Night Jog: 15 Benefits of Running in the Dark

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By Stuart
Goulden

Avid runner. 10x marathons. Daily 10kms. Award-winning journalist when not moving (about me)

Attention all night owls: there’s few things more exhilarating in life than a night jog.

There’s something magical about pounding the pavement beneath the moonlit sky, feeling the cool breeze as it whispers through the trees. Seeing a city come alive after dark. Empty roads to yourself. Knowing you’re out running and improving yourself as others binge box sets. Losing your self-conscious inhibitions.

But the thought of running in the dark can also be some people’s ultimate waking nightmare.

In this article, we’ll explore the many benefits of nighttime running and some top tips for beginners – from staying safe, the best evening running gear, when’s best to eat, and what role your unique body clock plays.

By the end of the read, I promise you’ll be fully sold on the benefits of night runs.

Before We Begin: Are You a Night Owl Exerciser or Early Riser Runner?

According to bestselling author Daniel Pink, timing is everything. People place too much emphasis on what or how they’re going to do something, but they rarely think about the “when.” Knowing your peak performance hours – the times of the day when people are most effective with given tasks, including running or jogging – can help you to squeeze out maximum productivity and enjoyment from running.

On one end of the spectrum are “larks,” or people with early chronotypes, who rise early and are productive in the mornings. On the opposing end are “owls,” or people with late chronotypes who sleep later and are more suited to running at night.

In short, all of us experience the day in three stages a peak, a trough, and a rebound. And about three-quarters of us experience it in that order. But about one in four people, those whose genes or age make them night owls, experience the day in something closer to the reverse order-recovery, trough, peak. Get to know your rhythm and lean into nighttime runs if that’s you.

Otherwise it can involve a fundamental rewiring of your mindset. Play to your strengths.

15 Benefits of Night Jogging – Unwind, Go Faster & Run Free

#1: You’ve More Energy for a Night Run

Timing your food intake before exercise is very important. You can go much further on a day’s full calorie intake versus an empty stomach when you wake up. Ideally, eat a couple of hours in advance to your runs to give your body time to digest the nutrients needed to fuel your leg muscles.

#2: Avoid Crowded Streets

Running in the city center can deprive runners of their usual goals – speed and space. Running out of peak hours gifts them back.

I like to wake up early and run first thing in the morning, having the entire city to myself. The same is also true of running in the evening. No more zigzagging through oncoming pedestrians. Far fewer hazards to contend with.

Night Running Along River Ouse in York, UK
Night Running Along River Ouse in York, UK

#3: Relieve Stress From Your Workday

Jogging at night isn’t just good for your body – it’s kind on the mind, too.

Regularly putting on your running shoes after a hard day’s work takes you to an otherwise unreachable place of happiness. Awe Runs reduce stress, depression and anxiety, help you to get more fresh air, and deal with the issues in our daily lives.

I find running in the evenings a good incentive to close the laptop at 5pm and totally switch off from work stuff.

#4: More Running Groups Meet at Night

Nighttime jogs are more social – FACT!

You might struggle to find a running partner or group that’s up for regularly meeting up pre-work, at a less social hour.

Joining a running club can be a great way to make running more fun. Other benefits of a running buddy includes added motivation, accountability, and the opportunity to meet new people who share your passion for running.

There are many different types of running groups and communities out there, so it’s important to find one that fits your needs and preferences. Some groups are focused on training for races, while others are more social and casual.

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#5: Cooler Temperatures at Night

Running is hard enough without the discomfort and risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration from running in the sun. Evening runs can also offer relief from the heat, but be mindful of the lingering warmth and higher humidity levels that may still be present.

#6: Go Unnoticed After Dark If You’re Self-Conscious

When I first started road running as an adult, I was far more worried about my running technique and weight. This meant I usually only ran under the cover of darkness. I know many of my female running friends feel the same.

Thankfully such reservations often drift away with time. The more you run, the more confident you become.

Running along a lit up Millennium Bridge at Night, York
Running along a lit up Millennium Bridge at Night, York

#8: You’ll Run More Consistently at Night

If you want to be a high performing runner, consistency is key. PBs feed off miles and the discipline of a Stoic athlete.

Many people find it easier to stick to running at night, once their other responsibilities are out of the way.

#9: Night Runners are Proven to Go Faster

With fewer visual distractions and only the path ahead, running at night creates a sensation of tunnel vision and speed.

