How to Prepare for a Night Run

Not everybody will think about nighttime running, as it is seen primarily as a daytime or early morning activity. Running during the night hours can prove to be peaceful and beautiful, and you do not need to sacrifice your race or fitness goals. 

However, night running can prove to be a different animal when it comes to preparing for it, and running through a trail while hearing some unfamiliar sounds and experiencing unfamiliar situations can prove to be anxiety-inducing. Fortunately, there are some tips that can allow you to maximize your evening runs while keeping to your fitness goals. 

In order to make it more enjoyable to run, it is important to emphasize safety above all, because there are many more risks at night compared to the daytime hours.

Stick to safety first, and then fitness

Personal safety is always paramount when you go on runs, but this is even more important when heading out for a night run. There is no workout you should incorporate if it is a danger to your well-being or health. As long as you have some proper plans in place, you should get your night workout goals in with minimal levels of risk.

In case you are looking for some safety considerations for night runs, here are some points to think about:

  • Keeping things simple – instead of plotting a run that goes for 10 miles, you can choose a 5-mile course that you can run two laps. If a 5-mile course is lacking, choose a 2-mile one where you can run for as many times as you want. This will also ensure you are closer to home in case you need to stop, and you are also familiar with all the nooks and crannies of the route. The best aspect of this is that you can quickly tell your friends and family nearby if you get in trouble, and they can find you easily.
  • Always use well-lit routes – while this might not be the most appealing and adventurous area to run on, a better-lit route is actually your safest option. You are easily visible to other people, and you can see where you are going.
  • Always be visible – even though you might assume that blending in is better, you cannot afford to do that when you are running at nighttime hours. Always wear loud colors, and it is even better if they are comprised of reflective material to catch any passing headlight. To enhance your visibility, add some flashing strobe lights, like white for your back and red for your front.
Prep for Night Run

Choose the right equipment

Because you are running in the evening, you need to brace yourself for lower temperatures and unforgiving weather. You do not want the results of your running to become the onset of an illness, so you need to ensure that your comfort levels stay high and you are safe throughout the course.

The equipment you should aim to get includes:

  • A reflective vest – preferably, go for a mid-weight version. Its purpose is keeping your core warm and ensure you are visible at all times due to its reflective design. It should have a zipper, which allows you to quickly adjust your internal temperature in case you get too warm or cold.
  • Headlamp – this is not necessary, but it is still a useful tool to own. It will help you see where you are going, and pick the paths that are safest for you. The good news is that newer models are lightweight, so it is possible to clip them on your visor or jacket without them weighing you down.
  • Flashing light – it is similar to what you get on bikes, and comes at an affordable price while remaining an easy way to make yourself visible. Always remember to keep the white flashing lights at the front of your body, and the red ones at the back, so as to help other road users see the direction you are heading to.

What you should avoid bringing along – Your headphones

While you might fancy yourself to be an excellent multitasker, the risks involved when running at night without your ears taking in multiple sounds is a recipe for disaster. Even though you want to make things interesting, save the music for your commute times, or when you get out of the house during the day.

Other useful strategies

  1. Taking a pre-run snack – the chances are high you might run during your usual dinner time hours, so ensure you have a worthwhile afternoon snack to maintain your glycogen and energy levels. Avoid eating just before your workout; otherwise, you will set yourself up for plenty of gastric issues.
  2. Taking food after your run – the ideal is to go eat a real meal after your workout instead of a shake. Always add some useful recovery-boosting foods such as dairy or lean meats, and include some glasses of water. The earlier you eat, the more time your body has to recover from both the eating and workout.
  3. Warming up before the run – because you will likely not get the time for extras of warming down and up, you can incorporate some options. First, consider adding some activity before running, like walking quickly to the venue of your run session. The aim is to get the blood flowing and heart pumping so that you can run easier. You can also compress the main parts of the workout session, which allows you to start slower. After all, it is not just the muscles that are doing the workout, but also your ears and eyes will need some adjustments to your night runs.
  4. Take a friend with you – running at night can be a challenging task, especially if you are running on a trail. Worse still, your mind can turn into your worst enemy when you are alone – even a harmless tree branch or shadow can seem like the biggest threat. If you are completely new to the whole idea of running at night, take a friend with you if you feel uncomfortable. Having someone alongside you can help you distract your mind, and prevent it from wandering too much.

What to carry when exercising in the evening

What to do and carryWhat you should avoid
Always stick to a visible area, avoid going long distancesWear comfortable clothesAlert your friends and family that you are going for a runDo not go for long distancesAvoid very heavy or too light clothes
Carry your cellphone and a headlightHeadphones 
Take a pre-run snackGo with a friend or family memberEating very heavy foods before the runExercising just before bedtime (do it at least an hour before bed instead)

Final thoughts

Nighttime runs are interesting and give you a chance to get your workout in without the hassle of daytime or morning runs. That said, you still need to prepare yourself for any eventualities, and ensure your overall safety while getting your fitness goals in check.

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