Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning

When your schedule demands, or the time change makes a daylight run nearly impossible; running the dark actually is a worthwhile solution.

There are some important strategies to transitioning from natural light runs to moonlit ones, as well as some worthwhile gear to keep it safe whether you choose to run pre-dawn or post-sunset.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning
Know your area!

Strategies for Running in the Dark

First, choose an area that you run regularly with which you are completely familiar. It really helps if you know the slant of the material under you, location of cracks, curbs, and other pitfalls. Equipment choices will be covered in Part 2.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning


Maybe there is a one mile loop in your regular run that is your start and end segment, and you could use that for your intensely practiced route.

Three repetitions of your one mile might work – and it’s not like you’re going to get bored with the scenery, because you might not see it at all!

You’re better off learning and knowing a one-mile segment very well than being sort of familiar with a longer run and risking injury or stress. This is still supposed to be fun!

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning

Stride, Breathing, and Form Changes

Take your time the first few runs, and get used to the terrain in a different light – literally. It is going to take a bit of time to adjust to several things.

First, the additional gear you are carrying and wearing will feel odd. Slow down and get used to those feelings. Keep adjusting until you are comfortable.

You’re not going to be posting your best ever speeds, so this is a perfect time to work on your body.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning
Just kidding – this was a rainy day indoors ride!

The Body/Mind Transition

As you gain confidence in your body’s ability to adjust to balance, your rhythm will become more dependable. Also, as you become more familiar with the terrain, you will increase your experience and shorten your reactions to uneven areas.

Have patience with yourself in this stage. If you’ve ever swayed slightly when someone abruptly turns off the lights in a room, you’ll understand.

Give it a try if you don’t believe me. Wait until dark, stand with your back to someone else in a room, and have them turn off the light without telling you when they are going to do it. Notice the slight sway when the light ends – you use your eyes to level yourself out far more than you realize. During the daylight hours, you constantly use horizontal visual cues to align yourself vertically.

This is one of the reasons people get seasick – a swaying horizon. Work on getting used to going vertical without the visual cues. Walking around your own home in the dark will help, too. Get used to moving your body by knowing instead of seeing.

So, it’s reasonable that your feet and brain and body are still transmitting information at a slower-than-normal pace. Just relax into this, and feel it. There’s nothing wrong with it, there’s nothing to force, just get used to the uncertain feelings.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning
Cycling in the dark is so much easier than running in the dark – your “stride” stays the same!

Work on Your Stride

You might notice your stride shortens to a choppier, more defensive rhythm. Not only will you run with your feet slightly wider apart, you will pick your knees up a slight bit more, and you will leverage your toes slightly upward more than usual.

While each of these adjustments in body position is slight millimeters, the merest increments, they will affect your entire body position. Running distances with several body parts held differently than normal will have several results.

Any small changes like these will be reflected in your spine, your back, and your shoulders. Pull your elbows in, relax your hands, and promise yourself to keep doing planks, stretches, and flexibility range of motion exercises as many days a week as you plan to run. It’s great when you can do a core workout right before your run, and use your cool-down time as double duty for stretches in order to prepare for your run.

You’ll have aches in different areas, and you may be stiff or sore in unusual places. Also, you will more easily notice if your shoes are near the end of their lifetime. With no visual stimuli, you will notice every slight change and body part. At first it feels odd; to be so hyper-aware of so much.

Once you relax into this feeling, then it’s time to start working on your stride. I’ll give you some lighting pointers below to help with this. You can start to stretch out and lengthen your stride once are comfortable trotting around in the dark, and you’ve worked through the balance adjustments.

Now’s when the real fun begins – when you are comfortable and balanced, and can start to open up to your daytime angles and positions.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning
Love; light mist, high oxygen content, damp streets.


You are going to breathe slightly differently when you run in the dark. Initially, without some of the daytime sounds, you will notice your breathing a lot more. At this stage, it’s nice to leave the tunes turned off, and pay attention to your body.

Running in low light or no light changes your emphasis. Now you are balancing differently, all your body parts are working just slightly differently, and your breathing reflects this.

Some people will take more frequent, shallower breaths. I like to use this running time to deepen and elongate my breathing. Sometimes it’s amazing how differently you breathe when you are denied some senses, and are able to more thoroughly tune into others.

Count if you must to find your baseline at different speeds, and work on evening out your breathing.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning


Once you’ve been running a couple months in the dark and gotten your accessories dialed in, you can have some fun with your form.

If you are able to run in nearly complete darkness except for your lights, instead of seeing your feet flashing under you; imagine them.

Imagine yourself from the side – and “watch” how you run. Now start tweaking. Make small changes; visualize your absolute perfect body positions, and keep altering until you “see” and feel perfection.

Again, loosen your shoulders, bring your elbows in, and relax your hands. Imagine you are holding a potato chip in each hand – don’t crush it.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning
Beating the newspaper to the door – feels great! Sun is rising, workout is DONE!

Why Does This Feel So Different?

It might take a couple months to dial in exactly which position to place each item, how to hold things, and what goes where.

Your entire senses are upside down; you’ve lost some peripheral perspective, depth perception drops, small cracks in pavement can have big shadows depending on the light source and angle. And suddenly, you’re breathing LOUDLY and can hear the rhythm of your feet hitting the ground.

Then, you add on a bunch of accessories! Off balance, in balance, chafing, shifting, bouncing – all this stuff you now drag with you. So, it’s bound to feel different. Invigorating, exciting, and free. Maybe cooler too!

