How often do you find yourself making the excuse that you just don’t have time to exercise? We’ve all done it – we all lead busy lives and after a full on eight-ten hour day, the gym or a run is often the very last thing you want to do. But we know that we should and that it does, in fact, make us feel pretty good. So we make time. But when time is scarce it’s important to make it work for you. Truly, there is no ‘perfect’ time to exercise, but I won’t get into that rant here. Let’s save that for another time! But you can find the time when you are going to get the most out of your workout. To help figure out whether you’re an early bird or night owl trainer, I teamed up with top training specialist Ben Bulach from leading fitness app Freeletics for some top tips…
I am a terrible sleeper. I always have been. So for me, it’s so important that I get good winding down time before bed, otherwise, I’m just useless. Now, you might immediately think that makes me a night owl exerciser, but actually, it’s the complete opposite. I find that if I work out too late in the evening then I’m just buzzing. Exercise gives me such a high, and it takes me a really long time to come down from it. Hello endorphins, can you let me sleep, please? And I’m not alone in this, as Ben explains:
“Some people experience problems with sleep after they’ve trained too close to going to bed because their adrenalin level is high, their brain is active and it’s difficult to wind down. If your schedule allows, try a morning session and compare your sleep to when you train in the morning. Other people also notice differences between cardio and weightlifting: After cardio, they sleep like a rock, whereas after weightlifting they are too energized to sleep.”
So if you’re like me and can’t wind down from that post-exercise buzz then you’re probably best off training in the morning. Use that buzz to get you through that completely non-essential 9am meeting and keep you going right through until lunch. And if you do want to get in a bit of exercise before bed, some gentle yoga always works a treat for me.
Sticking To A Routine
When we’re on a poor time budget making sure you have a routine is crucial. In fact, if you’re anything like me, a routine is crucial full stop. Personally, when I was doing the 9-6 grind (come on, this is London, who on earth actually works 9-5?!) creating a morning workout routine was far easier than an after-work one. As Ben said to me, “Firstly, willpower is said to be strongest in the morning, and secondly, a morning workout stops others things get in the way of training”. And you know he’s right. There’s always that post-work drink which ends up being more than one, an impromptu dinner with friends or even just a hellishly long day where all you want to do is curl up with some pho and a Game of Thrones binge.
“By getting your workout over and out of the way first thing in the morning, you can still enjoy all your social events without having to use them as an excuse,” says Ben. “As well as this, if you hate queuing for weights at the gym, it will normally be less crowded in the earlier hours.” Bonus.
Ok, so I know up until now I’ve been singing the praises of the morning workout. It’s just because I am naturally an early bird and late nights do not suit me. But, I will totally concede that when you’ve had a bit of a tough day some evening cardio can work wonders for working out that stress, not just your body. “An evening training session is much more likely to clear your mind and calm you down than a bottle of wine or comfort food on the couch,” Ben tells me, and deep down we all know he’s right. Is there honestly anything better than taking out your frustration on a punching bag at Another Space’s HIIT class? You know it’s true, no matter how tempting that glass of wine is…
Figuring out whether you work best on a full or empty stomach can really help you decide whether you’re an early bird or a night owl exerciser. I always used to workout before work on a completely empty stomach and I felt fine. I don’t really like working out when I’m too full, it just makes me feel heavy. Friends of mine cannot stand to do that though and feel weak and dizzy if they haven’t eaten before training. If you’re in the latter category Ben advises eating at least two hours before your workout to ensure your food is fully digested and already converted into energy. Put that fuel to good use!
Kick Start The Day
All right I’m back to loving on morning workouts. Kind of funny really considering I’m now much more of an afternoon exerciser thanks to my full-time gym life. But hear me out. If you’re a grumpy pants in the mornings and can’t get to lunch without basically setting up a caffeine IV then getting up a little earlier for a morning workout could be your answer. It might seem counterproductive but it honestly gives you such a positive start to the day. “It will definitely wake you up and leave you with a feeling of accomplishment and a taste for achievement”, explains Ben. “You won’t believe how much of an impact it can have on your day.”
So, Early Bird or Night Owl?
Well, you can clearly see that both Ben and I are much more in the early bird camp! But honestly, there is no right or wrong time to workout. You need to listen to your body and figure out what works best for you. If you can’t stop snoozing your alarm and evenings just suit your schedule better then there is absolutely no reason to force yourself to become an early bird. The most important thing is to make exercise part of your schedule and make it a routine you can consistently stick to. Whether it’s morning or evening, training consistency is ultimately what is going to help you get stronger and fitter and achieve your goals.
This post is in partnership with Freeletics. The Freeletics Bodyweight, Running, Gym and Nutrition apps can be downloaded for free in the App Store and Google Play Store. For more information about Freeletics, visit www.freeletics.com. And don’t forget to let me know in the comments whether you’re an early bird or a night owl!