Much more so than a if your reference points are far away, such as a trail run.

Science backs this up too.

A study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Physiology found that darkness alters your perception of speed. In their own words: “Because objects further away aren’t as visible and you only have close-by objects like trees and road signs to use as reference, you get a greater sense of speed, and potentially effort, compared with running during the day.” So if you want to run faster, run at night.

#10: A Night Jog Can Help You Sleep Better

People often worry that exercising late at night will keep them wired, but studies show the opposite is actually true. A study from the University of South Carolina found 97% 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. You also fall asleep faster.

Deep sleep brings its own benefits:

  • Better moods
  • More productive
  • More present
  • More engaged
  • Improved stamina
  • Facilitates weight loss
  • Better overall health

#11: Encounter Different Sights by Running at Night

Running outdoors at night makes for unbeatable photo opportunities.

You’ll see your usual routes from a different perspective. Encounter epic sunsets. Unrivaled people-watching in the form of bar hoppers. Isolated tourist attractions. Nocturnal wildlife. The invisible heroes keeping our cities clean and safe. Street lights illuminating historic landmarks.

Different day parts offer entirely different running experiences.

Running in Porto at Night and Encountering a Live Band Playing Music
Running in Porto at Night and Encountering a Live Band Playing Music

#12: Prepares You For Winter Runs

As winter beckons and the days get shorter, so too do many people’s runs.

Your alarm goes off for a morning jog, it’s baltic, still dark, let alone the prospect of running in the rain, snow, sleet or gales. I get it. But it doesn’t need to be that way.

Running at night prepares you for running in the cold of winter, when there’s fewer daylight hours to work with.

#13: It’s Often More Convenient Than Morning Runs

It’s easier to fit evening exercise into a busy schedule.

The daily to do list completed. Kids in bed. Dinner cooked.

There’s a much larger window of time to work with than prework. Something marathon runners consistently find out for themselves.

#14: Great for Creative Problem Solving

Another benefit of jogging at night is how it’ll repay itself with absolute clarity and a daily dose of inspiration.

There’s no better way to move beyond writer’s block or work through a new challenge than running into a beautiful sunset.

Stunning sunset while running in York
Stunning sunset while running in York

It’s only when we relieve ourselves from high-pressure situations and allow our minds to wander can we do our best thinking. You’re blessed with countless visual stimulation on an evening run.

We’ve all had that epiphany when on a run or in the shower. Our subconscious mind has been searching for that killer idea or solution all along, but it’s only able to enter your conscious mind when there’s sufficient room. By parking a work-related problem at source, you’re far more likely to find a creative solution on the road.

Research shows a 60% boost in creative output when you lose yourself on a run.

#15: Reset Your Running Routines

If training has stagnated or struggling to stay motivated, it pays to mix things up. I personally find evenings to be the ideal time for active recovery runs, when muscles are already warmed up and I’m happy to embrace a slower pace.

Safety Tips for Night Joggers

As a night jogger, I have experienced various challenges and safety concerns that I’d like to share.

First and foremost, visibility is a key concern when jogging at night. To increase my visibility to passing vehicles and pedestrians, I opt for wearing reflective clothing and accessories, such as a reflective vest, armbands, and even shoes with reflective strips. Additionally, I sometimes use a headlamp or carry a flashlight to illuminate my path and make myself more visible.

In order to avoid any unwanted collisions, I choose well-lit routes when possible. This not only allows me to see my surroundings clearly but also minimizes the likelihood of tripping or slipping on uneven pavement or rough terrain. If I must run on uneven terrain, I slow down and stay aware of possible obstacles, such as rocks, tree roots, or potholes.

Another safety consideration is the traffic. As a night jogger, I must be extra cautious around intersections, driveways, and parking lots. I try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing a street to ensure they see me. Additionally, I run without music at night, allowing me to hear approaching vehicles, cyclists, or other potential hazards.

Furthermore, it’s essential to be aware of personal safety and the potential risk of encountering people with ill intentions. I found it best to choose well-traveled routes frequented by other joggers, cyclists, or even dog walkers, as it creates a safer environment. It’s also wise to keep a charged cell phone with me in case of emergencies and many female runners I know inform a friend or family member about their running route and estimated time of return.

Conclusion – Night Jogging Brings Many Benefits

You might not be a night jogger, yet, but I hope this article has helped you to see how in addition to being more convenient night running can be transformative, more relaxed, more social, and even easier. I say that as a morning person too!

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