Some Truth…On Walking and Time

Welcome to the first in a series of articles where I address fitness topics Ninjas have asked about. Today I’ll address the role of walking and time-based considerations in the pursuit of fitness glory.

If you have something you’d like to get my take on, leave a comment and I shall write words for you!!

Walking As Fitness

Have you ever seen those magazine covers with a headline along the lines of “walk your way thin?” That’s some silly shit!

Walking doesn’t have a lot of utility for fat loss or even general fitness if it’s your only modality. However, if you’re older and/or very deconditioned, it’s actually not a bad way to ease in. Furthermore, even if you’re already fit, it can be a great supplement to your training regime.

I guess I’m getting older so I’m getting fucking weirder, but I think there’s actually value in power-walking.

Will it drive fat loss? No. Does is it work as a stand-alone modality? Nope. Will you drive remarkable levels of strength or fitness? Or course not.

But it can provide a low intensity cardiovascular training effect. This can be useful for recovery, and helping your nervous system chill the fuck out. And while you’re not going to be burning many calories, you’ll burn a handful in a way that doesn’t stress your body. Furthermore, since it’s not high-impact, most folks can handle a decent volume.

At the end of the day, I think your fitness needs to be anchored around a variety of full body movements that take your joints through full ranges of motions and challenged with a variety of loads. (TWEET THAT SHIT!) But I’m all for upping your overall movement. Humans weren’t designed to live and sit in fucking boxes. So I am all for walking as a supplement (and in some cases, an entry into fitness)!

Best Times For Various Fitness Shit

This one is a broad topic, so I’ll address a few considerations around what “the best times” could mean from a fitness perspective.

A common question is “when is the best time to workout?” I’ve seen research suggesting that 3 or 11 hours after you wake up is best, but I think the clear winner here is “whenever works best for you.”

Anecdotally, it does seem people do better off with consistent times no matter what time of day, but if that’s not an option for you, don’t sweat it. Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

You can certainly argue you’re better off working out after you’ve been awake long enough for your body to warm-up. That said, logistically speaking, many people are more successful with morning workouts, as life is less likely to cockblock them. Additionally, some people are just pooped after a full day at the office, so they’re better off getting it done in the morning.

One time-based consideration is to avoid heavy spinal loading the first 30-60 minutes you’re awake. While you’re asleep, your spinal discs fill up with jizz as part of their nightly rejuvenation process. It’s recommended to avoid aggressive bending or loading first thing in the am.

Another common area of confusion is time considerations in regards to nutrition. The realm of sports nutrition is FILLED with recommendations (and superstition) about what to eat when.

A recent metastudy analysis from fitness superheroes Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon suggests obsessively timing your nutrition intake around your workout is overrated. Most people looking for great fitness results would be better off focusing on the big picture. As long as you’re hitting your nutrition goals for the day, the exact time isn’t super important and unlikely to have much if any effect unless you’re doing multiple training sessions in a day.

Another persistent myth of nutrition is that food eaten late night (or carbs eaten late night) are more likely to be stored as fat. Again, the most important element in health and hotness nutrition is TOTAL intake. Some people prefer to eat bigger meals later in the day. As long as you’re not stuffing yourself to the point where you can’t sleep, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Lately there’s been a push towards another quirky dietary pattern, where food intake is minimized until later in the day. Since total intake is what matters most, this could be a fine strategy, but there’s nothing magic about this approach. As always, the final determinant should be personal preference.

Lastly, it does seem “the best times” for sleep are what you’d expect; when it’s fucking dark outside. I’ve also consistently seen fitness professionals say that “one hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours after.” I’ve never seen an actual explanation for this, and I would guess this has more to do with a person’s natural rhythms.

In the excellent book Brain Rules, author John Medina suggests different people are in fact designed to function better at different times of the day (“hummingbirds” love going to bed early and getting up early; for “owls,” vice versa).

So once again… it seems personal preference is the King of Best Timeslandia.

As an aside, I highly recommend Jay Griffiths book A Sideways Look At Time. It doesn’t have anything to do with fitness, but it is an interesting exploration of cultural concepts of time and how it affects our perception.

Feel free to hit me up on the comments and let me know any other topics you’d like me to discuss!


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