Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at Scotch On The Rock (SOTR) 2010 (London) with:

What Is The Best Time Of Day To Workout?

By Ben Nadel on

Last night, I watched, "The Human Timepiece," on the Science channel. It was a cool show that explored the internal time regulatory mechanisms of the human body and how the human body functions throughout the day. It stepped through the day in 2-3 hour increments talking about why we are tired or alert and how this directly affects both cognitive and physical performance. The internal body clock is a very powerful thing and they are, in fact, finding that it can be exploited to help fight diseases such as Cancer - like I said, very cool stuff.

One of the topics they discussed was physical fitness and specifically, what time of the day was most appropriate for working out. What they recommend is working out in the late afternoon / evening. Not only do they recommend this, they actual discourage the idea of working out in the morning. Apparently, in the morning there are several factors that put you at a greater risk for heart attack and stroke:

  • In the morning, your blood pressure takes a significant jump and stays higher before decreasing towards mid day.
  • In the morning, your blood has a higher "stickiness."
  • In the morning, your blood vessels and arteries are less flexible.

These factors combine to raise the risk of heart attack and stroke. Statistically speaking, they said you are about 10 times more likely to have a heart attack before 12PM.

In contrast to the negative risk factors associated with morning workouts, working out in the afternoon / evening generally results in greater performance. In fact, when you look at Olympic events, most world records are beat in the evening.

Obviously, with busy lives, sometimes you just have to fit it in where you can; but, given the choice, all the scientific evidence seems to indicate that working out in the late afternoon / evening is the best choice both for your general health and your sport-specific performance.

Tweet This Titillating read by @BenNadel - What Is The Best Time Of Day To Workout? Thanks my man — you rock the party that rocks the body!


Reader Comments

Anecdotally, the few people that I know that have lost serious amounts of weight have always been morning-workout people.

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Good article after chair problems. :)

I also prefer evenings for a full workout. But every morning 5-15 min. stretching is also very helpful.

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I knew it! I've always done this. I work out at night an hour or two after eating dinner! My best friend had told me the same recently since he has been starting weight lifting to bulk up and a body builder he knows had passed that along to him, to work out in the evening.

Do you know if this was just for weight lifting only? Did they suggest the same time for cardio exercise like running too?

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@Rick,

I think there are definitely reasons why weight loss can be achieved nicely with morning workouts. Some personal theories:

1. Energy stores have been lowered over night leading to more fat-based catabolism in the morning??

2. Working out in the morning raises your metabolism for the rest of the day leading to increased caloric expenditure over a longer period.

These are just some theories - I am not sure if they are remotely true.

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@Javier,

On the show, they actually said something as simple as walking can put you at an increased risk in the morning. Of course, we all walk, so I don't think we can make the conclusion that even walking is dangerous :) Plus, I think statistics like are more about people who are *already* at a increased risk for complications. I am sure if you are in good shape, the risk factors associated with morning fitness are significantly lowered.

As far as if this is for weight loss vs. performance, that's a good question. In the show, they definitely talked about increased performance but did not mention weight loss in any way. As such, I think this might be able to exist in parallel with Rick's anecdotal evidence that morning fitness is good for weight loss. I can't really say.

@Oguz,

I think stretching is good; but, I have read in several places that you should wait at least 30 minutes after waking up as your spinal discs are dehydrated in the morning and take a few minutes to get "juicy" again.

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Yes! Now I have a legit excuse for not being able to wake up early for a morning workout! :-) Thanks for the interesting info.

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@Joshua,

Ha ha, word up :) I used to try to workout in the morning but I just found it didn't work. I could only do minimal effort exercises otherwise I felt like my head was going to explode (perhaps a byproduct of the increased blood pressure).

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I bet you 5 years from now they'll come up with another scientific study saying just the opposite

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@Awake,

Ha ha, definitely possible.

The part of the show that was particular facsinating, however, was that each organ has its own version of the time keeping mechanism and different organs are more or less active at different times of the day. When it comes to fighting cancer, they are finding that if they attack the cancer at the body's low-point, then it causes much less collateral damage and is more effective at attacking the cancer (which seemingly doesn't have a low-point). I hope that this kind of evidence does not change in 5 years :)

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I usually did an early afternoon (say 2-3) workout when I work from home. I liked it mainly because it broke up my day and the gym was generally empty (except for 90 yr old Russian guys who seem to like to wander the locker room naked...which is the one drawback ;). Still, my wife prefers the morning (like 9am) and I often would go with her - I think it is easier to get motivated for a morning workout than the afternoon one and I felt more energetic in general.

