A Sea Change to My Exercise Routine

By: Mary Pat Baldauf 

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

– Alan Watts

early workoutEarly morning exercise: I’ve blogged about it, praised it and lived it. But after three and half years of working out three to five days a week at 5:00 in the morning, my body has had enough. A few weeks ago, I switched my morning workouts to the afternoon to accommodate an early morning FEMA training workshop, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been going to the gym after work ever since.

Morning exercise has lots of benefits, and the first few days, I actually felt a little guilty for missing it, even though I was getting it in after work. So before I permanently switched off my 4:17 a.m. alarm, I did a little research about morning exercise vs. evening exercise.

  Pros Cons
  • Increases daily calorie burn
  • Produces endorphins that starts the day on a positive note
  • Creates time for exercise with few to no conflicts
  • Increases daily energy levels
  • Improves your mental sharpness
  • Less than optimal energy levels
  • Cold, stiff muscles are more prone to injury
  • Hard to do for non-morning people
  • Early bedtimes and/or reduced amounts of sleep


  • Lower perceived exertion
  • Can help regulate evening eating
  • Can promote better sleep
  • Body temperature is ideal and muscles are at peak strength
  • Relieve the stress that has accumulated during the day
  • Evening conflicts
  • Limited access to equipment (after work is the busiest time for most gyms)
  • Can make it more difficult to fall asleep
  • Can increase evening hunger

The bottom line? The best time to work out depends on the best time for you.

“The best time of the day is when you will do it most consistently, because the benefits of physical activity are tightly linked to the amount you do on a consistent basis,” says Russell Pate, M.D., professor of exercise science in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

When I first started working out, I deliberately chose early mornings. I knew that incorporating exercise into my day would be a big enough challenge without having to juggle workouts with after-work meetings and social activities. There are no conflicts at 5 o’clock in the morning. I gave up some evening activities so I could get to bed earlier, and I often got less sleep, but establishing the habit of working out was most important to me. I also really enjoyed the energy surge and extra time I had after my early morning workout.

Now that I have established the habit of working out and have improved my health significantly, I find that I need more than six hours of sleep. I also feel like I’m missing out when I go to bed at 8:30 p.m. Now I can do some things around the house, enjoy evening activities and spend more time with my family and friends. Working with a new trainer provides me with a challenge, and I’ve enjoyed seeing some new and different faces at the gym.

I’m not sure how long this new phase will last; it could go away as quickly as it came. But for now, I’m not questioning it. Instead, like Watts said, I’m plunging into and moving with it.

And, just in the nick of time, I loved this post from Women’s Health: 10 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Hit the Gym After Work.

Do you have a preferred time to exercise? If so, why does that time of the day work best for you?

2 thoughts on “A Sea Change to My Exercise Routine

  1. Oh man, I’ve done the early morning routine, the immediately after work routine, and the after dinner routine. I honestly prefer after dinner. The pros for me? I eat half (or less) of my dinner before the work out, and eat the other half a little while after my work out, and that keeps me from having additional snacks. I also enjoy being able to work out the day’s frustrations after having spent time with my family at dinner. The cons? Waiting until the end of the day means I have to work really hard not to let anything else interfere with it, whereas early mornings I get it knocked out!

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