It's not what you think!
When thinking about when the best time to work out is, I'd probably say "bright and early." It's before work or school, there aren't as many people out on the roads just yet, and the sun is up so the monsters are back in hiding. Also, there's no denying an evening jog can mess up your sleep schedule once you get all those endorphins and blood pumping.
This doesn't mean it feels great to work out in the morning, though. In fact, I usually feel like I've been hit by a bus when I'm at the gym, hitting the lap lanes, or slapping the pavement at the crack of dawn. My running is slower, too. And there's science behind this! One contributing factor is that your body temperature is lower in the morning, making your muscles stiffer (that explains the run-over-by-a-bus feeling). Another is that, after a full night's sleep, you probably haven't had much to eat yet so your body's energy levels are at an all-time low.
But if you take into account all the endorphins and energy you'll feel after you're done, a morning workout gives you a little boost for the rest of your day. So it really depends on what you're trying to gain from the workout.
Important to note: If you're not in the best health, you actually may want to avoid those early morning workouts. With your body in a lull, it can be a shock to your system to get moving so quickly so early in the day. Injuries, heart attacks, and strokes are more common during the early morning workout session because your body just hasn't finished gearing up yet. Hey, I don't need any more reasons to hit that snooze button!
Building some muscle? Go for the mid-morning hours. Testosterone levels are at their highest, lending you a little extra help in the muscle department.
Trying to get the blood flowing again after sitting at your desk? The lunchtime run revitalizes your body and gives you that energy boost that you're looking for. The workout itself won't feel energetic, though. Just like early in the morning, your body takes a hit. Your lungs aren't working at their best, and those muscles have been lulled back into believing that, yes, we'd much rather stay seated and sleepy because we're cold again. But, hey, maybe that's why it feels like the best time to work out for some people. You're fighting back against your body's desire to be a sloth! And the mental strength that takes is an exercise on its own!
Looking for performance cred? Well, then wait even longer to get that workout in. Your body will be at its warmest in the afternoon, meaning it'll feel easier to get moving. You'll move through the miles at a faster pace, get in a couple extra reps, workout for a few minutes longer. So when you think about it, I don't really think that it's very fair all these 5Ks and marathons take place at, like, 8 a.m.
Here's the catch, though. You have to actually do it. By the afternoon, most of us are experiencing exhaustion -- not in our muscles, but in our brains. The late afternoon workout can fail us because while we're at a brightest mentally in the morning, we are probably at our weakest in the evening. Again, here's where the mental workout comes into play. Brain and brawn both getting a workout is the best of both worlds.
So really the best time of day to work out is personal to you and your fitness goals. When do you sneak a workout in? Let us know in the comments below!
The Run-Around is a weekly feature, focusing on fitness in and around Annapolis, MD.