There are a lot of factors that come into play when it comes to choosing the best time of day to do your workout. A lot of people tend to fret about the little details like the optimum time for fat-burning, recovery, etc. However, in the big scheme of things you really only need to worry about these little details AFTER you’ve already established a set daily routine.
The most important thing you want to concentrate on right now is simply establishing the habit of working out. Just focus on that first. Once you get that down you can start thinking about nutrient timing and everything else that you might hear people talking about. The most important thing is that you are actually setting aside time SOMEWHERE during the day to workout.
I can be pretty long-winded when it comes to writing and answering questions, so if you prefer the Cliff Notes version of this article feel free to scroll down to the end of this post… 🙂
What’s Your Current Schedule?
You want to make working out as convenient for yourself as possible. Sounds easy enough right? But we are all busy and trying to do a million things at once. However, when you choose to make your health a priority finding time to workout isn’t quite as hard as you think. There are workout programs you can do at home that are 30 minutes, 25 minutes, and even 10 minutes long. There should be no excuses when it comes to time.
When you think about it, how many hours do you spend watching TV or looking at Facebook everyday? I’m willing to bet that it’s longer than 60 minutes! Now, I’m not asking you to give up your FAVORITE shows or Facebook altogether, but surely you can find some places where you can cut corners. Again, once you make the CHOICE that this is what you’re going to do, finding the time is easy.
The first thing you should do is look at your current schedule and figure out when the best time would be to add in a workout during the day. Obviously, if you work a typical 9-5 job away from home and only get a 30 minute break for lunch, you’re looking at either the morning or the evening. Easy enough.
In an ideal world, it’s best to schedule your workout at the same time every day, that way it becomes easier to establish the habit. Eventually you won’t even need to find the motivation to workout because your body will just automatically want to do it. When that happens it’s almost as good as magic!
However, in the real world it’s not always possible to exercise at the same time every day of the week, so don’t worry about it too much.
My Personal Experience
When I first did P90X I was working a full-time job and was also juggling 3 other part-time jobs I was doing out of my home. It was definitely a struggle at first but I found a way to make it work. What made it even more difficult was that the schedule for my full-time job was slightly different everyday, so I had to work around that a bit.
Here’s an example of what a typical week looked like for me:
MONDAY: 12PM-7PM or OFF
SATURDAY: 9AM-4PM or OFF
For the most part I always preferred to do my workout before I went to work. If I had to be at work at 9AM I would wake up at 530AM. That would give me enough time to do my morning chores, spend 45 minutes with Tony Horton, take a shower, eat a decent breakfast, and drive 30 minutes to work.
Wednesday and Thursday I would do my workout as soon as I walked in the door after work. I figured out pretty quickly that if I got distracted doing other things there was a good chance my workout wouldn’t get done. So as soon as I got home and let the dogs out I would go right upstairs to the bedroom and change into my workout clothes.
If you want to be super-efficient, you can make sure your workout clothes are laid out and ready to go before you leave in the morning. That way you have a visual reminder and one less thing to worry about when you get home from work. Plus the physical act of getting your clothes together primes your brain with thoughts of working out which you’ll remember at different times during your workday. It probably sounds kinda weird, but it really does work!
In addition to what your schedule dictates, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of working out at different times of the day.
Working out in the morning is a great way to start your day. It gives you energy and sets the rest of your day up for success. Chances are you’ll be less likely to make poor food choices during the day if you’ve already done your workout. I know when I haven’t worked out yet I have a tendency to tell myself, “Oh I can eat that cupcake…I’ll just work it off later!!”
You also won’t have the thought of getting your workout done hanging over your head during the rest of the day. Let’s face it, the more your put off doing your workout the more excuses you can come up with for NOT doing it. Plus, unexpected things can come up during the day that can prevent you from doing it at the time you originally planned.
If you make your workout a priority first thing in the morning there’s a very good chance that you’ll get it done. Not a lot of emergencies come up at 5:30 in the morning! You also may find that by doing your workout in the morning that you are more productive during the day and have more time to spend with friends and family in the afternoon/evening. If you have kids, doing your workout before your kids wake-up and the house is quiet can give you a sense of calmness and help you stay centered.
There are also many fitness experts who say that by waking up and working out on an empty stomach you have a higher potential to burn more fat. However, this may take some experimentation. If your glycogen stores are too low you may not be able to workout at a high enough level of intensity. Even worse, you could possibly “bonk” or even pass out. You don’t want to sacrifice your overall health or the ability to bring your best game to the table just for a little more fat loss.
Because it’s so early and you just dragged yourself out of bed with an empty stomach, chances are you might not have a lot of energy to bring to your workout. This can have a negative effect on your overall results. If you need to do an intense workout you’ll need to eat something to avoid bonking. That means you’ll probably need to wake-up even earlier than usual. It will most likely take some experimentation to find out what works best in terms of what types of workouts you’ll be doing and if/when you need to eat beforehand.
And it goes without saying that if you’re not a morning person it will be more difficult to find the motivation to get out of bed. However, I’m definitely NOT a morning person and after two weeks of consistently waking up super-early to do P90X I really didn’t mind it that much anymore.
If you have extra time in the afternoon working out around lunchtime or before dinner can be a great way to break up your day. You’ll have energy and fuel from breakfast, snacks, and even lunch so you can bring a high level of intensity to your workout. You can also avoid the crash that many people experience around 2PM by working out in the middle of the day. However, unless you have an usual schedule, most people don’t have 2 hours to set aside in the middle of the day when you take in the fact that you’ll probably want to take a shower after your workout is done.
In the evening your glycogen stores are at maximum capacity so you will be able to push yourself longer and harder during an evening workout. On the other hand, if it’s been a really stressful day the thought of working out may not sound very appealing to you. However, you might find that a good workout can help you blow off some steam after a really bad day. Somehow the sweat “cleanses” you of all those negative feelings and emotions that have been building up during the day.
If you absolutely can’t find the energy to drag yourself out of bed early in the morning you may find that you prefer working out at night. Just make sure you’re fueling your body properly and not starving yourself. If you workout at night you’ll still need to eat something despite what you’ve heard about the “don’t eat after 6pm” rule. By not eating after your workout and then going to bed you’re doing your body more harm than good. And it’s OK to include some healthy carbs in your post-workout meal, even at night.
If you workout at night you will wake-up feeling better about yourself. However, the adrenaline rush you get from an evening workout may make it harder for you to fall asleep. But for some people though, it seems to help them sleep better!
OK that’s a lot of great information Amanda, but really…when is the best time to do my workout?
As you can see, there are a lot of variables involved when it comes to figuring out when the best time is for YOU to do your workout. Steve Edwards is the fitness advisor at Beachbody and TeamBeachbody.com. I think he does a great job of summing up my 1500+ ramble in just a few short sentences:
“The bottom line is that everyone’s body responds differently. We all need to exercise and most of us can eat better. In between are a lot of individual variables. When it comes to getting your best possible workout, psychology often trumps physiology. Exercise when you can and pay close attention to your performance. Then choose your preferred workout time based on your results. It’s really that simple.”
So there you go!
What do you think? Did I forget anything? Based on your own personal experiences when is YOUR favorite time of the day to workout?