Work It Out In The Morning, Or At Night? - A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss

Work It Out In The Morning, Or At Night?

Work It Out!

A question that people often ask me is whether I prefer to work out in the morning or at night. I’ve often quipped that they should just “saddle up and do both!” but that’s often not an option for a busy woman.

Realistically, I feel like both have served their purposes very well at different stages in my life, and I don’t mind sharing what each did for me, and when.

When I first started working out, I’d go in the evenings. I know I’ve written about this before, but my beginning steps into working out were rough ones. Very rough ones. I could work out for a good hour, but man, I’d only burn half of one dish! I ate so poorly that even though I was putting in at least 12 hours a week at the gym, I didn’t see the results that my efforts deserved. However… the ability to resolve a day’s worth of stress on the chest press machine? I valued that! That client who drove me up the wall without a way down? Oh yeah, I took that anger out on the seated leg press machine. Those looming deadlines that I knew were coming and dreaded? I ran from ‘em on the treadmill. Oh yeaaaaaah.

Working out in the evenings means you have motivation to go harder in your workout. You can think of every mess up that you made – “Indulged in that Taco Bell Diet, did we? Oh no, you need to suffer for that!” or maybe “You know you didn’t need that latte this morning! Take that! Take that!” – and use that as a reason to push yourself beyond your original breaking points.

…even though you shouldn’t be messing up. :)

When I left my gym, I dropped all of the equipment and just walked. I’d hit the path around the lake and just go around and around and around for a good 45 minutes. It was the rule in my house – directly after dinner, I’d head out. Some nights it’d feel so good outside that I couldn’t wait to get out there, and I’d feel refreshed and relaxed upon my return home. The perfect way to calmly wind down a long day, it absolutely was.

When I realized that I was slimming down pretty quickly, I started stepping my game up. I did strength training exercises like stretches and yoga, various at-home exercises in the mornings. At night, I’d hit the dusty trail around the lake. That worked out wonderfully for me, because I had everything that I needed to workout at home at my disposal. Made it easy, made it free. No excuses.

Now, I get up in the mornings and I hit the cardio first. Why? Because all day, I’m gonna be thinking about how I kicked my own behind on the treadmill, and I’m going to use that as a reason to refuse to allow a cheeto to get in my way! Not only that, but it gives me a safe and healthy way to wake up without going on about my day half-awake.

I’m slowly bringing back my two-a-days – doing cardio and my basic daily routine in the morning, and more cardio coupled with yoga and strength training at night. For me, this is how I alleviate my stresses, motivate myself to behave better throughout the day, and give myself an opportunity to both wake up fully before engaging in my day and wear myself out before bedtime.

For me, my workout is my time for peace. I focus my thoughts. I relax. I prepare. I sort myself out mentally. It’s my time away from business, from responsibility, from drama. It’s the few moments of the day when I can truly focus on bettering myself. Some of us will need that kind of focus in the mornings before we embark on a difficult day, and some of us will need that to regroup ourselves so that we can get a restful sleep. As long as I’m still putting that effort into myself, it doesn’t matter if I do it during the 25th hour of the day.. I’m still getting it in, and I’m taking care of me.

So in short (these are never really short, are they?), I see the benefits to doing each option individually, as well as just buckling down and trying to do both. What about you? When do you get your workout on, and why? How does it work out for you?

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes health, fitness, nutrition, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She now lives in New York with her family, and is working on her 4th, 5th and 6th certificates.

32 Comments

  1. PhluffyPrincess

    March 11, 2010 at 1:59 AM

    I’ve finally gotten past my “i hate mornings” mindset and began to work out in the mornings. i love getting it out of the way and not risking being “too busy, tired, hungry, lazy” later. i keep telling myself i can always do another session in the evenings as bonus but i haven’t gotten there yet! lol.

  2. Randi

    March 11, 2010 at 9:18 AM

    I used to work out at night all the time mainly because it was so hard to wake up. A few weeks ago I switched to working out in the mornings twice a week just to get a feel for it. Well guess what? I love it. I feel like I have my whole day ahead of me and my night routine of helping my kids with their homework & cooking is less hectic.

    The only thing is 3 days of waking up by 6 is more than enough. More than that and my body just can;t function.

    So I am in agreement they both have their benefits and it’s all what works for you.

