The best exercise time and type [for results]

I’ve been a morning exerciser since the age of 5, when I used to get up before dawn with my dad to ride my little bike by his side while he got in his morning run.

And throughout my life, if I don’t work out before noon, all motivation is lost.

You could say I was conditioned to be this way but actually, we are biologically built to get up and get moving in the morning.

I cringe every time I see someone out running or headed to the gym in the late afternoon or evening.

What they don’t know is that the time of day and type of exercise they are doing are likely working against them, making it harder to achieve their ideal weight and health.

Yet working out in the late afternoon or evening is so common.

And most of the people I know who do this struggle to lose or maintain their weight, wake up feeling tired, are slow to get moving in the morning and don’t sleep great.

This is because the time of exercise and type matter to get the best results.

Although I’ve always been a morning person, I haven’t always done the right type of exercise for my body, and it often held me back from reaching my goals.

Back in my personal training and fitness competition days, my workout routine was super structured:

  • Monday – leg day
  • Tuesday – back and chest
  • Wednesday – long run
  • Thursday – shoulders, biceps and triceps
  • Friday – high-intensity interval training
  • Saturday – short run
  • Sunday – long run
  • Hit repeat

As a result, I often felt wiped out in the afternoon and had constant muscle soreness.

When I was diagnosed with Hashimotos in 2016, I finally realized just how much the type of exercise you’re doing matters.

Upon receiving that diagnosis, I was determined to heal my thyroid and reverse Hashimotos so I changed my diet, focused even more on getting supportive sleep, added in more supplements, and doubled down on my daily detox efforts.

The one thing I didn’t change was my exercise routine. I continued to run to the gym, lift heavy, and run back multiple times a week paired with longer intense runs in between.

When my healing and weight loss results were marginal at best despite all the changes I had made, I knew I had to change the way I was working out to get the results I wanted.

So I committed to 30 days of ONLY walking and yoga, and that’s when I started to make more leaps and bounds toward my ideal weight and health.

In this week’s video and blog, I’ll explain how the right time and type of exercise for your body can help you achieve your ideal weight and health too.

Let’s talk about timing first to help you get some quick wins with your exercise efforts.

To get the best results, you can align your exercise routine according to your internal body rhythms and daily hormone fluctuations.

When the sun rises in the morning, temperature and light increase, signaling the release of cortisol hormone which peaks about 2 hours after sunrise. As the sun moves throughout the day, cortisol slowly tapers off through the afternoon.

Cortisol is your body’s natural source of energy which makes the 2-hour window after sunrise, and any time before noon, the most ideal window for intense types of exercise such as weight lifting, running, and interval training.

As the sun sets, temperature and light decrease, signaling your body to prepare for sleep by lowering cortisol and energy levels to their lowest by 10pm.

Intense exercise later in the afternoon and evening goes against your body’s natural flow and availability of energy, which can deplete the body and disrupt optimal sleep timing and quality leading to even more depletion.

If you are currently, or have ever done, intense forms of exercise later in the day, afterwards you probably feel “wired but tired” or get a “second wind” in the evening that keeps you up late and you wake up feeling tired or not fully rested.

If you’re someone who likes to move your body later in the day like I do, it’s ok to engage in more restorative and lighter intensity forms of exercise such as walking or yoga that won’t disrupt sleep quality and are more in alignment with your body’s energy capacity.

Now you might be thinking it’s hard to wake up early to workout, but trust me, when you align your exercise time with your body’s natural hormone rhythms it will become easier to fall asleep by 10pm, you’ll get more restful sleep, and you’ll wake up feeling rested with the sun as you’re biologically built to do.

Now let’s address the ideal types of exercise to get the best results.

As discussed with timing, it’s better to do intense types of exercise earlier and lower intensity later in the day.

But there is even more to be considered daily when choosing the most ideal type of exercise for your body.

As I mentioned before, when trying to reverse Hashimotos, committing to less intense forms of exercise such as walking and yoga for at least 30 days helped to accelerate my progress so I could lose weight and get my energy back faster.

This experience reinforced what I always say and aim to teach my clients…

“By tuning into your body in any given moment, you can give it exactly what it needs to feel your best, maintain results, and continue making progress.”

Your body will do anything you ask it to, but that doesn’t mean you should.

We’ve been conditioned to push through it when we don’t feel our best, instead of resting. So when we don’t feel 100%, we’ll still grind away at the gym or go for a run. I know because I’ve been guilty of this too.

However, when you don’t feel 100% that means your body is already in a depleted state; whether it’s from a stressful week, poor food choices or sleep, environmental or other lifestyle factors.

So instead of depleting your body even more with intense exercise, which impairs your ability to get optimal results, when you feel less than your best, these are the days to choose less intense exercise, even in the morning.

The majority of the clients I work with are doing intense forms of exercise in the morning yet struggling to get the expected results. When we investigate why this is happening with functional lab testing, the data reveals how depleted their bodies are from pushing through it all for too long.

By dialing back the intensity of their exercise for a short period of time so the body can heal, balance is restored, and eventually, they can return to their favorite intense forms of exercise without creating a deficit because they have also learned to choose the right type of exercise on any given day to support what their body needs to feel its best.

The last piece I want to touch on is about choosing the right type of exercise specifically for my fellow females.

As women, our sex hormones (i.e. estrogen and progesterone) fluctuate throughout our menstrual cycle, and different stages of hormone changes during our lifetime. These cyclical hormonal changes also determine what type of exercise is best during certain times of your cycle or life.

For example, a woman’s body is more primed for building muscle and heavier lifting during the first part of their menstrual cycle, and more prone to ligament injuries with agility or high-intensity interval training during this time.

Alternatively, the female body is better equipped for conditioning and interval types of exercise during the second half of the cycle, with less risk of injury.

I have personally been aligning the type of exercise I do with my cycle and have not only noticed significant improvements in physical results, but also a higher level of desire and motivation to do the type of exercise that is right for my body during specific windows of my cycle.

In summary, to get the best results from your exercise efforts, follow these 3 guidelines:

  • Do intense exercise before noon
  • Only do lower intensity/restorative exercise later in the day
  • Tune into your body daily to choose the right type of exercise your body needs to feel your best instead of pushing through

What changes do you need to make (if any) to get the best results with your exercise efforts? Comment below to let me know!

P.S. Want more exercise tips to help you get better results? Check out some of my favorite exercise experts on Instagram.

Debra Atkinson for more women’s hormone-balancing exercise insights.

John Parker for strength and conditioning exercise insights.

Emily Kiberd for online kettle bell workouts to support thyroid health.

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