First, let’s just say as long as you exercise- it’s all good. Now beyond that here are the Top 3 questions to ask yourself so you can figure out when is the right time to workout for YOU:
1. What is your energy clock like? Your energy runs in a 24 hour cycle, naturally following the course of a day. I will use myself as an example so that you can have a better understanding of what I mean.
- Between 6:00am-11:00am is my most effective time to do things that are brain intensive. That is, this energy cycle for me is when my analytical and comprehension skills are functioning at their highest level; this is why I always preferred to study for school during this time.
- Between 11:00-3:00pm is my most effective time to be physically active. My brain and body feel like an unstoppable machine during these hours and so it’s my favorite time to workout.
- Between 3:00pm-6:00pm is my lowest energy cycle of the day. It is very hard for me to think, let alone get physical. My body clock is telling me to take a nap or to slow down.
- Between 6:00pm-11:00pm is where I get my “second-wind” and generally this energy cycle permits me to either have an “OK” workout, but better yet, it’s great energy for cooking, or doing relaxing, and enjoyable activities like hanging out with friends.
- Between 11:00pm-6:00am is when my body prefers to re-energize for the next day.
- Funny thing, if I don’t sleep between 11:00pm-12:00pm, I will find my energy cycle come into its “third-wind” and I probably won’t be able to sleep until 3:00-4:00am. This is no bueno; it can throw off my whole energy cycle.
Remember, this is an example of my energy cycle- yours will be slightly different. In order for you to find out how your energy clock works, you have to pay attention to your body, how it reacts and feels during any given time, then make a note of it. To learn more, read up on the circadian rhythm– and yes, through practice and discipline, you can “teach” your body to have more energy when you need it. Here is a diagram of a general 24 hour circadian rhythm cycle for the human body:
2. What is realistic for your schedule? Yes, we have to keep it real and ask ourselves, when can we actually make it to the gym? Try to find multiple open days and times in your calendar so that one, you have choices, and two, are able to book those times with yourself, hopefully creating set-appointments that you can’t miss!
3. What does exercising mean to you? Does it mean that it’s your way to lose weight, maintain, relieve stress, or stay youthful— maybe it’s all of those?!?! Anyhow, answering this question will help you find the motivation to actually go to the gym, so it’s very important you answer truthfully. Once you know what exercising means to you, then one, you will figure out when your body best likes to workout, and two, you will make it a standing appointment.
And if you need to be told when to exercise, then here is my recommendation:
- Mornings are best for cardio intensive workouts like walking, running, cycling, or spinning. If your goal is to lose weight, you may also try to exercise on an empty stomach so that your body will tap into your energy reserve (stored fat) rather than the food you have yet to consume. Before your morning exercise, make sure to do a really good warm-up since your body has basically been “off” for 6-8 hours.
- Afternoons are the best time to do weight training because your muscles, connective tissues, and joints are warmer than in the morning, having had a few hours of walking and moving around. This is the best time to do more explosive moves because not only is your body warmer, it is also not yet too tired from having to work all day. Also, a high-intensity mid-afternoon workout will release endorphins in your systems that can help get you over that 2:00pm-3:00pm energy slump- you know which one I’m talking about. (I bet you there’s a study showing more people buy Starbucks coffee during this time!)
- Evening is best for relaxing and stretching type workouts like Pilates or Yoga. You can definitely still do strength and cardio training, perhaps through a group exercise class, but sometimes this can energize people too much, leaving them with an endorphin high and an inability to sleep. With that said, if this is the only time you can get a decent calorie burn, by all means do it. Then spend some time doing deep static stretches (holding for more than 30 seconds) to bring your body back to a more relaxed state.
In the end, no matter the time of day, find the motivation and just move- in the gym or outdoor. Good health isn’t achieved with one day of exercise, it is attained through a lifetime commitment to exercise.
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