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nighttime runningMorning.  What’s your gut reaction to this word?  It’s either some form of “Yay” or “Ugh.”  There are people who have the unique ability to be bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning.  And then there’s the people that hate those people. Early-morning runners tend to get all the accolades of discipline.  What if you’re more of the proverbial night owl? There’s definitely benefits there too.

In my experience training for marathons, even if you’re more inclined to sleep in, the schedule sometimes necessitates an early morning training run.  The good thing about marathon training programs is that they can be modified to fit your life and individual preferences and schedule.  So if getting up at the butt crack of dawn isn’t your thing, all is not lost.  Nighttime training sessions have huge upside potential that even the most die hard morning runner might consider including in their weekly runs.

Here are a few of the benefits of nighttime running:


The Training Mask may help to increase lung capacity and improve performance.

1.Longer is Better
A research study at The University of North Texas’ Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion, and Recreation, concluded that “time of exhaustion was 20% greater in the evenings than in the morning.”  Meaning that you can run 20% more at night before you get tired compared to the same training run in the morning.  There was also some other science-y things that were found in this study.  Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is widely accepted as the single best measure of cardiovascular fitness and maximal aerobic power.  This study found that maximal oxygen uptake was faster in the evening thus improving your overall cardiovascular fitness level.

2. Stress Relief
Everyone has stressful moments throughout the day.  Whether its dealing with a micro managing boss, that deal that fell through, or bumper to bumper traffic, each day puts stress on your mental and physical well being.  Hitting your marathon training at night can help you deal with all that rage in a healthy way, so you don’t take all that anger to bed with you.

3. Get out of the Heat
The bulk of marathons are either in the spring or the fall.  This means that some of your training runs will happen in warm or hot months.  The summer sun takes a lot out of you when you’re tacking on the mileage.  While I was training for a half marathon in the fall, my schedule called for some long runs in the middle of the summer.  The bulk of those training runs I did in the early morning out of necessity with my school and work schedule, but, I did manage to get a 12 mile run in the evening.  I waited until my wife and baby girl were asleep and then laced up the kicks and headed out around midnight.  There was no one on the road which was both peaceful and creepy at the same time.  I had the whole city to myself for a couple hours.  And there was no summer sun to slow me down.

4. Deeper Sleep
Late night runs will mess up your sleep schedule, right? Not so much.  A study done at University of South Carolina found 97 percent of people who exercised at a high intensity at night discovered their quality of sleep was equal to or better than when they exercised during the day.  “In many cases exercise actually improved their quality and ease of sleep,” said lead researcher Shawn Youngstedt.  The increase in your body temperature that comes from running may enhance sleep the same way taking a hot shower right before bed does. “The area of the brain involved in lowering body temperature is also involved in promoting sleep,” says Youngstedt. “And running also has an anxiety-reducing, calming effect in general,” he says. It tends to ease both blood pressure and muscle tension, leaving you feeling more relaxed resulting in better quality sleep.  And as you’re probably aware, quality sleep is imperative to muscle recovery.

Nighttime running is a great alternative to the daily grind.  It breaks up the monotony, gives a different refreshing perspective and has many physical and mental benefits.  You don’t have to convert solely to nighttime running but it is another way to ensure your overall marathon training success.

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