Lesson #66: How to Work Out at Night

by Rachel on January 25, 2011

Now that I’m in the office from 9 to 6 each day, I’ve lost the opportunity to work out during my favorite time of day (that would be the 3 PM slot, in which all productivity ceases to a halt anyway). I’ve gone back and forth between becoming a morning person again (about as easy as revirginizing yourself) and working out in the evening (when all the fun stuff is happening!), but lately I’ve found that the evening workout is working best.

Except when it’s not. Even though I genuinely like working out in the evening — after a long day sitting in front of a computer, I’m dying for some movement, music, and hopefully fresh air — it’s not always easy to make it happen. But a few simple things are helping to take the edge off. If you need to get motivated to work out at night, here are some tips!

1. Change into your workout clothes before you leave the office. This has been helping me so much. Right before it’s time to go, I change in the bathroom into my yoga pants, Nikes, sports bra, tank, and track jacket. This puts me in a ready-to-work-out mindset, plus I’m forced to tell my coworkers that I’m going to work out, which helps me actually do it. Putting your clothes on first also keeps you from lallygagging in the locker room or just when you get home, reading your mail…and then checking your e-mail…and then flipping on the news…and then losing all motivation.

Even if you don’t stop at the gym on your way home from work, you should still put on your workout clothes at the office. Why? Because when you get home, you’ll already have your sneakers on, which puts you in an active mindset, even while you’re eating dinner. But if you come home in your dress and boots and put on the same outfit in your bedroom, you’d likely skip the shoes, so it feels more like you’re just wearing pajamas…which makes it way easier to just get comfy on the couch with your dinner.

2. Take classes at night. Preferably classes that you have to hustle to get to on time! For some reason, when I have plans to go to a class after work, I do everything in my power to make it there. I bust my ass all day because I know if I don’t, I’m not going to get a bike that night. But if all I’m doing is running, I know I can do that at any time, and without that sense of urgency, I’m more likely to delay at work for an extra half-hour, until I’m way too hungry to go straight to the track to run, and then by the time I get home and make dinner, it’s too late to do cardio.

If you don’t have access to classes, call upon a workout buddy! Eric and I have been doing Core Fusion together once a week, and when I know that’s coming, it forces me to plan ahead and get everything done in much the same way as a class does.

3. Plan your dinner ahead of time. To me, the slow cooker is the perfect reward for an evening workout. I hate leaving the gym or the trail hungry and then having to think about stopping for a few ingredients at the store and then getting home and making something. It’s so nice to get it all set in the morning and know it will be waiting for you when you arrive. I mean, let’s be honest: when it comes to being reliable and showing you love when you need it most, a Crock Pot does it better than a vibrator, amiright? If you need some ideas, here are some of my Crock Pot recipes, but really, most soup recipes will work. Chili and beef stew are two of my slow cooker favorites, mainly because they smell so great!

4. Choose the right evening workouts. I’m a big believer in making exercise easy on yourself. If, at the end of a long day, you really only have the energy to work out for 30 minutes, don’t tell yourself you have to do 45. Just like I don’t generally make myself run in the morning anymore, because the thought of it makes me want to vom and is pretty much guaranteed to make me skip it altogether, I only end long days with a workout that will make me feel better, not stressed.

I’m also one of those people who often can’t sleep at night if I work out too late in the day, so I’ve started doing more Core Fusion in the evening, especially if I know I can’t work out until after 8:00. It’s a great workout and makes me feel so good, but I know that I can do it and still fall right to sleep.

But that’s just how I am now! A few years ago, I used to go run at the gym at 11:30 right before they closed and then I’d come home all tuckered out and go right to sleep. It’s worth it to try different methods if one doesn’t seem to be working.

5. Turn the lights off. I loved taking Ken’s amazing spin class in New York at night, when everyone had tons of UGH-what-along-day angst to burn off. We’d just let it all out in the darkness of the packed spin class. When the lights are off, I don’t get distracted by other people or by my own inability to do certain exercises; I find that I really tune into the music and my body and push myself more. Plus, after a long day at the computer, light and technology really bothers me, so working out in the dark helps me unplug. I always spin with the lights off and the blinds drawn when I’m at home, and I never turn on the lights when I sneak into an empty studio at the gym to spin or just lift weights. And when I do Core Fusion before bed, it’s candlelight only. Trust me, when you have good music on, candlelight isn’t going to make it feel like some hippie exercise. Working out with just candlelight and dirty rap songs is strangely, unexpectedly, wonderful!

