What is the best time of day to workout?

We are all time-poor, so fitting in a workout at any point during our hectic daily schedules feels like a win.

But is there a perfect time to get a sweat on? Can the time that you choose to workout impact how effective it is for your body and overall health?

Some people swear by earl morning HIIT classes, but for others a late-night weights session when the gym has mostly emptied is the perfect time to get in the zone.

We asked the experts to find out if there is any truth in the claim that the perfect time of day can supercharge your workout.

Ultimately, it depends what your goals are.

‘The best time to exercise may be perceived from varying points of view, but the two main ideals would usually take into consideration whether you are training for performance or simply for lifestyle convenience,’ explains Lawrence Price, Fiit trainer.

‘The first thing to consider is what is most important to you and what you are actually able to consistently do. After all, consistency is the key so don’t set a time of day that is unrealistic over the longer term.’

We have already written about how to maintain consistency with your workout plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

With busy working schedules and family commitments, it’s easy for fitness to take a backseat. So if you want to make real changes you need to be able to build fitness or sport into your schedule in a non-disruptive way.

‘Some people may be better suited to train in the late afternoon for performance, but due to work commitments they might be forced to train in the early morning when they may not be at their optimal physical state according to their natural biorhythms,’ explains Lawrence.

‘In the busy modern world, allowances like this are commonplace when planning your training – unless you are a professional athlete of course! The key is to prioritise what is important for you – training for true performance, or for overall general well-being within a busy working lifestyle.’

Once you know what you’re aiming for, the next step is to figure out what works best for you specifically. Contrary to popular fitness myths, there isn’t one ideal time to workout – it very much depends on a wide range of individual factors.

‘The best time to exercise will be personal to you,’ says Lawrence. ‘It may also evolve over the chapters of your life. A teenager may find early morning training sessions a struggle but when they hit their 30s, early mornings may become their most effective time to train.

‘The key is to take some time to self-assess when you feel your most energetic and to test that out by training for performance at those times.

How to motivate yourself to workout

1. Book into a class
Booking a class can be a great idea when you are lacking motivation – having an instructor there to guide and motivate you can be that extra incentive you may need to help you complete your workout for that day. There is an abundance of fitness classes available for all interests and levels of fitness – and so many opportunities to try something new.

2. Work out with a friend
Working out with a friend provides extra accountability – you may find you are less likely to cancel on your friends, it also provides an extra social opportunity.

3. Work out before work
It’s a great feeling when you have finished your workout before the day has even begun. Getting your movement in before work has anecdotally shown to boost production levels for the day – and should your day go off track, your workout is already done.

4. Schedule movement into your diary
Scheduling your exercise in your diary like an appointment ensures your workout time is protected – working out on regular days/times can also help establish a routine.

5. Hire a PT
Hiring a PT offers the best accountability there is – as well as a personalised programme, they also provide buckets of motivation and hopefully a lot of fun along the way.

Hannah Lewin, personal trainer

‘Some people love to train early morning on an empty stomach, for example, whereas I have personally discovered that I train best late morning after I have allowed my breakfast to digest.’

Lawrence says that even when you know what works best for you, training outside of those windows isn’t exactly going to do you any harm. He explains that when he is doing ‘maintenance’ training sessions he will often workout outside of his optimum time periods.

‘But if I want to participate in a high-performance training session, such as a CrossFit open workout, then I will plan accordingly and specifically identify my prime to train to hit it,’ he explains.

‘On the other side of the coin, if I am training for general fat loss and not performance, then I will most likely want to keep my medium-low energy output ticking over during a 24hr period. Meaning I will do a light training session in the morning before breakfast and then again in the late afternoon or evening.

‘Training times are therefore both personal and goal-specific.’

Ultimately, if you know your goals and you know yourself – figuring out the best time to workout should be obvious. It will be when you feel most up for it.

Just like how some people are chipper in the mornings and others are sociable night owls – working out is the same. So don’t worry, you can’t really damage your progress by working out at the ‘wrong’ time.

It’s the fact that you’re working out at all that is important.

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