What time of day should I work out?

Photo by Abhiram Prakash from Pexels

Let’s make something very clear from the jump, shall we?

Whatever time you can find during your day to work out – take it.

It’s one thing to have a discussion about what’s optimal, and when your mood and returns will be peaked – but it’s another thing entirely to have a practical decision about actually getting to the gym and doing the work.

Working out in the morning.

This is my preference and the preference of most of my clients.

Working out in the morning doesn’t give you a chance to talk yourself out of training. When I was a teacher, I’d be looking forward to my evening session, and by the time we made it to lunch I was looking for excuses not to go. I’d spend the afternoon in a battle of should I/shouldn’t I? Total waste of mental energy.

For lots of people, working out might be the biggest barrier in their day. It might make them nervous to go, they may need some confidence to attend. If you’ve done the hardest thing in your day first, the rest of your day will be easier. If you’re a little nervous about the gym, the earlier you go, the quieter it is.

My 6am squad say that they’ve done the hardest part of their day and are home and showering by a little after 7am. Imagine rocking up to work knowing that you’ve done the hardest thing you said you were going to do already, and after work all your evening is your own. Pyjamas by 6pm? Yes please.

You will probably be training fasted – having eaten nothing yet that morning. This isn’t a problem, but if you’ve been training in the evening and now you’re trying out the mornings, you might need to adjust your expectations, especially with regard to strength.

Besides, once your feet are on the floor, you feel okay. Sure, that alarm is a little early but the boost to your productivity and mental focus for the rest of the day is worth it.

Working out in the evening.

If you just can’t bring yourself to train first thing, and you can only make it after work, you’ve got some benefits too.

You’ll have had a chance to properly wake up – and be well fuelled, on at least one and possibly two meals. That means you’re likely to be stronger, and more alert than the morning folks.

The gym is busier, often with instructor led classes at this time. This is a great opportunity to socialise with friends, get a trusted spotter, or even make the most of your membership with a group fitness class.

Evening workouts are usually a little less rushed – you’re not clock watching to get to work. You can take your time, and plan your post work out meal around your training – a really practical benefit.

There’s something quite cosy about getting showered after the gym, putting your sweaty kit in the wash and getting straight into pyjamas. I am mildly preoccupied with pyjamas.

However, exercising in the evening can mean a later night getting to bed. I always felt energised after a workout, and so I might go to sleep later if training after 6pm.

There’s research to support the idea of intentionally timing your most important behaviours. If this interests you, Daniel H. Pink wrote an excellent book, “When” about this, which discusses how highly important tasks shouldn’t be left until the afternoon as mood as well as cognitive function dips. There’s another book called “Eat That Frog” by Brain Tracy about tackling the most challenging aspects of your day straight away, and not waiting or warming up to them with other, lower value tasks.

To conclude; get your work out done. When you do it is less important than the fact that you’ve done it. Morning and evening people are likely to disagree about when the “best” time to workout is. Try both and see what works better for your lifestyle.

The obstacles in your path aren’t obstacles. They are the path.

Not finding the time to workout, or cook nutritious food because you’re too busy?

It’s common to find that when the kids are off school, your carefully planned routines go out of the window. Or when work starts to get a little bit crazy, those self care rituals are the first to get chopped. 

I often hear that I’ll come back to the gym when [some external event happens]. But we both know deep down that the set of circumstances you’re facing right now is unlikely to be unique to you, or even exceptionally unusual in your own life. Your children are on holiday from school several (predictable) times a year. You have to go to work and be productive for the majority of the week. That’s not weird, or unexpected, or an ‘obstacle’. 

The obstacles in your path aren’t obstacles. They are your path.

So next time when you catch yourself saying that you don’t have time to make that 45 minute class, or you can’t keep your hour long appointment with your trainer, or you have to get a takeaway because you didn’t get to a supermarket – resolve to go anyway. Even if you don’t stay for the full time. Even if all you can manage is a 10 minute blast.

Not because that one workout is so important in the grand scheme of things. But because you become the sort of person who doesn’t skip workouts. You become the sort of person who makes it a priority to nourish & respect their body with food. You are the sort of person who you want to be – and self identity is the game changer. Not food or exercise. Not really. It’s who you become when you do those things that counts.

How to fix a gym slump & regain your mojo.

