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The 10 best tips for running at night

We’re all busy people. We work through the day and generally when it ends, look forward to heading home to cook, relax and have some quiet time. In winter especially, running after a long day of work is probably the last thing on your mind, but what if it turned out it could be something to look forward to each evening?

Research shows that if you manage to squeeze a run in during your busy day (at any time), not only do your health and energy levels increase, but so too does your quality of sleep. Reports indicate around 45% of people say they have poor sleep, which in turn leads to poor day-time performance. The good news is having a night run can fix all and doesn’t cost a cent. Below, we’ve gathered 10 of the best reasons why running at night is all right, and why you should make night running a part of your daily life.


1. Use night running to break your “bad” night habits in 5 minutes

You get home, sit on the couch and before you know it, time has flown by. You wanted to get some things done but you needed some ‘you time’, so on comes the TV and off goes your motivation. Night running can help you curb the behaviors you may not want. Instead of heading straight for the couch, or the kitchen to start cooking, or grabbing a drink when you get home, get changed in to your running gear and get out there within 5 minutes of getting home (the challenging part). 5 minutes and out the door so you have no time to argue with yourself and say no to a night run.


When you get back from your run, your mind will be more refreshed than from any of those other home habits you may have fallen into, and the night opens up to a world of possibilities for you to do now that you are feeling good (see more on this at tip 10).


2. Bring your phone with you

Safety is the number one concern for people night running (number two is lack of energy). With phones being able to do everything these days, you’re ready if anything happens to you while out there on your night run. From being able to call for a taxi if you run too far, using maps to find your way home, texting anyone that may be waiting if you’re taking longer than you thought, to simply being able to call a friend (or the police). If you don’t feel safe, your phone is your answer to any worry you may have night running. As a bonus, they also come with a built-in flashlight so if you can’t quite see the trail in front of you, it’s a useful feature to have in hand.


3. Stay where it’s lit and aim for the “touristy” spots

Likely the best place to run at night is along your local main street. Scattered with restaurants and night-friendly places, the wash of lights make it easy to see where you’re running, and throngs of people mean safety is nothing to worry about. If running in these busier areas isn’t for you though, headlamps could be a great way to run where you want safely. Ask your local running specialist store if you can take a headlamp for a test though, as wearing one isn’t for everyone, and it’s better to be sure before buying one you use once.


4. Night running gear

And on the topic of headlamps, the gear you need for night running is a little different from your normal run kit. Aside from the optional headlamp, reflective gear is a must for the night runner. Dressing for the weather is important as the temperature will drop quickly the later it is in the night. Versatility is the key, with gear that can easily be adjusted from warm to cold conditions (like On’s Performance Running Gear, which you can see here.


Another thing to consider when night running is wearing more supportive running shoes. With less visibility, the chances of tripping over something in the dark and doing injury to yourself is greater, so having shoes that better protect rolling can help here. From On, we recommend the Cloudflyer or Cloudflow – no excuse like a new habit for new shoes, right?


5. Track the run

The final “safety” tip for new night runners is to use a run-tracking app like Strava or Runkeeper, with the community easily able to see where you’ve gone if you get lost and off track. A bonus of using a tracking app is to compare how you run the same route during the day to during the night. Research shows that on night runs, we tend to be slightly faster due to the weather often being slightly cooler (better for running) and as we naturally are on more alert, so have more energy to draw upon. See for yourself by tracking your run (and let us know your results).


6. Listen to voices, not music during the night run (if you need to listen to something)

If you’re one to usually listen to music on your run, try listening instead to an audio book or podcast. This is for two reasons. The first is that music tends to over-stimulate, which may keep your pumped after the run is over and you’re looking to settle down for the night. The second is so you can pay more attention to what’s happening around you. With only a voice in your ear, you can still easily hear the world around you while with music, most sounds will be drowned out. Best is to run with nothing at all of course, but we’re realistic and know most people these days like to multi-task on the run, so use it as your chance to catch up on a book or similar.


7. Small snacks before and after the night run

As you often will be running during a time when food is on your mind, opt for a small snack (fruits and nuts are the easy win) before you head out on your night run. This will give you a short and longer energy boost and have you feeling like you’re not running on an empty stomach as you run through the smells of other people’s dinners while on the street. After your run, have simple foods such as a protein shake, peanut butter on bread and banana as the ideal recovery and pre-bed snack. The calorie trade for these two smaller meals and run compared to a full-sized dinner is incredible, and if losing weight is a goal, this will definitely put you on the right path with no room left for other “late-night” bad-habit snacks you go for when feeling hungry after dinner.


8. Run with someone

Some people will put this down as another safety tip, but view it more as a novel way to catch up with friends. Through the week, most people don’t have too many plans for after work. Inviting a friend over and out for a run is an adventure you can share together and way you can again kill two birds with one stone. In the same way, joining a night running group, just like with any other sports team, can create new friends and opportunities to meet new people all while getting fit and finding more time for it all after hours.


9. Go for a run when pulling an all-nighter or when heading out later

Presentation due tomorrow? Haven’t studied for that test? Meeting at a club around midnight? Though it may sound counter intuitive, taking an hour to run in the night is the perfect way to refresh your thinking and to give you extra energy for the rest of the night ahead. Squeeze it in, shower and reset your day from then and you’ll find you have the legs to now last longer than anyone else: whether it’s studying that extra chapter or hitting the dancefloor harder, a night run before your nighttime activity is always highly recommended.


10. After the night run, prepare right for what’s next

For those not looking to do an all-nighter, a worry is that running at night will wind you up so falling asleep comes with difficulty. Follow these simple steps after your night run to get you primed and ready for the sleep of your life:

  • Get home and stretch for 10 minutes. Focus on calves, quads, buttocks and back.
  • Have a simple yet filling snack-meal of protein shake, banana and peanut butter on bread. Add nutmeg and turmeric (both which aid sleep and relaxation) to your shake to further help you sleep.
  • Have a shower, alternating between warm water and cold for 30 seconds each, then finishing under warm water.
  • Once dry, have a hot chamomile tea and wind down however you like with the time before you’re ready for bed.
  • Finally, just before you hit the hay, spend a few more minutes stretching your back and shoulders. Stretching right before you climb into bed has been shown to improve the quality of sleep, so stretch and then off to bed you go, ready for the next day (and tomorrow’s night run).


If you’re still not convinced and think you’re too tired to run after a busy day, we’ll leave you with one last interesting fact. Our bodies give us a cortisol boost of energy in the night as part of our in-built defense mechanism. Use yours, hit the late-night pavement, and feel your best heading into the next day – and night.