I can’t decide what I miss more about my lost youth. Sometimes it’s the metabolism that could handle breadsticks or Taco Bell at midnight. Sometimes it’s the simple joy of being able to sleep in past the chirping robins.
But one thing that really bothers me about getting older is my decreased energy — and how much it affects when I can work out. If I don’t get in my exercise class or my jog between the hours of 6 and 10 a.m., it just doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen.
It’s not just that I put 100 other things ahead of my workout on my list of priorities. It’s also because I don’t have any energy.
It wasn’t always this way. When I was 22, living in New York City and residing in the temporary housing at the 92nd Street Y, I literally lived at the gym. I worked from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day and hit the workout room between 8 and 9:30 p.m.
Now I can barely hold a coherent thought at that hour, much less a dumbbell.
What often happens on the days I don’t exercise first thing in the morning is I plan to go later in the day. Then I get distracted and lose track of time. And then I end up missing the dopamine or serotonin or whatever it is I usually get from the morning hustle and I don’t seem to eat as mindfully or healthy. And then I eat too much and end up feeling too full to drag myself anywhere.
And so the night run I was supposed to do turned into a walk, or worse, nothing at all.
I do wonder if I am limiting myself by only doing morning workouts. If doing the same 3-mile jog every day really isn’t ideal — we need interval training and strength training for all-around fitness — then am I also falling into a rut by working out at the same time every day?
Thankfully, no, according to two experts. A workout is good at any time. But there are some things to consider:
Jeremy Petfalski, personal trainer, Princeton Club, New Berlin, Wis.:
“It is good for a person to know their body and work out at the time they feel they get the best workout in themselves. If somebody is not a morning person at all and can’t seem to push themselves in the morning, they’re better off going later in the day when they feel more energized. Some people are the opposite ... so they are better off getting it done early.”
Amy Hall, group fitness director at Elite Sports Club, Milwaukee:
“There are benefits to both morning and evening workouts. In the morning your body is freshly rested and working out first thing will jump start your metabolism and give you an energy boost for your day. Additionally, morning exercisers will generally have an easier time falling asleep at night as nighttime workouts can elevate your body temperature and interfere with the falling asleep process.
“But, in the evening your body is warmed up from moving around all day so your strength and endurance will be increased and therefore you might be able to work out harder and have higher success in building strength. You will also have more fuel in your system from your meals throughout the day.
“Exercise at the time of day that you can maintain consistently. It may seem harder to do as we age because we have more obligations, less free time and less stamina. But the more you can make exercise a habit, the easier it will become and the better you’ll feel. Regular exercise gives you more energy. It’s actually more important to do as we age in order to maintain the health and strength we had so naturally when we were young.”