The best time of day to work out is a commonly argued point, with strong pros and cons for each time slot. Seasoned trainers will be in their routine and know what works best for them and it can be different for everyone.
Training first thing in the morning is a great way to ensure you are adhering to your fitness habits. We are less likely to make excuses or have other factors out of our control disrupt our training plans if we simply get them done first thing. Training in the morning can have a positive impact on our energy levels and contribute to increased productivity during the day, freeing up the evening for other life pursuits has benefits too.
To achieve your fitness goals, consistency over time will get you results. If you can get morning exercise behaviours working for you, you are more likely to stick to them in the long term. To become a “first thing trainer”, here are some things to consider to make it work with your lifestyle.
Consider you natural rhythms
When do you feel most energised? If you have never been an early riser, making 5am boot camps part of your training regime will set you up for failure. Work with your body clock, not against it.
Review your lifestyle
Is there a reason why early rising is hard for you? What time are you getting to bed at night and how much screen time are you engaging in before sleep? It’s possible your nightly habits are impacting how you wake up, and this will stop you from tackling morning exercise with vigour.
Improve your sleep hygiene
Sleep hygiene revolves around your daily habits and our bedroom environment. If you optimise them, your sleep quality will improve and you will have a greater chance of waking up refreshed.
Establish a good daily routine of consistent wake and bed time. Avoid late caffeine intake and have an evening wind down routine that involves stepping away from devices and engaging in relaxing activities like gentle stretching, meditation, mindfulness or reading.
Achieve your desired waking time incrementally
If you struggle to rise at 7am, there is no point thinking a 5am start time is going to work immediately for you. Start by setting your alarm just 15 minutes earlier and reduce over time as you adjust.
Add the habit of exercise incrementally too
There is no point running a marathon on your first early wake up. Start with low to moderate intensity exercise over a shorter duration and check in with how your body is feeling. Add frequency, intensity and duration over time.
Allow time for nutrition
Depending on the exercise you are doing, you may need to allow enough time to have a light meal and hydrate before you start. This can mean getting up even earlier, but if you are not able to train at the desired intensity for the activity you are doing, having energy may be a key factor.
Everyone is different, so listen to your body.
Choose your activity wisely
You may find you can do activities that are less intense in the morning, like long slow distance cardio or Yoga, whereas strength training or HIIT is harder. If that is the case, schedule your exercise by its type. This may mean your intense exercise happens on weekends or select evenings.
Listen to your body
For some of us, morning training just does not optimise our lives. If you have genuinely tried all of the above and it still feels like you are struggling, or it is creating stress, there is not much point pushing through.
Afternoon or evening training is probably just more aligned to your constitution. Direct your energy into time management and set up ways to support accountability and motivation, such as engaging a personal trainer.
Kate Kraschnefski is the Head of Compliance and Training at the Australian Institute of Fitness, as well as a Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Nutrition Coach.