That’s all I got. I need the extra evening motivation because Eric has convinced me to start spinning at the gym again. I’m honestly terrified. I had my one and only experience with his instructor on my second day of datecation and honestly, there is a reason I haven’t been back. And that reason is that I’m not the biggest masochist on the planet, or, I guess, I wasn’t. Until now. I haven’t gotten Face Down, Ass Up with anyone but myself since I bought my own bike, and, honestly, sometimes when you’ve done it alone for a while, doing it with other people again is rather daunting.

(Am I right, ladies?)

Any other good tips for making sure you get your evening workout in? Please share with the rest of the class!

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rachel January 25, 2011 at 8:55 am

LOVE this post Rachel! Come night time, it takes a lot of motivation to work out. I find eating the perfect snack around 3 p.m. gives me the energy I need to power through an evening workout (and bring myself to actually do it). I also like to plan my dinner in advance, so I can think about the delish meal I have to come home to after the sweat session. Plus you can take a nice, hot long shower right before bed and feel so fresh and so clean : ) Great post lady!


2 Rachel January 25, 2011 at 8:57 am

Oh yes, I TOTALLY forgot the benefits of going to bed all clean!! I should add to that, then, one more thing: make sure you have clean sheets! Slipping into clean sheets after a hard workout and a nice shower is the PERFECT way to make sure your late workout doesn’t keep you up!


3 Laura Georgina January 25, 2011 at 8:59 am

These are such good strategies! If I’m running, I’ll always choose to work out in the mornings, but lately I’ve also been bike-riding and going to Zumba in the after-work hours. I love doing them both, but the thought of having to come back and start a full meal of cooking AFTER sweating, while hungry like a beast, is enough to make me not go. So I plan ahead and either have leftovers or a meal that can be put together in ten minutes (or cooks while I shower).

Another way of ensuring my evening workout happens is NOT washing my hair in the morning. By afternoon, it’s usually on the ugly side of yuck and I won’t let myself wash it unless it gets TRULY gross from sweating. It sounds weird, but trust me: I like having nice-smelling hair.


4 Rachel January 25, 2011 at 9:01 am

Annnnd you’ve now summed up perfectly why my hair is really dirty side this morning! I won’t wash it until I’ve gotten it as dirty as possible, and on the flip side, I won’t work out of it looks really good. So working out the night before an off day is sort of a perfect plan!


5 Katie January 25, 2011 at 9:06 am

With the weather and general blah-ness of leaving work in the dark and freezing temps, I’ve been seriously struggling. I take public transporatation and because of the weather, bringing a gym bag on top of my regular bag with all the necessary layers of clothes and boots and sneakers.. it is way too much. But I do a similar thing with changing- just as soon as I walk in the door. I have some embarrassingly in-depth internal debates but just FORCE myself to change as soon as I walk in my house. Sneakers instead of sweatpants makes me feel ready to go get it. Another good motivator was signing up for a spring race.


6 Katie January 25, 2011 at 9:21 am

oooh and On Demand workouts, if you have that!


7 Dori January 25, 2011 at 9:07 am

My biggest tip (if you are working out at a location other than your home) is do NOT go home first! Even if you have enough time to stop home in between work and the gym, don’t do it! Once I am home and I sit down, I have a very hard time mustering up the energy to go back outside to work out. I try to run errands or go to Starbucks with a book in between work and the classes I take.


8 Bethany @Bridezilla Bakes January 25, 2011 at 9:08 am

Thanks SO much for all the tips! You are so right about doing Core Fusion at night. It is the best workout, and it always leaves me feeling really positive and energized — but not in a hyperventilating, “I’m never going to get to sleep tonight” kind of way.

