Squeezing time into your busy schedule for working out can be a daunting task for most of us. I am not a morning person so I tend to ignore that 5:30 a.m. alarm that blares itself at me like a drill sergeant ordering me to give him twenty pushups. But nights are no easier for me either. With kids, you have dinner to make, homework to check, lunches to prepare for the next day and bodies to wrangle into bed at the appropriate time. By 10 p.m. I am spent. Not working out is not an option for a healthy life though so I have to carve out time somewhere. To inspire me to make more time in my evenings for exercise, I have collected some pearls of wisdom about the benefits of hitting the gym or going for a run at night.
Greatist recently did its own listing of benefits of night workouts and tops on their list were: less crowds, more time for socializing after, and more relaxed gym rules. The article also mentioned that evening sweat sessions are also a great way to de-stress, and take out some of the frustrations of the day, and help you sleep better. There were some great nuggets here, but I wanted to know what our local fitness experts thought about evening workouts. Here is what I found out:
De-stress and gear up for the next day
Christina Stoltz, founder of Ploome: After a long day of conference calls, family errands, and juggling too many of life's plates, everyone needs a little time to reconnect with their body and settle their mind. Evening workouts provide fitness enthusiasts with a wonderful opportunity to release physical stress, to calm their spirit, and to harness their creative potential. I recommend workouts that focus on breathing and fluid movement in the evening, followed by a warm cup of tea and a little reflecting in a gratitude journal. Celebrating the day and the challenges you conquered is a killer way to gear up for the rest of the week!
Amandah Povilitus Flywheel Philly instructor: The first thing that I ask my riders to do at the beginning of class is to “leave their stresses at the door,” and to “focus on being fully present” during the workout. All of us enter the stadium with heavy baggage from our day. We enter with stress, with to-do lists, with anxiety. I ask my riders to, for just 45 minutes, forget about all of it, and to focus on the workout. Had a bad day? Let it out on the bike (not on your friends or on a pint of ice-cream!) and leave the workout with a clear head allowing for positive and productive thoughts.
Michael Abreu, personal training manager at SWEAT South Philly: Had a long day at work? Relieve the stress of the day by scheduling your workout at night. You’ll be feeling a lot better after a few rounds of hitting that punching bag—not to mention you’ll have boulders for shoulders after a while.
Yoga not just for the early bird
Nadia Stadnycki, co-owner and teacher at Prana House Yoga: While yoga was traditionally practiced in the early morning, that doesn't always work for us depending on our work schedule, kids, study, etc. The frequency with which you hit the mat is what really evolves your practice, and making time for yoga at night has some great benefits. As the day is winding down, your mind is quieter and more focused, which is a major goal of yoga. You've been moving around all day, so your body is more open and receptive to the postures. Twists will have a detoxifying effect, folds will seem easier and it won't take as long to loosen up. Finally, the deep breathing will relax and prepare your body for a deeper rest.
Some things to think about with a PM Yoga Practice: Certain postures have restorative or awakening effects. For example, if you still have some work to get done, backbends can actually infuse you with more energy like an evening coffee. Conversely, those are ones you want to avoid if you're ready to hop in bed afterwards. Supported postures and restorative or yin yoga classes are better for those pre-slumber practices.
Kristine McCreary, AntiGravity Yoga Lab: Whether you hold a high executive position or you are a stay at home mom/dad, at the end of any day it is always good to spend some time on YOU! If an evening workout is all you can get in your busy day it is most important each day you do something good for your health and wellness no matter what the time is that fits your schedule. AntiGravity Yoga & Fitness, Mat Yoga or Indoor Standup Paddle Board are all great ways to force your mind to slow, focus and become centered each day as you do your physical workout. This is great for mental well being and brain acuity as well helps you relax and get a good night's sleep! Exerting any last physical energy left from your day to work out will help you to sleep better and deeper as your body heals itself for the next day as you sleep. Keeping our minds and our physical bodies active as we age and getting a great night’s rest will keep us healthier and wealthier. An evening workout, no matter what your preference is....will help you do just that.
Avoid those morning lines waiting for a machine
Michael Abreu, personal training manager at SWEAT South Philly: Is that squat rack free yet? If you’ve ever been to any gym or fitness club, there will be times where you’ll have to skip a specific exercise because someone is using the machine or bench you need. Working out at night eliminates having to wait around. Less people equals less waiting.
The gym/studio comes alive at night
Erik Strassman, personal trainer at Optimal Sport Health Club: I believe that you should train at whatever time you feel best. There is no "best time" to train for everybody. If you are an early riser, train in the morning. If you get your second wind at lunch, train in the afternoon. If you are a night owl, hit the gym after work or later. If you have the luxury of training at your ideal time, take advantage of it! On the other hand, I train many clients at night because the sports or events that they are competing in require them to be active, aware, and most ready at a specific time. I have also noticed that at the gyms that I train out of that there is just more energy around the time that people finish work. Clients have told me that this makes them excited to train.
Amandah Povilitus, Flywheel Philly instructor: Many of my evening classes are filled with couples, colleagues and groups of friends (shout-out to the #backrowcrew) that make the commitment to workout post work. Having someone to hold you accountable leaves no room for excuses, and in most cases, individuals find it easier to commit to a workout after work rather than before the morning rush.
On weekdays I teach both early morning and evening classes. While I enjoy both timeslots (I’m unbelievably inspired by both of these dedicated groups of riders!) I’m able to spend extra time with my evening riders because they tend to not have to rush out immediately post ride. We’re able to chat about their ride and fitness goals as well as connect about our personal lives. Many riders go out post class for a snack, dinner and/or drinks and going out post-workout helps them make better choices.
Helps keep you accountable all day
Amandah Povilitus, Flywheel Philly instructor: Committing to an evening workout will hold you accountable throughout your day (ie. smart food choices, higher water intake).
Night runs can be more social
Carl Ewald, executive director of the ODDyssey Half Marathon: I am naturally more inclined to work out in the mornings. But, because of the many social opportunities for group runs in the evenings, I find myself working out a night a lot lately. The group runs are definitely a benefit because it is great to use the social aspects of running to motivate you to exercise more often. I also find that I sleep better and eat less when I run in the evening.
Sleep better, deeper
Amandah Povilitus, Flywheel Philly instructor: An invigorating evening workout allows you to “empty your tank.” Expending your energy in this positive way will ensure a more restful sleep.You’ll wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on your day.
Carly Solis-Cohen, personal training manager at SWEAT Fitler Square: There are many benefits after a night sweat session. You are less likely to eat sugar and fatty foods, as your body will be looking for healthy nourishment. Getting a good night's rest will be easier since your body will need to re-charge, which will help keep your sleep regulated and reduce stress as well. Another, and what I find the best part of a nightly workout, is you simply feel good and go to sleep with a strong sense of accomplishment."
Donna Storm, Group Ex Director and Elite Personal Trainer at SWEAT Fitness however cautions to not work out too late in the evening as it may rev you up and interfere with your ability to sleep.
Keep in mind with all of this that what matters most is that you take care of yourself and stay healthy. If you are naturally an early riser or find that squeezing in a workout in the middle of the day works best for your schedule, then there is no need to change what you are already doing. All that matters is that you exercise, not the time of day you do it. Always keep your body in motion.
Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.