When you work funky hours, it’s hard enough to function like a normal person, let alone stay fit. With a wild work schedule, your shifts dictate your schedule, but you can learn to control what you can. Eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and getting plenty of sleep are the three pillars of health. Even if you’re a 9-to-5er, you can use these tips on how to manage it all!
1. Pack it Out (#mealprep)
Even if you miss a workout, sticking to a healthy diet will help keep your body in shape. You can work out like crazy, but if you eat like crap, you still won’t see results.
When you work funky hours, you have to plan to bring your own meals. Otherwise, it’s too easy to go out and get something quick (which we know is oftentimes much less healthy than something you would prepare at home). Bringing your own meals requires effort and preparation, but it will save you in the end.
The number-1 tip here is to prepare your meals ahead of time (#mealprep) and pack plenty of snacks. Cook once, eat twice… or more. I’m talking leftovers here. They are key! When you have an evening off, cook plenty of dinner to use for lunches or dinners throughout the week. Divide the meal into Tupperware containers so your meal is ready to grab-n-go. Investing in some meal-portion-sized containers ain’t a bad idea.
2. Caffeine is your Friend
Caffeine is your friend, if you time it right. Remember, caffeine is a stimulant drug, so it has a peak, and it has a crash. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in, peaks at about 1–2 hours, and then causes a crash at about 2.5–4.5 hours. Ever heard of a coffee nap? Take a shot of espresso, have a quick 20-minute power nap, and wake up refreshed and jiving on that coffee!
Caffeine has a half-life of about 5-6 hours in healthy adults, according to News Medical. This means that 5-6 hours after drinking a cup of coffee, 50% of the caffeine from that coffee is still present in your blood. Even after 10-12 hours, 25% of the caffeine still remains. You don’t want too much caffeine floating around your blood while you’re trying to catch some Zs, so be mindful of timing your caffeine around your sleeping hours.
This tip goes along with eating a healthy diet: your liquid calories matter too. Avoid sugary caffeinated drinks. The added sugar in energy drinks or syrupy coffees add calories and will also cause a sugar crash. Choose a natural caffeinated drink like plain coffee or tea.
3. Exercise Smart
You don’t have a lot of time, so you need to get the best bang for your buck. Cue HIIT: high-intensity interval training. While it’s not a cure-all, HIIT can be a beneficial workout to add into your week when you have time. Read here for more info on HIIT.
In addition to choosing smart workouts, be smart about what works for you. Know yourself. When do you have the most energy? Before or after your shift? In your lunch break?
Don’t force yourself to fit into the social norms. If you’re exhausted after your 12-hour shift, it’s probably not the best time to workout. You won’t be motivated, and you won’t be able to perform at your best. If you have the most energy before work, try to squeeze in a 20-minute sweat session before the daily commute.
4. Take Mini-exercise Breaks
We traditionally think of a workout as an hour at the gym. But you can break up your workout into chunks as small as 10 minutes spaced throughout the day, and still meet the physical activity recommendations for adults.
Be creative about incorporating physical activity into your day. Walk, bike, stand, stretch–just don’t sit there! If you can walk or bike somewhere, do that instead of driving. Every 15–20 minutes, get yo booty up outta the chair. Stretch in your chair. Squat in the break room. Do jumping jacks while your lunch is in the microwave. Take the stairs. Whatever, just don’t sit there!
5. Stick to a Schedule
When you have a game plan for your workouts and meals, you will be more likely to follow through with it. Find out what works best for you, and stick to it. Do your meal prep on the same day each week. Work out at the same time each day.
Think ahead and work around your shifts. Pack your gym bag ahead of time. If you wait until after your shift to even start thinking about a workout or a meal, it will be much more enticing to take the easy option of food delivery and TV, which ain’t the healthiest option!
Practicing these tips will help you to create a healthy environment for yourself. When you surround yourself with a structure and develop healthy habits, the healthy option will always the easy option!
Image credit: YOGOGIRLS