I’m a morning exercise person. Truthfully, if I don’t workout before 7:30am it’s not going to happen. Starting my day with exercise sets a positive tone for the rest of the day and because my experience has been a good one I encourage others to give morning exercise a try.
However, I know not everyone is a morning person, doesn’t have the time, or has other circumstances that prevent them from getting in a good morning sweat. Maybe you just prefer to exercise after work. Regardless, starting an after work exercise routine takes just as much discipline and work (maybe even more) than a morning one.
Since I’ve never been one to stick to an after work exercise routine I turned to the Organize Yourself Skinny Facebook group to ask for tips from people who diligently make it to the gym after working a long hard day.
Here are their best tips.
#1. Pack exercise gear the night before.
If your life is anything like mine then mornings are crazy. In the midst of morning chaos, it’s easy to forget your exercise gear, especially if it’s not ready ahead of time. My advice is to get your exercise gear ready the night before and either put it by the door or throw it in the car. Don’t trust your morning self to do any more than it needs to do.
#2. Get into exercise clothes before leaving work.
I totally get this one. When I wake up the first thing I do is get into my exercise clothes. I swear this sends signals to my brain preparing me to exercise. If I stayed in my PJs then it would take an act of God to get me off the couch.
The same goes for exercising after work. I worked 40+ hours a week at a college for 15 years so I remember clearly how I felt after a long day. I was exhausted and my brain was focused on getting home and jumping into my velours.
Changing into exercise clothes before leaving work puts your brain in a different place. It gets you out of office mode and ready to exercise. It’s kind of like getting into your after work super hero outfit. I’ve said this many times but I’ll say it again – getting your brain on board is more than half the battle.
#3. Don’t go home first (exercise before dinner)
The moment you walk in the door your brain goes into home mode. Instead of going home head straight to the gym. If you followed my 2nd tip you should already be in exercise clothes ready to work out.
Going home first will send different signals to your brain. Most likely you’ll start to create excuses and convince yourself why you shouldn’t exercise. Too tired. Kids need to get fed. Laundry needs to be folded. The list goes on and on.
The goal is to create a new after work exercise routine. This means you’ll need to change old habits. It’s just the way it is. Remember you don’t change without change. Heading straight to the gym might feel strange at first but after a couple weeks it will become routine.
#4. Arrange childcare
This was a huge issue for me when my kids were younger. First, I worked all day and didn’t want to one more minute away. Second, I felt guilty asking anyone to babysit because they worked too. It was a struggle to do anything after work. We discussed this topic in the OYS Facebook group and I also discussed it with OYS writer Melissa who works full-time and has a strong after work exercise routine.
The consensus is that exercising makes us better people which makes us better parents. When we take care of ourselves we can better take care of others. This is not meant in a selfish way but simply that a healthy lifestyle brings out the best version of us. This means our families experiences the best version of us. Not the leftovers.
With that said, to make exercise a priority, sometimes you need to enlist the help of a spouse, partner, friends, or family. Maybe it’s hard to find someone 5 days a week but it’s likely someone can help out for an hour or so a couple days a week. Or many gyms have childcare at the facility so look into the different options.
I understand trying to build an after work exercise routine can be difficult with children. However, it’s not impossible and if you want to make exercise a priority then it’s important to create solutions instead of excuses. There are options and while it might seem difficult at first it will get easier.
#5. Have dinner prep dinner ahead of time
I know one of the biggest reasons parents don’t exercise after work is because their family needs to be fed.
Well, having dinner prepped ahead of time is the solution. I used to work a lot of nights back when I worked at a college. Instead of ordering pizza for my kids I’d make sure dinner was ready to eat. Taco meat, meatballs, or whatever was on the menu that week, if I wasn’t going to be home I made sure dinner was made ahead of time. Oh and another thing I learn. Your spouse and/or partner won’t die because you’re not home to warm up the tacos. Kids either.
This same concept works well for anyone who doesn’t plan to be home right away to cook dinner. You can prep food on the weekends or get it ready the night before. Honestly, even on nights you don’t make it to the gym having food prepared is such a stress relief. There’s nothing like coming home to healthy homemade food ready to eat.
#6. Have extra ear buds and charger in the car
A simple but important tip. I won’t exercise if I don’t have ear buds so I keep 1 or 2 extra pair in my car at all times. This helps keep the excuses to a minimum. You’re already tired after work so you don’t need a dead phone or no ear buds keeping you from the gym.
#7. Enlist a friend
Back in the early days of my weight loss journey I never felt the need for a workout buddy. However, over the years I’ve experienced the benefits of having a friend there to push me when I didn’t feel like exercising. This was especially helpful when I was training for the Buffalo half marathon.
If it’s hard to stay committed to a routine then going with a friend might provide the accountability you need. It’s hard to let a friend down when she’s waiting for you at the gym. It also nice to have someone their to encourage and celebrate accomplishments with. Changing habits isn’t easy, especially lifestyle habits so enlisting a friend in your efforts can be a game changer for some of you.
#8. Have a great playlist
Take the time to create a playlist, specifically for exercising. Music can help you relax and meditate but it can also motivate and push you beyond your limits. A great playlist can make or break your workout. It can be the difference between walking 2 miles and pushing yourself to run 5. If it weren’t for my playlist I would’ve never finished the half marathon. The music I listened to kept me going even when I wanted to throw in the towel.
#9. Put exercise in your calendar
I live by my calendar. If an event is not in my calendar then it doesn’t exist. Putting exercise into the calendar makes it an appointment, turns it into a priority, and reminds you that it needs to get done. If you share a calendar with family members then this is a good reminder for them too. They’ll see mom is going to the gym after work so they need to step up and take care of things.
#10. Eat and hydrate throughout the day
This is an important tip. Often times I was exhausted and starving by the end of the day because I didn’t drink enough water or eat many nutritious meals and snacks. I’d drink coffee all day and snack on whatever. To stay fueled up for an after work workout eat 5 meals a day with your 3:00pm snack being high-protein and with good carbs. And drink lots of water all day. I suggest starting off with a green smoothie to jump start hydration and then drink water the rest of the day. This will do wonders in keeping you focused and energized.
Here are some recipes I recommend.
#11. Utilize weekends
Even though this post is about an after work exercise routine, I wanted to throw this into the mix. Like I said, I work full-time at a college for many years. I understand the challenges with exercising after work. If it’s difficult to make it to the gym 4-5 times during the week then try for 2 times a week and utilize your weekends.
I know it’s not easy to get to the gym after a long day but also keep in mind you don’t need to spend hours at the gym to get results. A solid 30-minute run will do more for your body and mind then spending that same amount of time sitting on the couch watching the news.
Creating an exercise routine is essential when changing your lifestyle to a healthier one. If your goal is to exercise after work I hope these tips can help out.
I would love to hear from you. Do you exercise after work? What tips did I miss? What would you add?