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The show also mentioned the very real difference between "Larks" and "Night Owls" and that this is caused by a difference in natural bio-rhythms. As such, I think there are people who are naturally more able to workout in the morning than others (as there are people who are naturally more able to workout in the evening).

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Ben theorized: "Working out in the morning raises your metabolism for the rest of the day leading to increased caloric expenditure over a longer period."

I'd take that one step further and speculate that it's not just your metabolism (biological) that gets a kick from early morning workouts, but also your active energy level (social).

I find that morning-workout-types are "peppier" than the coffee-addicted ones, which leads to them performing activities where they spend more energy over the course of the day. They are more likely to walk around the office, saying hello to people, use the stairs instead of the elevator, etc.

(I, for one, am not a morning workout person, nor do I have any pep whatsoever in the morning.)

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@Ben

To add to your reason 1 for weight loss in the morning: this makes a lot of sense, considering you haven't eaten since the night before, so generally the only thing your body has to run on is fat, and eventually, muscle tissue. The important part to remember is to have enough to eat/fat storage to workout in a healthy way. The body can and will start to use muscle for energy.

I hate mornings anyway.

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@Rick,

Most agreeable. Even though I found that I personally cannot have an effective workout in the morning, I *did* find that I had a more positive mental outlook.

@Lionhart,

Very true - you can walk a fine line between the two types of breakdown. I think that is why, at least for people like me, it's very psychologically difficult to try and lean up - I am constantly in fear that I will cross over into muscle catabolism.

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I have found if I don't get my work out done in the morning the likelihood that something will come up later in the day to prevent me from going increases.

Lately I have been trying to get to office at 7:30am, work for about 90 min or so then head over to gym for 45-60 min.

This give me some quiet time before others get in to get caught up on items, get day planned and wrap up some small tasks. These little victories first thing I have found really can set the tone for a better day.

The workout helps get the brain going, serotonin cranking and keeps me going further in the day.

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I've never had a problem doing cardio in the morning, but I've never been able to lift as well in the a.m.

I had figured it was a mental thing, but now I'm glad to have a good excuse for putting off my workouts till night!

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I always preferred a morning workout. By the time I got home from work, I didn't want to do anymore work. So... physically working out and mentally working out and giving myself the night off felt appropriate and fulfilling.

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None of this is much of an issue for me. While exercising is a number 1 priority for me (and for anyone that continues to do it), I never feel like doing serious exercise first thing in the morning (no matter how late waking might be) and nothing beats a good breakfast and my body is very ready to go late. I'm a late person.

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Morning workouts are great, usually you go a bit slower than working out in the afternoon. That you even't can't do walking in the morning because of the higher blood pressure sounds like a lot of crap. What about a run to catch the tram or subway to get to work?
There's so much crap about training theory and most of it are crap - I think you should keep it simple and stick to basics!

Best advice for getting fit:
- Total body workouts, strength training.
- Interval training, cardio, like running or whatever.

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Thanks for posting this Ben! I work out with Russian girya (kettlebells). I hadn't thought to consider a daily rhythm, but sometimes I notice that I really just don't have much strength or endurance, at all. Now that you mention this, it's more likely in the morning that I'm in this state. Good to know.

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@Marko,

I don't think the show meant to imply that you couldn't or shouldn't even "walk" in the morning; obviously, that is not possible and would be a ridiculous thing to even suggest. I believe all that they were saying was that even walking can have an affect on your blood pressure.

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My dreamboat sighhh!!

I always heard that working out in the morning gives you more energy through out the day, when I ran in the morning I was a bit more pumped up then usual and did feel the burst of energy through out the day. I am not sure if it was due to the actual running or because I was just so happy cause I actually went out and did something healthy early in the morning.

I also heard that if you work out late in the day, it is more difficult to fall asleep because you're energy level has increased from the work out. When I ran at night, it was definitely harder for me to cool down and go to bed. I definitely did have difficulty falling asleep.

I guess it's a personal preference really. But, either way, I am glad I have an excuse now to be lazy in the morning and not feel bad about staying in bed longer yeah!!

My dreamboat, thanks for sharing! You are just too darn cute muahhhhhh!

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That is a very interesting question, I had never really thought about that. For me, it has really just been whatever time fits into my schedule best, which is generally afternoons or nights. It is good to know that this scientifically is the best time to go and work out anyways. As a few people already mentioned, however, I do try to stretch for at least about 10 minutes or so every morning.

