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When is the Best Time to Exercise?

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Should I exercise in the morning, or after work? Does the time I exercise make a difference in weight management?

When I lived in Georgia, I had no choice but to walk or bike very early in the mornings. By 9 am in the summers, it was too hot and miserable to be outdoors.

But now that I'm in Colorado, even if morning exercise is best, I don't have the option. I exercise when I have available. I would love to exercise in the morning, but I have a 40-minute commute to work, and I prefer to get to the office before the heavy traffic, so I leave the house by 6:30 am. I suppose I could get up at 4:30 for a workout, but that will never happen! I'm an early riser only out of sheer hatred of morning commute traffic. My morning routine is I kind of roll out of bed like a zombie to slowly shuffle into the kitchen, get a cup of coffee, then shuffle into the shower. Morning exercise wouldn't be consistent, and consistency is key.

Exercise in the afternoons is my best chance. While I have worked very long hours in the past year, I am doing better at keeping my work hours reasonable for my own well being. My work ethic sometimes makes it a struggle to leave something unfinished at the end of the day, but I am doing better at setting boundaries. If no one is going to die, then I can leave it until the next morning.

Colorado weather is very unpredictable, even in the best cases, though. I love to ride my bike, but sometimes the wind will be too high. If there's rain, it is almost always in the late afternoon. I don't mind riding my bike in the rain (I lived 8 years in Seattle), but in Colorado summer rain usually means thunderstorms. No way I'm riding in a thunderstorm!

Last year I struggled with the weather. I need to exercise in the afternoons, but the thunderstorms thwarted me. This year I keep a reasonable cost YMCA membership. If the weather in the afternoons aren't favorable to a bike ride or a walk, then I dip into the gym.

I'm like a kid when I ride my bike - I can't wait to ride! I love the feeling of the sun and breeze on my skin. I love the passing scenery of the mountains and trees. I love seeing the horses, goats, and cows in the rolling hills.

Exercise at the gym isn't my favorite, though. I have to drag myself in and make myself do it. I need an exercise plan of exactly what I'm going to do. I need music and/or audio books to make it through. I don't tend to push myself as hard at the gym as I do on my outdoor bike. On my bike, if I see a big hill, I know I have to make it up. At the gym, if I set the treadmill to a challenging incline/speed, I don't push as hard as I would outside. My problem at the gym has more to do with boredom rather than ability. If I don't have a goal post, then I don't push myself.

I have a pretty good workout plan from my metabolic coach that has definitely increased my cardio endurance. My favorite is a HIIT workout where I'm dipping into my Heart Rate Max 4 or 5 times a session for 1 minute. It is very hard work, and sometimes I want to quit. What keeps me going is that it works. I'm powering through hills in my bike route like a champ. These were hills that I had to walk up earlier in the summer. My resting heart rate has dropped 20 bpm. It's making me feel fit and strong.

But it still feels like a chore.

Remember how I said I need music or audio books in order to keep me going during gym workouts? I recently got a fitness app to help keep me motivated that is kind of both. It's called, "Zombies, Run!"

Anyone watch the movie "Zombieland"? Remember Rule #1 during a Zombie apocalypse:

This is what the app is about. You set how long you want your workout to be, and a couple of radio voices talk to you like they're guiding you through an apocalyptic wasteland. Every once in a while, you get a prompt warning you that zombies are following you, and you need to increase your pace. While this is technically a running app, you can walk. The idea is when a zombie is chasing you, you have to increase your pace by 10% in order to evade them. The app basically simulates a HIIT workout since you have to increase your pace at various intervals.

Running is one of my least favorite activities, but this app actually encouraged me to jog! After jogging for a few paces, I realized that I definitely would be in trouble in a real zombie apocalypse because I can't jog very far.

This was a fun app to play while walking through my regional wooded park. I could visualize that I was a survivor, evading zombies. I've discovered if I'm going to do any regular jogging I will need a better water bottle belt. I need a hip belt, because my satchel type was ackward when I jogged away from zombies. Lesson is during a zombie apocalypse, fanny packs and water belts are a must have. I never would have known this!

My goal is to also use this app during my gym workouts during incement weather and the winter. Hopefully, it will help me get over the treadmill boredom and monotony.

So the answer to my blog post title: The best time to exercise is when I do it. Maybe fat loss would be better in the mornings, but I can't choose that except on the weekends. I've struggled with weight management long enough to know that if I stop moving, I become the zombie.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • SUE5007
    Best time to exercise is the time of day you can be the most consistent. Any tiny benefit of morning vs evening will be outweighed by the benefits of consistency. emoticon Have fun with the running app! emoticon
    873 days ago
    I loved this!!! And I so remember those days of getting up before dawn just so I could get on the road before traffic was too awful. I also shot for a 6:30 a.m. arrival time at work - when I had to go into the office. My last few work years I was fortunate enough to work at home when I wasn't traveling but after years of habit I would often be at my computer by 6:30 anyway.

    I agree - exercise is best whenever you can fit it in. Daisy and I take a walk every morning during the Spring, Summer and Fall but by Winter she's lucky to get out mid-day, once the day has warmed up a bit. I have been going to the gym for a year now and find that I actually really do like it BUT mostly because of the classes they offer. I also need a goal to work toward and someone to encourage me along the way. Recently I have been working on some of the strength equipment but only because my trainer put together a spreadsheet for me of all the pieces of equipment she's introduced me to. Now I can follow the plan and work hard to increase the # of reps or the amount of weight - so I'm competing with myself.

    I love that Zombie app and am going to look it up. I love walking outside but being on the treadmill is not my idea of a good time - even when I'm at home watching something on TV. I've got a couple of HIIT exercise plans to follow but I find it difficult to keep track of my time AND walk at the same time. I used to be more coordinated.

    I think it's great that you are working on doing a bit more for yourself by putting your work away at the end of the day. That was always hard for me too - especially when I started working from home. The trouble was that I actually LIKED my job so it didn't exactly feel like work to me.

    Have a great day.
    874 days ago
    Ha ha, this is the second time this week that I've heard about "Zombies, run!" I may just have to check it out...

    As for best time to workout, it's exactly what you said, the time where you can be most consistent. For me I do CrossFit Mon-Weds-Fri afternoons and yoga Tues-Thurs mornings. These are the classes that work best with my work schedule, and don't stress me out trying to get up earlier than my natural wake-up time would allow. The weekends are a free for all!

    I hope you find something to keep you motivated at the gym, since it sounds like that is someplace you end up working out at often. I found small group classes at my gym were very motivating.
    874 days ago
  • -JAMES-
    There are so many variables and goals:
    - most weight loss for the effort
    - avoid traffic
    - avoid bad weather
    - gym workouts are a task, less of a joy

    My advice ... do it about 3 times a week (up to 5 times), and enjoy it. Don't worry about your weight or anything else.
    874 days ago
    Sounds like you have solid plan.
    874 days ago
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