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning
I don’t have a treadmill. I like them on cruise ships because the winds can be high on deck. I do use a trainer for Winter freezing or rainy-day cycling.

Quick Case for Treadmill Running

Well, another alternative for people with schedule crunches is a treadmill. That’s not such a bad option, either.

You can run with no extra equipment than a day run, it might be air conditioned or heated, and you can listen to music without worrying about cars. Also, there are no slow-downs for crossing intersections or stepping off sidewalks or avoiding dog walkers and strollers.

In a gym, you will amaze the workout folks with your endurance, and so easily increase and decrease your speed. You will work muscles slightly differently due to different balances and the track moving instead of you moving. It’s a far more even and consistent effort than on the road, so can give you more exercise for your time investment if you turn up the speed.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning
Favorite Tri Shorts from Vanderkitten!

Rural Running

For those of us running in rural areas, the considerations might amuse you. Unlike city runners, the only human I see is the newspaper carrier, so I don’t need a bright vest or much in the way of items to make me more visible. Also, a huge benefit is that cars are visible from a long way off when you are running on unlit roads.

What I do need is a way to see the critters! I cannot count how many times I have nearly tripped over an armadillo. They get scared, and either try to dart across your path, or they bolt out in front of you and stay underfoot longer than you can imagine.

Ask around for your area to discover what types of wildlife you are likely to encounter. A pretty good judge of that is to notice what you are seeing when you return home after dark driving your car. You might see deer, bobcats, opossums, raccoons.

Snakes – yes, snakes are out there too. I find that I never see snakes in the morning, but on an evening run, I do have to pay attention. In the evening, snakes sometimes crawl onto the pavement that is still warm from the day’s sun. They don’t do that in the morning because the surface has cooled all night.

I’m fortunate to run in a rural area, so I can play my music out loud. I like to think it deters deer and coyotes from crossing in front of me and startling me. I’ll show you an easy way to carry those tunes below.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning

City Running

Here’s when you really do need to be visible and pay very close attention. Never cross an intersection without observing very carefully for vehicles crossing or turning.

Wear bright, reflective clothes, or augment your normal attire with some reflective choices. Vehicle headlights may blend your lights in with signage and other traffic lights, so drivers might not notice you.

Fast-blinking lights are good at drawing attention of passing motorists. Pay attention to what types of lights don’t get washed out in your area – and seek out those. Notice what local cyclists and runners are carrying. Then pay attention to which ones catch your eye as a motorist yourself, and find those.

Listen so carefully for vehicles. I see people running all the time while wearing ear buds and headphones. Be careful.

, Running in the Dark // Part 1 // Strategy and Transitioning

My Favorite Running Things

Right next to the door where I head out for runs or rides, the closest drawer to the door has what I need on the way out to hit the pavement. Just look at all those socks featuring Vanderkitten’s  cat Ophelia inspiring me to suit up and get moving! They have eye-catching running and cycling gear designed specifically for women.

Nathan Zephyr Hand Torch comes in many versions. Mine is the 300, rechargeable. It lasts such a long time! It’s good for spotting things further away.

Not shown but now charging on top of the dresser is my new Knuckle Lights set of hand lights – one for each hand.

Reflective Ankle Bands for Runners come in so many varieties! The more reflective, the better! Simple way to get lit without batteries.

No laughing, but, Reflective Socks are a thing! The idea is that the motion of your feet makes the reflective bits move, which catches someone’s eyes better than a solid beam of light. We have them for cycling and running.

FlipBelt is how I carry my cellular phone. It has a reflective stripe, but usually ends up under my shirt. Has a hook for a spare house key, and access for whatever you need to carry around your waist.

Due to all-too-frequent hair washings, I favor the really chunky hair elastics. They hold my hair firmly without breaking strands.

Cycling Stuff Also in My Drawer

Chamois Butter – Her – a necessity for cycling. Best part? It smells divine due to the lavender. Sharing that cubicle is the Halo cycling sweat band – I have the adjustable tie version.

Another great chamois cream for ladies is the Petal Power Joy Ride Women’s Natural Anti-Chafe Cream for Cycling. Their product contains no parabens, no petroleum products, and is completely vegan. Plus Petal Power has a female founder; former pro racer Jill Hamilton!

In the third section from the left, my Wahoo Tickr heart rate monitor and my Garmin HRM-Dual heart rate monitor. The Wahoo communicated with my former cycling gps, the Garmin with my replacement. Gold Bond medicated powder is handy for preventing chafing. Looks so old-fashioned, but there’s nothing like it!

Using any of my Amazon links does not increase your cost, but they might reward me with a small percentage of your sale in return for my efforts to share with you what I use on a nearly-daily basis.

About Vanderkitten

VK supports and partners with hundreds of women across the globe from a variety of action sports. Their mission is to promote women in sports that have historically had little to no mainstream outlets. They were founded in 2005, based out of Oakland, California. They sponsor annual camps, a women’s racing team, and the VKCX Nationals team riders.

If you’re looking for high-contrast, attractive cycling gear; they have it! Plus, your cost per wear will be even lower if you use my code to get 15% off your cycling, triathlon, running, lifestyle wear at Vanderkitten – Clothing for Women Who Kick Ass!​ Use “DeepWH” to get 15% off cycling, triathlon, running, lifestyle wear at Vanderkitten. Some clearance items may not be eligible for an additional discount; the deals are that good right now.

What to Read Next:

Rainy Day Workout Ideas – My Morning With the Cycling Trainer and Vanderkitten Kit

Vanderkitten Womens Cycling Kits – Cost Per Wear – Review


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