As a health and fitness coach I get asked this question often. When is the best time to work out? My answer – it depends on your goals and it depends on what kind of person you are when it comes to your sleep habits. Here’s what you need to know.
When I was new to exercise I thought it had to happen first thing in the morning or I felt guilty all day until I did. It was like a stressor on my mind until I could check it off the list. For some reason I just thought that’s when fit people worked out, but I later learned that was not the case at all for many. Although I won’t disagree, I think morning workouts are great for SOME people it really does not work for everyone.
My New Routine
When I was first getting started with making fitness a daily habit I knew for it to work for me, it had to be first thing in the morning. I was teaching full time, I had a little one at home and I was in grad school at night. I can assure you that when evening came around, this momma had zero energy left to give. Especially for a workout. It simply was not going to happen. I decided I would “train” myself to become an early morning workout warrior. Let me tell you… it was hard! But after about two weeks I got into the groove of it and began to love the quiet time. It was so peaceful and set the tone for a really great day for me.
I would lay my workout clothes out the night before. Set my alarm. Have my water already poured into my water bottle. You name it, it was set out. I would even put my workout DVD in the night beforehand so I just had to press play and get right to it. I knew I was short on time so in order for me to be able to get it all in, I couldn’t waste time trying to match socks in the dark. I have heard some people suggest to “sleep in your workout clothes.” I disagree. It sends the wrong signal to your body. When it’s time to be sleeping, you need to be in your bed and in your pajamas signaling rest. Sleeping in tomorrow’s workout clothes is often uncomfortable but also sends the wrong message to your body. I say just set them out ahead of time. 4:30 am came really early so it also meant I had to get to bed early. I found myself pressing snooze if I didn’t make sleep a priority the night before.
While I was able to make this work for me, I can assure you I have plenty of clients who prefer afternoon or evening sweat sessions and they still get great results and still enjoy the same exercise endorphins that the morning workout warriors get to enjoy. Some people are just not morning people.
There are a few scientific reasons for doing your workouts at different times which I will share with you.
Crack of Dawn Sweat Session
I teach this to my new clients who have a lot of weight to drop. I encourage them to try to make the workouts happen in the morning because overnight your body is fasting. If you exercise before you eat first thing in the morning it allows your body to start burning fat at a rapid weight. I call it fasted cardio. You wouldn’t want to do it for any more than 30 – 35 minutes though. Otherwise your body will begin to break down muscle instead of fat. I also encourage this time of day because your body should be well rested and your mind fresh. Spending time taking care of yourself first thing sets the tone for a less stressful day.
Mid-Day Crash Preventer
Some call this the sanity saver time of day. Often workouts will occur over lunch breaks or for some it’s right after a busy day of work. Picking this time of day is helpful because it gives your body and your brain a chance to get the blood flowing and take the focus off of what might be going on for the day. Typically by midday we have encountered some form of stress at this point. Taking the focus off of the stress and putting energy into exercise can lead for a better evening ahead of you. In addition during the afternoon your body temperature is often higher than it is in the mornings. This makes it an ideal time for strength training because your muscles are more relaxed.
Evening Exercisor – The Night Owl
For my night owl friends this is your golden time of day. Work is done for the day. You ate your dinner, allowed it to digest, maybe your kids are in bed for the night and you’re gearing up to enjoy that freedom feeling of “me time.” When this time of day rolls around, many of you want nothing more than to drench yourself in sweat and drown out the worries from today. Some question will this interrupt my sleep patterns? The true answer is not necessarily. Some research even suggests that strength training at night can improve the quality of your sleep. Some prefer this time of day because it is less stressful. They can train for as long as they want to or as hard as they want to without having to worry about getting to work on time or being sore all day. Instead they get to sleep it off until morning. It’s these people who are often building in more time for restful mornings and no rushing around like your morning workout warriors are.
Make it Happen
What it really comes down to is WHEN are you willing to make it happen? In my opinion, that is the best time for you to work out. When it works for you. I would rather see you make time for the workouts when you feel like it rather than skip it because it wasn’t your time of day. My advice is give each time of day a trial run. Schedule your workouts for about two weeks during that time period. Give each time of day a fair try then decide after about six weeks which time of day gave you the most energy and made you feel that best. Then stick with it!
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What about you? When is your favorite time of day to workout?
Happy Training friends! Remember the only bad workout is the one you didn’t show up to do.
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