Work. It takes up 40 hours of the week, leaves us drained, and creates an environment that can be a nightmare for your fitness goals. Even though it may seem like an impenetrable barrier at times, there are many ways that you can reach goals despite the obstacles that the 9-5 might place in your way.
I started an internship this summer that goes 8:30 to 6pm four days a week. The adjustment of working from home as a graduate teaching assistant to this was steep. I can’t hit the gym for an hour every day. I can’t stock food in my fridge to eat my leisure. I can’t put anything off for later in the day. But two weeks have passed, and I feel like I found my groove. Here are 10 ideas to stay fit while you work.
1. Pack your lunch
Eating out is one of the easiest ways to wreck your diet and stall your progress. Restaurants constantly prepare food with large amounts of oil, butter, cheese, salt, sugar– you name it— so that it tastes good. Of course, head to lunch with your co-workers once in awhile, but the vast majority of the time you should pack, and track, your own lunch. Plus you will save money while you make money!
2. Plan your day the night before
As part of your nightly routine, get in the habit of pre-tracking your day. Decide what you will eat for breakfast, what you are packing for lunch, preparing for dinner, and when you will get to the gym. It is much easier to stick to a plan than to just see what happens. Of course plans will change, but if you start out with a strategy you will be much more likely to succeed with your goals.
3. Stream line your morning routine
Starting off the day in a hurry will set you up for disaster later. Imagine being stressed as you run out of the door only to find donuts waiting in the office. Stress is a huge trigger that can lead to food decisions outside of your goals. Start your day as relaxed as possible so you have a clear head going into your shift. Also, the quicker you are in the morning, the longer you can sleep (see below).
4. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is crucial for a healthy body. Getting some zzzzz’s will help with the stress thing (see above) and can help manage hunger. The recommended range for adults is 7-9 hours a night. At first that might seem unattainable, but all you need to do is work backwards. If you need to be at work at 8, try to sleep until 7. Now you can go to bed at 11 p.m. and still have eight hours a night! My commute is less than 10 minutes (20 if I bike), so I have the advantage of sleeping until 7:45. If you have a longer commute, packing the night before is even more important to help you maximize efficiency (and sleep) in the morning.
5. Eat protein for breakfast
Breakfast foods are traditionally full of carbohydrates for “an energy boost,” but try not to fall into that trap. Carbs digest quickly, thus the boost, but leave you feeling hungry again just as quickly. Try to work protein into breakfast so that you won’t be hit by the mid-morning snack attack. Eggs are a wonderful source of lean protein that will keep you on track calorie wise (1 egg is about 70 calories and 6 grams of protein for no carbs). Plus they can cook while you get ready. If you need something quicker, adding protein powder to microwave oatmeal can also increase the sweetness, flavor, and protein content without sugar and calories.
6. Drink lots of coffee, green tea
Caffeine is your friend. Caffeine helps suppress appetite while acting as a stimulant. You will be firing on all cylinders without the calories of food. BEWARE of creamers that are rich in sugar, fat, and calories. Look for sugar-free varieties and try to drink your coffee or tea as black as possible.
7.Drink lots of water
When it is no longer acceptable to have coffee (if that is possible!) switch to water. Try to refill your water bottle at least three times during your work day. The dense water will keep your belly full while hydrating your entire system. If you like a little flavor, I enjoy a lemon or lime slice in my water!
8. Stay away from the break room
Cindy brought muffins. Bob has bagels. Here is a random bowl of jelly beans. The break room can be a trap for delicious, but empty calories. If you know that bagels are your weakness, try to avoid the room as much as possible. If Cindy makes the best muffins in the world, it is okay to take some– I mean they better be the BEST though. Consider cutting one in half OR make sure you balance that later in the day. Remember that you are not on a diet, you are living a lifestyle—eat that delicious muffin once in awhile.
9. Take a walk
Sitting for eight hours makes it difficult to stay on track, so make sure you take breaks throughout the day. When you use the bathroom, consider the one upstairs rather than just down the hall. Take twenty minutes to walk around at lunch. Even a short walk is better than no walk! If you can find a co-worker to walk with, double points for Gryffindor!
10. Make time to go to the gym
The number one excuse for not going to gym is that there is not enough time. But, there is enough time (remember you can go to bed at 11 and still get enough sleep!). It is not a matter of “no time” but rather a matter of “not making time.” Utilize your days off for a great gym sesh, but schedule at least three workouts into your work week. Whether you go before, right after, or night, make time in your day to sweat for 30 minutes. That is only 4% of your day, do it! I have started going on my lunch break. My gym is 5-9 minutes away plus 10 minutes to change and shower. With all the driving and changing I still have 30 minutes to workout! Of course, I quickly eat at my desk after, but it is all about priorities. Now when I get home, I don’t have to worry about it!