Gym slumps are not often talked about with fitness professionals because we seem to want to give the impression we’re always meal prepping chicken and broccoli and training twice a day, loving it.

The fact is gym slumps happen to everyone, including those of us who work in the industry, and I think it’s far more common than people think. I’ve been working hard to pull myself out of a training slump lately, so here are some of the things that may also work for you.

1. Be gentle with yourself.

Know that nothing good is going to come from berating yourself, and being unkind about your efforts. Don’t feel bad for the things you did to make yourself feel better when you were sad, or anxious, or grieving.

Working out, or not working out, is not an appraisal of your value as a human being. We train and eat well to show ourselves self respect and love, and if there was a dip in your ability to manage that, it’s probably because you were too busy showing support and love to others to prioritise yourself for a little while. We can get back on track any time you are ready to start!

2. Try a new style of training, or a new place to workout.

Start really small. Way smaller than you were training before your loss of mojo. Commit to less than you think you need initially, we can always add things in later. A new style of exercise, like CrossFit, bodybuilding, or spin classes might be something you could look forward to trying. Learning a new sport like swimming, rock climbing or weightlifting might excite you. Keep an open mind, and know that whoever is teaching that class is qualified to keep you safe, and make you progress. 

Maybe change gyms for a while, or skip the gym entirely in favour of an outdoor workout. Getting outside can be great, not just for physical health, but mental health too. And can help with sleep, if that’s something you need right now.

3. Attend classes, or recruit a buddy.

Your gym almost certainly offers group fitness classes as part of your membership. Ask in the gym if you can see a timetable of classes, and pick something new. If group fitness isn’t your thing, finding a training buddy can do something wonderful for your training. 

One of the most successful elements of my face to face personal training business is the folks who do partner and group training sessions. They make friends, support each other with their goals, and the more people than join in, the more flexible the training schedules become! This was one of the best things I’ve introduced in my personal training – both for myself as a coach, and for the clients I train.

4. New kit!

Who doesn’t get fired up with a new playlist, or new lifting shoes? Whatever it is, this can be an easy and accessible way to give yourself a short term boost about getting excited to train again, and needn’t cost the earth!

5. Get a programme, or a trainer.

There are heaps of training programmes available out there for free – pick up any health magazine, or spend 5 minutes hopping around on Google. Even instagram can have some brilliant suggestions. If you’re looking for a little more guidance, accountability and support, spending even a short time with an excellent trainer can be just the thing you need to get your passion back. It might just be the best investment you make in your health!

4 Ways to Overcome Gym Anxiety

You’re thinking about returning to the gym after a period away. It’s on your mind, but you’re feeling anxious and apprehensive about going.  Whether it’s your first time ever, or you’re just making the transition back into fitness, the gym can be a place of anxiety for some folks.

It’s my sincere goal that everyone not only feels comfortable in the gym, but that it’s a place where you feel safe, confident and look forward to spending time in.

That’s why I wrote this list of 4 ways you can overcome gym anxiety!

1. First visit, then train another day.

This removes the barrier of having to do it all at once which can lead to feeling overwhelmed. The first time you go to join up, or the first time back after your break – just go to sign up. Wear clothes that you’ve got no intention of working out in (jeans & boots is a great one). All we’re going to do that day is get the membership set up, and maybe take a tour. This is a brilliant opportunity to scope out the equipment (or maybe new kit since you’ve been away) and gauge what times tend to be busier than others. Ask questions, and don’t be in too much of a rush to leave. Make sure you use the toilets while you’re there! This is time alone when you can collect yourself and have a chance to calm yourself if you’re feeling nervous.

2. Learn the person on the desk’s name – and use it!

The person manning the front desk may be a manger, a receptionist or a personal trainer. Take the time to chat, explain that you’re anxious, and let them take the time to chat to you about the best way to build up to training regularly. If you know one name, you’ve started one relationship. Good relationships are the start to any successful endeavour.

Let them take the lead; we really care that you’re having a good time in the gym, and any decent gym will take the time to make sure that you feel comfortable, and show you around. There may be a timetable of classes that you can take away, or maybe even fitness instructors or personal trainers around that can talk to you about getting started with some support. Managers may direct you to a specific person in their gym that tends to do well with anxious people.

