If I had it my way, I would work out first thing every morning. I love the feeling of accomplishment of finishing a tough workout before the sun comes up. It puts me in a great mood for the rest of the day, and makes me feel like I can take on anything.
Unfortunately, due to my rotating schedule of day shifts and night shifts, I can very rarely fit in an early morning workout. If I am working a day shift, I wake up around 5 AM to be out the door around 5:30 AM to be to work on time. On occasion I have fit in a quick 30-minute run before work, but this means I have to wake up at 4ish, and often my body does not want to do that. If I'm coming off an overnight shift, the last thing I want to do it work out, and it wouldn't be a very quality workout if I did.
So this means that more often than not I am working out in the late afternoon/early evening. And, this also means that I only have a limited time before I have to get dinner ready and wash dishes and about a million other things. I have found over the years that although I don't love working out later in the day, there are a few tricks that make it a bit more pleasant:
1. No social media
If I am working out after work, I make a deal with myself that I cannot look at social media or email (or basically use my phone in any way that does not facilitate my work out) until after my workout for that day is complete. I know that if I start scrolling through instagram I'll end up wasting time, and the chances that I'll skip my workout increase. Plus, when I put this restriction on myself, social media is like a mini "reward" for getting my sweat on.
2. Be prepared
I make sure to have everything for my workout set out the night before or in the morning before work. I have been known to spend 15-20 minutes trying to find one specific sports bra or pair of running pants, which severely cuts into my workout time. Having everything prepared means having EVERYTHING prepared: clothes (top, bottoms, sports bra, socks), shoes, headphones, water bottle, running watch, headband/hat/buff and elastics, any gu or other nutrtion I may need if I am running long, and anything else that I may need.
3. Don't go home
I don't mean ever (although sometimes my own private island sounds like a good idea), but I have been known to stop somewhere between work and home and go for a run. I love to do this on weekends that I have to work and need to fit in a long run. I bring everything for my run with me to work and meet up with my husband somewhere in between (Bare Cove Park in Hingham is one of our favs). Another option would be to stop a the gym on the way home. The beauty of this is that I don't get sucked into any distractions at home like a sink full of dirty dishes or a son who wants to play a game with me or a husband who wants to tell me about his day. Not that these are necessarily bad things (although who loves a sink full of dirty dishes?) but they will keep me from going out on that run or at the very least make me feel guilty for wanting to leave for a run.
4. Fuel properly
This one could mean something different for everyone, but I know that for me I can work out first thing in the morning on an empty stomach but I need small snack about an hour before I workout in the afternoon. I have ruined countless workouts but not fueling properly and feeling like junk the whole time. Know your body and what works for you. If I have a run planned, I will eat something light like a Picky Bar 45 minutes to an hour before and if it's a run any longer than an hour I will also drink a Nuun active 20 minutes or so before my run. If I have a weight training workout planned, I generally do not like to have much in my stomach. I will try to make sure I ate lunch a bit later than usual (around 1 PM if I'm getting home around 5 PM) and I will take a pre-workout as soon as I get home before I change out of work clothes.
5. Have realistic expectations
If you're anything like me, working out in the afternoon just feels harder than it does first thing in the morning. It makes sense, instead of coming fresh off a good night's sleep you're probably tired (emotionally and physically) from what you've done all day. Your paces may be slower, or you may not be able to lift as much as you did yesterday. That's okay. If you're especially tired going into your afternoon workout, try judging your effort by feel instead of by pace or weight. If your schedule allows, try keep easier workouts for afternoons and harder workouts for days when you can workout earlier.
I hope you found some of these tips helpful. What time of day do you prefer to workout? Do you have any additional tips to add?