Working out after work also just fits into my meal schedule better. I get really sick to my stomach when I work out on either a totally empty stomach, or a totally full one. I need to be digested but not ravenous. Enter 5pm — the sweet spot! Then when I come home, I’m much more likely to eat a healthy meal, because who wants french fries when you just worked your ass off for an hour after work?


9 Cameo January 25, 2011 at 9:19 am

YES. Before I worked from home I had a 45 min subway commute home, and if I didn’t change my clothes at work, I would walk right past the gym. All your advice is great! I am enjoying your blog. What kind of slow-cooker would you recco? I’ve been wanting one for awhile now.


10 Rachel January 25, 2011 at 9:20 am

Honestly, you don’t need anything fancy! I recommend a medium-sized one, and just go for what’s affordable! Seriously, the best investment EVER.


11 Nicci@NiftyEats January 25, 2011 at 9:19 am

Oh no, I just committed to bed early to get in morning exercise, but these are great tips. I love taking Zumba at night, hauling @ss to get there.


12 Jessica @ How Sweet January 25, 2011 at 9:26 am

These are such great tips. I have never been able to work out at night because I just refuse and fall into one of the excuse traps. I love the idea of the spin class in the dark. That is so cool!


13 Heather January 25, 2011 at 9:26 am

I agree with you on the changing idea! When I used to work in the burbs (you know before I actually started working in a gym and suddenly had zero excuses), I always changed at the train station so I had no excuses. I would head straight from the train to the gym…no stops home if you can help it!

Another tip I have is if you don’t already have a gym membership and are looking to get one, find a gym that is on your way home from work, not across the street from your house (waaay too easy to tell yourself you’ll just ‘drop a few things off’). Then you’ll be forced to pack your clothes and hit the gym before you even get close to going home for dinner. Also, make a deal with yourself that you can only watch whatever show you’re waiting for that night if you get to the gym for at least 30 minutes. Rewarding yourself does wonders for motivation.


14 Cat January 25, 2011 at 9:31 am

These are great tips! I wish my gym offered an in-the-dark spin class.

To movtivate ourselves, my friends and I used to workout during our favorite TV shows since my campus’s gym has TVs attached to all the cardio equipment. We got girl time, some trashy reality TV time, and a great workout!


15 Meg January 25, 2011 at 9:44 am

This came at such an amazing time! I just entered the real world and after working 10+ hour days, I can never motivate myself to work out…now I will!

P.S. I absolutely love love love your blog!


16 Alexia @ Dimple Snatcher January 25, 2011 at 10:08 am

Yup, the evening is how I do it. I’ve considered mornings, but I’m so depressed about those since I wake up thinking, “Again?” Ugh. But by evenings, I’m happy to be alive :)))
Like you said, having a gym fitness class to get to at a certain time motivates me to get to the gym. Here’s something crazy: I like my spinning class, hot yoga, etc., so much so that I miss the classes when I don’t attend. It’s the most bizarre thing.


17 Salah (My Healthiest Lifestyle) January 25, 2011 at 10:16 am

great suggestions!!!


18 Manon January 25, 2011 at 10:23 am

I absolutely CANNOT go home before I go to the gym (unless I’m planning to run in my hood, obvs). I’ll even go home at lunch and let Lola out so I have nooooo excuse to not go to the gym, even if I get stuck at work. The best thing for me is to go in the am, but I’ve really been struggling with getting my ass out of bed lately….in fact, i hit snooze for TWO HOURS this morning. TWO HOURS!!! Who does that? Completely pointless.


19 Stephanie January 25, 2011 at 10:53 am

Spin in the dark sounds fun! I’ve been TRYING to put myself in a morning person mindframe but like you said….that’s about as easy as revirginizing myself. It’s just not happening.


20 eirinn January 25, 2011 at 11:15 am

this is a great post. monday and wednesday i have class from 8-6:45 and i commute which forces me to leave the house around 6:30 and get home around 7:30 depending on traffic. yesterday was my first day back and i definitely didn’t find motivation to work out when i got home, but i’m going to try to get a workout schedule going that works with my new school schedule. thanks for the tips!


