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While going for a brisk run anytime of day or night can be beneficial to your health, the time of day that you choose to go out for a jog may affect how your body performs. Scheduling your workout in the afternoon could be helping the quality of your run, based on a variety of physical and mental factors.
Body Temperature and Lung Function
Many of the functions that are vital to putting in a good run tend to peak at the same time each day. One of those fluctuations is in body temperature. Scientists have found that body temperature is at its lowest in the early hours of the morning and peaks in mid- to late-afternoon, according to a 2006 "Running Times" article. Athletes perform better when body temperature is higher, which is perhaps why many people find they run better later in the day.
While athletes perform better at a higher body temperature, it’s also important to keep in mind the temperature outside. When the temperature is more than 55 degrees Fahrenheit you’re going to run more slowly and feel worse than you would at lower temperatures, according to marathoning expert Jeff Galloway. Acclimating the body to running in the heat improves athletic performance. But for the more casual runner, the best time to run on a hot summer day is before sunrise, Galloway says. The outdoor temperature is at its lowest before sunrise and will therefore be much more comfortable for a run.
Running first thing in the morning on an empty stomach might be much more difficult than running later in the day because your energy stores are likely to be depleted overnight while sleeping. “This means the same level of exertion is likely to feel much harder at this time of day than later on,” according to "Running Times." Running in the afternoon may give you enough time to digest and get energy from your lunch. However, you might want to wait a few hours to run after eating a big lunch in order to avoid digestion trouble.
Although late afternoon is considered the best time to run physically, it’s not necessarily the best time mentally for many people. Many of the runners interviewed for a "Running Times" article said that the hardest part about running after work was finding the motivation after a full day at the office. However, if you can get past the psychological aspects of being drained after a long work day, you may be surprised by how well you perform once the running shoes are on your feet.
A resident of Edgewood, Ky., Gabrielle Dion has been writing professionally since 1997. In college, she served as editor-in-chief of her campus newspaper, "The Northerner." Dion has worked as a freelance writer for the "Cincinnati Enquirer" and blogged for Cincinnati.com, where she chronicled her first marathon-training experience. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Northern Kentucky University.