The wonderful world of night time cardio!
Where most who view my website live, winter days are very short. The sun rises after we get to work and sets before we come home so even the commute to work is totally in the dark. Winter is the time when most people gain 10 pounds of fat and let their cardiovascular conditioning fade with promises of starting again in the springtime.
I will let you in on a little secret, night time cardio can be WAY more fun than cardio in the summer time. When the days are long in the summer, the buzz of human activity can go till 10pm – leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and dogs playfully barking. In the winter when it gets dark at 4:30pm, everyone is inside staying warm leaving all the roads and trails available exclusively to US! Its like going to Disneyland and being let into the park without anyone else around! You can hear the birds and animals. You can see the stars. Its like something you have never experienced, it seems like you are totally alone.
“It’s not safe”
A lot of people avoid cardio at night because they do not think it is safe. Actually, in my opinion its much safer to bike or run at night than it is during the day. During the day, you blend into the background clutter and texting drivers simply do not see you. At night, if you have the proper lighting (below) then you stand out like a beacon. With my bike lights, any court of law would laugh out loud at any driver who claimed they did not see me. What about crime and mugging? A lot of people are afraid of muggings. Let me ask you this, how hard to you think criminals are willing to work to get their money? Not hard at all, thats why they are CRIMINALS, because its a lot less work to steal than it is to get a real job. If you are out running or biking, why on earth would they choose YOU as a target when there are lots of easy slow walking targets? They wont! They are not interested in having to run a 8 min/mile pace to tackle you and grab your wallet. Don’t be an idiot though. Be very aware of your surroundings and avoid places in urban settings where people might hide undetected. This isnt just for night, you would be just as stupid in a big city to run down a deserted alley with dumpsters everywhere in broad daylight.
Part of the reason it seems like you are totally alone is that you ARE. On the road I bike up my mountain at 7pm in the dark I almost never see anyone – no cars, no bikes, no people. Although this is great, it brings up a point – self rescue. Carry a big SLR sized fanny pack so you can carry some food, extra clothing, a flashlight, and a phone. Many of us bike/run where there is no cellphone reception which means were we to get into trouble, we need to be prepared to spend the night – plan accordingly. I live in California and when I go out at night, even if rain is not predicted I bring foul weather gear and chemical heaters for my gloves.
Lighting for running
If you are trail running you need to see where you are going so a very bright head mounted light is required but you also have to see where your feet are. Your peripheral vision is what saves you from tripping over those roots at the last minute and if you do not have sufficient light on the area two paces ahead of you, you are going to trip. If your headlight is too narrow of a beam you will need a separate “foot light”.
The other thing you need lights for when you are running is to keep from getting run over by cars and the headlight will not help much in this regard. You need to be visible from behind and from the sides where your headlight does not help. Given your life is at stake, probably best to go overkill here and use both reflective running vest AND a led running vest. You have to admit, these LED vests are frigging COOL! Again, thanks to Sweat4health member NWT (check out his NWTrunning blog!) for bringing my attention to these!
Lighting for biking
“I have a light” you say? Probably not adequate. Most people have bike lights that are only good enough to prevent getting ticketed for riding without a light. A bike light has two purposes:
- To keep cars from hitting you
- To keep yourself from hitting branches and potholes
The second issue is actually the most dangerous at night and its probably 10x more likely to put you in the hospital than a car. Most people use flashing headlights or anemic headlights that simply cannot show obstacles. You need a VERY bright and steady light aimed down at the road the 3 seconds ahead of you. To keep cars from hitting you, its predominately the tail light. It has to be bright and steady. Flashing tail lights disorient drivers. The other thing to remember that your goal is not to piss off drivers or blind them, that works against you. Your goal is to see all obstacles and make sure that drivers see you.
My recommendation for a tail light is the Rechargable Cygolite Hotshot. There are a LOT of blinking tail lights, what is important is that they are bright enough to be seen during the day and these lights measure up. The 2 watt LED insures your visibility and the fact that they are rechargable with a simple USB charger insures you will never have to hunt for batteries. This 2 watt Cygolite rechargeable tail light I have used these about 5 times a week since I bought it in October of 2016 and it is still going strong. A lot of you have commented that you use two tail lights “for safety”. I ride behind you people all the time and I can tell you that your old school multi-LED tail lights are useless. More LEDs do not make a tail light brighter. For a bright tail light you need the new generation of 1-3 Watt LEDs. A good tail light will be 1-3 Watts.
As far as headlights, as far as I am concerned the only way to go is lights that have a separate battery that velcros onto the frame. This allows you to use very cheap batteries rather than be limited to expensive ones sold by the manufacturer. I have a SecurityIng Waterproof LED Bicycle Light that is an amazing light for under $30. I also have a Revtronic 1600 (not currently available) that is amazing and has provided years of great service. Here is what My 22 dollar SecurityIng light looks like:
One of the many things l love about sweat4health is how we all inspire each other and this night time cardio is something that I cannot take credit for. We have a member in the north of Germany and another member in the Northwest Territories in Canada (check out his NWTrunning blog) who are avid night time trail runners who have led the pack here along with another member from Scotland who started our winter time cardio challenge.