Get Healthy: How to Start Working Out Before Work

You’ve got the best intentions, but let’s be honest – at the end of a long, draining day’s work, who really has the energy to hit the gym or hop on a treadmill? Yeah, me neither.

Research suggests that you’re more likely to stick to an exercise routine if you schedule it in the morning, when you’re fresh, rather than later in the day when it could get pushed aside by other demands on your time. Plus, Science Daily reports that exercising before breakfast helps you burn more fat than waiting until later.

Even if you’re not an early bird, taking a few minutes to get the blood moving first thing in the morning will get you off on the right foot. Exercise can improve your mental clarity and focus, boost your metabolism, and improve your mood – but only if you figure out how to make it happen each day.

Choose an activity you like

If you really want your exercise routine to stick, you need to pick something you’ll actually enjoy doing. For example, I get bored to tears jogging in place at a gym – but I’ll happily go for a bike ride through nature, or a run in my pretty neighborhood. Strength training exercises like push-ups and lifting weights are similarly hard for me to motivate myself for, but I find going to a climbing gym incredibly fun – and it gives the same results.

Think about how much time you’ll realistically have. Can you carve out an hour for a run or bike ride? If you only have a short amount of time, do some cardio at home with high intensity interval training – I like the videos at Fitness Blender, which you can search based on workout length. Or, do 15 minutes of a repetitive exercise like stair repeats, squat thrusts, or jumping rope. This post at The Doctor Weighs In has some great suggestions.

Even 15 minutes of stretching or yoga will give benefits – and can be a great way to stay in the habit of exercising on the days you’re feeling particularly unmotivated.

Prepare for your morning ahead of time

I’m a brand new runner, and although I like the feeling of having ran, I still have a hard time dragging myself out the door. To get myself in the mindset, I always set my clothes and shoes out the night before I plan to run. Partly, this keeps me from disturbing my partner too much by digging through drawers, but mostly it just puts me in the mindset to run even before I go to bed. “I lay out my clothes, therefore I will get up and run tomorrow.”

Plan ahead for the rest of your day, too. Streamline your transition from workout to work day by laying out your clothes, setting out your lunch and work bag, and preparing breakfast ahead of time.

Fit fitness into your commute

If getting up early for a run sounds like a fate worse than death to you, try working some exercise into your morning commute.

Do you live close enough to ride your bike? Pump up those tires and try it a few days a week. At first the logistics may seem challenging, but once you get a system down it’s quite easy. I used to keep shoes, slacks, and a jacket at my desk to cut down on the clothes I’d need to carry with me, and then arrive early enough to make sure I looked presentable for the day. I also kept sports wipes (like ActionWipes) to freshen myself up once I arrived.

If you drive or take public transportation, consider parking farther away, or getting off the bus a few stops early in order to get some brisk walking in before you head to your desk.

Find an accountability buddy

It’s easy to hit the snooze button when no one will ever know it – but just try hitting it when you know your running partner will be waiting at your front door in 15 minutes. Give yourself some extra motivation by finding a coworker, friend, or neighbor to work out with.

If you can’t think of anyone in your group of friends and acquaintances, check out sites like to find groups dedicated to fitness in your area. After you find a group that looks promising, attend a few of their events to get a feel for the people. Hopefully you’ll meet someone to exercise one-on-one with, or you can arrange a recurring morning event with the group to get you motivated. Spark People also has a robust forum with a section for finding accountability buddies.

You can also set up virtual check ins with friends, if that would help. For several months now I’ve been checking in with a couple of other freelance writers – we post our health goals for the week, update each other on our progress, and send each other reminders to get up and go for walks for time to time. It’s amazing what accountability will help you do.

Do you prefer to exercise in the morning or afternoon? How do you get motivated to work out? Share in the comments below.

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John Zenkewich

Mornings Work best for me. Hardest part is getting to bed early for a full nights sleep. Meeting a training partner makes it easier to get up.

Amanda Rhea

My tour of duty starts at 0600– I already have to get up between 0430 and 0500 just to get ready. So I think the best I’m going to find for an accountability buddy is to get someone to ask me every day if I got up and exercised. But having to report that I didn’t drag myself out of bed may be enough motivation……

Donna Dyer

I switched to early morning workouts this summer–I go to a spinning or circuit training class at a studio that charges you if you sign up for a class and then don’t show up. Money is a great motivator! And now I’m seeing the added results in both my physical and mental health!

Timothy G. Johnson

Evenings work best for me with my schedule. I find that working out after six my energy cycle seems to peak. Besides I am a late night person and rise early at 6:30 am to get ready for another day.