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@Ben

As "bad" that a hard workout in the morning can be so will a late workout in the evening be. Me personally can find it quite hard to get a good sleep if I've worked out late at night. I need a couple of hours or more to taper down, and even then if the workout was particularly hard it can be hard to get a good sleep.

And Ben if you want some serious training information, do not solely do strength training, do some cardio too! At least one cardio workout in a week can be good to loosen up the muscles and transport away all the lactic acid when pumping iron can cause. And that makes you feel good too!

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There's a few of us can can even run (weight training no problem) late at night, shower, and go to sleep.

I do stretch related exercises in the morning on workdays after being up for fifteen minutes and I find it extremely beneficial. (I was otherwise not a big stretcher.)

I said earlier, I'm a late person, and for me if I didn't exercise late, it wouldn't get done. I find that being flexible about the exact time you exercise is critical. If I had to exercise at a certain time, it would be far less enjoyable and provide a multitude of excuses for missing it.

While I find Ben's top post on this valuable (and I don't doubt the science), what's missing are studies on performance and injuries and heart attacks. This information would be more valuable than the physilogical science.

We know that a great many sporting competitions occur early or first thing in the morning. For example, Tour de France riders start early and go for hours (I don't know what they do for warmup - but it's early - of course all of these guys have been doped-up too - and I don't know how that plays) and many or most marathons start early. I suspect a lot of participants only minimally warm-up for several hours long events.

As usual, more studies are needed.

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@Marko,

Excellent point. If I workout too late, I definitely lay in bed at night with my eyes open. And, if any of you have been without sleep, you know that it is beyond horrible the next day! So, yes, there are most certainly bad parts at both extremes.

@Gary,

Agreed that more studies are needed. I think the very concept of leveraging the natural bio rhythms of the body is very new. From what they said in the show, just learning how to read / understand the natural time keepers of the human system is a very new science.

It's funny you mention the Tour de France because one of the guys they interviewed was a competitive cyclist who has broken the "Hour Test" world record three times (how far you can bike in a hour - man vs. stop watch). He said that his best times have always been at night and that in the morning, he never feels the same ability to push through pain.

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Hey Ben

I'm sure if you and Secret Admirer got together in the mornings you would be able to find a workout that you could manage ;) hahaha!

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@Gary

I was just wondering about a theory I read online, it had said that the Tour de France people had lived shorter lives than the average athlete. Now that probably could be because of the early morning workout, or it could be something els...

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@iWorkOutInA.M.,

That's interesting to know there is an increased risk time in both the AM and the PM.

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I caught the last half of the Human Timepiece show last night. Thanks Ben for filling me in on the part about exercising, I had missed that part. Ya know...it's all well and good to exercise in the late afternoon...4pm "ish"...unless, like me you are living in Arizona and the expected temp outside is 113 degrees at 4pm "ish". Yep... We "Zonies" call it a Dry Heat. I was doing my biking in the morning and found that 5am provided the perfect temp...nice and cool still. I guess after hearing what the show had to say about early morning exercise... I will now have to dust off my Elliptical and bring it in from the garage to do a 4pm workout :)

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@Javier,

I would suggest you DON'T exercise after dinner. Go BEFORE dinner w/ just something small like an energy bar. You body needs time to digest your dinner. If you exercise on a full stomach your body goes out of whack, because your stomach is trying to digest and your energy is focused there rather than burning fat or bulking up.
I have been told this by my friend who is a nurse @ UW Medical. Should you find information that rebuts this or encourages this, please let me know. I appreciate any other input. :] Thanks!

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@Rick,

I agree. I only find time to work out in the mornings on the weekends. During the week (after I end the work day @ 7), I get my workout then.
During the weekends, I DO find myself with more energy and I find my weight @ its lowest during that time (which is quite interesting). I weigh myself everyday and it's interesting to see what fluctuation in my weight is between the weekends and weekdays! (This is why I don't think that they should put your weight on your driver's license. :p It's not acurate! Lol!)
I am really enjoying the input here. I'm learning lots!

p.s. I LOVED that show! I just watched it last night and it helped me fine-tune my lifestyle. :]

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@MissTris

Thanks, agreed! I've had my best friend tell me the same since he had received advice from a body builder. Now mind you I didn't go right after dinner, I wouldn't typing this message otherwise. :) I would always go an hour or two after the food has settled. I found myself having so much more energy and figured maybe having that burn occur over night would be better. I certainly slept better and not so much. Now I'm just lazy and sleep so much longer! Working on switching my schedule to working out in the mornings but its tough. Thanks again!

