What’s the best time to work out?
By helping clients find the time that best suits their schedules and energy levels, you can help them form a life-enhancing habit, writes Leslie Vandever.
A new client or prospective client has taken the healthy decision to make frequent exercise part of their lifestyle. Whether they want to enhance or maintain weight loss, increase their strength, build muscle and bone density, or just improve their overall health, they’ve done themselves a favour by taking the plunge.
A key part of your role as a fitness professional is to help them turn this decision into a lifelong habit; and this requires that you help them integrate exercise into their life – whether it’s training with you, or additional activities – so that it doesn’t become an inconvenience or a chore.
So, when is best to exercise: morning, evening or sometime in between? Share the following advice with your clients to help them find their exercise rhythm.
Let’s get practical
Practical and logistical factors can affect when you exercise. The type of activity you’ve chosen, running, swimming and playing squash, for example, each has its own restrictions, such as how much time you need to get cleaned up afterwards, or coordinating schedules with an opponent.
Your workout schedule may depend on court, pool, or gym opening hours and available facilities. Are there showers, particularly if you need to be fresh for business meetings after your gym visit? Is there a convenient place to dress, do your hair, and apply makeup for the office after your workout? If you’re a runner, when you run may hinge on how long it takes you to get ready for work in the morning, family and other morning responsibilities, or how much energy you have left after a long day behind a desk.
Another factor for runners to consider is whether your neighborhood is safe for evening or after-dark runs? Is your gym a reasonable distance from home, or would you need to travel a long way after an exhausting day?
Theoretically, perhaps, mundane logistical considerations shouldn’t detract from our greater goal of better health and wellbeing; in the real world, however, they can make the difference between establishing a habit and throwing in the towel. With some planning, however, as well as a little trial and error, you will be able to develop a routine that works for you.
Listen to your body
The practical considerations are all good and well, but they are only part of the equation. If you can easily fit in an hour’s workout pre-work, but have no energy until the mid-morning, then what looks good on paper won’t translate to real world success.
This is why you need to listen to your body. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you mind rising before the sun each morning to exercise before work? When do you feel like you have the most energy? All this can make a big difference in the success of your exercise commitment.
Consistency is key
Consistency is crucial. For your significant exercise effort to really pay off, you need to do it consistently. If your work schedule is flexible, you may be able to choose your own best time to work out. If you’re committed to rigid office hours, however, the time of day you exercise will depend on when you can most often fit it in.
Let the boffins help you
Can science help you make your decision? Maybe.
Some studies show significant benefits from morning exercise:
- Exercising after a significant fasting period means that your body burns more fat to fuel your muscles through your workout.
- Morning exercise can make you feel good physically and mentally. Not only are you proud of having done something healthy for yourself by the time most people are dragging themselves out of bed, you’ve already accomplished your exercise for the day – which means you don’t need to stress about fitting it in somehow later.
- Exercise causes a pleasant endorphin release in the brain. It’s a positive way to start your day.
- Exercise jumpstarts your metabolism. Your body will continue to burn off more fat than it would have if you hadn’t swum your laps or hit the weights room.
Other studies shown the significant benefits of afternoon and evening exercise:
- Exercising later in the day takes advantage of muscles that are already warm and a body that’s been well-fed throughout the day, providing more fuel for energy and easier movement.
- For some people, exercising late in the day assists in getting a good night’s sleep.
- Evening exercise is a terrific stress-buster. When you leave the office wound up and worried, spending some time on the squash court, stretching tight muscles or lifting weights blows off a lot of steam. By the time you’re done, you’re pleasantly tired – and relaxed.
The consensus? There’s no hard-and-fast right or wrong time for exercise. The best time is the time that’s best for you, both physically and mentally. Choose a time of day that fits your schedule, your lifestyle and your personal rhythms: a time that allows you to not only be consistent, but to enjoy yourself.
After all, if you don’t get pleasure out of moving your body, strengthening your muscles, and increasing your stamina, you may not find time to do it at all.
Leslie Vandever is an experienced print and online freelance journalist from California.