What’s the best time of day to workout? Ok, get ready to be annoyed. It’s the time of day when you’re most likely to workout.
I’m sorry. I know that’s not the answer you really want. But I think it’s true, partly because of experience and partly because of research. (Not like the conducting experiments or gathering data kind of research, just the reading articles on what I consider reliable websites kind of research.) I, at different times since I started exercising, have sought out the best time of day to work out. Like, when are you most likely to get the best results? The most bang for your buck? And, while my research hasn’t been exhaustive, I have come to the conclusion that there’s no one right answer.
Some people advocate exercising first thing in the morning. You’re in a fasted state, you’ll burn off stuff already in your body (glycogen I think?), that kind of thing. You might burn off more fat. I’ve also read that late afternoon is really the optimal time to workout– energy wise, performance wise. Hormone levels might be at a more optimal level in the afternoon, too. I haven’t read that nighttime is ideal, but I bet someone out there says that it is.
The answer I gave above- the time of day when you’re most likely to workout is the time of day when you’re most likely to workout- isn’t my favorite answer for me either. But I’ve accepted it as the truth.
I think the real best time of day for me, as far as how good a workout I get, how I feel during and after, when I have the most energy, is mid-morning. In a perfect world I’d wake up, ease into my day, have breakfast and coffee. Then I’d either relax with my kids and husband or do some chores around the house (though I guess in a really perfect world I wouldn’t be doing chores ever, would I?). About an hour and a half to two hours after I finished eating, I’d exercise. This does happen once in a while, and it really is when I feel best. But it doesn’t happen a lot.
The reality right now is that my time is not really my own. I can’t exercise at that time of day because it just doesn’t work. I have things to do, places to be, other people’s schedules to consider. So I wake up early. Now I’m sure some of you are saying, “I can’t exercise in the morning. That’s not happening. I’m not a morning person.” I said the same things. I didn’t think I could ever do it. I didn’t think it would happen. I am so not a morning person. If anything I’m a night owl….A night owl who has grudgingly become more of a morning person. Thanks to #1- kids and #2- really wanting to exercise and knowing if it didn’t happen then it might never happen.
I think the morning is probably the best time for most people for the same reasons it works for me. Once it’s done you can move on with your day. If you don’t do it first thing there’s a good chance something will crop up during the day that prevents you from doing it. Or you’ll be too tired to do it. You’ll also get that good feeling early, and what a great way to start your day. But it does take some getting used to.
When I first started exercising I did it at night. (Back then I would think I could never do it in the morning, now I look back and think how did I ever do it at night?!) It was what worked for me then. I had an infant I was breastfeeding, who was still waking up a few times a night to eat, plus three other kids, ages 3, 5, and 7. I was so tired and needed that sleep in the morning. Night time was the only time I could get it done. I’d put Danny to bed around 7:00, then the other kids, and exercise in the living room, before Danny woke up for his first nighttime feeding.
There was a period of time between those nighttime workouts and when I started working out in the morning when I had to accept and deal with a more difficult truth. I had to workout whenever I could, and that would change day to day. I would have much rather have had a set time, a schedule, a routine. But things were hectic, mornings were unreliable (usually due to a child or two or three or four who had made it to my bed or lured me to their bed sometime during the night). I was so tired at night, and the kids were staying up later. I had to accept the need for a more flexible mindset. It irked me, but that’s where I was at that time. This transition period might ultimately have made it easier for me to embrace the idea of morning workouts.
So I’d encourage every one to consider morning workouts. Even if you’re not a “morning person.” No birds are pulling my blankets back as I awake feeling refreshed and perky and ready for a fantastic day. Looking radiant of course. There’s lots of hitting snooze and internal dialogue, some of which I can’t repeat here for fear my children might read this. But it happens. Most days. I’m tired and cold and puffy-eyed and crazy-haired and feeling rather grumpy most days. But by the time the warm-up is over I’m usually feeling closer to human and by the time the whole thing is over I’m often feeling like a superhero. A pleasant, life-loving superhero. (Until I try to wake up my middle schooler anyway)
Wherever you are at right now, make it a priority. That’s the most important thing. My crazy-runner-husband used to say all the time, “You have to make it a priority.” And I used to roll my eyes and curse under my breath. But that idea must have nestled somewhere in my brain and eventually manifested itself. Because here I am telling anyone who will listen to make it a priority. It just has to be. And it might be tough at first, but keep at it and one day it will really be like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Just something that’s part of your day. Often one of the best parts of your day.
Have you found your ideal time? Are you struggling to make time for exercise? I’d love to hear from you! Sometimes just venting or chatting about something can help you process things and make things click 🙂