Ever wonder how some people stay so fit when they have a full-time job? While it’s easy to assume they’re super human or have wildly flexible hours, there’s a third possibility: Plenty of nine-to-five employees have discovered a realistic way to balance fitness with a hectic work-life.
Before we get into the basics, it’s important to stress that exercise goes well beyond six-pack abs and better fitting jeans. Regular workouts can improve health, happiness, and productivity, and boost energy during and outside of work hours. Regular exercise has also been shown to reduce sickness, lower stress, and boost brainpower. (Before you know it, regular visits to the gym may translate to a raise.) Read on to learn how to better incorporate fitness into your busy work life.
How to stick to a routine
Here are tips to help make exercise a habit, no matter how busy your work schedule.
Seeing progress is a great way to stay motivated. Use a digital or paper fitness journal to keep tabs on how many miles you run or walk, calories you burn, when you hit the gym, or any other metric that matters to you. Logging this data can help you stay accountable and keep moving forward.
Take it step by step
No matter your level of exercise, it’s important that you don’t do too much, too soon. This is especially true if you’re starting to incorporate workouts into a busy workweek. Stay slow: A 20-minute run or a short body weight workout is a good place to start.
Bring a buddy
A friend is a perfect way to stay accountable, even if it means a 5 a.m. wakeup call. Studies show support from friends and family can go a long way in the weight room.
Do it for you
Science doesn’t lie: If you’re motivated to work out because you love it, a feeling that’s also known as intrinsic motivation, you’ll see better results. Self-motivation can go a long way; if you truly believe you can push yourself for the right reasons, exercise will be a rewarding part of life rather than a chore or a punishment for unhealthy behaviors.
Staying active with a full-time job is no easy feat. Make sure you take time to reward yourself for sticking it out, even when an upcoming deadline or performance review stresses you. Go out to eat with friends, buy a new pair of jeans, or do something else that makes you feel good. Make sure to take some rest days—at least one to two per week.
Mix it up
Slogging on the treadmill every day after work can bore anyone enough to give up exercise. Mix up your routine with cardio, weights, yoga, and rest. Experiment with different times for exercise, too.
Stay at home
Perhaps the easiest way to workout is to cut out the commute. If a car ride to the gym deters you or the weather isn’t so great, there are countless ways to exercise right at home with YouTube videos, online classes (like those offered by Daily Burn and mindbodygreen), or the workout below.
When to work out
Some people are early birds while others like to save exercise for the evening. If you’re lucky, you may even have the flexibility to workout during the day. Here are the advantages to each.
Early bird gets the worm (and also gets exercise out of the way first). For most people, a morning workout also sets the pace for a healthy day, making it slightly easier to say no to office treats or an extra slice of pizza at lunch. It also helps rev the metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day. Try high-intensity-interval training (HIIT) to get more done in less time.
Depending on how early you squeeze in a sweat session, there’s a chance you can avoid gym crowds. Plus, morning workouts mean you won’t have to turn down an office happy hour or trade exercise for any other after-work activity. Morning workouts don’t have to totally derail your routine; sometimes, 20 minutes is all you need to keep your body and mind healthy.
If you work remotely or have a job that allows for a flexible schedule, there are many great reasons to hit the gym midday. In fact, science indicates a midday workout can help combat the 2 pm blues and make you feel more productive when you return to your desk. That seems like the best lunch break ever—just make sure to fuel up properly with a healthy post-workout snack when you return to work.
With a hectic work schedule, sometimes evenings are the best option. While working out after a long day at the office may sound like a drag, there are some great advantages to being an exercise night owl.
For starters, it’s a great way to release tension or stress from the day. Also, contrary to previous research, some studies now suggest that people who lift in the evening have better quality of sleep than people who workout in the morning. And if you go after the 5 p.m. rush hour of exercisers, you’ll likely avoid major crowds at the gym.