When it comes to working out, everyone is different. We all have different sizes, shapes, and schedules, so it makes sense that we might prefer working out at different times of the day or night.

Figuring out your ideal workout time slot is about more than simply knowing when you can fit exercise into your schedule; it's about being aware of your own physical and mental preferences for working out at a particular time of day. Just as some people are night owls and others are morning larks when it comes to work schedules, the same applies to workouts.

How do you know whether you are a lark, owl, or something in between when it comes to your best fitness hour? You need to give some thought to a combination of three factors:

  • Preferences
  • Results
  • Available time

Your preferences about your workout time are important, because you'll be more likely to hit the gym if you do it at a time that you enjoy. Results are another consideration, as you may find that you have an easier time completing exercise, or perform better, at a certain time of day. Finally, you can't overlook the simple facts reflected in your calendar--there may only be a few options available for working out amidst your other daily commitments.

If you've never given much thought to your best fitness hour, then you need to do some research first to help you discover it. For the next two weeks, try working out at different times of the day (if possible try some morning, mid-day, and evening workouts), and record the following in a calendar or notebook:

  • The time of day that you did your workout
  • The type of workout that you completed
  • The length of your workout (time)
  • The distance covered, if applicable
  • How you felt before, during, and after the workout (for example, tired, energetic, sore, motivated, rushed/time-crunched)
  • The results of your workout (for example, you might record improvement from earlier efforts)

After recording these points for two weeks, review the results that you've written down, and see if you notice any patterns. Were your morning workouts so harried that you couldn't enjoy them? Were your evening workouts done when you were so tired after a long day that you didn't feel like working out? Or maybe you discovered that exercising right after work felt much better than before work.

Whatever you learned, use this self-knowledge to set your action plan for success. Plan your workouts around what works best for you, and you'll be much more likely both to find the time to do it, and to stick with it.

Still not sure? Use the following guide to help you think through the pros and cons of each potential workout time:

Morning
Many people swear by their morning workouts, and for good reason. Exercising in the morning ensures that you won't end up skipping your workout later in the day when other commitments crowd your calendar, or unexpected responsibilities arise.

Doing your workout before you leave for work gives you energy and endorphins to jumpstart your day, and means you don't have to worry about squeezing it in later. One drawback of morning workouts is that you may find yourself crunched for prep time before you head into the office.

Mid-Day
The lunch hour provides a natural break in your day where a workout can fit in nicely. If you have access to a gym or outdoor area where you can exercise, mid-day might work well for your routine. A challenge of afternoon workouts on weekdays is that if you don't have access to showers, you may need to avoid workouts that involve working up a sweat.

Evening
PM workouts offer an ideal chance to blow off steam and stress from your workday. With the day's business challenges behind you, the hours after work provide a chance to shift gears from mental to physical work. If you're considering evening workouts, be sure to avoid exercising too late in the day, as workouts within a few hours of bedtime can affect the quality of your sleep.