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These Are the Best Times of Day to Work Out According To Your Fitness Goals

Well, when one of our favorite podcasts recently implied that super hard workouts are best performed between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., we decided to find out if we should scrap morning sweat sessions for good—or stick to our normal routines. Ever feel like you run faster on your a.m. jogs than any other time of the day? Or that you always PR your lifts during evening sessions, as opposed to mornings?

The truth? In general, you don’t have to worry much about whether you’ll be able to lift heavier or run harder at certain times of day, says Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., exercise physiologist and ACE-certified personal trainer. The main thing you should be focused on is getting your workout done in the first place. “If there’s a difference, it’s negligible,” he says. One study in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning even shows that both morning and afternoon exercise are pretty much equally effective in terms of building muscle. (For tips on how to build muscle the right way, pick up Lift to Get Lean by Holly Perkins.)

But, depending on your goals, there are a few instances in which timing things right could work in your favor, says McCall:

If you’re looking to burn fat…on a deadline: Sweat in the morning. Why? When you wake up, your levels of the hormone cortisol tend to be high. “This hormone helps you metabolize fat for fuel,” says McCall. The thought is that you go for a run first thing in the morning (without eating anything first), you will burn more fat. (There’s still a debate on whether this works for high intensity exercise as well.) “Thing is, after a period of time your body adapts. So you can’t do it forever. If you want to lose a little extra weight for a wedding, you might do this five or six weeks before the event,” he says. Just remember: Weight loss is best done at a slow, steady pace.

Try mixing these bodyweight exercises you can literally do anywhere into your new morning routine:

RELATED: Fasted Cardio: Is It Really All That Bad for You?

If you’ve got a race on the calendar: Exercise around the same time of day the race will take place. This will help your body get acclimated to the specific time-of-day environment—conditions in the morning can be very different from the afternoon, says McCall. (Ready for a running challenge? Sign up for the Women’s Health Run 10 Feed 10 10-K!) 

If you’re jacked up from the day: If your work leaves you stressed out, a nice yoga class can be calming. (Or maybe you prefer to release pent-up anger with a balls-to-the-walls rowing workout.) It’ll be way more effective at energizing you through the rest of your night (hello, dinner prep) than an energy drink (or a handful of Sour Patch Kids).

RELATED: 8 Yoga Poses to Release the Tension in Your Hips After a Crazy-Stressful Day 

If you usually go to the gymswiss replica watches
after work, challenge yourself for a month or two to get up and work out first thing in the morning, and see how that feels, says McCall. “It might help you bust through a plateau.”

Otherwise, the rule of the game is to exercise when it fits into your routine, when it can be consistent, and when it feels natural for you. Don’t stress yourself out about finding the perfect time. Love a few sprints to the sounds of the birds singing at 5 a.m.? Do it. Crave hot yoga in the evening? That’s perfect. The idea is to make exercise easy to achieve—not throw roadblocks in your way.

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