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@Javier Julio,

Of course! No problem. I didn't know that you "settled" your food before working out. That's good practice. But, did you know that your insulin levels are lower in the evening. So, your body is not storing as much glucose as it should in the evening. (This, too, was in the "Human Timepiece" show.) But, seeing that you workout after eating possibly helps burn off that excess glucose.

However, as previous posts have mentioned, exercising promotes more energy, so I'm wondering how you're sleeping better after working out? =/ It's pretty much a double edged sword when it comes to deciding when is a preferable time to workout. I hope your "body builder" friend can shed some more light on the issue.

As for me, I DO workout in the evening and I don't go to bed until 12 (sometimes 1), but I don't start work until 10, so it's not so bad for me. On the weekends I work out in the morning, so my body clock is a bit out of whack than most. Considering the many view points made on the show Human Timepiece, I'd like to see how each could affect me, my lifestyle, and health.

Good luck to all in finding the right lifestyle for each unique human body! ^_^

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You can't win no matter what you do. One minute Dr's and Scientists are saying you should do one thing, the next they say you shouldn't..UGH...so frustrating. I have always been up and down with working out. I recently had gained 20lbs (yuck), and so I've been doing strength training around 10am, followed by cardio. Then before dinner I walk 4 miles. I'm desperate to lose the "fat"! What is everyone's opinion on this? I've been busting my butt eating healthy, counting carbs, calories, and eating small meals 5 times a day, and I've only lost 10 fricken lbs. It's only been 2wks, but like I said, I'm impatient. =)
Thanks for any input!

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@Jenny,

I know what you're saying. Between work and all the stresses of everyday life, just "sticking" to workouts is pretty awesome.

I have not tried it, but I have been told by many people in the fitness world that interval training is THE WAY to go to lose weight. I am no authority on this - never tried it - but people have explained versions like this on the treadmill:

Sprint 15 seconds
Jog 45 seconds
* repeat until you reach 15 minutes *

I've talked to many trainers who swear by this type of training for weight loss.

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Here's my take on the whole thing, and FYI I've been training for 14 year now so I'm not just "blowing smoke out my butt".

I've tried morning, afternoon and evening training all for extended periods of time over the last 14 years. I found the best time to train(although not always ideal for the schedule) is several hours after you get up in the morning. Example: If you're up at 7:00 then training around 10:00 or 11:00 would be the perfect time. Here's why: You've had time for your blood pressure to drop, you've had breakfast so your glycogen storage is up, and you're energy is likely at it's peak because you haven't burned any of it up yet, and once you're done your training you'll be refuelling with lunch and your energy will carry you through the afternoon to the end of the day, and when you crash it'll be close to bed time anyways. Not to mention your metabolism is at it highest in the monring and slows down as the day goes on, unless your work is physically demanding(i.e. contruction worker, or aerobics instuctor), so training around 10:00 or 11:00 you stimulate your metabolism pushing up to burn of more calories in the afternoon.

I can say so much more about this, and there are a lot of varying factors which come into play when dicussing this topic:time you get up, time you eat, are you a morning person or night hawk, are you trying to burn fat or gain muscle, the list can go on. But overall I do believe that some time between Breakfast and lunch is ideal for more, however it is harder to fit into the schedule.

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@Will,

I've worked out at like 11AM the last few Saturdays. At first, I thought it would be horrible; but, I actually had a great workout. Of course, a big part of that is probably based on the fact that I was working out with someone at the time (which always makes a world of difference).

When I do my legs, however (squats, deadlifts, etc.), I really just feel like it has to be done after 12PM. If I try to rock that out in the AM, I find that my head feels like it's going to explode.

Right now, during the week, I workout around 1PM (I go at lunch) and that's has been a really good energy time for me. Sometimes, however, it's kind of hard to get back into work :)

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@Will,

I've bantered about with many on this Will. You said you could say so much more about training early, please do so.

Considering T:C ratios, CNS status, core temp, and ALL studies showing that evening is ideal for training, why the suggestion for AM?

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Now I got an explanation why my eye seemed to blow out from my last morning walk. It was 20 minutes walking, and the next 40 to unfroze and eat my lunch, take a shower, get dressed, get my car and run to an appointment. Since then my left eye it´s acting weird.. trembling a bit..
I m gonna check my blood pressure right now.
Thank you for sharing such a great information.
ps: you are sooo cute...lol

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@Jeff,

When I say that I can go on about this topic, doesn't mean that I'm looking to argue for the sake of arguing. I'm basically jsut saying that depending on what you are trying to achieve through your training and what your body rythm is, your time of day to train may vary. I personally think that 10 to 11 is the best time, that's when I've found that I feel it the most. That being said I train at 5:30 AM (yes AM). I've been doing so for years, the odd weekend or dayoff I'll switch it up.

