People who work out regularly tend to fall into two very separate camps: those who hit the gym before sunrise, and those who don’t dream of climbing onto a treadmill until sunset. Debate over whether early-morning workouts are better or more effective than evening routines is fierce; usually, even hobbyist athletes have a strong feeling one way or the other about the matter. In the end, though, the decision of when to work out falls to the individual and his or her unique situation. Here, I break down the pros and cons of both morning and afternoon workouts. Decide for yourself which camp you prefer!
Morning workouts can be great for the unmotivated. This might sound a little counterintuitive; after all, don’t we all struggle to push ourselves out of bed in the morning? Yes – but even managing that feat for a few mornings can set a productive pattern into motion. Those who wake up early to work out start their day on a positive note by accomplishing their fitness goals in the morning. Once they leave the gym, they can set themselves up for success by eating a healthy breakfast and mentally preparing themselves for the workday ahead.
I think we can all agree that early alarms are the worst. Who wants to lever themselves up out of bed at five in the morning, much less hit the gym? It can be all too easy to hit that snooze button again, and again, and again – up until your realize that if you put off waking up for five more minutes, you might just be late for work. This problem can be somewhat alleviated if you have a workout buddy to motivate you. However, finding someone willing to share in your early morning workout might prove to be difficult.
The main benefit of shifting your workout schedule to the afternoons is that you won’t be sleepwalking on the treadmill when you finally do stroll in through the gym doors. While some people might spring out of bed and feel ready to run a 5k before sunrise, most won’t be – and that grogginess can impact your performance. According to research published in a Washington Post article on the subject, athletes tend to achieve their best performances later in the day, especially when engaging in high-intensity exercise. Afternoon workouts have the added benefits of serving as a nice outlet for relieving workday stress.
Let’s face it: life can get busy. Sometimes, you don’t have the time or capacity to fit in an hour at the gym, or even a half hour on the elliptical in your basement. It can be easy to push off a workout until tomorrow, or the next day, or the next – or until you realize that the elliptical is gathering dust and you haven’t worked out in a month. Working out in the afternoon can also be frustrating for those at a shared gym, as the busier space will leave fewer machines open for use and less freedom to shift exercises at will.