More often than not, getting yourself to the gym is harder than working out itself. So, what's a guy to do if he doesn't have the motivation to slip out of bed at 4 a.m. like The Rock or has an ever-changing schedule?
Michael Morelli, CPT, founder of Morellifit and author of The Sweet Potato Diet: The Super Carb-Cycling Program to Lose Up to 12 Pounds in 2 Weeks (available April 2017) has some ideas. Whether you're a night-shift worker, an early riser, or all-round workaholic, we've got tips to help you get your sweat session in (and make it count!) every time—or at lease close to it.
"I can assure you, if you don’t make time for your health, you will make time for your illness," Morelli says. "We make time for what’s important, and our health should always be number one. Just like guys with regular schedules, if working out isn't one of your top priorities, it's not going to happen.
That said, the key is to consistently do your best. Make sure you don't sign on for too much. If you keep missing workout classes or training sessions because your schedule is too crazy, you could get severely discouraged. "Stay in control and use the small bits of momentum to build and reinforce new habits that move you towards your goals," Morelli says. That can mean going for a class twice a week, meeting with a trainer once or twice, and filling the rest of the week out with solo sessions. Be realistic.
If you're utterly spent after work, sleep, then work out in your "morning" whatever time that might be. Just because your work hours are out-of-the-norm doesn't mean you can't have a consistent schedule like everyone else. And if your schedule is constantly changing from day to night shifts, use the energizing (and likewise sleep-enhancing) benefits of exercise to your advantage. It can help keep your body feeling more normal.
If your job is flexible and you can use your lunch break to get in a sweat session, try these weight-loss routines.
"Everyone's busy and oftentimes crazy schedules are the barrier between training and not," Morelli says. But it doesn’t have to be. "We tend to think (based on what we see on social media) that if we don’t train for 60-90 minutes then there’s no use to even train; but this couldn’t be further from the truth," he adds. Research shows just how beneficial 10-15 minutes of training can be (here are 8 amazing benefits of interval training, backed by science). Or, fit in 1-minute workouts (like this one) throughout your shift.
"The most important component to health, wellness, and longevity, is your nutrition," Morelli says. If you're a night worker and spend your non-busy hours eating donuts and chips, you're not going to feel up to hitting the gym once you're off the clock—mentally or physically.
"It’s absolutely critical, even more so on those days when you just don’t have it in you, that you stay dialed in to your nutrition," he adds. Eating right will prime your body with the right kind of fuel to perform well in the gym, but also keep you from getting set back if you need to miss a workout. You'll find yourself in a better state of mind, too; and, besides, mix a crappy day of eating and no training session, and you're setting yourself up to derail your efforts.
A wonky work schedule can actually work to your advantage. Most gyms will probably be empty when you're not working, so take advantage of all the free equipment. You won't have to wait for machines or free weights to open up, and trainers will be more available to answer any questions.
Also try to make it a habit to pack a gym bag before you go to work. This way you can go straight to the gym without any additional trips that can get you sidetracked.
"No matter where I go, I use the stairs," Morelli says. "I also always park in the last spot (furthest away) and walk to my destination," he adds. These seem simple, but they add up over the course of the week. And, you can burn around 20 percent more calories by altering your walking pace (rather than keeping a consistent speed), a study from Ohio State University found.
"If you live within 5 or so miles, buy a bike and ride to work," Morelli says. "Some of my close friends have found time to exercise on their commutes; and they all say the same thing—they feel ready to take on the world when they get to the office," he adds. Making this a part of your everyday routine will cement it as a habit. Just be intelligent about it. Buy a helmet. Bring a backpack with a change of clothes and deodorant so you're not that guy everyone's dodging in the office.
You can also make sure you're active over the weekend (even if your weekend is on a Tuesday!) Play baseball or kickball, go for a bike ride, and plan active vacations, like hiking and camping or skiing.
Ok, it's 10p.m., you've pulled extra hours at work, done errands, fixed a leaking faucet, and now you want nothing more than to scramble something together to eat, then crawl into bed. This is okay! Acknowledge there will absolutely be days like this, Morelli says. But make sure you get moving the next day. Back-to-back missed workouts will get the ball rolling—but not in a good way.