Whether you are hitting winter seasons or live in a country with less daylight there is always a way to navigate running in the dark, and to best do it as safely as possible and of course as positively as you can!
Running in the dark can be a challenge, as much as it is listening to your alarm clock or rushing after work to catch as much light as possible but still running in the dark. Or you may just be an adventure racer needing the know-how of running in the dark. Nevertheless, it all comes with the same challenges.
Here are some top tips on how you can make the most of these types of runs:
Educate yourself on Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is your body’s natural response to the changing of the seasons. This is something more common than we realise and can be addressed through a health care practitioner. Reduced levels of sunlight effectively throw off your circadian rhythm and cause a drop in serotonin and melatonin, leaving you feeling moody and at a loss for energy.
A common remedy for SAD is utilizing a light box during the day to help replicate light exposure. Phototherapy is very effective and is commonly used by athletes in northern climates to help regulate serotonin and melatonin levels. It can also be beneficial to move your runs to daybreak or midday to maximize sun exposure during the week — getting as much time as you can outside in the daylight is imperative. If you live in a cloudy climate, you may consider working with a professional to find Vitamin D and other supplements to keep you healthy year-round.
Think right - be bright!
Be safe by making sure you are safely seen by cars and pedestrians. Wear bright clothes and use lowlight, from light vests to waist lamps, to reflective pants and adhesive stripes.
Run with friends!
Running with a buddy or a group of runners is both safer and it helps keep you accountable to your running program. Where possible it can be worth making your easier runs with others in the dark and your set training in daylight. The simple act of sharing what you are experiencing in the cold and dark can make it easier to get going.
Explore your options of running routes
Changing the scenery may help the motivation levels for running in the dark as well as make you more aware of your surroundings.
You don’t have to fight the elements every run - you can run on a treadmill. This helps keep you warmer and healthier through the long winter season. Although treadmill running may seem a difficult task it does not need to be seen that way - change your perspective and it will change the run you have on the treadmill. You can even see your treadmill runs as saving your TV time and an effective time management tool.
Have a positive mindset as the darker days creep in and have a clear reason why you are out there. Have a vision of what it is you are aiming to achieve and this will help you reach for your success.
Simmons, A. (2023). Running in the dark. Retrieved from https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/running-in-the-dark/
Aghdaei, M. et al. (2021, October 1). The Effects of an Associative, Dissociative, Internal, and External Focus of Attention on Running Economy. Retrieved from https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/jmld/aop/article-10.1123-jmld.2020-0067/article-10.1123-jmld.2020-0067.xml