Gail Powers

THE WHAT OR THE WHEN?

For years I have wanted to be an early morning exerciser.  I admired the way some people were able to compartmentalize and knock it out religiously before the business day even if they weren’t feeling it that day.  Their evenings were always free for socializing, family, or some other  diversion.  My morning efforts usually led to pulled muscles as your blood is just starting to circulate when you’ve just gotten up and heating the body up is not so automatic.  A carefully calculated warmup can overcome this but even my mind/body connection still felt fuzzy at 5AM.  When I began training professionally I was off the hook as early workouts weren’t possible since there were always clients that wanted regular 6AM sessions.

This week I was delighted to learn the early morning sessions are not ideal from a physiological standpoint.  Because it is harder to warm up at that time our muscles are actually less efficient.  The higher body temperatures we have later in the day actually improve performance.  It’s also true that muscles haven’t been fueled by food converted into energy yet so your metabolic furnace is not fully switched on.  In fact it is the quality of your workout and the nutritional density of your diet that have the biggest impact in the end although variables like timing have subtle effects on performance.  

If you are committed to early workouts and it suits your schedule, you’ll be happy to know that there is another dimension involved.  Your body will adapt to the routine you keep.  Evening exercise might be right for you and does not interfere with sleep cycles as long as it is performed at least 90 minutes before bed.  The key, as with so many aspects of fitness, is consistency to get the most benefit from your program.  

I have stopped wasting time bemoaning the fact that I am not one of the the cool morning exercisers as my 2PM workouts feel appropriate for me, fit my schedule, and rarely lead to pulled muscles.  Being aware of the elements involved in getting the most from a workout should be your guiding principal when deciding on a fitness approach that will work for your life and goals.  Consistent quality work is much more critical to how your body functions than time of day. 

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