice.

    1. I appreciate the compliment Chris. I am glad to hear you agree with me on early morning running. These types of runners are more consistent.

      Even though you are busy as a school teacher, it is good to hear that you still make the time to run. I am sure you need the stress relief with all the parents nagging you!

      Meditation is another splendid activity. I really like it. I do it too. Instead of sitting passively, I am learning an active form of meditation, Tai Chi. I like it so far. Breath work is good too though. It helps calm you down. I used to do it, but I feel like I am not moving forward with it.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  2. Hi Alex!

    Great post on outdoor running! You also had some interesting information on exercise and what it does to you at certain times in the day. I have to agree with you that any exercise I get I usually prefer to do in the morning. It doesn’t usually play out that way but the earlier the better.

    But all the points made on both ends whether it’s morning or afternoon are valid. I’m more likely to do if it’s early. But in the afternoon, it really does relieve stress after a long day. I just have to really talk myself into most times. I figure it’s more important that I do it than try to wait for peak times so mornings it will remain.

    Thanks for sharing! This is just great information.

    1. I appreciate the compliment Tina. I am glad to hear you agree with me on running in the morning. You are right that you are more likely to follow through with your workout if you do it in the morning. At the same time though, I really enjoy the stress relief of an afternoon run.

      Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!

  3. I am not a runner but you definitely got me excited for a morning run with the possibility of not having to chug coffee to wake up! Lol I agree with you by evening time I am beat and want to just check out so to speak, watch TV, flip through fb, stuff where my mind can zombie out. My body also feels pretty dead by 6pm, I wonder if doing a double run would help? I really enjoyed your writing style and will be checking in to see more tips!

    1. That is the best part of morning runs. You do not need coffee anymore. Your body kicks into gear for the rest of the day after a run.

      I appreciate your question on ‘double running.’ When I used to wrestle a lot, I would workout in the morning and then have practice in the late afternoon. It was exhausting. If you are training for a big race, then you should do it. The routine will be sure to get you in shape.

      You can do a two runs a day, but you need to take your body into account. Remember that you will be putting a lot of strain on your body. There is a reason many former athletes have knee and joint problems. They pushed their body when they were young and now they are paying the price. For this reason, you need to stretch and lightly push your joints to reduce inflammation and massage your muscles. I hope this helps you.

      Thank you for the compliment on my writing style. I appreciate it. That is quite nice to hear. I really like that.

      Thank you so much for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  4. Wow, this is really great information. I enjoy running in the mornings too. I find that making it on-time to work can be difficult sometimes if I’m not fast enough. I like to run to burn off fat.

    1. I am glad to know you benefitted from this article Sam. You are right about ‘running’ late to work after a morning run. To make sure you get there on time, you might want to consider a shorter run. It will give you more time to prepare for work. Otherwise, you can get up earlier. You keep the distance the same and make it to work on time. If you run in the morning, you will be sure to burn off fat.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  5. I find a morning run so beneficial. As a matter of fact, I don’t even have to take a long run to feel the rejuvenation in my body. For one thing I really enjoy the cool, fresh air in the early morning and there certainly are less pollutants in the air. Once I am done, I won’t have to struggle to do it later in the evening after work. It can be so tiring then.

    1. I am glad to know you enjoy morning runs too Carol. You are right that even a short run can make a world of a difference for a person. I have to agree with you on the cool morning air. It can really be meditative and therapeutic. I enjoy it a lot. When you run in the morning, the rest of the day is a breeze.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  6. Hmm I think I like both running in the morning and in the late afternoon, when the sun is less harsh. I find running great for when I am stressed, just to get my body moving really helps me complete the stress cycle.

    I loved your article, love the personal touch too 🙂

    1. I am glad to hear you enjoy both the afternoon and morning runs. The sun will be a lot easier at both times. You can be sure to relieve the stress while jogging.

      I appreciate the compliments on my article Danielle.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    1. I am glad to hear you run for boxing Justin. Both those times are splendid to run at. They each have their benefits.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

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