In my 20s, I was all about heading out to the clubs on Friday nights. But instead of strapping on stilettos, I was lacing up my cross-trainers and hitting another kind of club—the health club. That's right, I was one of those poor saps you see through the gym window, sweating through a workout while everyone else headed to a bar, the movies, or a restaurant. People strolling by probably felt sorry for me. But here's the truth: I loved it. My evening sweat fests were not only some of the most intense workouts I've ever done, they were also the most fun.
But what about all the dire research warning against evening exercise? Maybe you’ve heard that p.m. sweat sessions could bring on insomnia. Or that evening exercisers are less likely to stick with a workout routine. (Hey, at the end of a long workday, TV can be more tempting than the treadmill.) But I maintain that if you do the right workout, it's way more entertaining than back-to-back episodes of Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder. (Sorry, Shonda!)
Turning down karaoke for kickboxing hasn't always been my M.O. though. I adopted this routine because it was simply the only time that exercise fit into my schedule. But once I realized all the amazing perks of nighttime workouts (including the crazy group of night owls that became my close friends), I was hooked. If you've got your morning mojo working for you, by all means keep up your a.m. exercise. But for those of us that dread waking up at the crack of dawn and naturally have more energy at night, here are 12 great reasons to join The Society of Evening Exercisers. (Membership has its privileges!)
1. You don't have to fight the crowds.
When it comes to die-hard exercisers, there are more morning larks than night owls. And while the early bird may get the worm, the late ones get the extra towels, choice of treadmill, and extra elbow room on the weight floor. Have you ever been to the gym during the peak morning rush? Go at night and never again will you fend off the evil eye while filling up that extra large water bottle at the drinking fountain. Plus, now's the perfect time to set up that circuit workout that requires 15 separate pieces of equipment you've been dying to try!
2. You have fewer rules.
Want to use the cardio machines for more than 30 minutes or maybe try out some of the personal training equipment? Gym rules you'd never even think about breaking during daylight hours suddenly get a lot more relaxed when it's just you and the night crew. While you still can't skinny dip in the lap pool (sorry), often they'll let some of the smaller stuff slide.
3. You can turn a boring class into a bash.
One of my regular evening teachers routinely taught our class by the light of a disco ball while the students dressed up in crazy outfits and brought glow sticks. And that wasn’t an isolated incident. Thanks to that anything-goes nighttime vibe, I've done hip hop classes with hotter moves than any VIP room, body pump classes that turned into Beyonce sing-a-longs, and a power yoga class that felt like Cirque du Soleil. Yes, plenty of gyms strive to bring that swagger to all their classes, but it's a lot easier to get on that party bus on a Friday night versus a Monday morning.
4. You can work out harder for longer.
A lot of workout timing research focuses on your mind, but it turns out that your body may be most ready later in the day. One study found muscular function and strength peaks in the evening hours, in addition to oxygen uptake and utilization. This means you can make Kanye proud and go harder, better, faster, stronger. (Bonus: This mantra can double as your playlist.)
5. You can experience the freedom of night runs.
Night owls have outdoor exercise options too. Have you ever run in the dark on a warm summer night? It feels like flying. Just be sure you suit up appropriately and stay aware of your surroundings!
6. You can be more social.
Morning exercisers aren’t a chatty bunch, understandably. They’re rushing to fit in a sweat sesh before class or an early meeting. There’s no time to compare notes on favorite instructors or strike up a conversation about where someone scored their cool kicks. But evening exercisers often make the gym their sole evening plan, so they’ve got the time to be social. Among this cheery crowd, it’s easier to find workout buddies, weight-room spotters, or even just a shared smile and a laugh over a grueling class.
7. You can let out frustrations from a tough day.
Everyone has those moments dealing with a dictatorial boss, a frustrating friend, or gridlocked traffic where you just want to punch something. Working out at night can help you deal with all that rage in a positive way, so you don’t take all that anger to bed with you. Tip: Strangling your pillow when you should be catching shut-eye doesn’t have the same benefits.
8. You'll have calmer mornings.
This point may seem obvious, but not having to pack your gym bag, work bag, stuff both in a locker, and then squeeze in your workout before running to the office (or school) means you'll have a less-rushed morning. You might even have time for a proper breakfast instead of just grabbing a granola bar on-the-go. But the best part? No more 30-second gym showers! You can take your time in the evening. Maybe even enjoy the sauna.
9. You can de-stress.
Not all workouts have to be full-throttle sweat fests. A late-night yoga class can be exactly what you need to let go of the stress of the day so you can really unwind and unplug. Restorative and Yin yoga are the exercise versions of a post-work glass of wine.
10. You can ask for help.
We all like to think we’re masters of the gym, but even those of us who’ve been exercising for years don’t know everything. The more relaxed nighttime atmosphere means that personal trainers will have more time to answer your questions, gym staff aren’t split between as many customers, and even other patrons are more likely to give you a spot or show you how to adjust the squat rack.
11. You can sleep better.
It's true: some studies have found that exercising close to bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep, but one study found that people who lifted weights in the evening had a higher quality and duration of sleep than people who did the same workout in the morning. So while it might take you a few more minutes to conk out, you'll sleep better.