What’s the best time of day to work out? That’s easy. The best time of day to work out is whatever time of day you’re most likely to actually get it done!
Whether you’re a morning person, a night owl, or someone who looks forward to a midday break to split up the workday, what matters most is clearing whatever roadblocks that get between you and your workout.
In the a.m., your body temperature and heart rate are at their lowest levels. If you skipped dinner the night before, or ate fast-digesting carbs like rice, bread or sugary desserts, your fuel stores will be depleted, which will make it hard to find the energy to get up. And if you skimped on sleep – eight hours is ideal – you’re going to be more likely to hit the snooze button than to hit the road.
How to do it:
Prep for an early-morning walk or run the night before. Eat slow-digesting carbs like broccoli, beans and lentils. Set your automatic coffeemaker to brew before you wake. Turn off the computer and TV at least 30 minutes before you hit the sack, and get blackout shades for your windows – the absence of light boosts production of melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Move your alarm clock across the room, so you’ll have to get out of bed to turn it off. And once you’re up, put on your exercise clothes in a brightly lit room: When light hits your eyes, it signals your pineal gland to stop producing melatonin, helping you wake up.
Your body’s level of melatonin, the sleepiness hormone, is at its lowest around noon, so physiologically that’s when you’re most alert. While it may be tempting to keep plugging away at work, it’s time for a break. And if you haven’t eaten, you may be more tempted to grab lunch rather than a workout.
How to do it:
Schedule your walk or run like you would any other meeting; put it on your to-do list, and cross it off for the confidence boost that comes from mission accomplished. Split your lunch in two: Eat half of it an hour before you go out, then have the remaining food afterward. Don’t stress about missing work – exercise has been proven to increase work productivity.
When you’re mentally and physically tired at the end of the day, dopamine, the brain chemical that energises you and makes you feel up, is going to be low, as is your blood sugar.
How to do it:
Walking and running elevate your heart rate and nervous system, which will make you feel more alert. Pack your gear, change at work and go directly to the gym or the trail. Keep your energy up with a snack before you exercise.
Finally, no matter when you choose to walk or run, here’s a tip that’s possibly more effective than any other: Find an exercise buddy who shares a similar goal, and make “appointments” for workouts. It’s much harder to skip a walk or run when you know someone is counting on you to be there.