21 janetha @ meals and moves January 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm

i ONLY work out at night! i am one of those people who need to take the “tips for working out in the morning” more seriously.. because it is impossible for me to work out in the morning. these are all awesome tips.. changing before leaving work is one i have used many times!


22 Natalie January 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm

its like you have been hiding out in my head…. Ive been struggling with working out at night lately! I get up at 5 AM for work, so morning workout is a no go, and I cant work out at night until I put the toddler to bed at 7:30. By the time he’s in bed and I clean up from dinner, working out is the last thing I wanna do, but I need too!


23 Cassie January 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm

I love this post! My other piece of advice is the Do Not Pass Go mantra – go straight from work to the gym. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. I find that, once I’m in my cozy warm apartment, I come up with tons of reasons to push back my workout. If I put my gym bag in my car and head straight there, I have no excuse. Done and done. I also just got back on the spin bandwagon (although I was never a spin diva like you!) and I’m heading to my third class since Thursday. I love it, and it forces me to work harder than I do on my own. My instructor on Saturday am had an amazing 80s mix that got me really motivated! I also love that all my spin instructors teach in the dark for all the same reasons you said. :)


24 Aj January 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm

For awhile (before it got dark in the evenings) I would stop by my favorite running trail at least once per week and run there. But lately, I cannot bring myself to do the evening workout – maybe if I had a gym to go to or classes – but I workout at home and the lure of the sweatpants is too strong. I do find I can throw myself out of bed for a 30-40 min morning workout even before dawn if I remind myself that doing so means I can get right into sweatpants and slippers after work (and study, of course, it means I can study in the evenings too).

Also, I can’t sleep on my hair and then look at all presentable the next day so evening workouts require two showers per day. And I’m too lazy for that.


25 Smash @ Fitness & Football January 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I use our apartment’s gym after work and have to drive by it on the way to the parking garage. It helps for me to peek in there as I drive by and see a full empty gym (the treadmill is freeeee!) so I’ll hop to it. I do stop in the apartment to change because for me it’s all mental… if my mind is made up to workout, then I will. If my heart isn’t in it, I won’t.


26 Bree @beeskneeslife January 25, 2011 at 1:16 pm

I too am one of those “need tips for morning workouts” people. Since age 14, I have always worked out after school or work. I have tried the mornign routine it just doesn’t fly. I get to work around 7, so I would need the gym to open before 5…and getting up any earlier then I already do makes me want to die. That and my workouts in the morning always suck. I never have enough energy and I feel like I am going into diabetic shock from the lack of carbs in my system. No bueno.

I think the after work workout is easy for me because it’s what I’ve alwyas done. It’s a habit and a routine so once you establish it, it goes easier. I typically go home to change before the gym/heading out for a run, but I never am tempted to stay put on my couch. I don’t let myself turn on the tv or computer – I just change into my clothes right away, wash my face and head out. Again I think it’s part of the routine.

My only challenge is the winter. It’s almost dark when I get home and the gym is packed with the resolutioners. I am giddy when the clocks fall foward. Screw sleep I get another hour to be outside!

ps. sorry for the typos I am on IE and I am used to Firefox and it’s nifty auto spell checker. Silly work computer that doesn’t allow me administrative access to download the important things ;)


27 Michelle @ Give Me the Almond Butter January 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

I am such a morning/afternoon workout person, I can’t convert to a late night work out. I HAVE to have my dinner before I workout at night if I do that. I will have to stop working out and eat if I don’t.


28 Paige January 25, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I definitely agree on #1–changing into my clothes before I leave work basically guarantees that I’ll go to the gym. If I put if off and pretend that I’m going to change once I get there, it suddenly becomes all too easy to skip out.

And yes, giving yourself a short time goal I think makes all the difference. I go in saying that I only have to stay for 20 minutes. Most of the time I don’t have a problem staying longer once I’m already in action.

I love the crockpot idea! There is seriously nothing worse than getting home after a workout and realizing you have no food…and then having to venture out again. That is a surefire way to get me eating fast food (ick.)–I’m just too worn out to do anything else.


