Trail Running at Night
Many runners due to their busy morning schedules prefer to run at night. Although many believe that night trail runs are not so safe. But according to leading research, night runs have proven to be very useful for runners. It helps you to sleep better. A researcher named Shawn Youngster has found that night runs increase sleep quality.
A study conducted by the University Of Carolina discovered that around 97 percent of the people who participated in night running experienced high-quality sleep. Also, when you decide to run at a particular time every day. Your body slowly adapts to that routine and prepares itself automatically for the run.
Another great advantage is that in hotter areas, you get to run in cooler temperatures. Many running enthusiasts prefer to run at night because of having a busy schedule in the daytime. Many runners have achieved better results while running at night. Due to fewer distractions at night, your runs become more seamless.
Trail Running in the Dark
It may not sound very logical to run at night, but there are factors that you might consider which help you to think otherwise. Often because of having a busy schedule and the struggle to maintain a work-life balance, you miss out on other adventures of your life. Trail running at night might be one of the most reasonable options for many trail running enthusiasts.
Especially in winters when the days are shorter, night trail runs might be your only option. If you’re running a Ragnar relay or an ultradistance race, you may need to run overnight and thus you have to get comfortable with night trail runs.
But apart from everything, the mere feeling of running through seeming nothingness and utter fear, is what makes night trail runs a completely different experience from a normal daylight run.
Benefits of Night Trail Runs
After a hectic day at work, it is always a good idea to clear your mind with a night trail run. According to WebMD, night runs give you short-term relief. It improves the mood and makes you feel calm, relaxed, and satisfied. Running at night not only reduces the stress the whole but also helps you get a better quality of sleep. Running at night acts as the best therapy for your mind and body.
Promotes Healthy Eating Habits
Night-running benefits also include healthier eating habits. For a good night run, you have to avoid heavy foods and instead go for a healthier light snack. After the post-run, when your body has used the energy, you have to feed it with a good amount of protein and vitamins. This helps your body recover. Running at night will help you eat more during the daytime, which is good for your body. The intake of water and other healthy drinks increases when you start running.
The chances of missing your daily runs are more in the morning than at night. Also at night, fewer people are outside and there is no traffic on the road, which makes running seamless. Many trail runners have found an increase in their performance at night. One theory is that the darkness makes it harder to gauge your speed according to the objects around you.
A Better Sleep
People usually had a notion that night trail runs or workout disturbs their sleep schedule. But through many researches, it was found that night runs help you get quality sleep. A recent study from the University of South Carolina found that 97 percent of people slept better when they ran at night.
Another night running benefit is better running conditions. At night the temperatures usually drop and the running experience becomes great. People who can't bear the heat should go for a run at night.
Benefits of Running in the Morning vs Night
Generally, running has so many benefits, you can do it any time of the day. But if you are not a morning person or you don't get time to run in the morning due to early office hours, then you don't necessarily have to give up on your plan to run. The night is just as good a time to run as the morning. Both morning and night have their own advantages. It is believed that morning runs are better to start the day with much-needed energy and people who plan to lose weight may prefer to run in the morning instead of the night.
A lot of people believe that running at night may disturb their sleep patterns. But new researches show that for some people night runs may prove more useful than morning runs. A recent study from the University of South Carolina found that 97 percent of people slept better when they ran at night into the morning. Sleep quality gets even better when you run at night.
At night trail runs you perform better because of a theory that states that “When you run at night, you’re also less distracted and more tuned into your body’s rhythm and timing,” says Stanton. “Come spring, when it’s marathon time, the runners who have been training in the dark are always delighted by how much faster their times are.”
Also, you have more time to prepare for the run when you opt for night trail runs. People find it difficult to prepare for the run in the morning. Because after you wake up, you need some time to get yourself prepared for the run, which becomes difficult due to a shortage of time in the morning.
Risks, Drawbacks and Safety Tips
One of the major drawbacks of night runs is the darkness. You may step on a hole or even encounter hanging branches because of less visibility. In the forest, it gets even more unsafe with some animals lurking around, which you may not see due to darkness all around.
Carry at least two running headlamps with an extra battery on night trail runs. Also choose an area to run, where there is at least some lightning.
At night more criminals are active and it's a perfect opportunity for them to do their job with fewer people outside. Always get information about the area in which you are going to run or find a partner for running, so you may be able to handle a situation with more ease. And change your running route frequently.
The visibility at night is very low. That's why avoid using headphones when running. Be aware of your surroundings and listen to the noises around you while running. Sometimes you may not be able to hear an approaching vehicle at night.
Get yourself a pre-run snack like a banana, bread with nut butter, or a granola bar. You should never run on an empty stomach or on a full stomach. Post run take a proper meal to help in the recovery of your body.
Carry extra layer
Prepare for any weather while running at night. Carry an extra jacket or a wind-cheater for a supposed drop in temperature. A hydration pack may also prove useful for night trail runs.
Warming up for 12-15 minutes helps the body transition from rest to action without creating stress on the organs or brain. A good warm-up protects your body from injury and also boosts your running performance.
Essential Gear for Night Trail Runs
Headlamps or Flashlights
The most important gear for running at night is headlamps or flashlights. While running in the dark, it's wise to carry a headlamp or flashlight just in case. Many trail runners prefer running headlamps because they keep their hands free while running. Choose a headlamp with a minimum capacity of at least 200 lumens, multiple brightness levels, and a comfortable fit.
Some runners prefer a flashlight to a headlamp. You can aim a flashlight beam in any direction without having to turn your head as you do with a headlamp. Also, many trail runner enthusiasts prefer to carry a flashlight and a running headlamp. And it is probably the best option. A combination of a headlamp and a flashlight solves the problem of carrying just one of the two gears.
Hydration and Nutrition
Consider carrying an electrolyte drink on your night run to stay hydrated. When you start sweating, the body looses electrolytes which is not good because electrolytes prevent you from feeling lightheaded or cramping. Always have a pre-run snack before running, something which is high in carbs like a banana, bread with nut butter, etc.
Have a healthy post-run meal for a good body recovery at night. Running after dinner is not a very good idea and even running on an empty stomach is not ideal for a trail runner. That's why a pre-run snack is your best friend. A small snack allows you to run just after 30 mins of consuming it.
Pack some extra protective clothing for a change in the climate. Usually, at night the temperatures drop a little and you may need extra clothing to remain comfortable while running. A running jacket or a windcheater and a beanie might prove to be useful in cold temperatures at night.
Reflective clothing may also prove useful in darkness because it may help you to keep track of your partner and also make you visible in certain scenarios.
A fully charged GPS-enabled phone
A fully charged phone with GPS enabled always saves you from getting lost Certain phones also have the functionality to share your location with your contacts. Always inform someone when you go on a run. It's always a good idea to let your friends and family know where you are exactly when you go for a remote run. You can also download offline maps of trails where you are going to run.
The Bottom Line
Always sort out what works best for you according to your day to day routine. Although you can run at any time of the day if you are someone who just loves night trail runs, then you should go for it. Safety is the biggest concern of many trail running enthusiasts when it comes to running at night.
Follow all the instructions and tips that we have mentioned above and you are good to go for a seamless night trail run. Always remember, consistency is the key to achieving maximum results and but also take some time off to rest when necessary. It allows your body to recover and conditions your body to perform even better.