Feel Faster Running at Night

Procrastinating has some benefits.
July 2013

As the mercury rises, the summer's heatwave has wilted the aspirations of many runners. If you don't get out early in the morning, logging miles midday or post-work feels like you're starring in a cautionary tale about heat stroke. Some people cut their losses and run at night, a sure-fire way to beat the heat, but there's more to it. You'll:

1. Feel faster. Because the end of your block is barely visible at night, your perception of speed is based on your immediate surroundings. Nearby bushes, fences, and other neighborhood landmarks fly by (and make you feel like Usain Bolt) thanks to optical flow, the perception of how you move through space. Bonus: For some people, that makes the run feel easier. But just because you feel faster, doesn't mean you're going faster. The optical illusion may mean you may have to push your pace harder.

2. Go harder. Studies have shown that the body is better suited for running fast and hard in the evening. Endurance is up, flexibility is at its highest, and strength potential is maxed out. It's the same reason why so many professional athletes will leave their interval or strength workouts for later in the afternoon.

3. Sleep better. The ol' "Don't workout before bedtime, you'll never fall asleep" adage? The National Sleep Foundation finally put that old wives' tale to rest. Deep, REM-filled rest. One study looked at cyclists who trained hard for three hours, ending their workout only 30 minutes before they went to bed. All of them woke up happy and well-rested the next morning. No matter what time you work out, says the group, you're better off than someone who decided to skip out on exercise.

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