  3. DazzlingRayn

    March 11, 2010 at 9:32 AM

    PhluffyPrincess, that’s exactly why I like going first thing in the morning. Nothing will get in my way! I would love to have the time to go twice in a day. Maybe this summer? What a novel idea to try to schedule your day around your workouts and not the other way around…

  4. cici

    March 11, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    It just depends. Some times I love waking up early and working out because it fuels me for the rest of my day. Sometimes I just like to take a walk in the morning because it helps my creativity. Then other times I enjoy the evening work outs because they are great stress relievers. The walk after a long day is great for reflections. I love doing two-a-days when I have the time. Working out is the easiest, best ‘high’ that we can give our bodies.

  5. ChellBellz

    March 11, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    I’m training myself to wake up @ 5…I get the clock to go off, but now I’m starting to nap until 5:30…I really need to get to bed at a decent time.

    • nicole

      March 22, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      That is my problem. getting to bed at a decent time. If I just turned off that idiot box (tv) I could do it.

  6. Andrea (AJ) Plaid

    March 11, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    See, I’m the opposite: I love working out after work. It allows me to recenter myself after a day in the office, where I deal with fools all day. I burn off that energy by doing hatha-based yoga for 30 minutes when I get home or taking tango/milonga lessons after work. Been doing that–along with watching what and how much I eat–since January. To date, I’ve lost 10 lbs. and am in 6 lbs. of my weight goal!

  7. BAnjeeB

    March 11, 2010 at 7:55 PM

    I like to workout in the morning. I’m an early riser by nature, and I like the early morning crowd more than the evening crew. I have a mental block when it comes to doing a workouts in the evening. However, I have recently incorporated yoga into my routine and that class is in the evening. I find it easier to go to a class than do my own workout after work.

  8. Frankie1882

    March 13, 2010 at 1:23 AM

    I’m not a morning person. I pretty much wake up with just enough time to get ready for work, then I’m out. I used to work overnight, and I already had a hard time sleeping during the day, so I didn’t get much sleep. But if I wake up 2 or 3 hours before I have to actually be at work, I’m sleepy again by the time it’s time for me to get ready for work.

    So I like to work off the stress of the day at the end.

    But my question is, is it better to do cardio first, or strength-training/weights first? I’ve seen arguments for both sides.

  9. Lisa

    March 17, 2010 at 8:25 AM

    I much prefer to work out in the evenings, but with school, I am going to have to reconfigure my life. Right now I’m very busy so I’ve had to focus much harder on my diet, but I am dedicating myself back to the gym and a regular course of working out when this semester is over.

  10. Tonda

    March 23, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    I work out in the am, it’s the least busy time of day however if I’ve had a poor nights sleep I will try to get it in in the evenings.

  11. PixelFish

    April 11, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    Working out when you can is good when you first get started. After a while you start noticing the tangible benefits.

    I know not everybody’s body chemistry is the same, and I may be one of the lucky ones who does feel the elusive “runner’s high”….it helped me to work out mid-day when I was battling depression, since I knew that once a day, I was going to be feeling completely awesome. Mid-day workouts also can help recharge the creative juices at a job. I’d workout during lunch and grab a protein drink and some fruit afterwards.

  12. colette

    June 3, 2010 at 7:56 AM

    I am a early bird. I’ve done the kickboxing and such but always had a reason not to go to class. Well I’ve hit 200 lbs and don’t like it so I got me a personal one on one trainer. We meet twice a week at 6:30am and do a 45 minutes workout; I’ve gone organic on a few choices and am working my way up to better eating; and I am trying (really hard) to go to the gym the other days. My goal is for September to shed many of these pounds and inches…but I’m already stronger and can see it when I am planking and such! Tks

  13. Felicia

    August 15, 2010 at 12:24 AM

    I enjoy working out in the evening. I agree that both options, morning or night are good, but if you trying to lose weight, I think in the evening is better. I stretch first, hit the weights (increasing resistance weekly), then do up to 500 calories of cardio. I had to work my way up to burning 500 calories but if you are just joining the gym 200 calories is fine. People ask me why I do weights first then cardio and does it matter. My answer is yes it does matter. Our muscles have fat stored in and around them. Fat cells need to be activated and the only way they are activated is if your muscles tell them to. Once your fat cells are activated, then your body is able to burn fat utilizing weight lifting and cardio. So if you do cardio first, you wont burn any fat, you will actually be losing muscle mass.

