When you start your day with a workout, you're quite literally starting your day on the right foot. Working out in the morning gives you a natural boost of energy, and those feel-good endorphins can help you navigate any stress that might come your way. Personally, though, the snooze button is my ride or die, and I'll often silence my alarm at least a dozen times before I get up, leaving me with all of about 20 minutes to exercise. But is 20 minutes actually enough for a sweat sesh? How long should a morning workout really be? I've asked myself this question so many times in my half-asleep state, and usually, I just roll over and embrace those extra few minutes of sleep before I ever figure out the answer. Sigh.
I don't know about you, but for some reason, I've always thought that a workout should be about an hour long, regardless of what time of day it is, what you're trying to gain from it, or what you're specifically doing in terms of exercise. Seriously, I'm not sure how or when I arrived at this conclusion, but it's always been ingrained in my mind for one reason or another, so you can imagine my dilemma when it comes to working out in the a.m.
However, according to personal trainer Erik Bowitz, you don't have to be so strict with yourself when it comes to planning out the time for your morning workout.
"The biggest part of the battle is just getting to the gym on a consistent basis," he tells Elite Daily. "If you win the battle of getting into the routine of going, you will inevitably increase the amount of time you spend exercising once you get going."
However, Bowitz says, if you're looking for a more literal answer here, he suggests 30 minutes is a good time to aim for. "This allows an appropriate amount of time to stretch, to warm up, to do 20 minutes of cardio or a workout circuit, and cool down," he explains. "However, you can increase your heart rate via thermogenisis (aka the production of heat) for up to an hour after a workout, so the actual workout duration can vary greatly depending on intensity." In other words, if you do a super intense workout in the morning (think HIIT circuits, sprints, etc.), the effects of that exercise on your body may last much longer than the actual time you spent moving and sweating. So that might mean a shorter, more difficult workout could suit both your morning schedule and your workout goals better than a longer, more low-key workout.
Dr. Alex Tauberg, an evidence-based sports chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist, recommends something similar for an a.m. workout to get your blood pumping: a 20- to 30-minute run. "[Running is] easy to do, and you can do it without having to go to a gym, which saves time," Tauberg tells Elite Daily. "If you have a street you can run on, that is optimal, and then it will probably take you around 10 to 15 minutes to shower and get ready for the rest of your day."
It really comes down to what feels best for you and your schedule, but according to Bowitz, as a general rule for exercise, less is often more.
If you don't have the time for a morning workout, or even if you simply don't feel like doing it one day, Bowitz says it's not really necessary to force yourself to power through. "If you can hit the gym with energy, say, by consuming a cup of coffee beforehand, and once in the gym, you can jump directly into a 10-minute high-intensity training circuit, you will reap the same benefits as someone who slinks into the gym and plods along slowly on a treadmill whilst half-asleep," the personal trainer says. #Relatable.
With so many variables at play, it's probably become clear to you that there simply isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long a morning workout should be. If you ask Bowitz, you're better off concerning yourself with how to summon the motivation to get to the gym, rather than how long you should be there.
Of course, this can be a lot easier said than done, especially when your fuzzy blanket and fluffiest pillow are begging you not to leave. Still, simple tricks like laying out your workout outfit the night before, creating a killer playlist, or enlisting a workout buddy for accountability can all help to nudge you in the right direction so you can actually peel yourself out of bed when your alarm goes off.
When it comes down to it, it's best not to be too rigid with yourself on how long a workout should be, regardless of whether you're sweating your stuff in the morning or at night. Because the thing is, once you find the exercise you love most, and once you simply get your body moving, the rest will follow, my friend.