So it’s almost swimsuit time, and you’re still trying to figure out how you’re going to get into some sort of decent shape before you have to ‘walk the gauntlet’ at the pool. With fitness centers around town open very early in the morning and staying open later, it’s getting harder than ever to get by with the same old excuses anymore. And even if you can’t make it to the gym, surely there is some space in your home where you can carve out a spot to work out. You just have to find a time that works best for you.

Many fitness experts would agree that there is really no bad time of the day to work out if the alternative is no workout at all. Stephen Wilkinson, a personal trainer at The Lodge in Des Peres, says the only time you should skip a serious workout is if it means going without sleep. “We have to have our sleep. That just goes back to kindergarten—we need to get our 6 to 8 hours of sleep.” Wilkinson explains that it’s always important to find a balance. “It’s key to get that rest. If we’re not getting enough rest, it’s going to be detrimental to the muscles, and that extra stress is counterproductive. You also have to make sure you’re eating appropriately.”

If you have a somewhat-normal schedule, there are two schools of thought regarding what time of day to exercise. Some trainers believe that it’s best to wait at least 4 hours after getting out of bed to start your workout. Being awake for at least that long gives your body time to fully wake up and operate at its peak. But Wilkinson believes that it’s best to get your game on first thing in the morning. “You’re going to release the endorphins—they call it the runner’s high—it gives you energy throughout the day and it will ramp up your metabolic rate so you can burn more calories through the day.”

But if you are just not a morning person and the thought of exercising at 6 a.m. isn’t going to work, then you need to focus on your lunch hour. Most gyms are less crowded at lunch time, so you can get more accomplished in a shorter amount of time. A noon-time routine also may help you avoid the urge to skip exercise altogether at the end of the work day because you are just too tired. If possible, it is best to be consistent in the time of day you exercise: getting into a routine helps you hold yourself accountable and for most of us, that really is a big key to success. If all else fails, there are even 24-hour fitness centers where you can work out any time, day or night. Remember, though, that if you are going to really hit it hard late at night most people will need a couple of hours to wind down before they can fall asleep.


Kick Start Your Workout

By Diane Alt

When is the best time to workout: mornings, afternoons or evenings? We asked area fitness experts their advice for establishing a fitness routine that promotes consistency and can be easily maintained.

Dale Huff, NutriFormance—Fitness, Therapy and Performance

• Choosing a fitness routine truly depends on your goal, likes/dislikes, accessibility and schedules. We have so many busy clients that I find from a consistency standpoint, if you can knock it out early in your day, the more consistent you will be. Lunch meetings, after-work family and social events all tend to interfere with fitness. So if you can tolerate being an early riser, that is the best in my advice for consistency. Research has yet to show a best training time from a physiological benefit. Around the lunch hour, shorter workouts seem to work best in our clients' schedules—sprint intervals for 10 minutes followed by post static stretch is one of my favorites—you get back to work rejuvenated and still have time for lunch!

• General fitness can really be accomplished without a hectic fitness schedule—interval walk, hill climb, jog or run for 20 minutes with ratings of perceived exertion of around 5 to 7, a training circuit of a push, pull, squat, carry and rotation followed by a corrective component that might include flexibility, posture and balance exercises. And guess what? All of this can be accomplished anywhere- beach, park, backyard, basement, etc. Forty minutes and you are done! On spring break, I ran a mile to a park on the beach, set up a TRX suspension training system, completed a 30 minute body-weight workout and ran back.

• We do a fair amount of remote personal training. (We write the programs and the client does it wherever they want) You still get the guidance but aren’t burdened by another appointment in your schedule at less than the price of weekly personal training appointments.

Michael Jaudes, The Fitness Edge

• Studies have shown that most people will perform at the highest level in the early to mid afternoon. Although that can be a challenge for most in today's busy world. Many people will exercise first thing in the morning to ensure they accomplish their workout and attack the day. Others will choose lunch time to break up the day and continue after a tough workout. Others will use it as a way to end the day and eat dinner then relax until bedtime.

• The best choice is what works best for you. Either way you will become accustomed to it and reap the benefits of regular life changing activity.

• Time is always the biggest challenge. There are 168 hours in a week. All of us are busy: If you exercise three times per week for 60 minutes, you still have 165 hours off!

Joe Olivastro, J.O.E.,Inc.

• My recommendations for clients who are limited in time is that they set aside 10 minutes several days per week in addition to the sessions they schedule with me, of course. They agree to approach these brief sessions with a plan in hand.

• For those who desire a cardiovascular workout I recommend a technique called Tabata training, aka the Tabata Protocol. This is an idea that originated from athletic training by Dr. Izumi Tabata, a professor at the Faculty of Sport and Health Science at Ritsumelkan University in Japan. The results, published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, were that the Tabata athletes improved their VO2 max (the body’s ability to use oxygen more effectively, which translated to improved performance.

• The Tabata Protocol is a type of high intensity training that follows a specific format: 20 seconds of a very high intensity exercise (e.g., sprints) 10 seconds of rest. Repeat 8 times for a total of 4 minutes

• The interesting finding was the Tabata Protocol improved both the anaerobic and the aerobic systems, which is not been shown with other forms of traditional interval training. Tabata workouts offer more performance benefits in less time, and can be performed on a variety of fitness machines, in a variety of exercise formats and almost any time of the day. However, that doesn't mean these workouts are for everyone. I would recommend working with a trainer and becoming progressively acclimated to the protocol.