I’ve written before about the importance of incorporating movement and exercise into your daily life, both for the purposes of health and the benefits to your productivity.
My last post gave you some suggestions for getting up and out of your desk chair during the day, and some clubs and activities to jumpstart your workouts on the weekends.
But how about taking it to the next level? How do you transition from just getting out of your chair to waking up before the sun and pounding the pavement or sweating it out at the gym? We’re all busy, and on the days when getting outside feels like a death sentence, you need some tips and tricks to prevent yourself from making excuses. Here, I offer some more tips; this time, I’m encouraging you to do more than just stand up and walk around. Take your fitness to the next level to improve your mood, increase office productivity and creativity, and feel physically better!
I know that I am a morning person, but maybe not in the traditional sense. I’m certainly more productive and more focused in the mornings, but, man – dragging myself out of bed at 5:30AM when it’s below freezing outside (or even when it’s balmy) sometimes feels completely impossible. Since I know that I’m less likely to haul myself around my usual routes or check into the gym after a long day at work, what’s a sleepy early bird to do? The answer: game your system!
- Go to bed early: obvious, but sometimes easier said than done. Figure out how many hours of sleep you need per night in order to arrive at the office feeling rested, and ensure that you’re going to sleep (read: not in bed watching TV, not reading, not chatting – asleep) in time to get the requisite number of hours. For me, the bright light of a screen is enough to keep me awake for an hour or two after I’ve stopped watching the latest episode of Sherlock, so I make sure to switch to reading when I’m ready to turn in. Figure out what works for you (and what doesn’t), and get to bed in time to wake up early.
- Set an alarm: …and set that alarm on the other side of the room. Odds are, if all you have to do to stop the alarm is roll over and hit snooze, you’ll go straight back to sleep. If you have to roll out of bed and walk a few steps, it’ll be much more difficult to fall back to sleep. If the other residents of your house don’t mind, you can also set your alarm to play loud or jarring music; my go-to on mornings when I know dragging myself out of bed will be like waking the dead is the Dropkick Murphys’ “Shipping Up to Boston”, which is almost like waking up to someone yelling in your ear. Works every time.
- Prep the night before: the less work you have to do before walking out the door, the more likely you are to actually make it. I’m almost exclusively a runner, so for me this means setting out all of my running clothes (don’t forget something reflective!) the night before. If you’re going to the gym, make sure your bag is packed; if you’re going for an early-morning stroll, set out your shoes and some warm clothes. Do whatever you need to do so that everything can be on autopilot when you roll out of bed.
- Start slow: you just woke up. Don’t go 100% until you’re ready; take some time to warm up, adjust to your surroundings, and get in gear for any intense parts of your workout. This is helpful both for the purposes of bringing yourself into wakefulness comfortably (which will help create a better experience for when you need to wake up early again down the road) and prevents injury, since you’re giving your body time to phase into exercise.
So you’re not a morning person – that’s okay! Some people really love working out any stress or fully separating themselves from the workday by working out after they’ve left the office. Here’s the caveat: it’s really, really easy to excuse yourself from a workout by telling yourself how difficult the day was, how much work may lie ahead that night, or how hungry you are for dinner. I’ve been known to skip an evening workout because “parking just took too long.” These snowball eventually, to the point where you may find yourself writing off a workout for weeks at a time with a series of prescribed excuses.
I noted that I’m not a big fan of evening workouts, and that’s mostly because I am excellent at coming up with the above-mentioned excuses. When I do need to do an evening run (if, for example, I went to bed too late the night before to get my requisite hours of sleep), I make sure to plan for it in similar ways. Some of my tips:
- Pack your gym clothes: like setting out your workout clothes the night before, having your gym clothes and accouterment packed and ready to go right after work will make a trip to the gym or the process of getting out the door infinitely smoother and more convenient. Plus, you won’t have to go hunting for that missing sock. One less thing to use as an excuse!
- Plan for food: I live in a neighborhood where searching for a parking spot can take upwards of 30 minutes, and as I mentioned, I’ve frequently used this as an excuse to skip the gym. When you need to schedule an evening workout, plan for contingencies like this – know that you’ll be eating dinner a little later, and plan to have a small snack midday to combat any hunger.
- Stick to a routine: don’t head to the gym without a plan for your workout, whether it’s 30 minutes on a stationary bike or a full-hour circuit. It’s easy to skimp on a workout when you don’t have a set plan or goal, so make sure you know what you’re getting into when you walk in the door or hit the pavement. This is also a good way to prevent injury, since you can plan to mix up what you’re doing each time.
Working out isn’t always easy, but it’s so necessary – it’s been shown to improve mood, boost creativity, and increase productivity, so in effect it will help make you better at your job. Our industry thrives on creative, productive people, so again – get out and get moving, in whatever way and whatever time works best for you!