Most people only have the choice of morning or late afternoon. Morning can be too early for some and afternoon is hard to find the motivation after a long day of work, even though testosterone levels and body temperature is higher. You'll always find "juice heads" in the gym around 2:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon, but remember these guys sleep most of the day.

Here's a link to a site that details things to take into account. I'm not promoting it or spaming here just sharing info.

@Ben

If I'm ever in your area, I'd really enjoy training with you and talking nerd talk. lol

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A very interesting post and showed some facts I have never realised in my decade plus of strength training. I have seen many of my clients get good results from working out at all times of the day. I even heard of a top class bodybuilder working out at 5am! I will have to research some of these statistics and then advise some of my older clients about possible risks.
Great Post
Luke H

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"I was just wondering about a theory I read online, it had said that the Tour de France people had lived shorter lives than the average athlete. Now that probably could be because of the early morning workout, or it could be something els..."

It's because they do massive amounts of highly repetitive, mostly steady state (whereas our natural biorhythms are non-linear and in flux), cardiovascular exercise that overly stresses their immune systems, as well as causing excessive free radical production, which promotes cancer.

We didn't evolve to exercise at a high, regular rate for hours each day. I admire the athletes that do this, but health-promoting is a much smaller volume of exercise, in the neighbourhood of 1 to 3 hours per week of variable, intense exercise (e.g., strength training, interval training), with ideally at least a few more hours of much, much lower-intensity activity (such as walking, gardening, or what have you).

Realistically speaking, 2 hours of hard exercise per week is about perfect for health.

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As usual, I am coming to this late. :-/ But it was an interesting post, so I thought I'd add my response. I actually love this research, because it confirmed that what I love doing...working out in early evening...is what is "best"...best at least in some ways.

And I say early evening lightly, as I really probably could be classified as more of a night worker-outer or even late night. :-D

And I don't have the same sleep problems when working out late that some of the people who have commented seem to have.

Maybe there is something wrong with me and wrong with my body chemistry.

But I can literally go from a workout at night, hop in the bed, and go right to sleep. No joke.

Further, when I work out in the morning, as I have done in the past, there are often times when I NEED to take a nap right around lunchtime...right around 12 p.m. or so. When I work out in the morning, I almost literally pass out at my desk around 12 p or so.

I have heard in the past that morning workouts are best, for different reasons. And I don't remember those reasons, I just remember having heard that in the past.

I am glad that the study made differences between "night owls" and "larks", because I am probably most likely a "night owl".

Working out in the late afternoon has been more of a convenience thing for me.

And I think the thing about being able to sleep vs. not being able to sleep has to do with type of exercise and intensity of exercise. When I gave the example of being able to fall into bed and go to sleep right after working out (and by this I mean taking a shower first, of course), this goes back to my days in heavy martial arts training. Our class was @ 7:30 p.m., so you couldn't exactly "choose" to go @ 8 or so in the morning.

And let me tell you, if you took martial arts to the extreme intensity level I did, you can sleep afterwards, because it completely depletes any energy stores you have.

It probably helps that on the way home from martial arts training, I did listen to classical music and/or preaching, because I wanted to make sure I calmed down. I felt that if I didn't, I could end up bashing someone's head in at the grocery store if I stopped on the way home for cutting me off with their cart or something (I'm joking, sort of, but it did help...I found that I would have muscle spasms on the way home if I didn't do something to calm myself down.)

But that was intense training, and it included interval training as well...we did some exercises that were an attempt at making us "ring-ready".

I think with marathons, ironmans, etc., the whole point of starting early is to give everyone time to finish. :-D One of the points, anyway. If I did an ironman, it would probably take me about 24 hours or so to finish it. :-D

Hey, at least with this new study, it can give you a new reason to turn your lover down for sex in the morning. "honey, no, seriously...we can't do it. I will have a heart attack. My blood pressure is too high in the mornings." lol

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In my opinion the morning is the best time for this.You can do workout with full of energy and fresh ness and it also helps you to work actively all over the day.I think that it is the best time for this.

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@Franchise
I personally do agree that working out in the morning does help you throughout the day. But i actually like to get physical fitness twice a day. I like to do stretching and or yoga in the morning to get my day going.
In the Evening(four to sixish) whenever I can I like to gear up and run for and hour to an hour and a half. I find that the Morning Stretching helps me get my day going and puts me in a better modod, and The exersises in the evening puts me in better shape.

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