For many people, it’s all about ‘fitting in’ the workout. It’s about finding or making time between work, family, school, and all other kinds of responsibilities to get your workout in. Many people don’t have the luxury of working out in the middle of the day. There are many people out there up before the sun doing their workout on dawn patrol or racing the sun as it sets behind the horizon. I’ve been both. I’ve done workouts at 5 am and I’ve done workouts at 10 pm. I’ve watched the sun rise and the sun set in the same day on two different workouts. Now, I’m lucky enough to get to pick the most optimal time of day to do my workout, but it hasn’t always been that way. I learned to adapt and I learned the very unique set of challenges that come with working out at all hours of the day. Let’s dive in.
Should I Workout in the Morning or the Evening?
There is no right answer. Although, there may be a right answer for you personally. Some people might swear by morning workouts, while others just simply cannot get out of bed. Some people may thrive in the evening, while others may find that the last thing they want to do when they get home from work is workout. This may seem obvious when written down in this manner, but many people really struggle to find a daily routine that works.
Remember that when it comes to exercise and working out to reach specific goals, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your progress is consistency. Pick a workout time that will offer you the ability to be the most consistent, not only in your ability to physically put the time in, but also in your ability to feel good, feel positive, and give your best effort.
Still unsure when you want to workout? Or Maybe you don’t have a choice and you’re looking to optimize the time you have? Keep reading…
Buzz! The sound of the alarm clock rings in your ear. You’re slow to wake up and you slip downstairs into the kitchen where you take a sip of coffee and consider your workout for the day. Part of your brain is still in dream-land, but you know in the next 20 minutes you’ll need to be fully focused on your training. Here are some things to consider when training in the morning.
Limited Distractions: Personally, I think this is one of the biggest benefits to training in the morning. There are very few things that will keep you away from a 6 am workout. Usually during this time, no one is sending you emails or asking you questions. There is rarely a ‘fire’ you have to put out at 6 am and a lot of the time you can have quiet uninterrupted time before your family wakes up.
Food/Hydration: Food and hydration can be a pain point for people who workout in the morning. It can be hard to choke down a breakfast early before getting on the bike. It is essential though. Breakfast is literally breaking the fast of not eating for hours while you sleep. You don’t want to do a high intensity workout with limited fuel in your system. At high intensities your body relies almost entirely on carbohydrates as its fuel source. This means that even if you don’t like it, you really do need to eat something before you ride. Try to find something that you enjoy and is pretty fast to make and eat. You can do overnight oats, instant oatmeals, or even just make pancakes ahead of time and then pop them in the toaster to warm them up in the morning.
Extra Warm Up: You might be a little sluggish as your body warms up and wakes up from the night of sleep. Even though you might be strapped for time on your morning workout, carve out extra time to warm up. If you ask your body to go straight into intervals then you will probably have a tough time. Instead of a typical aerobic warm up that might be sufficient in the afternoon throw in some ramp style efforts or a few high cadence spin ups to really let your body know that it’s time to go!
Recovery Nutrition: If you are working out in the morning then you will likely be immediately off to the next task when you finish your ride. Plan your recovery nutrition ahead of time. If you don’t have a plan then you are likely to just rush out the door to work. Plan out a recovery drink and have it waiting in the fridge so that you can get everything out of that workout.
Streamline: Finally, my best piece of advice for the early birds out there is to set everything out ahead of time. It is so much easier to roll out of bed and get moving when you have your clothing laid out, your bike prepared, and your nutrition dialed. There is nothing more frustrating, in my opinion, than being up at 4:30 in the morning and looking for a sock.
Maybe you just can’t get along with morning workouts. You are a perpetual snooze button user and you find that you just never quite get your mojo. That’s ok. Instead, let’s figure out how to make evening workouts work for you.
It’s almost quitting time and you’re looking at the clock on the top of your computer screen so that you can book it out to your car and drive to the trails. You’re still thinking about the last meeting you had and everything you need to do tomorrow when you get into the office, but you know that for the next couple of hours your main focus is on turning over the pedals. Here are some things to consider for your evening workouts:
Leave the Day Behind: One of the hardest things about working out in the evening is carrying with you everything that the day brings emotionally. It’s easy to get stuck working late or questioning that conversation you had at lunch. If you plan to workout in the evening you will need to get good at leaving the day behind or at least letting go of it for a bit. Try spending just 5-10 minutes before your ride decompressing. This could be meditation, listening to music, some focused breathing, or anything that brings you back to the present moment.
All Day Nutrition and Hydration: When you workout in the evening you carry with you all of the nutrition you had throughout the day. That means that if you ate 10 cookies at lunch you might be feeling it a bit during those all out intervals and equally as painful, if you ate nothing or just a salad for lunch then you might feel depleted and empty. If you plan to workout in the evening you need to put out a conscious effort to eat during the day in a way that will fuel your workout in the evening. That means hydration too! It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be fancy, but your body will thank you for every effort you make.
The Day’s Fatigue: If you work in an office all day then sitting might make you feel a bit stiff during your workout. If you work in construction then you might be tired during your training. Either way, make some extra time during the day to stretch out and move your muscles in a way that feels good. I’m not telling you to do yoga in the break room (although if you can that’s great!) Instead, just take a little walk every now and then and consider wearing compression socks or raising your legs whenever you have a chance.
Recovery Nutrition: Finally, your evening workout may fit in nicely with dinner. Make sure that you are giving your body what it needs to build back stronger after the ride. If you can eat dinner shortly after you finish your workout, then that will likely be a great way to help your body get what it needs to recover.
Go For It!
If you are getting in your workouts then that in and of itself is a win! There is no right or wrong way or time to exercise. Just enjoy what you do and find a way that you can keep doing it tomorrow and the day after that.