    • Erika

      August 15, 2010 at 1:27 AM

      I don’t know.. I think it depends on one’s day. What works best for me won’t always work best for the next person, you know?

      As for this “losing muscle mass/activate your fat cells” business, I’m inclined to call that a myth. Not only does it sound impractical in comparison to how the body is built to function (being active causes you to lose the stuff that makes activity easier?), but the idea that fat cells need to be “activated” in order to do their jobs (which is serve as an energy source) sounds a bit far-fetched to me.

      I, personally, do cardio after my weights but that has more to do with the fact that I don’t want to be cardio-sweaty all on the weight machines. I prefer to leave cardio and head straight for a shower. LOL

      You’ll find lots of differing opinions on the topic, but as far as using “how the body works” as the foundation for such? I’d prefer that we keep it as accurate as possible. That just doesn’t look accurate to me. I’m pasting a couple of different resources below to take a look at, but as far as your body needing “activation” to do its job.. I’d need to see some other solid information before I embraced that. Be sure to pay special attention to this:

      “You start using protein (perhaps from muscle, as well as other amino-acid-containing components in the body) for energy under extreme conditions such as starvation and at the tail end of long, hard endurance events where carb stores are in short supply. The average person who works out does not need to worry about this.” – [source]

      Resources:

      http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/satter2.htm
      http://weighttraining.about.com/od/techniquesandstrategies/a/cardio_weights.htm
      http://weighttraining.about.com/od/fatlossweighttraining/a/fat_burn.htm
      http://www.creators.com/health/joe-weider/mixing-cardio-and-weightlifting.html
      http://health.msn.com/fitness/articlepage.aspx?cp-documentid=100138677

  14. Causticstorm

    August 18, 2010 at 1:16 AM

    What about those of us who wake up at like..4pm, because we went to bed around 8-9am? (I work third shift). Does it matter if you do it when you wake up? Can 4pm be my ‘morning’?

    • Erika

      August 18, 2010 at 11:04 AM

      It sure can – think in terms of “first thing” and “last thing.” :)

  15. Morgan B

    February 1, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    Right now I’m in grad school and I have a part time job as a cashier. During the week and on Saturdays, I like to get my workout in first thing in the morning before work and school because after class in the evening I just want to come home and unwind (though I am finding I need to pull myself away from the TV more when coming home, but that’s another story)..Fridays and Sundays I usually go in the evening to the gym..really its about just getting in for me!

  16. Lorrie

    February 8, 2011 at 2:25 PM

    I workout between 5-7 days a week. The goal is always 7 but with 3 boys of which 2 are teenagers that doesnt always happen. I do strength training, swimming, I used to do step aerobics (not so much anymore), interval run & walk on the treadmill and elipticle machines. I take my boys with me to the gym, my oldest has his own membership (that I pay for because his health is worth my investment) and we workout for an hour or two. My youngest boy I have him focus on cardio but of course because he is a boy he wants to do weights but he is a bit young for that…lol. The oldest stays on that darn basketball court – he lives there, and my middle son loves to swim (and spends most of his time on his brand new birthday bicycle! It is a professional bike built for speed and made locally with environmentally friendly products – if thats even possible…lol, it sounds good though). So the gym offers many workout options I always change up my routine and utilize the on-site trainers when I feel my workout is becoming too easy. Right now, I have been told I need to lay off the cardio and focus more on strength training so for the last month or two I eased myself into a good weight strengthening routine. I was already strong so it didnt take long to hit a plateau. I was doing 5 reps of 10 slowly to feel the burn (but it stopped burning..lol) so starting today I am to begin doing 3 reps of 10 with heavier weight combined with lock holds. My goal is to graduate to the stair master machine AND to finally one day commit to spin class for one month (twice a week) straight just to see if I would get any results. The trainer said I also need to begin doing lunges! I am not quite mentally ready for that but my core strength is there now, so I have no excuse. When I was working late mornings I would workout in the morning and evening but now only evening – I am not a morning person, but my goal is to get up at 6am and workout for 20 minutes in morning before work. I also like the idea of walking the neighborhood after dinner. Unfortunately for me, I do not like the neighborhood we live in currently so we try to go the gym in the evenings after dinner most of the time….whoo, that was a mouth full.

