There has long been a fierce battle raging between those who advocate early morning workouts and those who favor evening workouts. Toss supporters of afternoon workouts into the mix, and you’ve got a real conundrum. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? We’ve decided to take a closer look.
To make a long story short, there is no “right time” to do a workout. There are, however, several factors to consider when deciding what works best for you.
Your Internal Clock
Your circadian rhythm, or your body’s internal clock, dictates your natural sleep schedule and your energy levels over a twenty-four hour period. It’s built-in and hardwired. While it’s possible to retrain yourself to fit a different schedule, it will always be somewhat of an uphill battle. That’s why “morning people” and “night owls” exist - different circadian rhythms.
Why does this matter? Well, keeping in mind that your body has its own rhythm wherein your energy levels ebb and flow like a tide, it behooves you to pick a workout time that lines up with your personal “high tide.” While working out first thing in the morning may be a great way to seize the day and get your blood pumping, it might not be a good match for a night owl. If you’re not a morning person, pushing your body to the limit soon after you wake up might result in a sluggish, ineffective workout. The same can be said of early-risers and evening workouts.
Maintaining a Routine
Many proponents of early morning workouts say that working out first thing in the morning is the easiest way to maintain a consistent workout schedule. They claim that the earlier you work out, the less chance there is for something to come up and get in the way (ie. work, family obligations, etc).
Conversely, if your workout routine involves working out with a partner, afternoon or evening workouts tend to be easier to get everyone on board. Also worth noting, despite rumors to the contrary, there is no concrete evidence to support the theory that working out at night will make it difficult to fall asleep. You can lay that concern to rest.
Additionally, many advocates of midday or afternoon workouts suggest that working out during a lunch break can offer a great way to divide up the day and invigorate you for the second half of your workday. Then again, try leaving work everyday at noon to exercise. Chances are that many days, something will come up that you can’t get out of.
Maximizing Your Strength
If you’re looking to do some heavy lifting, afternoon and evening workouts may be best, as there are more opportunities to eat and fuel your body beforehand. That fuel is an integral part of ensuring you get the most out of your workout.
Beating the Crowds
Gyms tend to be busiest in the early morning or the early evening, as lots of gym-goers like to get their workouts in either before or immediately after work. As such, if equipment is scarce and you’re not a fan of waiting in line for an elliptical (and you have the availability), a midday workout may be the best option.
Work can be stressful. When people get out of work, they typically want a release from any anxiety, stress, or aggression that can build up over the course of the workday. Evening workouts are a great way to get that release without the calories of a drink at happy hour.
The Final Word
So what’s the consensus? Our fitness tip is this: Your workout schedule should be like your choice of workout. Choose something that fits you well and compliments your lifestyle so you're more likely to stick with it. Whether you’re an early-riser, a night owl, or anything in-between, there’s sure to be a time and a workout that’s right for you.