After a long day at the office, you're probably tired from work, meetings, phone calls and more. While you're not necessarily in the mood to go work out after clocking out, the benefits of exercise -- burning calories, flexibility, de-stressing, etc. -- can leave you feeling healthy and rejuvenated and ready to take on the next workday. So how do you stay motivated to hit the gym instead of hitting happy hour or the couch? Fitness experts say putting structures in place is key to keeping your after-work fitness plans on track.
Bring your exercise clothes, shoes, a water bottle and snacks with you to work. That way you won't have take extra time to stop home and potentially get sidetracked or find excuses. Joey Daoud is the founder and CEO of New Territory Fitness, an online fitness coaching company that works with office workers and companies remotely. He says if it takes you more than 15 minutes to get to a gym, that could be reason enough for you to skip working out.
"When exercising after work, you want to keep things as easy and decision free as possible," he says. The easiest workout to fit into a schedule is running or walking in the area around your work. "It requires the least amount of gear and is free," says Daoud. "Better yet, recruit a few coworkers to run together to create an accountability group and keep the healthy habit going."
*Make It Convenient
Hit the gym right after work, especially if your employer offers it, or choose a gym location that's close to your office or home.
"If your office has a gym, take advantage of it," says Crystal McFerran, senior vice president of channel marketing for an IT support company in Texas. She works out before leaving the office. "Our office has a phenomenal gym, saving me money on a gym membership and making it incredibly convenient to work out after work."
The benefits stack up for McFerran, who exercises three to four times a week after work and credits the on-site gym with helping her stay focused and fit, as well as missing the heavy traffic on her commute home.
Make an appointment with yourself to sweat. Pilates instructor Caroline Topperman urges you to book fitness into your schedule. "We don't often skip doctor appointments, so think of the gym as just that," she says. "This is an appointment for your health and it's written in your calendar." Structured time keeps you accountable and allows you to look forward to an hour of self-care.
Starting a steady routine ensures that you won't burn out or drop your plans altogether. Certified personal trainer and gym owner Cat Kom runs an at-home workout solution called Studio SWEAT OnDemand. She says, "You can't just go from zero to hero, or five days a week hardcore." Two to three days a week is a reasonable and maintainable goal that will likely help you see fitness time as a treat, rather than a burden.
Set yourself up for success by finding a fitness community to keep you accountable. That could mean working out with a buddy or signing up for group spinning or dance classes. "Sweating it out together and being able to relate to one another, is key to sticking to a routine," says Kom. "It also helps you to know you're not alone throughout the fitness process." Think of exercise as an opportunity to disconnect from your desk and connect with people.
*Focus on Feeling Great
Even if you dread working out, and regardless of the intensity of the workout, it's almost undeniable that you feel accomplished just from sticking to your plan and moving your body. Use that mood and energy boost to keep you motivated.
Working out has many physical benefits, but it's also great for your brain. "It's a great way to decompress after the day, gather your thoughts, process any difficult challenges and take some personal care time," says Daoud. If you give yourself time to manage your physical well-being, the benefits will show up in all other areas of life as well.
We all have that moment after a long day when we want to go home and decompress with takeout. That's understandable. And luckily, these tips make it easy to officially cross your excuses off the list and start working toward a more physically, mentally, emotionally fit you.