Time to Exercise

A busy lifestyle can make finding the time to exercise a nightmare. Most firefighters, whether paid or volunteer, are employed 40-plus hours a week, help manage a household and family, or both! This puts time on short supply, and unfortunately, one of the first "casualties" is their fitness program. The benefits of exercise, especially for an active firefighter, are too many to disregard. Don't allow a lack of time to sabotage an otherwise successful program. (Read more about the benefits of exercise: Click Here)

When do you exercise?

We surveyed 500 fitness buffs that include members of the fire service and your average Joe, and this is what we discovered. About twenty-eight percent of you exercise any time you can, a dead heat with those who prefer an evening workout. But what's the most popular time to exercise?

Morning got over 200 votes out of 500 exercisers polled (forty-four percent). The least favorite time to train was during the afternoon hours (at only ten percent). Those pesky busy schedules deny most of us the luxury of squeezing in a mid-afternoon session at the gym.

Survey Results

I prefer to exercise ...

  • Mornings - 44%
  • Afternoons - 10%
  • Evenings - 28%
  • Any Time - 28%

Body's Natural Rhythm

Throughout various times of the day there is also a natural ebb and flow of energy that all of us experience. We adapt to our daily schedules of sleep, work, and rest, and actually become stronger during the periods of the day when our bodies instinctively anticipate greater amounts of work (based on previous behavior).

In other words, if you workout every day at 6 PM, your body will get the most from a workout that takes place at 6 PM. Because you've grown accustomed to exercise in the evening, you won't be as energetic and strong during a workout that takes place in the early morning hours. For you, a morning workout will not be quite as effective. Fortunately, any differences will be minor, and a workout that takes place during the morning or afternoon is still far better than no workout at all.

A Recent Study

But according to the latest research, exercising in the morning might not be the best idea. A test conducted at the University of Chicago found that certain levels of two important hormones responsible for energy metabolism, and fat burning (Thyrotropin and Cortisol) rose most during exercise that took place during the evening hours.

Practicality Rules

So should you rearrange your life around exercise just to ensure an evening workout, or a workout that happens at the same time every day? Researchers are apt to answer a very adamant no! Ultimately, finding enough time (and energy) to exercise, no matter what the time of day, is most what's important.

Don't be discouraged by The National Academy of Science's, Institute of Medicine latest report, recommending one hour of daily exercise. This recommendation includes all of our daily activity, and makes allowances for more intense exercise such as weight lifting or circuit training.

Ideally, stick to your scheduled program, but here are 7 ways to get around a busy lifestyle and still find time to stay in shape.

1. Shrink to Fit

2. Start Your Day 30 Minutes Earlier
Set the alarm clock for 30 minutes earlier and hit the gym before your day or tour of duty starts. Eventually your body will adjust to the earlier wake up call.

3. 30 Minute Lunch Hour
Split your lunch hour or meal period in two, and devote half an hour to exercise before you eat. This will also help curb your appetite, and make it easier to cut lunch-time calories. This works especially well if you department schedules an uninterrupted meal period into you tour.

4. Stay Later
Most firehouses have some exercise equipment if not a full blown gym. Remember, with just a bench and a pair of dumbbells, you can get in a challenging, effective workout before leaving the station house.

5. Walk to Work
If at all possible, walk or bike ride to and from the firehouse. Of course, this only applies to those of you who live within walking or riding range. Be creative, use this strategy for whatever situations you can, such as walking to the bus or train station, grocery store, or picking up the kids at school.

6. Double Up
Create combination workouts that you can perform two or three times weekly. For example, put together 10 to 15 minutes of strength training with 20 or 30 minutes of cardio training two or three times a week.

7. Circuit Train
Combine strength training and cardio into one workout by performing a series of resistance exercises with very little rest between sets. In this way you can get the two-for-one effect of fat burning and muscle building in one 20 or 30 minute workout.

As firefighters, we owe it to ourselves, and the people we serve to keep our bodies in the best possible condition. Unfortunately, our busy lives can take over and prevent us exercising at all. Don't allow strict guidelines on when to exercise wind up as less exercise. Be flexible in your scheduling, and do what you can, when you can to get the most from any exercise program.

Michael Stefano is a 20-year veteran of New York City Fire Department, currently serving in the rank of captain, as well as author of The Firefighter's Workout Book, and creator of the Firefighter's Workout video.

He has been developing exercise programs for the firefighters he's worked with and the general public for the past seventeen years. His workout routines and articles have been featured on such internet giants as America Online, Yahoo!, eDiets, and iVillage.

"To find out more about The Firefighter's Workout Book, or get more of Captain Mike's fat burning, muscle building workouts, go to: www.firefightersworkout.com.