Posts Tagged ‘night run’

I got back into running when my daughters were ages 3, 6 and 9. At that time, it made the most sense for me to run in the morning, either before my husband left for work or right after I dropped the kids off at pre-school and elementary school. Now that my kids are 10, 13 and 16 though, I have realized that I’ve transitioned into being an evening runner! I make the most of the hours they are in school by getting things done at home, because after 3 p.m. it’s a rush of driving kids to various activities, cooking dinner, and helping with homework until I drop into bed around 10 p.m. So how and why do I get in those evening runs? I have learned that the best way to spend an hour while a child is at gymnastics, ballet or tennis lessons is to get in a workout! I can tell you where the park with a quarter-mile dirt track is next to the gymnastics center, how to sneak onto the high school campus near the ballet studio to run on the rubberized track, or where to run through the neighborhood near the tennis center to get to the half-mile paved path! It’s not easy to run in the late afternoon or evening, but I have learned some tips to make the most of it.

  1. Slow down and lower your expectations. This is one of the hardest things to do. I’m a type-A runner who generally likes to keep an eye on my pace and on my mileage. But I’m also a morning person. By 4 p.m. my get-up-and-go has all but gone. So I do what I can, and I don’t push the pace if I’m not feeling it that day. That’s especially true in the heat of a Southern California afternoon, when I have to pay particular attention to staying hydrated and not overheating. Three to four slow(er) miles is better than no miles at all, and in fact I give myself bonus points for completing a tough run. Those late-day and hotter-temperature runs might not be building speed, but they are building mental toughness and preparing you for less-than-ideal race day conditions.
  2. Throw in hill work, fartleks or quarter-mile repeats. For days when you find yourself with a little more energy or your training plan calls for some speed work, there are a few good ways to do that in the afternoon or evening. Hill work is speed work in disguise, so head to the nearest hill. On your way up you don’t have to pick up the pace to get in some of the same benefits of faster-paced run, and on the way down you get to practice your leg turnover when it’s easier to run faster down the hill! Fartleks also work well — even after a long day you can run a little faster to the next stop sign or the next turn on your route. And I use the motivation of the time crunch (“Only 40 minutes to get a run in before the 45-minute lesson is over, I’d better run faster!”) to run as fast as I can for some quarter-mile repeats with quarter-mile rest intervals in between.
  3. Stay safe. This should go without saying, but it does bear repeating. For those afternoon and evening runs, it’s particularly important to wear brightly colored and reflective clothing and, if it’s really getting dark out there, run with knuckle or shoe lights, a flashlight, or the light on your phone. And if you’re running in a new area, make sure you have a map and keep your wits about you. No headphones in the ears, and no wandering off the beaten path. Tell someone where you’re going and when you will be back. Take advantage of places where people tend to congregate in the evenings — I often feel the most safe at the track where kids are practicing for after-school sports under the stadium lights, or at the park where people gather on a Friday night for a family barbecue.
  4. Enjoy new routes if possible. If you’re planning an evening run after work, try getting in a run by your workplace before heading home, or map out a loop that starts out from the day care center where you will pick up your kids. After years of running the same loops around my neighborhood, I’m enjoying the opportunity to explore new running routes in areas I wouldn’t typically drive to for a run. If I’m a 20-minute drive from my house for my daughter’s music lesson, it’s an opportunity to explore four miles of new terrain! If I’m an hour drive from my house for my other daughter’s ballet audition, you can bet I’m going to run on the nearby river path I scouted out on my computer before I left home!
  5. Appreciate the perks of night runs! One of my favorite runs ever was the night leg I did for the Napa Valley Ragnar when I ran past the cemetery at 3 in the morning! It was so peaceful and quiet and so different from my usual running experience. And check out this view from a recent after-dinner run:

    Southern California sunset

    I love the silhouettes of the trees against a gorgeous Southern California sunset!

6. Bring a change of clothes and a snack. If your evening run does not end at your doorstep, consider packing a clean change of clothes. I don’t know about you but I cannot stand being in sweaty running clothes for a second longer than I have to. And I like to refuel within half an hour of running so if I won’t be home within that time, I bring along a nutritious snack.

7. Plan your post-workout routine to help you wind down before bed. An evening run can rev you up and keep you from falling asleep at night. If you can, plan to get in your run a least an hour or two before bedtime. I confess I’ve gotten in workouts from 8-9 p.m., which is cutting it a little close to bedtime for me. In those instances, I make sure to relax with a cup of tea and a hot shower, if not a hot bath. Those nighttime rituals, combined with the satisfaction of getting in my workout for the day, help me prepare for a good night’s sleep and enough recovery before the next day.

Are you a morning runner, evening runner, or both? Any tips or tales to share?

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Last Saturday night my husband and I planned our day for Sunday. We’d have a quiet morning as a family at home, Mike would take one of the girls to go play tennis at 11, then we’d all go for a family bike ride after lunch, and finally just Mike and I would go out for a long bike ride at 3:30 when Grandma came over to babysit. It sounded like a great plan, and it was, right up until 1:30 p.m. on Sunday when we found out that Grandma couldn’t come over until after dark, effectively tanking the bike ride plan. We tried to find another babysitter on short notice but even the girl across the street couldn’t make it! On to plan B: bike at the gym? But by the time we learned the long bike ride would not work, the gym was closed. Why does the gym close early on a Sunday?! (“Because of God.” Name that movie! It’s one of my all-time favorites.) Plan C: swim at the outdoor community pool? The lap swim hours at the pool were over. It seemed like our plan to get in a workout, any kind of workout, was doomed.

When 5 p.m. rolled around and Grandma arrived, I was not much in the mood to exercise anymore. I’m a morning workout kind of gal, and I’m also a planner, and gosh darn it someone threw a monkey wrench in plans A, B, and C. Can I just say then, that I’m super proud of the fact that we got in a workout after all? Mike and I suited up in our warmest running clothes (including my new Costco jacket), hats and headlamps (also from Costco — 3 for $9.99 — but I can’t exactly recommend them because the first one we took out of the packaging broke when we tried to put batteries in and you know, actually use it).

All the stylish kids wear their headlamps over their hats and their fuel belts under their jackets for the best bulky look.

All the stylish kids wear their headlamps over their hats and their fuel belts under their jackets for the best bulky look.

I don’t know if you can tell but I was positively shivering when that photo was taken. I was eager to get running so I could generate some body heat! Soon enough we were off into the darkness and it felt great to be out there. I get so bored running the same route over and over again but running that same route in the dark was all new and fun! It didn’t hurt that I had a charming running partner too. We run well together. He secretly gloats over the fact that he’s faster than I am and I secretly gloat over the fact that I can run 17 more miles than the longest run he’s ever done. (Can you tell we’ve been married for 18 years? Together for 24? Yes, we were high school sweethearts! We know each other so well by now.)

We ran four hilly miles and were rewarded with this view out to the Pacific Ocean:

Sunset over Orange County

Best of all we snuck back inside the house after the run, took a quick shower, and got right back out again for dinner, just the two of us. It turned out to be a great date night, including the unplanned night run!

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