Is Running At Night Bad? What Road & Trail Runners Should Know!


Runners set out at all times of the day and night. Some are firm ‘first thing in the day’ people, like me, while others prefer to do it a little later, including after dark.

While there is no absolute right or wrong time of the day to run, there are things to consider. If you have the option to choose, you most likely prefer to exercise during the day. For others, they don’t have that luxury.

So is running at night bad? As it turns out, running at night appears to be more beneficial than during the day. Once the perceived issues of danger and limited visibility are overcome, there’s merit to night time exercise.

Benefits of Running at Night

Warm-ups are one of the most neglected parts of running. Loosening up your limbs, especially first thing in the morning, can help prevent muscle soreness and injury.

  • A benefit of running at night is that you’re already warmed up as you’ve been moving around all day. If you do happen to forget to stretch, you’re less likely to do any damage. (Source)
  • Running at night can assist with better quality and duration of sleep. Being both physically and mentally tired is the key to a more restful night.

As I mentioned earlier, I love to get my run done first thing in the morning, so it’s out of the way and prepares me for the day ahead. Not everyone feels the same way. 

Mornings can be a stressful time, especially for parents of young children. Navigating baths, breakfasts, and school lunches requires time and careful planning. Going for a run first thing can infringe on this much-needed time.

  • Exercising straight after work frees up the mornings for the other things that matter in life.

Overcoming the Danger of Running at Night

The only real danger of night running is the limited visibility. This concern can easily be overcome, provided you stick to well-lit areas. It’s always a good idea to run with a buddy just so you both have that extra set of eyes to watch for obstacles. 

Due to the limited visibility, it’s best to run in an area you’re already familiar with and plan the route beforehand. Darkness isn’t the ideal time to decide to explore the unknown. 

If you can, begin your run during ‘golden hour,’ that final 60 minutes before sunset. Even if you continue past that time, you’ll be more ready for the darkness.

Is It Bad To Run Before Bed?

Lack of quality sleep affects many people. The sleep foundation believes that 30%–48% of adults don’t get sufficient rest. One of the reasons people can’t fall asleep is due to not being physically tired. For example, those with a sedentary job, like office workers, don’t get to burn off energy before going to bed. Running at night could be the solution. (Source)

Night running allows you to burn off that extra energy while also purging your mind of the day’s stresses. You’ll go to bed both physically and mentally exhausted, promoting deeper sleep.

Of course, running right before bed isn’t wise. Allow at least 90 minutes for the pumped-up endorphins to settle down and leave your body tired and ready for slumber. (Source)

Is It Bad To Do Cardio At Night?

As I just mentioned, cardio at night can assist with sleeping. However, there are some factors to consider. High-intensity workouts may cause a person to wake up and have trouble calming down. 

Avoid things like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), competitive cycling or swimming, and heavy weightlifting. Instead, choose a leisurely swim or cycle, a light workout, and consider reducing your run to a jogging pace of 4.5–6 mph.

Can You Lose Weight Running At Night?

A 30-minute run can burn anywhere from 200–500 calories. Whether it’s done during the day or at night, that’s a cold hard fact. Most experts claim that day running contributes to more weight loss, but that may not be the case for everyone.

Research suggests that you get the best weight-loss results when your body temperature is at its highest.

That’s between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. for most people, though some studies extend this time to 7 p.m. Night running when your body temperature is high can help you lose weight. (Source)

Are you an “evening grazer?” Night running serves two purposes here. First up, the activity may take you away from the fridge or pantry, avoiding the snack altogether. Secondly, if you’ve already chowed down, some cardio can burn those extra calories before bed.

Can You Trail Run at Night?

It’s not for the faint-hearted, but it is possible. Trail running after dark requires a lot of extra preparation and care. The number one thing to be aware of is losing direction and accidentally backtracking. A thorough understanding of the route and a reliable compass will help.

The benefits of running a familiar trail at night are that it can improve your agility and reaction times.

Both of which, when joining an event, could mean the difference between first and second place.

Night trail running does come with more risks

Apart from possibly losing direction, trip hazards are more likely to occur, and an altered sense of perception could create unexpected head-height obstacles.

Night Trail Running Tips

Being well prepared can make running a trail at night a completely different and refreshing change.

Light is your best friend when running at night. I recommend having both a head torch and a hand-held. It’s easy to develop “tunnel vision” following a fixed beam of light. Sway your hand-held around to break up the single-focus issue.

Trail running is rarely a solo sport, and it’s best to have a buddy with you at all times so you can keep a watch on each other. This practice is even more important in the dark, with a higher risk of something going wrong, the support system becomes necessary.

A significant difference between day and night running is the temperature. Prepare for the cold, wear layers, and keep additional clothing in your backpack. Plan accordingly and avoid trail running during the peak of winter.

My last tip for running a trail at night is to switch up your style.

For starters, go slow; this will reduce the potential for trips. Lift your feet higher with each step. It’s those close-to-the-ground hazards that you could end up avoiding. Finally, shorten your stride; smaller steps help you maintain your balance and ultimately give you a lighter style for future runs.

Is Running At Night Harder? ( Tips Listed! )

Running at night is slightly more complex than running during the day, but with the proper preparation and taking more care, it can be an enriching experience. Here are my tips for running at night:

  • Run against the traffic: By doing this, you can see each other coming much more quickly.
  • Wear a light: I mentioned this with trail running, but the light at night will be your best friend regardless of the terrain.
  • Dress in bright colors. It’ll make vehicles and other people spot you much easier.
  • Take your phone: The risk of an emergency increases as the sun goes down. Your smartphone allows you to call for help, check your location on a map, and even has a flashlight if your torch runs out of battery.
  • Plan wisely: Choose streets that you’re already familiar with and are more populated than others. There’s safety in numbers, after all.
  • Cooldown: Don’t forget to stretch before or when you get home.

You may discover that running at night suits your schedule more and is a thoroughly enjoyable experience. If you’ve never done it, why not give it a try?

sherifjallad

An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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