Welcome back, loyal readers – as always, I’m here on Wednesday talking to you straight about your pressing health, fitness and wellness issues. Today’s questions are two of the most common ones I get as a personal trainer, and they’re definitely related:
- what’s the best time of day to exercise?
- it is more effective to do one longer workout session or break it up into pieces throughout the day?
The answer to these questions, respectively, are: whenever, and whatever. But I fear that may be a little vague for the general population, so let’s dig a little deeper on these.
As for the best time of day to exercise, the best time truly is the time that you will consistently make part of your life. I used to have a client that wanted to train at 6am because she’d heard that exercising first thing in the morning spikes your metabolism (sort of true, but whenever you exercise will speed up your metabolism, FYI) but four times out of five, she’d oversleep and cancel.
Clearly, this was not doing her metabolism nor her fitness level any favors.
What I tell all of my clients is to schedule your workout like you would a doctor’s appointment – something that you value for the sake of your health, that you feel guilty canceling on, and that you don’t have to justify to anyone else – you just go. Whatever time of day it is,
pencil PEN it in, prep your stuff (workout clothes, water, mat, etc.) and do it. Don’t ask questions, don’t make excuses, just get it done. #toughlove
As for the second question – breaking up a workout into smaller parts versus doing one longer session – I am a HUGE fan of tackling a workout in pieces if it works for you. The key here, which you may sense is a theme for me, is to make sure you actually commit to those pieces – for example, if you say you’re going to do 10 minutes HIIT in the morning, 10 over lunch, and 10 before dinner, then do it – if you’re only going to do the first one and then kind of “forget” about the rest, I’d rather you take it in one 30-minute dose instead.
Make sense? You know yourself, you know your habits, be honest about what you will and will not do.
For some people, facing the gym for a full hour feels overwhelming – but somehow, fitting in a half hour of gentle yoga to wake up and then kicking out 30 minutes of boxing drills once you’re wide awake after work feels doable.
For others, the idea of getting sweaty twice in one day is nearly unbearable, so they’ll stick to a solid 45-to-60 minutes that combines a progressive warm-up, weight or resistance exercise section, core stability training, (see one idea below!) and an easy cooldown, all in one complete package.
Science will tell you that breaking up a workout into bite-size pieces (caveat: bite-size pieces that are VERY INTENSE every time) is more effective than a single session on markers like lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and improving aerobic fitness, while for certain types of athletes (think marathoners, triathletes, or long-distance swimmers) it’s the LSD (long, slow distance) workouts that really makes the difference.
The key point of all of this is, as I said at the outset – you need to choose the workout time and type that works for your lifestyle, not the one you think you “should” do or that your friends are doing or that even your trainer told you to do (hey, we’re professionals but we’re not with you 24 hours a day, either). Trust your body, trust the process – and know that there is never just one single path to reaching your fitness goals.
Are you a morning exerciser or a post-work warrior? How do you use your workout time?