The Best Time to Exercise

I’ve written about living a healthy lifestyle, with hard, regular exercise as its cornerstone. That doing so will transform your body, your diet, your mind and your relationships. The problem is both really simple (just show up) and really hard (change is hard). But a question pops up; I’m a busy guy, what is the best time to exercise? How did you find the time to start along this path?

I suppose a confession is probably in order here. I never had to create a healthy lifestyle centered around hard, regular exercise. I’ve always been active. I never had to get inspired, lower the barriers, be patient, relax and let it come. For the most part, the active healthy lifestyle that I spend so much time proselytizing has been my lifestyle.

So, why listen to me? Why take my advice about health, and commitment, and change and so on seriously? It’s not like I had to go through those pains of inspiration and motivation, lowering barriers and showing up, right?


Life is change. Yes, I’ve always been active. I’ve always had a core exercise that I built my fitness around, though it has changed over time. But…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there’s always a but.

But I’m married, and I’ve got three kids to feed, clothe and house. Which means I’ve got a marriage to keep healthy, three kids to raise and a job/career to shepherd. You know, all the time commitments and stresses of middle age.

Middle age; the time when you really start to notice that you’re slowing down. That you can’t do as much or recover as faster as when you were a kid. When maintaining your fitness gets harder, right at the same time you have less and less time to do it. When it’s easy to fall off the exercise wagon, and hard to get back on.

So, while I haven’t had to start a healthy lifestyle, I’ve certainly had to maintain it. I didn’t have to start an exercise program, but I had to find the right exercise, and the time for it.

When my knees and my back got so bad I couldn’t run any longer, and I no longer had time for 3 hockey games a week, or three times to the climbing gym, or skiing, or biking, or tennis, or any of the other sports I’ve done down the years. When all this came, I had to find something.

Of course, I found it. You know I’ve found it, I’ve been jabbering on about it for months; yoga and Pilates. And, yes, I found it by accident, but I had an open, receiving frame of mind so that when I found it, I was ready to give it an honest try.

None of that really addresses the initial question, though, does it? When is the best time to exercise?

Some will tell you to exercise in the morning. Your energy is the highest, it’s a great way to start the day, and if you exercise in morning it’s done, over, out of the way.

Some will tell you to exercise at night. You can go hard, and not worry about being tired out from your workout. You eat a small meal after the gym, go to bed and your body burns calories all night, as you sleep.

But, say the morning people, intense exercise, especially HIIT, will mess with your sleep.

But, say the evening people, doing intense exercise before your body and brain are truly up increases the risk of injury.

Blah, blah, blah.

Then there is most hilariously bad advice of all. Exercise when you want to.

You ever see this gif of Steve Carell from “The Office?” No. Just, no.

If you exercise when you want to, you’ll never do it. Or, rather, you’ll do it two or three times in January, and then quit, and then do it again next January.

The best time to exercise is when you have time. I know the pluses and minuses of morning exercise (I’ll be doing Pilates tomorrow at 7 am). I know the pluses and minuses of evening exercise (last week it was Pilates 6 pm followed by Bikram at 7:30). I know the pluses and minuses of mid day exercise (yoga at noon, just today).

Guess what? I do ‘em all, because the mix of morning, afternoon and evening workouts fits into my life. I repeat, the best time to exercise is when you have time. And the best way to have the time is to find a hole in your schedule, in fact find three or four holes in your schedule, and fill them with exercise.

Monday evening, Wednesday or Thursday noon, Friday morning. That’s where the holes in my schedule are. So that’s when I exercise. I don’t slave myself to “You must exercise at (this time of day)” because, well, because I can’t. There are too many other pressures on my time.

So there you have it, the best time to exercise. When you have time. And if you don’t have time, make it. Find a gap somewhere you can fill with a workout. Schedule it in and show up. Find another gap, schedule that in and show up. Then, after a month, or two, or three, of consistently showing up, on schedule, a funny thing happens, it’s now a part of your life. When it becomes a part of your life the script flips; no longer do you choose to exercise, you choose not to exercise.

And when that script flips, when exercise is the default option, then you’re living the healthy lifestyle. And you’re not letting middle age, or time pressures or any other reason get in the way.