If you never stray from evening workouts, here's why you might want to run in the morning instead.

By Alison Feller and Kara Cutruzzula
Updated September 24, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo/Getty Images

Why run in the morning or the evening? It's a debate as old as your grossest pair of running shoes. Some people like to start their days with a jolt of exercise; others rely on the post-work effort to wind down from their email-meeting-email-repeat workday. (Related: When Is the Best Time to Run?)

If you're not naturally an early bird, a morning run might sound like the last thing you'd want to subject yourself to. There are few sounds more torturous than that too-early alarm telling you it's time to get out of bed.

But whether or not you've already established your running habit, there are undeniably a lot of benefits to getting up and working out. Resisting the urge to hit snooze and getting your feet into sneakers instead can impact your entire day.

Running coach and personal trainer Meghan Kennihan (who recently completed a 50K, a 50-miler, and a 100K race) has noticed increased self-confidence and consistency in clients who become morning runners. "At work, your willpower and motivation slowly decline as the day goes on, which is why most people grab that extra bar of chocolate at night," she says. So why run in the morning?  "It’s a great way to kickstart your day. It lowers your blood pressure and jumpstarts your metabolism to make you more productive at work or give you more energy." (Related: How to Balance Your Hormones Naturally for Lasting Energy)

Another answer to "why run in the morning?": There's that nice solitude in the early a.m. hours. "It's much more stress-relieving," she says, "instead of thinking, 'Oh, someone is standing behind me in line to get on the treadmill.'" 

And if these reasons don't convince you to get up earlier, here's an extra tip: Don't wait until the night before to lay out gym clothes. Grab 'em right after your morning workout, when you're still riding that runner's high and feeling good about yourself. Planning your next run a full 24 hours in advance will set an intention for the next day. (One woman shares: "How I Turned Myself Into an Early Morning Exerciser.")

Now, let us break down feedback from runners and science-backed facts on why it's beneficial to run in the morning.

Why You Should Run In the Morning

#1 You'll have a sunrise as your backdrop.

"Watching the sun come up is the best way to start the day," says Beth Isaac, 38, from New York City. "If you don't get up at dawn to run, how else are you going to get all those sunrise photos for Instagram?" (Related: Is PumpUp the New Instagram for Fitness?)

#2 Your route will be less crowded.

Why run in the morning? "I love feeling like I have Central Park all to myself before sunrise," says runner Dani Sturtz. "I'm obviously not the only runner out there, but it's less crowded than in the evenings and so much calmer."

#3 Focusing becomes easier.

After pushing yourself out the door, something magical happens. You might feel as though your brain clicks on. Suddenly, you're forced to notice pedestrians, cyclists, crosswalks, and giant fallen branches trying to sabotage your intervals. But that intense level of focus doesn't stop when you throw your sweaty Sauconys in the corner. Studies have shown that vigorous aerobic exercise (that's running, yay!) activates the prefrontal and occipital cortexes. Those brainy parts are associated with "executive control," meaning they help you regulate your emotions and manage the processes to achieve your goals. No wonder you feel like you can conquer the world after downing that post-workout smoothie

#4 Your evenings will be wide open.

"I love knowing that if I run in the morning, the rest of my day can't get in the way of my run," says Danielle Cemprola, 30, from Greenville, South Carolina. You may get slammed with meetings and conference calls and various unplanned commitments—but that's OK. Your run is done. And if those meetings get canceled, you can go all-in at happy hour. 

#5 Your sleeping habits will improve.

There's nothing worse than crawling into bed, waiting for what dreams may come, and then...nothing. Insomnia is the pits, and can make you feel sluggish and yearning for caffeine the next day. The potential to sleep better is yet another reason why you should run in the morning. Getting regular aerobic exercise can improve sleep quality and help ease insomnia, according to a Northwestern University study. But since cardio can give you more energy, it makes sense that working out early—and riding that boost through the day—is the key to feeling ready for bed when you're in bed, not in the office.

#6 You get to start the day with some clarity.

"There's nothing better than starting your day out in nature," says Maia Deccan Dickinson, 25, from Anchorage, Alaska. "You get an hour of clarity before having work on the brain all day." (P.S. That runner's high is as strong as a drug high.)

#7 You're less prone to freak out.

Everyone has those days when it seems the world is out to get them. You spill coffee all over yourself. You start throwing side-eye at that cranky soul on the subway muttering that the train is too slow. Or, worse yet, you are that person. Running can transform your outlook. Seriously, according to the American Psychological Association, there are many facets about exercise that make you less anxious, but an increase in serotonin can play a role, as well as a "toughening up" of the brain by exposing it regularly to stressful activities like exercise. And exercise can have powerful effects on mental health and clinical depression, according to multiple studies reviewed at Boston University.

#8 The weather is better.

"Summers in Chicago are hot," says Liz Heisler, 34. "But if I get up and run before work, I know I'm guaranteed cooler temperatures and a bit more shade." (Before you get moving, check out what to eat before your run.)

#9 Nature does your body good.

Poor Kimmy Schmidt proved that no one should go without sunlight. But you're (hopefully) not living in a bunker. So you might as well head outdoors—and the greener, the better. A Stanford study found that people who walked in a park for 50 minutes had decreased anxiety and rumination (which we imagine are those existential thoughts you might spiral into every once in a while) compared to people who walked around a more urban environment. And what's more peaceful than a park at sunrise? That green space you've been meaning to check out could be the cure for your workplace angst. (Here are more science-backed ways getting In touch with nature boosts your health.)

#10 You can have important me-time.

"There's something so tranquil about running before most of the world is awake," says Lauren Conkey, 31, from Worcester, Massachusetts. Her answer to "why run in the morning?": "It gives me a chance to spend some time collecting my thoughts before I'm on mom duty for the next 12 hours. Allowing myself to wake up over the course of a few miles, where the only sounds are my footsteps, my breathing, and the occasional bird, is a much more peaceful start to the day than a two-year-old who's ready to wrestle, read, and play (cute as she may be)." 

#11 You'll wake your body up.

"If I do a morning workout, I'm usually still in sleep zombie mode, says Samantha Cosenza, 28, from Brooklyn, NY. "By the time I get dressed and start moving, my sneakers are already hitting the pavement, and I'm like 'How did I get here?'"

With all that said, exercising in the morning might not be for everyone. Kennihan recommends trying to stay consistent for three weeks. If you run four times a week, she says, "that's only 12 days out of your life you have to get up at the crack of dawn." Then you can find out what's right for you—and perhaps finally settle the morning versus evening run debate once and for all. 

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