You’ve heard it a million times: Get your workout done first thing in the morning. Always.
While I happen to be a fan of morning workouts, what if you’re not a morning person? Should you force yourself to work out first thing anyway?
Not necessarily. Here’s why.
When you work against your body’s natural rhythms, everything feels harder. I call this the “biological primetime effect.” Everyone has a biological primetime, a time of day at which you function best, both physically and mentally. Sometimes your mental primetime is different from your physical primetime.
For example, I get my best thinking done in the early mornings, but I have more satisfying — and effective — workouts in the late mornings or afternoons. Tune into your body for a week or two. Notice when your energy is highest, when your mood is good (or bad …exercise is a great way to turn that around). Then, experiment with workouts at different times of day and notice when you feel like you got the most out of them. If you feel energized and pumped after a workout, that time could be your primetime for exercise. If you feel exhausted and ready for a nap, not so much. Do your best to schedule your workouts during your physical primetime, even if it means you work out both days on the weekend.
If you don’t usually take breaks during your work day, a midday workout can be a great productivity booster. I used to work for Cartoon Network, at the advertising sales headquarters in New York City. Part of the culture — even in that high stress, get it done yesterday environment — was taking a break to work out at lunchtime. Everyone from top executives to sales coordinators did it. Not every day, but almost. I’m pretty sure it was the only way we got anything done some days, because your brain just works better on exercise. As a bonus, you never know what bonding with the CEO of your company while running on the treadmill next to her might do for your career.
Having trouble sleeping? Afternoon workouts may help you snooze. Turns out that working out about 5 - 6 hours before bed helps us sleep by raising our body temperature, leading to a subsequent drop in body temperature as we cool down. This acts as a trigger for sleep, just about the time we’re crawling into bed. Be careful, though. Vigorous exercise within 2 - 3 hours of bedtime may actually keep you awake. Afternoon or evening workouts are also a great way to de-stress and leave the work day behind, providing a clear separation between work time and you time. And who doesn’t need more you time?
So if popping out of bed to tackle a 10-mile run every morning (or any morning!) isn’t your thing, that’s cool.
Give yourself a break and listen to your body. It usually knows best.