Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Morning or Evening Runs: Pick Your Poison

As it begins to get (choose your favorite expletive) hot here in New England, I'm increasingly considering early morning runs. As I've repeated here, I'm not a morning runner. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and sometimes I have little choice but to hit the road only slightly after dawn. (Not today, though. Damn cats woke me up twice in the middle of the night, so I just snoozed right through the 6:30 a.m. alarm.)
From my experience, here are the cons of morning vs. evening runs. (Why just the negatives? I'm a smartass.)
Mornings are early. And the warmer the climate, the earlier you need to get up. A friend in Texas is running at 5 a.m. to beat the heat. No thank you.
Evenings are dark. It's cooler after sunset, yes, and running in the heat sucks, but you must wear reflective gear, including a headlamp. And what's attracted to bright lights after dark? Bugs. Yep.
Mornings are sluggish. It takes longer to warm up because you have to wake up. Getting up early, for me, isn't the issue. To wake up, on the other hand, I need to shower, eat and have a cup of coffee (or five). I'm not doing that before a run. That's just silly.
Evenings are unpredictable. Early sun can give way to late thunderstorms. Your boss can schedule a last-minute 5 p.m. meeting. Lunch can disagree with you (or, if you're busy or forgetful, not happen at all). Or 1,234,567,890 other things can happen after you wake up.
Mornings are early. Yes, I said this already, but it bears repeating. You burn the midnight oil? Watch Conan? Own pets who love to wake you up in the middle of the night? Yes? Then you're hitting snooze.
Evenings are busy. Like eating dinner at a normal time? Meeting friends after work? Showering only once a day? Actually relaxing at the end of the day? Yeah, I thought so.
In a perfect world, I'd always run in the morning. It leaves me energized for the rest of the day, due in no small part to having accomplished something great before I even get to the office. I also wouldn't have to spend as much time weighing my water vs. coffee consumption.
Then again, I wouldn't have stiffening legs as the day dragged on, a hankering for lunch at 10 a.m. or a need for a nap in the early afternoon, either.
In the end, it makes sense to stick to what works for your work, school, life and biological schedule. Old habits die hard, after all -- and if you do want them to change, it takes time and effort. 
You can’t, ahem, wake up one morning and decide that you want to run in the morning. You have to make a conscious effort to change -- record Conan instead of watching it live, lay out your running clothes before bed, make a date with someone who actually likes getting up at the crack of dawn to run, and so on. You won’t like it -- and, as I can attest, it may never work -- but you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Whatever you do, though, be safe. Leave the headphones at home and, if it gets too hot, dial it back a bit. Remember, no run is worth an ambulance ride.