Some of us dread cardio, others live for it. For me, treadmills and ellipticals simply don’t cut it. I have to actually put on my running shoes and brave the elements on solid ground to feel satisfied. Of course, that’s only my opinion on cardio.
In case you haven’t seen it yet, check out our guide on how to keep fit in the winter, where running outside might give you some problems. This article will also give you some ideas for stretches, warmups, and cooldowns to conduct before and after going on runs. Before the weird weather hits, you should know the best times of the day to get your cardio in.
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Whether it’s before work or school, running in the early mornings is sure to wake you up. Don’t worry about trying to groom or clean yourself. A couple quick stretches before you’re out the door and you should be good to go.
Sure, it’s going to be a major hurdle to get up in the morning every day. At the same time, you’ll have the rest of the day to do whatever you wish once you’re finished running. A quick shower is sure to wake you up if running a couple of miles hasn’t already.
If you’re looking to lose weight: Running in the mornings could be extremely beneficial before you eat anything. Since your body will be depleted of carbs while sleeping, you will switch to burning fat for energy. In the end, you’ll have an excuse for a big meal once you’re done.
Trying to lower blood pressure? A study done by Appalachian State in 2011 indicates that running around 7 am around 3 times a week lowered blood pressure by 10% for that day.
Healthy Eating for Mornings
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t eat a full-blown meal before a run unless you want to be holding your side the entire run. However, if you’re not in the weight loss mindset, a good carb boost can help produce the energy necessary to get you started. Protein and fats can work as well, but you want to keep it between 200-400 calories.
Here are some examples of small meals (and beverages) that are ideal for morning consumption:
- PB&J sandwich
- Mixed nuts yogurt
- Veggie smoothie
- Veggie omelette
- Bowl of cereal
- Toast w/butter
What to avoid in the Mornings
You’ll want to stay away from spices and large portions of carbs, proteins, or fats. Here are some examples of foods to stay away from:
- Energy bars
- This may seem like a head-scratcher, but energy bars are loaded with protein
Basically, you’ll want to count your calories carefully before your morning run.
You’ll also want to have plenty of water, at the most 20 ounces an hour or so before your run. This is to prevent you from becoming parched in the middle of your run. In the end, you’ll want to keep food and water to a minimum and look for immediate sources of energy. Preventing side aches and shaking off morning fatigue are the goals.
Mid-Day runs aren’t usually discussed because they might not be feasible with our obligations during the day. If your schedule allows for it, a mid-day run can either wake you up even more or get your ready for a power nap. Mid-Day runs usually depend on the runner’s preference more so compared to the other two times.
There are no clear health benefits or detractions from running in the middle of the day.
The weather really depends on where you live. It’s very common for people to conduct their workouts after a long day at work. If you’ve been sitting in a chair for most of the day, getting your body moving is a perfect way to end the day and ready to settle down.
Since you’ve been active most of the day, your muscles and body are obviously wide awake. You’ll feel faster because you’re not disorientated from sleep and fatigue like the mornings. If you’re worried about injuring or re-injuring yourself—doing additional stretching will make sure your muscles are really awake.
For me, running as the sun sets is a good way to get me ready for bed. I eat a big meal after running a couple of miles and I’m pretty much in bed soon after that. Going to bed early enough is a good habit to get into if you prefer to run in the evening.
In regards to eating before a nightly run, you know that you’re going to eat a large meal afterward, so the process is similar with morning runs. You can consume a small number of calories that won’t give you a side ache and then chow down on protein afterward.
- If you’re in the weight loss mindset, you can avoid eating before nightly runs to increase the energy burned through fat.
For Mornings: There aren’t too many studies out there at explicitly state that mornings are preferable to evening runs. In the case of mornings, it’s more of a mindset change. You’ll face a lot of hurdles to rouse your body from sleep and get it prepared to work, but it definitely changes you. If you get your runs done at the beginning of the day, you have the rest to do whatever you wish.
Getting an exercise over with in the morning is no easy task. The general consensus is that running the morning really wakes you up and kick starts you for the rest of the day.
For Evenings: Most academic studies indicate that muscle performance peaks in the evening. It makes sense, as we’ve already discussed because you’ve been active for the entire day. We all have heard that being tired right before bed gets us to sleep faster. If you want to prove that to yourself, check out the reviews of the various sleep trackers we’ve personally reviewed.
In 2013, studies were conducted at the University of South Carolina concerning the benefits of evening running. Researchers discovered that hormones specific to metabolism are most present in the evening. You can read about the reports here
For me running is a matter of convenience. Since I work a full-time job, I’m usually running in the evenings while the weather still permits. However, the weather will soon take a turn for the worse as snowfall hits nearly all-day, making running almost impossible.
Remember, cardio doesn’t just have to be just using your legs and hitting the pavement. Rowing machines are some the best cardio machines on the market.
Do you have any tips for running at certain parts of the day? Let us know in the comments!