The most common excuse I hear for skipping workouts is ‘lack of time’. For every excuse for why you can’t find time, there are multiple reasons why you should. With 24 hours in a day, I honestly believe that everyone can squeeze in some type of exercise; it just takes a little bit of planning.
But are all workout times equally as effective? And what time should you choose to achieve the best results? Here is my guide on how to decide the best workout time for you, and how to use your time effectively.
Find your ‘optimal performance window’…
Everyone’s body has a different natural rhythm formed through a combination of habits and routines; some individuals are ‘morning people’ and others are slow to get going regardless of what time they went to sleep. When it comes to physical fitness, I believe your body has an optimal window when it performs at its best.
Having energy and feeling good is essential if you want a successful workout. To find your optimal performance window, do an evaluation over a few weeks and ask yourself one key question: when do feel you have the most energy? Early morning, before lunch, mid-afternoon or later…?
Are you a morning person?
In general, I tend to suggest morning workouts because your body is fully rested, your nervous system is firing on all cylinders and your mind is fresh. It makes sense that if your muscles are well-rested then you will be able to push a bit harder in the gym.
If you consider yourself a ‘morning person’, it makes sense to workout in the early hours, before you become tired from daily activities. If you have a demanding schedule, do a fitness blast early in the day to prevent other tasks getting in the way.
However, I would recommend steering clear of morning workouts if you are slow to get moving, or feel groggy or clumsy in the early hours. Avoid putting yourself through the additional stress of a morning workout and choose a different time of the day when you are more awake, to get active.
Top tip: Even if you aren’t a morning person, try taking a few deep breaths while getting ready for the day. Adding a few light stretches to boost circulation may help you feel more awake too.
Fancy an afternoon gym session?
If you often experience an energy boost in the afternoon, take advantage of this window by getting active! Afternoon workouts are particularly effective if you tend to feel energised after performing activity as it could boost your productivity and brainpower for the remainder of the day.
Top tip: Consider adding a healthy snack late-morning if you want to workout at lunchtime or in the early afternoon. You need to fuel yourself properly in order to keep going all day. On the other hand, if you have low energy levels by early evening or often hit a ‘tired time’ around 5-7pm, I suggest an early morning or late night workout instead.
Wide awake in the evening?
For ‘night owls’, it’s best to save exercise for the evening hours. This can be a great time to exercise as it can help you unwind and de-stress while taking care of your body. Ending the day with a blast of physical activity may also help you to sleep more soundly.
However, late night workouts are not always such a good idea. If you’re feeling exhausted, I believe rest is better than a hard training session. Performing strenuous physical activity when you are tired increases your risk of injury and you need to be alert during workouts, particularly if you intend to use weights. If this is the only time in your day that you can find to exercise, opt for a gentler activity such as walking or yoga. Save intense workouts for weekends or when you’re more alert.
The perfect time to workout is different for everyone. Select the time that best suits your body and lifestyle. Ensure you are mentally present during workouts: worrying about business appointments or planning the grocery shop while exercising is not the best use of your time or energy. If pushed for time, train in shorter durations with extra focus and concentration - one consciously-performed movement is better than two mindless ones.
Finally, always ensure you are adequately fuelled for your chosen activity. Replenish well and rest your body after each workout for optimal results.
Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.