I’ve had many questions recently asking me when is best to workout. For a lot of you, I know how busy many of our lives our now, and most of us struggle to fit in training at any time of the day, let alone choose if and when may it may be. Recent research by scientists in Australia concluded that “lifters adapt to whenever they choose to train and their choice should be based purely on the time of day that “facilitates long-term adherence.”
Having said that, I thought I’d summarise my thoughts on the matter to hopefully help you some of you decide when the best time for you to train may be.
- First thing in the morning, your spine can potentially be slightly more susceptible to injury. This is because overnight, without the gravitational forces of standing or sitting upright, your intervertebral discs that separate the segments of your vertebrae absorb fluid which, because they’re full of fluid are therefore less forgiving of rotating, bending and heavy loads. Taking time to allow the fluids to drain properly can better prepare the spine for action, and may be better for those who suffer from ‘bad’ backs’.
- To get the most out of your strength training, your central nervous system needs to be firing to ensure you’re alert, your proprioception is optimal, and you’re physically ready to lift hard and heavy. For some, this may be easy to achieve with some simple potentiation first thing in the morning, but for night owls who have gone to sleep late it might not be the best time for them to do heavy lifting first thing in the morning.
- We’re all unique. It’s the unsexy answer, but it really does come down to the individual as to when they feel at their best to train and when they enjoy training most. I am a morning person, so I feel at my best and strongest earlier in the day, but for those who struggle first thing, an evening workout can be much better suited to them. In this case, if you’re unsure, perhaps do a few weeks of trial and error, seeing whether you feel better in the morning, midday or evening and basing your decisions of this.
- One rule I would apply to almost everyone is to avoid working out too close to bedtime. Good quality sleep is really important for both recovery and general wellbeing, and doing a heavy workout, spiking cortisol and generally making yourself more alert too close to going to sleep can cause disruption to your circadian rhythm and affect your ability to fall to sleep. If you’re finding yourself struggling with this, try switching your workout to earlier in the day and seeing if it makes a difference, or opting for something a little less taxing on the body later in the day such as yoga or pilates.
So, the moral of the story is… If you’re wondering when is best to strength train, you’re generally the best one to judge. There really is no hard and fast rule, so find out what works for you, fits in best with your schedule and you’re able to adhere to, and just roll with it!