At the end of a long and exhausting day at the office, the idea of hitting the gym or even exercising at home does not always seem feasible. On these days, it’s easy to say, “I’m just too tired,” and call it a day. This overused excuse to skip out on exercise usually goes unquestioned because it seems to make sense: you need energy to exercise and the work day was draining, so having no energy means you shouldn’t work out. Right?
Although it may seem counterintuitive, stimulating physical activity can actually boost energy levels. According to California State University psychology professor Robert E. Thayer, PhD, “It’s now been shown in many studies that once you actually start moving around, even just getting up off the couch and walking around the room, the more you will want to move and ultimately, the more energy you will feel.”
So how does this actually work? Samantha Heller, MS, RD, explained, “Contrary to popular belief, exercising doesn’t make you tired — it literally creates energy in your body. Your body rises up to meet the challenge for more energy by becoming stronger.”
Growing energy levels
Once you have finished work for the day, pay attention to how you feel. Are you feeling slightly weary, or are you actually ill? If you are not sick, try to implement a low-intensity workout when you get home, such as stretching or planking. Both of these activities will help to wake you and your muscles up after a long, idle day. The more you are able to add these kinds of activities to your post-work routine each week, you will slowly be able to increase your energy levels. After a while, you may find that you are ready to add other physical activity to your regimen.
When you’re ready to try something new, you might want to consider trying a calm-energy exercise, such as yoga or tai chi. The fluid motions of these activities require complete focus on your body and the movements you are trying to perform. For this reason, calm energy exercises tend to have the same relaxing effects as meditation, while also improving your vitality.
Once you start growing accustomed to exercising after work, you may want to try moving up to higher intensity workouts, such as kickboxing or burpees. Be sure to stay properly hydrated and well-rested once you are at this level.
Make your workout fun
If your workout is something you actually look forward to doing then you’ll be much more likely to strap on your tennis shoes and get fit after a long day of work. Of course, there are many ways to make fitness fun. You just have to find what’s right for you. Maybe swimming is your thing. Maybe you’d like to combine your workout with making some side dough by becoming a dog walker and scheduling some post-workday clients. Or maybe you’re an adventurer who’d love indoor rock climbing. Do some experimenting with different forms of exercise and find a couple of options that keep you motivated.
Eat healthy before exercising
Now that you are ready to boost your energy levels by exercising after work, the next thing you should take into consideration is when to have dinner. Should you eat your evening meal before your workout, or after?
If dinner is going to take a while to cook, you may prefer to work out beforehand. If you decide to exercise before eating dinner, try to eat a wholesome snack that is low in fat and has a good balance of carbs and protein, especially if you haven’t eaten anything in the last three hours. Fat, a macronutrient, tends to slow digestion down. This may prevent the vitamins and nutrients you consume in your pre-workout snack from being released into your bloodstream quickly.
If you prefer to eat dinner before you work out, be sure to include at least one fast-acting carb source — like brown rice, sweet potatoes or whole-grain bread — into your meal. These foods are chock-full of glycogen, which helps muscles retain energy and may help with your endurance.
Once you find a fitness plan that you are comfortable with, keep at it. To improve the odds that you will be able to consistently maintain it, try slowly integrating the new activities into your daily routine. Be sure to start off with low-intensity exercises and build your way up to high-intensity moves at a comfortable pace. With this scientifically-backed information in mind, you may find it a bit easier to talk yourself into an after-work exercise routine.
Paige shares a vision with LearnFit, which is dedicated to providing information on living a lifestyle that’s healthy for both our bodies and our planet.