Tips For Working Out After The Night Shift: The Best Routine

I worked the graveyard shift from 9 pm-5 am for two years. Trust me, I understand the struggle of trying to find time to work out while working the night shift.

Trying to meet the demands of a night shift schedule can throw our circadian rhythm into disarray and fitting in a workout can feel next to impossible.

A woman who works the night shift about to exercise

I truly believe when it comes to exercise finding creative ways to incorporate movement into your day and trying to find a workout schedule is key.

This post is all about the best night shift workout schedule.

Have realistic fitness and health goals

Set clear fitness goals that are realistic and achievable. Whether it’s improving cardiovascular endurance or building strength/muscle, having a specific target will keep you motivated. Write down your goals and remind yourself of them regularly.

Tracking your progress is key to staying motivated and accountable. You could use the notes app in your phone or use something like a Fitbit or Apple Watch to track your workouts.

Incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine is also essential. Plan your meals ahead of time and pack nourishing snacks to avoid reaching for unhealthy options. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout your shift. But honestly, I think the most important thing to prioritize is your sleep and to establish a consistent sleep schedule.

How to create a workout schedule around work shifts

  1. Assess your work schedule:

Are you a nurse who works 12-hour shifts for four days a week? Or do you work most weekends? Look at your typical shifts, including start and end times, as well as any irregular or changing hours. By having a clear understanding of your work schedule, you can better plan and allocate time for your workouts.

  1. Identify your most available workout slots:

Once you have a good grasp of your work schedule, identify the time slots that are most suitable for your workouts. Whether it’s early in the morning, during your lunch break, or in the evening, find a time when you generally have more flexibility. This will greatly increase the chances of you sticking to your exercise routine.

Personally, I always worked out after my shift and before I went to bed. It was more manageable for me to do this.

  1. Make a plan:

Write down the days and times you’ll be exercising, making sure to include both cardio and strength training activities. Having a visual plan will help you stay organized and committed.

  1. Be adaptable and flexible:

Remember to be adaptable and flexible with your workout schedule. Your work shifts may change from time to time, and that’s okay. Embrace the flexibility and adjust your workouts accordingly. If a shift throws off your planned workout, find an alternative solution like scheduling it for a different day or adjusting the duration. The key is to keep moving forward and not let unexpected changes discourage you.

If you are a nurse working 12-hour shifts, I thought this workout schedule from a travel RN on TikTok was excellent.

@jesssimarrie Replying to @nikkki75 my workout split while working 12 hour shifts 🙂 #greenscreen #travelnurse #nursetok #nursesoftiktok #nursetips #nurseschedule #fyp #foryou #nursing #nurselife #fitness #workoutsplit #lifting ♬ original sound – jessi

Choosing the right type of exercise

My functional medicine doctor recommended I do low-impact and strength training exercises on my working days and more high-intensity exercises on my days off.

  • Aerobic exercises: As a night shift worker, things like jogging, swimming, or dancing can help increase your heart rate, boost your metabolism, and improve your cardiovascular health. They can be particularly useful to help increase your overall energy levels and promote better sleep during the day.
  • Strength training: Lifting weights or using resistance bands helps maintain muscle strength and tone, which can be important for night shift workers who may have physically demanding jobs. Strength training also helps improve posture and bone density, reducing the risk of injuries or fatigue during long shifts.
  • Yoga or Pilates: My fave! These low-impact exercises focus on flexibility, balance, and breathing techniques. As a night shift worker, incorporating yoga or Pilates into your exercise routine can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Plus, there are so many free videos on YouTube that you can do.
  • HIIT workouts: High-intensity interval Training (HIIT) involves short bursts of intense exercises followed by brief recovery periods. This type of exercise is fabulous for night shift workers as it can be completed in a short amount of time, making it easier to fit into a busy schedule.

Do more bodyweight exercises

In addition to the exercises listed above, I recommend opting for convenient and efficient home and workplace workouts.

For example, push-ups. This exercise is great for targeting your chest, shoulders, and triceps. No fancy equipment needed, just get down on your mat or carpet and start pushing!

Squats and lunges are also amazing for toning your glutes and thighs.

And for some killer core work, try planks. Get into a push-up position, but instead of bending your arms, rest on your forearms. Engage your core and hold that position for as long as you can.

Adjust your goals based on energy levels and lack of time

You have to listen to your body.

Give yourself grace. Working the night shift or nontraditional hours means your natural circadian rhythm is out of balance and your quality of sleep will be impacted.

Some days, your bursting with energy and ready to conquer the world, while other days, you might feel sluggish. On the high-energy days, go ahead and push yourself a little harder with a more intense workout. On the low-energy days, opt for a lower intensity activity like a brisk walk or a relaxing yoga session.

Any movement is better than no movement! Put on a Pilated by Raven video or do some pushups if you are super pressed for time.

Don’t forget to factor in your mood and fatigue levels. If you’re feeling super stressed or exhausted, it’s okay to take a rest day or do some gentle stretching. Listen to your body and give it what it needs. Self-care is just as important as exercise. This also means trying to have a healthy lifestyle and eating enough fruits, vegetables and protein.

Exercise is one aspect of healthy habits while being a night shift worker. You need to consume healthy foods, have good sleep hygiene, and take care of your mental health as well. Avoid things that cause more sleep deprivation such as sugary drinks, fast food, energy drinks, and bright light close to bed (like blue light from your devices).

Hopefully, this post was helpful and you’ll be able to get your workout in on a consistent basis.

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