Choosing a Training Time

Making improvements in health and wellness takes a lot of time and depends on many factors. The big ones are performance at the gym, recovery practices, and nutritional discipline. So much money and research has gone into understanding the latter two factors over the past decade, because we can now appreciate—more than ever before—how integral our behaviors away from the gym are to our daily training experiences. Nevertheless, performance at the gym is still the factor that gets the most attention. And that makes sense, considering the busy lives we lead. We simply do not have the temporal or the financial capacity to invest in extensive recovery practices or nutritional discipline. Although that reality is not ideal, it creates actual restraints that we must observe and account for.

That does not mean, however, that we are helpless. How we perform at the gym is also contingent on when we choose to train. And at a time when remote working and remote learning are very much the norm, it could be the case that we have a bit more discretion to make such a decision. In this discussion, I will list what I have found (in my experience) to be the pros/cons of training at different points throughout the day.

Working out in the morning is my own personal favorite, and it is the training time that has suited me best in almost all contexts.
PROS: You have no time to become intimidated by the workout or to over think what the workout will entail; you can get it done—the rest of the day is yours for whatever obligations remain; you have time to train again later in the day, if you want; you can probably justify a more hearty breakfast, and eating one will help regulate your metabolism; after your post-workout shower, you do not have to worry about getting stinky/sweaty for the rest of the day.
CONS: There is little time to fuel before training, depending on when you get up; inevitable drowsiness may impede your warmup or leave you feeling uncoordinated.

Training in the middle of the day (late morning/ early afternoon) is also something I have found success with, particularly when I was preparing for my weightlifting competition.
PROS: You may have probably had a chance to get one or more meals in before training; it can break up the monotony of the day or function as a temporary escape; you can take advantage of the natural daylight (which may help with your mood while working out); ample time remains in the day for other tasks and responsibilities; you will likely be most alert, awake, and otherwise ready to work out.
CONS: It is an unrealistic training time for most individuals employed in conventional occupations during normal working hours or individuals enrolled in full-time scholastic endeavors; and, for those that can make it happen, there is little wiggle room after for a shower and/or post-workout meal.

Evening training sessions are the toughest for me, personally, but there is real value to working out at night.
PROS: It is the most accommodating training time; you are guaranteed to sleep soundly afterwards; most of the day’s assignments, assessments, and activities are over, so you can fully commit your mental and physical energies to your efforts at the gym.
CONS: You may show up to the gym a bit tired; workout alternatives—like taking a nap—are much more appealing the later into the day it gets; there is not really time after training to do much (including digest your post-workout shake/meal).

Regardless of the time you choose to work out, consistency is the key. And if you do vary your training time, there will be an adjustment window. So do not be surprised if your training experiences take some time to catch up. As we transition into the New Year, find a training time that works best for you and allows you to make the best use of your time away from the gym.
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