Why evenings are best for summer running

trail runner on a summer's day
Why summer evening running is the best (Image credit: Getty Images)

The start of daylight saving time (DST) was marked on Sunday as people in the UK moved their clocks forward, giving us an extra hour of light in the evenings. For runners like me, it’s the time of the year when we can enjoy a workout later in the day.

Why are there more daylight hours? 

What was 5pm before the clocks 'spring forward' becomes 6pm, which means it will be as light at 6pm as it was at 5pm. The mornings are affected in a different way because 6am becomes 7am, which means the immediate effect is it will be darker.

However, as the days head towards the summer solstice in June – the longest day of the year – there is an ever widening window of daylight, both in the mornings and the evenings, and that's even better news for runners. In other words, the sunrise and sunset are furthest apart and give maximum daylight hours. 

For me, DST means more opportunities for evening runs and the joy of many more hours of light.

Fiona and friends

Fiona enjoys a summer evening run with friends  (Image credit: FionaOutdoors)

Pros and cons of evening running 

There are pros and cons of different times for running, whether it’s morning, lunchtime or evening. 

Let’s take look at what the science says about running in the evening. A review article in the Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences considered the pros and cons of exercise in the morning and evening.  It suggests that exercising later in the day is more beneficial than working out in the morning because our bodily functions are at their best at this time. This means you should have more energy and strength for the best exercise performance.

Your body temperature is highest in the evening; muscles and joints are up to 20% more flexible compared to in the morning; and the chances of injuries during exercise are also lower than when doing morning exercise.

Not only that, metabolism and lung functions work best in the late afternoon and evening, which means you will have greater  strength and endurance to last through your cardio workout session. 

In addition, studies reveal that exercising in the evening provides a good stress buster after a busy day of work. 

However, there are some disadvantages as found by the review. It is easier to call off an evening exercise session by using work or tiredness as an excuse. You might actually feel too tired to run after a busy day of work.

Exercising too close to your bedtime can make it harder to full asleep because a workout will leave your temperature, metabolism and heart rate elevated. It can be a good idea to do some light stretches or yoga to help the body to feel more rested. 

On top of the benefits pointed out in the study, there are further reasons why I enjoy an evening run, especially in the summer.

wild flowers in summer

A summer evening run offers the chance to see and smell wonderful wild flowers (Image credit: FionaOutdoors)

The joys of evening running in summer

It is evening running that I most enjoy once the clocks have “sprung forward”. You see, I live in the Scottish Highlands, and in winter we have shorter days compared to many other people in the UK. The first turning point for lighter days and evenings is when we pass the winter solstice in December. As each day and week goes by, the daylight extends but it’s DST that really makes the difference.

Suddenly, our gradually lighter evenings become much brighter and earlier. This lasts all summer and, for many months, when you live in the north of Scotland. 

I am a sociable runner and because many of my friends have office jobs, or they work average office hours, they are more likely to be able to meet me in the evenings. After a winter of switching on our head torches for a run, we can enjoy running on local trails in daylight.

The lighter – and warmer - evenings make it much easier to find the motivation to step outside for a run. In my opinion, there is little to beat a run on a balmy evening amid beautiful Scottish countryside. 

With more daylight, I run further and explore new places. In contrast, the winter evening are for shorter runs and somewhere familiar. In the summer, I plan longer running adventures both locally and further afield.

It's also great to shed the extra clothing layers of winter and spring running – and allow your legs and arms to feel the warming rays of sunshine. 

Another great joy is planning a later evening run and seeing the sun set over the hills and mountains, or across the sea, as I run. This is not so possible in the winter because the sun has often set before I can leave my desk behind.

It's also a time of the day when  a stiff breeze or wind often settles and conditions are calmer. I love hearing the sounds of the summer birds and smelling the aroma of warmed wild plants and flowers on an evening run.

Where I live, there is also the chance of seeing an array of wildlife when running in the evening, including birds of prey, pine marten, red and roe deer, dolphins and sometimes even otters and red squirrels.

loch for swimming

It's great to take a dip in a cooling loch after an evening run (Image credit: FionaOutdoors)

I could, of course, run in the brighter mornings of summer and sometimes I do. It’s easier to get up and out for a morning run when it’s brighter – as compared to the cold and dark of a winter morning – but I usually feel quite stiff and slow to get going, even in summer. 

By the evening, my muscles and joints have warmed up and I have usually achieved a day of work, so it's a pleasure to be able to unwind with a sociable run. It's when my friends come together and we exchange our highs and lows of the day. 

After working up a sweat while running, we often run by a favourite swimming spot, whether it's the sea or a loch, and take a cooling dip.

In my view, summer evening runs are the best by far and I am very much looking for to the next few months of doing exactly this.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.