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Running with Vampires - Changing Your Run to Night Time

Training Log For: 02/14/10

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Posted by Matthew

According to my mother (and I have to take her word for it since I was an infant) I have always shown a predisposition to the night hours. A lot of people will say "oh, I'm a night person/owl" or "I'm a total morning person". Millions of dollars spent on sleep pattern studies, sleep-aid medications, books on sleep and studies on physiological functioning during the course of a 24 hour period. I have read from fitness magazines that exercising first thing in the morning can aid weightloss since your body is in a deficit of glycogen stores, so energy has to come from fat. Some experts will tell me that testosterone levels are highest in the morning and will help in building muscle.

I don't like any of those answers or results though, not that I question their validity. I could probably lose more weight in the morning if I exercised on an empty stomach. However, I HATE mornings. No, you have no idea the level of hatred I possess for the morning hours. I wake up groggy, disoriented, slightly nauseated, starving and never quite feeling like I got enough sleep. That's why on weekends I sleep in until 12 or 1pm, except on Sundays when I wake up for church, but even then I come home and take a nap.

The best answer to the question of when a person should run seems to be "whenever you have the most energy". To a logical person, trying to exert yourself and spend energy while running or training would be easiest or more productive when you had the most energy to spend. For me the most energy usually comes around nighttime when I get my "second wind". I've been known to hit the gym at midnight or later just because I didn't feel like it during the previous 15 hours of the day.

So when I decided to go running at midnight last night, it wasn't because I thought I would lose the most weight, or experience the most growth and fitness benefits. No, I just decided that I needed to run and at 11:59pm, I felt ready for the run. In a recent article Becoming a Rain Man I wrote about my fondness of running while it was raining. As it turns out, running at midnight is almost as fun. Although in stead of worrying about drivers not paying attention because of the rain, I maintained a slight level of fear the whole time due to the darkness. Yes, I am afraid of the dark.

I ended up running at a slow pace for about 5-7 miles (I don't know how fast I was going or the actual distance of my path). There were a few cars but not many (I was running in North County San Diego not Los Angeles), and the environment had a calmness to it that isn't there during the world's waking hours. I personally know of a handful of exercise nuts that maintain strict adherence to schedules, diets and train almost religiously. I'm not one of those people. My training regimen and habits are a patch-work quilt of tidbits and articles that I have assimilated over several years of trying a bit of everything. The result is that I am not as lean as I could be, not quite as fit, but on the flip side, I don't have anywhere near the feelings of stress and anxiety when I miss a workout or cheat on my diet.

I say a person should run, train, exercise whenever it feels the best to them and offers the most reward to their overall satisfaction with the day. Unless you are a professional athlete, chances are your paycheck doesn't depend on your performance. Increasing your VO2 max (maximum oxygen consumption) won't aid you in your efforts to win titles and pay for a child's college tuition. In my humble opinion, for the rest of us "athletes", our efforts should be centered around quality of life in general, not just the quality of our bodies. Go running at midnight if it's what you enjoy most, just try and remember you need adequate sleep!