3. Go when it’s quiet & start small.

Most gyms have times when it’s a bit quieter. It may be a good idea to prioritise working out during quieter times of day – most gyms will be quiet in the early and late slots, and busiest between 5pm and 7pm.

Going when it’s quiet gives you a chance to take your time with equipment which is unfamiliar, or ask staff to help you when we’re not too swamped with other tasks.

The first few weeks of any new habit can be challenging; tell yourself that you’ll stay for 15 minutes and if you want to leave after that, it’s ok. Make this time a little longer each week, and soon you’ll build up to 45 minutes to an hour.

4. Use headphones.

These take up next to no space in your gym bag, and allow you to disappear into your own world. Don’t be tempted to rely on them too heavily though – once you’re comfortable in the gym, headphones can make it difficult for people to speak to you. This might be exactly what you want – in which case, leave them in, but if you’re looking to get to know people they can be a barrier.

Finally, you have permission to leave the gym at any point. If you start to feel anxious, or that you’re just not feeling it today, know that you’re an adult and you can give yourself permission to leave it for that day, and try again another day.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever read about going to the gym was from actor and all round delightful human, Terry Crews. If it doesn’t feel good, you won’t stick to attending the gym, so treat it like a spa – give yourself permission to hang out there, chat, and leave if you want to, without working out.

More important than the workout is the habit of attending the gym. Work on the habit, and the rest will come. 

An Open Letter to the Client Who Ghosted

Dear Client,

I wanted to write a thank you note for all the trust you put in me to manage your health and fitness goals. I know you’re putting your all into your sessions, and I recognise the effort you put in – it’s wonderful to see you developing your confidence in the gym, and surprising yourself with what you’re capable of.

Sometimes, you don’t give yourself the credit you deserve. Don’t forget that progress isn’t always measured on the scale. Sometimes hitting fitness bench marks and calorie targets feel too difficult, but you’re growing in other areas too. You’re now confident to come in and use equipment safely, which you weren’t when we began.

You may not have noticed having more energy in other areas of your life; your work, your relationships, and being able to keep up with your children. You’re gaining confidence in other areas of your life too, outside of the gym, and that’s the stuff that really makes it worth it.

However, I want to talk to you about something else. You’re quiet, maybe you aren’t responding to my messages. We all go through periods where we need to be alone, and reflect on our own stuff – that’s cool, I don’t want to hassle you. But if there’s something bothering you, please let me know. Please don’t ghost me, because I care about you. If you aren’t sure how to have that conversation – a lapse in gym attendance, maybe you’ve lost the plot a bit with your eating – as difficult as that might be, please let me know. 

I definitely don’t have all the answers, but I do have empathy for the struggle. It’s not easy to talk about these things, but I can promise you hand on heart that I will never ever judge you. And I will help you to get these things back under control when you are ready.

If you’ve stopped communicating with me, it’s usually because you’re slipping in some aspect of our plan. Your food hasn’t been managed and the scale starts to reflect that. Sometimes you stop using the scale altogether. Sometimes the gym has become intimidating. Hell, sometimes leaving the house can be intimidating. And the thought of having to explain this to your trainer seems too much. 

Whatever problems you’re going through, it’s my job to help you sort them out. It’s exactly what you hired me to do when you first asked me to get involved. You aren’t the first client to have a wobble. Frankly, if people had it all together all of the time, I wouldn’t have a job. I don’t want to get on your case, but that’s sort of my responsibility too.

When you don’t respond to my messages, I don’t forget about you. I don’t get mad at you. I just think about you more because I care. I worry that you’re struggling and stressing yourself out about perceived failures. I know this worry deep inside because I’ve been there too – many, many times. It takes a while but you will realise that speaking up and reaching out is a massive win and the first step towards getting back on track. 

Failure can be really helpful. It can help us both have a greater understanding of those obstacles that we need to tackle together. The more I can understand the challenges you face, the better I can help you to avoid these mistakes in the future. But I can’t do that alone. I need your help – please talk to me.

Me and you are in this together. A team working on your goals. Your success is important to me, because you hired me on as your team mate. When we work together we progress – in many forms; physically, mentally, emotionally, socially. After our session is over, the process of continuing the hard work is back in your hands, and I’m on board to support you for as long as you let me.

Sincerely,

Your friend, your personal trainer.