Some workouts are better than others. And, it turns out, some of that may have to do with when you’re choosing to exercise.
Aaptiv has workouts for you whenever you’re ready to take them in app. When you’re ready for your workout, just pick a class and get started.
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 great—and part of the schedule for most fitness fanatics. But exercising at the crack of dawn just minutes after you’ve woken up can actually be quite harmful.
“Your body needs adequate time to loosen up after spending all that time immobile during sleep,” 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 you’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 you’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.
“Rigorous exercise naturally wakes your body up by boosting your heart rate,” Backe explains. “This can take several hours to wind down from.” Although everyone is different—some may be able to fall asleep peacefully post-workout—he recommends avoiding exercise two to three hours before bed.
When You’re Sick
You may have heard that “sweating it out” when you’re not feeling well can help you recover faster, but don’t count on it. Working out won’t necessarily make your symptoms worse or lengthen the time you’re sick, but it probably won’t do anything to shorten it either.
If nothing else, you’ll be stressing your body even more. Pay attention to your symptoms and don’t work out if you’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. “Not only will you not shorten your own recovery, but you’re also likely to infect others,” 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 you’ve been sitting idly and staring at a computer screen for hours may set you up for an exercise injury.
“Sitting in a static posture reduces fascia’s ability to stabilize joints,” explains Sue Hitzmann, exercise physiologist, creator of the MELT Method®, and New York Times bestselling author.
“Tension and compression caused by sitting alter your body’s ability to move efficiently.” 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 You’re Injured or Sore
It’s vital that you listen to your body at every level of fitness. If you notice any sort of sharp or shooting pain while you’re exercising, stop that movement immediately, McAlpine says. “Trying to power through a workout when you’re injured will likely result in worsening your injury.” If the pain doesn’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. “If you’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,” says Clarence Hairston, fitness director for The Bay Club Company in San Francisco, Calif. “Eat a snack, take a lunch break, and then use that fuel to power you through.”
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.
“Once you hit 500 calories, your body needs time to process and digest the nutrients,” he says. “Consequently, the brain will send more blood to the parts of the body associated with these activities instead of the parts you are exercising.” What’s more, working out after a large meal is a surefire way to feel cramps and nausea.
After Little to No Sleep
If you weren’t able to clock a solid six or seven hours of sleep, it’s in your best interest to postpone your workout for a day when you’re more energized. Watch out for signs of fatigue. It’s almost always better to fit in the sleep instead of the workout. “If your body is indicating you need the rest, you probably do,” 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.
“When you’re really stressed it is possible for stress to impair your recovery time and concentration levels, which could lead to injuries,” McAlpine says.
“Listen to your body. Maybe your activity that day could be yoga or meditation (check out the classes in the Aaptiv app) to calm your mind.”