This story is part of New Year, New You, everything you need to develop healthy habits that will last all the way through 2020 and beyond.
With only 24 hours in a day, where are you ever supposed to find time to work out? Maybe you've tried waking up early to go to the gym, but it's left you feeling exhausted. Or, you've attempted to establish a lunchtime routine, but impromptu meetings keep foiling your plans.
There's no single time of day that works best for all workouts. Instead, read these tips and experiment with different options to find the one that fits your lifestyle. By finding the magical time to exercise, you can make 2020 the year you finally get fit.
Read more: Apple Watch, Fitbit, Theragun: The best fitness gifts to get healthy and stay that way
Early in the morning
The key to working out early in the morning is preparing ahead of time.
1. Lay out your work outfit and all necessary gear the night before. Make sure to dress appropriately -- if you'll be going outside, wear warm and reflective clothing.
2. Make a nutritious breakfast ahead of time. My personal favorites are overnight oats, or you could also mass-prep frozen breakfast burritos.
3. Prepack your lunch. That will save you time in the morning while you get ready.
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4. Instead of your phone as an alarm clock, use a smart display like Amazon's Echo Show or an old-fashioned bedside clock. It's all too easy to stay in bed browsing Instagram -- try to not check your phone at all until you're done with the workout.
5. Go to bed early. Forcing yourself to become a morning person isn't sustainable unless you're consistently getting enough sleep.
6. Get up and go! The next morning, throw back some coffee and a bit of food and get started on your exercise routine before the reality of the early morning hits you. If it's too cold to venture outside, you can get a great workout in without leaving your bedroom.
7. Meet a friend for your workout. Stay accountable to your early-morning workouts by planning to meet up with a friend. You'll be less likely to hit the snooze button if you know someone is waiting for you.
Combining your commute with a workout
Commuting to work by bicycle or foot isn't an option for everyone, but there are ways to modify it so that it fits your lifestyle.
8. Walk instead of driving. If you live semi-close to the train station, try walking instead of driving to fit your cardio in.
9. Try running to work. If you live a few miles away from work and usually take public transit, you have a great opportunity to start run commuting. Monday morning, take transit in with an extra work outfit and two packed lunches. Then, run home and back to work the next morning. Tuesday night, take transit home with your lunch dishes and extra run clothes, and repeat the two-day process. That way, you don't have to travel on foot with a bulky backpack full of clothes and food. (Read our recommendations for the best running shoes.)
10. Bike to work. Cycle commuting is also an option if your city is suitable for wheeled transport. You don't need to spend ten thousand dollars on a carbon fiber road bike -- a used hybrid bike will go for less than $100 and is a great place to start. Pick up a comfortable commuter bag and have at it.
During your lunch break
When trying to fit a workout in a thirty minute or hour-long lunch break, saving time is the name of the game.
11. Block off your calendar. When exercising on your lunch break, you'll want to okay the mid-day workout with your boss. Then schedule the time on your calendar to avoid last-minute meetings.
12. Choose clothes that serve multiple purposes. To save time dressing, try wearing as many workout outfit items to the office as you can. That could mean buttoning a blazer over a breathable t-shirt, choosing chinos made from technical fabric, or throwing on some fashionable gym sneakers so that you don't have to change shoes.
13. Prep the right hairstyle. If you have longer hair, wear it in a ponytail or braid to avoid restyling.
14. Don't waste time getting lunch. Again, pack a lunch ahead of time so that you don't waste time waiting in line at a to-go restaurant.
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15. Make the most of the time you have. If you have a shorter lunch break, you don't have to sacrifice any fitness goals. A good high intensity cardio session will only take you 20 minutes -- in the same amount of time, you can also do a lower body or upper body and core workout. Or, go on a brisk walk right from the office to save yourself the commute to the gym.
16. Avoid peak gym time. To beat the crowds and waiting for machines, don't hit the gym during the 11:30-1 lunch rush. If you make it earlier in the day, you can enjoy lunch at your desk at the usual time.
17. Freshen up. Of course, there's always the issue of needing a shower. An easy solution would be to bring a towel and some soap to the gym locker room, or check if your workplace has showers. If neither of these are a suitable option, you can pass with some baby wipes, deodorant and a douse of cold water from the sink -- just try to choose a workout that doesn't make you sweat too much.
After work, at night
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Over the summer, I got into the habit of going to the gym right after work. Exercising after work might seem like the last thing you want to do, but it's a good way to relieve any stress from the day.
18. Bring gym clothes and change into them. My biggest key to success is that I always brought my exercise clothes with me and changed into them at the office -- it automatically switched my brain from work to workout mode, and I got to skip the gym locker room nightmare.
19. Workout first, then head home. Try to fit in your exercise before you get home so that you're not tempted to relax on the couch. This will also help with your sleep schedule, as a hard workout right before bedtime can interrupt your rest.
20. Workout while dinner cooks. If you have to go home before working out, the Instant Pot is a great answer to the question of what to do for dinner. Throw a bunch of ingredients in, set it for thirty minutes, and do your routine -- by the time you're done, you'll have a delicious and nutritious dinner waiting. You can even workout in front of the TV while your meal is cooking.
21. Sign up for a class. To beat the temptation of skipping a nighttime workout, try paying for an after-work exercise class ahead of time. Think of it as an investment for the future healthier you.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.