How to Get Motivated for Your After-Work Workout

In honor of Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, we wanted to support our readers’ strides towards better health and improving their fitness practices. While many of us desire to get in a workout after work, the reality might be quite different from what we envision.

go for a run meme

To keep us all motivated I’ve outlined some tactics that I’ve used to give me the gumption to get myself to the gym. Share in the comments below which of these work best for you!

Schedule it on your calendar

This approach works really well for me, especially when I can’t seem to get into a consistent rhythm. When the rest of my schedule is out of whack, I make sure to block out time on my calendar to do some physical activity. Having a record also helps me add variety to my workout schedule. In addition, looking back and seeing all those “workout” blocks of time makes me feel really accomplished!

Keep in mind possible hiccups in your day that might thwart your schedule. For example, my commute home can sometimes be particularly long and grueling. If I schedule a 6:00pm gym session, it’s unlikely to happen at all if I get stuck in traffic. Rather than set myself up for failure, I add it in a later time slot, and if I get there earlier, the found time is an added bonus!

Keep it consistent

This is one I really struggle with, as my schedule varies each week. However, I do try to set aside at least two nights to devote to “gym workout” time. Another tactic I’ve implemented is a morning dance practice (thanks, Jess Grippo!). Even if it’s for only one song, I get myself moving for 3-5 minutes each morning. It’s a nice way to start my day, and while it’s not enough to make marked improvements in my fitness level, it keeps my mindset focused on the importance of movement in regards to my overall health.

Go with a friend

Even if you don’t consider yourself an extrovert, you may find safety (or at least some comfort) in numbers. Many people aiming to stick to a workout regimen do really well by using this tactic. Remember to keep the focus on accountability rather than competition. It’s not a weight-loss contest or a heaviest-lifter contest.

Talk about what “being healthy” means to each of you (each person’s definition may be different), and the ways in which you want to make physical activity part of your healthy lifestyle. It is how well you stick to your own parameters that is the measure of your success. Choose a friend or family member who will increase the fun quotient, and commit to cheering each other on and acknowledging each other’s milestones, rather than nailing the Zumba moves better than each other.

Find office-worthy workout clothes

Are you hesitant to schedule your workouts after work because you don’t want to lug a cumbersome gym bag with you? These days, there are many ways to take your work clothes from office to fitness center. You may be familiar with the “dress yoga pants” and “dress sweatpants” that have come on the scene thanks to companies like Betabrand. However, if you appreciate the comfy-factor of wearing these types of garments in the office but don’t want to sweat in your office clothes, there are still options.

Think about your wardrobe and plan work outfits based on what’s easiest to change into and allows for minimal packing. For example, you can wear a form-fitting workout shirt or tank under your office shirt. Men can wear their workout shorts under their pants, and women can slip on a pair of exercise leggings underneath a dress. Change into your gym shoes, and you’ll be all set. Whether it’s your athletic shoes or your work works, wear your heavier footwear to and from the office and carry the pair that is lighter or less cumbersome. Change accordingly.

When purchasing garments, consider items that will be easily packable and don’t take up much room. Nylon or mesh shorts might be a good option. Or, you can use a packing cube to keep all your items condensed into a small space!

Wear items that are comfortable

Speaking of workout wear, make sure that it is also comfortable. While it doesn’t seem like it has a huge impact on your workout, you might find yourself using it as an excuse to stop, or just not work to your peak potential. I’ve had a situation or two in which my ill-fitting, uncomfortable exercise shirt had me wanting to just jump off the exercise machine and go home.

If it rides up, is too tight, or leaves you feeling wet and sticky, try revamping your exercise wardrobe. You might even want to give your new pieces a short “trial run” at home before wearing them to the gym.

Set a playlist that motivates you

While I don’t recommend marching to the beat of your own drum if you’re taking a fitness class, playing a custom, created-by-you soundtrack for solo workouts can keep you feeling energetic and committed to the finish line. Experiment and see what works best for you. Find your anthem and turn up the volume. (Don’t forget your earbuds or headphones!) 

Kill two birds with one stone

For me, this can mean listening to a podcast. I usually mix them up between recreational and educational programs. During many of my sessions on the elliptical machine, I’m listening to Betty in the Sky with a Suitcase (and laughing out loud- I must look crazy to my fellow gym-goers!). Other times, I’ll embrace my inner grammar snob with Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips, keep my finances in check with Farnoosh Torabi’s So Money, or gain inspiration from fellow writers by listening to Danielle LaPorte and Linda Sivertsen’s Beautiful Writers Podcast.

If this sounds to you like a great way to kill two birds with one stone, by all means, download away! However, remember that your goals and needs may be better served with another option. Perhaps listening to music is your method of doing two things at once. You might prefer immersing yourself in a great storyline with an audiobook. You might even want to mentally plan out your grocery list, or even voice-record it while you exercise!

There’s no right or wrong for this one- just pick the option that works best for you and your lifestyle. To your health!


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    • Ian Boreham
    • May 19, 2016

    Another great tip (also kills 2 poor birds) is trying to work in your daily commute with your fitness. I used to cycle to/from work. Both ways each day was excessive, so I’d just leave my bike overnight (requires facilities :)) and then cycle back the next day (although frequently this turned into the next…next day (this is good as when Friday comes you HAVE to ride home)!

    • Juana Lino
    • May 22, 2016

    Thank you for the article. I’ve been trying to make a running group that meets one day a week and at times find myself not going. Adding to my calendar will help because I will get remainders about attending gym class.

    1. That’s great- glad to hear you found the article helpful!

    • Wayne Scoting
    • June 5, 2016

    I struggle sometimes with getting to the gym after a long day at work. I’d like to share two observations.

    1. For me, eating a large enough lunch at more or less the same time every day also helps me get to the gym after work. Too small of a lunch or a lunch consumed too late in the day can contribute to worse fatigue at day’s end.

    2. Sometimes a pick-me-up snack, like a protein shake, a banana, or a handful of raisins and almonds shortly before I intend to leave for the gym from the office can help give me more energy.

    1. Smart tips, Wayne! Thanks for sharing.

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