For as long as I’ve been going to the gym, me and my friends and my Gym acquaintances will get into debates. Some seem quite antiquated these days (namely, should you clean your Gym Equipment after use). But some are still relevant now we are hopefully moving past the Covid-19 Lockdown.
Namely, what is the right time to go to the Gym? Is it at 10:45pm so that when you arrive there is no one but you and the guy wearing a mask that makes it harder for him to breathe? Or is it at 5am, where it is probably quiet but you risk running into the practitioners of Yogalates? Maybe it is at lunchtime because that is when everyone else seems to go? Ah, maybe not.
If you already have your answer, you might not need to stick with me on this one. But maybe you are feeling academic. Maybe you are feeling like switching it up now we are exiting Lockdown. Or maybe you haven’t made up your mind at all. If that is the case, keep on scrolling.
As you hopefully realise, there isn’t going to be a silver bullet, miracle answer at the end of this blog. But hopefully I’ll be able to impart some knowledge and insight into when might be the best slot for you, and whether the strategy of mixing and matching the times where you visit the Gym might be better.
Exercising at night. Better Sleep or Blighted Sleep?
So here is a talking point you’ve probably heard before if you’ve spent any amount of time around Gym People. The question goes, does working at night, before bed, kill your sleep quality and mess up your sleeping schedule?
If you are like me, you’ve heard people tell you both answers. They can’t get to sleep without their evening pump. Or they can’t get to sleep after it.
While I fully believe the people who say they sleep better, chances are that they are in the minority on this one. It is generally accepted that working out immediately before you go to sleep is not a good idea, and will impact most people’s quality of sleep.
However, that being said doesn’t make night workouts a no go. It just means you need to be careful. Plan a barrier of an hour or more between your Night Workout and the time you go to bed and you can still get away with this quiet, cosy workout slot.
Additionally, working out in the evening is a great chance for you to blow off some steam and disperse the tension and stress of the day. Additionally, you’ll most likely be sitting on a lot of fuel from your lunch and dinner that you’ve had during the day. So there are definite benefits if you can pull this one off!
Your Internal Clock: Work around your strengths
You’ve most likely heard the phrase ‘Biological Clock’ before. The concept that people have times where they would normally be awake and more functional if left to their own devices, and times where they are less functional if you forcibly wake them.
This often comes into place with Teenagers, who tend to have biological clocks that trend towards 12 to 2pm in the afternoon as the ideal time to wake up. That being said, I know plenty of adults who work on this scale, so it isn’t a hard and fast rule. Everyone is different and the same person can have a different biological clock in their 20s to the one that they’ll have in their 30s.
What this means for the purpose of my article here today is that, the time that worked for you pre Covid-19 might not be the time that works for you post Covid-19.
Time has moved on, you have most likely changed and your routine may have as well. Examine your daily routine before you go back to the gym. Do you no longer feel as spry as you once did in the mornings and now really come into your own past midnight? Or conversely, did lockdown turn you into a Yogalates practicing juice drinker? Either is great, as you long recognise it and plan around it.
How About Lunch?
No, I’m not asking you to lunch. In the introduction I mentioned lunch. Now, as you may remember pre-lockdown. A sizable portion of any given office staff in a city love to go the Gym at lunch. It makes sense right? You are in the area, you have an hour to kill. You are mid-way through the day and you’ve just had food or you’ll have some afterwards?
Unfortunately, an intuitive time does not always make a good gym-slot. And that is because of two key things. Overcrowding, and time restrictions.
Post Covid-19, Gyms and Fitness Clubs are going to have to be much stricter on the number of people that can go into any given workout area at any given time. In addition to that, everyone will be spending additional time cleaning any gym equipment they use.
Therefore, unless you plan to spend the entire hour gunning it on a treadmill, everyone’s workout will be taking a lot longer, during a lunch hour that was already pushing it in terms of efficiency.
The only positive for lunch-time workout hour I can see post-Lockdown is that with the rise of Working From Home, actual office workers might be in scarcer supply in the big cities.
But conversely, they will be more prevalent in suburbia. Understand your area and the behaviour patterns of the Gym-Goers in your area for the best, least stressful results.
So you want to use the Best Machines and Equipment?
Every Gym or Fitness Club I’ve ever been to has had certain pieces of equipment in short supply. Sometimes it isn’t even for a lack of trying on the Gym’s part. I’ve seen 3 to 4 Chest Press Machines all be consistently full during a 1 to 2 hour period. Sometimes you just can’t plan for the demand.
As I covered in the last section, this problem is only going to become more acute for, at the very least, a while after the Covid-19 lockdown is lifted.
Gyms and Fitness Clubs will be rightly prioritising hygiene and unfortunately that will result in long cleaning times, especially on the desirable machines.
The implication of this is that if you want to do a workout at your own pace, you are going to have to find a comparatively quiet time, or series of quiet times.
One semi-reliably quiet time at the moment seems to be the very early morning. Getting your workout in while it is still dark out can be a challenge, but also very rewarding. The lack of distraction on that cursed mobile phone we all have will do you the world of good. And, at least for me, starting the day at the Gym really feels like I’ve achieved something before the rest of the world is awake.
If you like structure and minimal wait time between equipment use, then starting the day at the Gym can be a real boon. But as we covered earlier, if your biological clock isn’t ringing until 11:30am, this might not be the one for you.
Closing Thoughts: On Convenience, and whether to be Consistent or Consistently Inconsistent?
Convenience is a double-edged sword, as you might’ve reflected as you read my thoughts on this matter. Any time that might work well for you, might work well for other people.
As such, it becomes important to understand who you are sharing a Gym or Fitness Club environment with. If 40% of the membership is there at 6am everyday, then perhaps it is time to consider going after work.
And equally, as I’ve implied throughout this article, there is nothing saying you have to go at set times of the day. In his autobiography, Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about how he felt he got the most gain when he started training at two separate times of the day. And that seems to have worked well enough for him!
Jokes aside, the best time to visit the Gym will ultimately be the time that works for you. It sounds like a cop out, but it is the truth. Personally, I am someone who thrives when I am doing workouts at irregular times, depending on the day. Before lockdown I’d only ever be found in the Gym immediately after work on a Friday, because I knew it would be dead.
This sort of agile approach can allow you to access the great slots without locking yourself into bad slots. But it isn’t for everyone. I hope you can make the right decision for you, and I hope my thoughts have helped.