  17. Tee

    June 12, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    I love doing both.I work out at my lunch by walking 2 to 2.5 miles. I get an hour for lunch so this helps to boost my energy. Then After work I hit the weights with 20 minutes of cardio. This helps to end my day on a good note. Working out in the morning has been very challenging for me. Im just being lazy, lol want to sleep in.

  18. cjbbbw

    March 21, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    I am not a morning person. But I like doing morning workouts it leaves me evenings free and I’m not thinking about working out all day. Right now I have a love hate relationship with the gym but I want to love it! SMH

  19. Laurie

    June 29, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    Today is my first day of working out. Aiming to do my exercise bike every day after work until I can build some endurance.

    Getting motivated to actually get my butt up on that seat is a killer at the moment.

  20. Kay Tee

    September 2, 2012 at 5:02 PM

    Though I’m up every morning at 4am – I prefer to work out in the early afternoons. I’m normally at the gym between 2:30-3:30 almost every day….good time to go = gym isn’t as crowded.

  21. msdebbs

    September 4, 2012 at 2:33 AM

    I work an overnight 3rd shift so this was a toss up for me. I’m too tired to workout in the mornings when I get off so I workout in the afternoon/evenings before work.

  22. Contesa Tate Live

    September 20, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    I agree. I work out in the morning and at night. Working out in the morning helps curve my appetite for the rest of the day. Working out at night helps me to go straight to sleep and wake up refreshed. So i definitely recommended doing both. FYI I’m a supppppeeeerrr busy mom. With Grad school, 1 year old daughter, super active in ministry, job and tutoring on the side. IF I CAN DO IT SO CAN YOU! Stay encouraged everyone!

  23. Gail

    December 10, 2012 at 7:42 AM

    I’m an early bird so morning, the earlier the better, works for me. Long ago I discovered that evening workouts are like a pot of coffee…I won’t be able to sleep.

  24. Symintha

    February 17, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    I do my cardio first thing in the morning at 4 am. I hit hard for about 60 minutes (running). Then I do another workout about 3 times a week at the gym hitting the weights. I was doing yoga for a little bit and I plan to go back to doing a yoga class or doing some of my tapes. I’ve just had a lot going on. I find that when I do my cardio in the morning I feel like I have more time in the evenings. Because I am in Grad school I need the extra time in the evening.

  25. Nell

    March 21, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    Because I have to be at work by 6:15 a.m. I have to work out in the early evening…it helps me to decompress but on the weekends I can get it in during the a.m. because I still wake up crazy early as if I have to be at work. I do miss early week day morning workouts though because they made me have so much energy for the entire day; now I have to pep talk myself around 2:30 to go to the gym.

  26. Kristen

    August 26, 2013 at 11:00 PM

    I much prefer working out after work. I have Jazzercise and Zumba M-F and also some nights still walk w/my husband. Even if I have a crazy bad work day, I come home from class relaxed, sweaty and happy! I also sleep much better the nights I work out

  27. Tanya

    November 21, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    I have special place for both in my life. Mornings are great for the days I want to do aqua aerobics , and evenings are perfect for Cardio, & weight training. I also include midday Yoga 1-2 times a week.

  28. Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health

    January 28, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    I couldn’t wait to read this post because I am always soooo fascinated by morning work out people. Girl, I have been trying to do this for YEARS lol I normally would workout at night (keyword, would- I have fallen off so much and am trying to get back into the gym jam) but I was always so intrigued by the thought of doing it in the morning, I IMAGINE it feels so good, but I can never get my butt up to do it! lol

  29. Denice

    October 31, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    A little late to the discussion…LOL
    I work out in the AM and the PM. I get up at 5am do my cardio 5 days a week and just added strength training 3 mornings a week. I run 2 evenings a week at a local high school track and I am joining a local running club. I have 50.2 lbs to lose to get to my initial weight-loss goal: my driver’s license weight of 170 lbs! I have a picture of myself at 120 lbs from 1985…and one from just 2 years later when I was 128…I remember thinking “man, I look fat” in the picture but I’d only gained 8 lbs!!! I got up to TWICE that before I decided enough was enough!! It’s taken me almost 3 years to lose 30 lbs because I’ve been lazy about working out and a refusal to change my eating habits. Well, now I’m determined to get healthy and lose this weight once and for all! So glad I found this site! Love your blogs and posts, so thanks chica!!!

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