Exercise is good. You should exercise.
Right. But many of us eight-to-fivers struggle to find the time or motivation to exercise during the work week. You know those sadistic people who willingly spring out of bed in the pitch black and knock out a triathlon and a CrossFit class all before you’ve hit snooze for the first time? Yeah, I hate those people too. That leaves me with a pretty firm, two hour window immediately after I get off work and before I become viciously hungry for dinner, in which to exercise.
Today, like so many other days, I found it a good idea to decimate a bacon cheeseburger and fries at lunch. And believe me, there’s nothing I’d like more than to go home, collapse on my couch, and fritter away the night watching Househunters International. But I’m going to the gym instead. Yes I am. I’ve become sort of a pro at this, having learned there are little things you can do throughout the work day to increase your chances of finding the will to hit the gym when the clock strikes five.
I recommend these 10 ways to motivate yourself to work out after work:
1. Eat a light lunch. I personally fall somewhere between food enthusiast and hard-up food junkie, and as such, this is where I most often fail. But there’s a clear difference between the way you feel after killing a plate of carne asada fries versus the way you feel after eating a nice salad. You know your body. If your stomach is sensitive to spicy food, say no to Sriracha, or anything else that’s going to make you want to go curl up into a ball rather than be active.
2. Eat again. About one-and-a-half hours out from the end of the work day, have a snack. An energy or protein bar works, or toast with peanut butter and some grapes. Just get a little something-something in your stomach to keep you in that green zone between famished and full. It’s equally sucky being too hungry to work out as it is being too full to work out.
3. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. You already did? Drink more. Your body needs that hydration to put in a proper workout.
4. Drink a small, early-afternoon coffee. Just enough to get you pumped for the gym; not too much to keep you up all night mopping the floors and scrubbing your bathtub. Find a happy medium.
5. Psyche yourself up! !!! … …Not working? Screw it, just force yourself to go. Don’t even consider skipping. Forget how beat you feel. Some of my best workouts have come out of nowhere when I really hadn’t felt like going.
6. Go straight to the gym from work. I’m dead-serious about this one: Do Not Go Home First. You go home and see your warm, comfy, soft, welcoming, comfy couch beckoning you with all its warm, soft, welcoming comfort; it’s over. That means packing gym clothes in the morning and bringing them with you to work, planning your route to the gym around traffic; whatever you need to do. Just do not go home first. Don’t.
7. Appeal to your own sense of reason. Remind yourself of all the benefits of exercise. Cardiovascular health, increased strength and endurance. How about improved mood? And if you don’t care about any of that stuff, then appeal to your own sense of vanity and remember that you’ll look sexy AF.
8. Switch it up. If today you’re not feeling particularly enthused about your musty old sweat-box-of-a-gym, remember there’s more than one way to raise your heart rate. Make Monday running day, Tuesday gym day, Wednesday yoga day, Thursday hiking day, and Friday bootcamp day. That way you don’t get bored or burned out on any one type of exercise.
9. Shine a light at the end of the tunnel. Make post-gym dinner plans. Reward yourself with delicious food after—and only after—you’ve completed a solid workout. That’s why we exercise in the first place, right? To offset the damage of pretty much everything else we do to our bodies outside the gym. Pro tip: do not think or talk about food during your workout. Countless workouts have been tragically cut short at the mere thought of pizza. True story.
10. Just show up. Even if you’re not feeling it; go. Give it your best, even if your best ain’t all that good today. The quickest, half-assiest of workouts is still probably a lot better than whatever you’d be doing instead.