Some workouts are better than others. And, it turns out, some of that may have to do with when youâ€™re choosing to exercise. The time of day you fit workouts may make or break your energy levels, stamina, efficiency, and potential for injury. Here, experts share the worst times to work out.
First Thing in the Morning
Morning workouts are greatâ€”and part of the schedule for most fitness fanatics. But exercising at the crack of dawn just minutes after youâ€™ve woken up can actually be quite harmful. â€śYour body needs adequate time to loosen up after spending all that time immobile during sleep,â€ť explains Caleb Backe, certified personal trainer and health and wellness expert for Maple Holistics. Your body lacks the proper nutrients and energy to perform at maximum efficiency. And youâ€™re also at an increased risk for injury when your body is still in semi-sleep mode. Give yourself a little extra time each morning to fit in a dynamic warm-up and eat something ahead of your workout.
Super-Late at Night
If youâ€™re not a self-proclaimed morning person, working out in the evenings may be your best bet. Be careful, though, to not exercise too close to your bedtime. â€śRigorous exercise naturally wakes your body up by boosting your heart rate,â€ť Backe explains. â€śThis can take several hours to wind down from.â€ť Although everyone is differentâ€”some may be able to fall asleep peacefully post-workoutâ€”he recommends avoiding exercise two to three hours before bed.
When Youâ€™re Sick
You may have heard that â€śsweating it outâ€ť when youâ€™re not feeling well can help you recover faster, but donâ€™t count on it. Working out wonâ€™t necessarily make your symptoms worse or lengthen the time youâ€™re sick, but it probably wonâ€™t do anything to shorten it either. If nothing else, youâ€™ll be stressing your body even more. Pay attention to your symptoms and donâ€™t work out if youâ€™re sick. If you have something more serious, such as the flu or strep throat, Kevin McAlpine, master trainer at Burn 60, highly recommends letting your body rest and recover. â€śNot only will you not shorten your own recovery, but youâ€™re also likely to infect others,â€ť he says.
After Too Much Sitting
If you have a desk job, the first thing you probably want to do after your day is done is get moving. But popping up to exercise after youâ€™ve been sitting idly and staring at a computer screen for hours may set you up for an exercise injury. â€śSitting in a static posture reduces fasciaâ€™s ability to stabilize joints,â€ť explains Sue Hitzmann, exercise physiologist, creator of the MELT MethodÂ®, and New York Times bestselling author. â€śTension and compression caused by sitting alter your bodyâ€™s ability to move efficiently.â€ť She suggests ten minutes of fascial restoration to give your joints proper shock absorption and your muscles seamless integration. Foam rolling before your workout is an easy way to do this.
When Youâ€™re Injured or Sore
Itâ€™s vital that you listen to your body at every level of fitness. If you notice any sort of sharp or shooting pain while youâ€™re exercising, stop that movement immediately, McAlpine says. â€śTrying to power through a workout when youâ€™re injured will likely result in worsening your injury.â€ť If the pain doesnâ€™t go away in several days, he recommends consulting with a physician who can diagnose your problem.
On an Empty Stomach
Your body runs on fuel, which it gets from food. â€śIf youâ€™re putting in work on an empty stomach, you can rest assured that you are going to underperform and inevitably cause your body to fatigue toward exhaustion,â€ť says Clarence Hairston, fitness director for The Bay Club Company in San Francisco, Calif. â€śEat a snack, take a lunch break, and then use that fuel to power you through.â€ť
After a Big Meal
Pre-workout snacks are crucial for obtaining the necessary energy for rigorous exercise. Anything more than a snack, though, can be a big mistake, according to Backe. â€śOnce you hit 500 calories, your body needs time to process and digest the nutrients,â€ť he says. â€śConsequently, the brain will send more blood to the parts of the body associated with these activities instead of the parts you are exercising.â€ť Whatâ€™s more, working out after a large meal is a surefire way to feel cramps and nausea.
After Little to No Sleep
If you werenâ€™t able to clock a solid six or seven hours of sleep, itâ€™s in your best interest to postpone your workout for a day when youâ€™re more energized. Watch out for signs of fatigue. Itâ€™s almost always better to fit in the sleep instead of the workout. â€śIf your body is indicating you need the rest, you probably do,â€ť McAlpine says.
Under Extreme Stress
Exercise is incredibly beneficial for reducing stress on a regular basis. But consider skipping your workout during highly stressful times. â€śWhen youâ€™re really stressed it is possible for stress to impair your recovery time and concentration levels, which could lead to injuries,â€ť McAlpine says. â€śListen to your body. Maybe your activity that day could be yoga or meditation to calm your mind.â€ť