29 Jennifer January 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I love your advice about taking a class so you have to haul ass to get there! I do that about 3 times a week and it really does work. The other nights I try to run, usually with a friend, so having to meet up with her is great motivation to actually do it. I’ve never been a morning workout person. I hate the idea of lugging all my shower stuff, etc., to the gym and I don’t have enough willpower to get up early enough to get to the gym and then come back and get ready for work. So I’m definitely an evening workout girl.


30 Christina January 25, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Excellent tips! I’m traditionally a 5:30am gym goer, but with how dark (and freezing cold!!!, I’m in CT), I’m having a hard time getting up and going. I’ve been switching over to evening workouts and this list is really everything you have to do to get into the gym. A good afternoon snack is KEY and having a crock-pot meal waiting at home is icing on the cake.


31 Vics January 25, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Totally agree on the running with friends tip — we all seemed to be finding it hard to get motivated so a group of us at work agreed to go running together once a week… you can’t beat the motivation of a gaggle of ladies waiting to get out there with you (because if you didn’t go, you’d be letting them down – right?!)
I used to love morning workouts, I’m hoping that comes back when it gets a bit lighter!


32 Ella January 25, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Heheh, I am sitting on my bed after work wearing my gym clothes and checking email, reading blogs, and I told myself “I will just check Rachel’s blog and that will be the last thing I do before I actually go work out.” What a perfect post to get me off my procrastinating butt! Oh but I just remembered I have to email my friend back about that spur-of-the-moment vacay she is taking with her newest guy… ;)


33 Mary @ stylefyles January 25, 2011 at 8:09 pm

Putting on your gym clothes before leaving the office is DEFINITELY an awesome rule. For some reason, I am way more successful at going to the gym if I do this (though, to be honest, I normally don’t do the gym, I play soccer instead…and that is WAY easier for me to do – I actually LOVE it, haha). But when it’s just going to the gym, throwing workout gear on while at the office is key.


34 Alina @ Duty Free Foodie January 26, 2011 at 9:40 am

I am totally with you on taking classes at night – having that appointment definitely helps me, and I leave work at just the right time to make it happen.

My main piece of advice for working out at night is to go straight to the gym after work. Whether I choose to go to the gym by my house or by/at my work (I am a member of multiple gyms and studios – sorry I’m not sorry) – I have my gym clothes with me at work or in the car. The one exception is yoga because I might be going to a late evening class, and it’s extra-easy for me to go to yoga because I love it the mostest.


35 sally January 27, 2011 at 8:14 am

I used to go to the gym after work and to motivate me to go frequently, I joined a gym right by my work, before I got on the bus to go home. Because I had to walk past the gym to get to the bus home, and because I had been carrying my gym clothes + shoes with me, I rarely chose to just carry everything home without exercising first. Now I have an apartment complex in my gym, and I go in the morning, which I like better because it leaves my afternoons and evenings free.


36 Teri [a foodie stays fit] January 30, 2011 at 8:11 pm

These are such great tips – and new ones to boot! I love the tips to change into your workout clothes before leaving the office and to plan a crock pot meal. Sometimes working out at night is a pain because by the time I make dinner after a workout, it’s nearly 9! Great tips Rachel!


37 Angela January 30, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Good plans. I have to bust my hiney to get to Yoga class in time, but I change at work so that I’m already in that mindset.

I love working out at night – it doesn’t rev me up, it makes me sleepy.


38 ange February 2, 2011 at 10:43 am

i love this post!! i always workout in the evening, i find if im organised ie; having a meal prepared from night before, workout clothes ready, ipod charged then i have no excuses to fit in my workout straight after work!


39 Jessica March 8, 2011 at 9:09 am

This is a great post, and something I’ve always struggled with. I recently started working at over my lunch break which can make your hair REALLY dirty in the afternoon, but it has been amazing. The classes that are really challenging I leave a few minutes early and hop in the shower, but it feels so good to get your workout done with and be able to go home and relax at 5.
On the flipside, it has made my after work workouts even harder to get to since I’m so used to being able to go home, but changing at work has been about the only saving grace and telling one or two people what class I’m taking. That way when I leave if I haven’t changed into sneakers, the Catholic guilt in me is too much to bear as I shamefully walk to my car, still in my work clothes.
Thanks again for sharing, really enjoying your blog!


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