A Simple Guide to Working Out Before Work

Want to become an early morning exerciser? Here's how.

Morning workout

Morning workout photo via istock.com/Geber86

Going for an early morning jog or sneaking out for a lunch break Spin class sounds genius. By the time you head home for the evening, you’ve logged a full day at the office and crossed exercise off your to-do list. No downside, right?

Sure—except for figuring out how to squeeze in a workout without being late to work, dealing with post-gym hunger at your desk, and getting office-ready with what little time you have after you exercise. Right, those.

Lucky for you, we consulted the experts. Here’s how to work out before work.

The Workout

Think you don’t have time to exercise before work? Think again. We asked Jessica Arber, owner of the Active Workplace, and trainer Lauren Hefez how to fit a quick workout into your morning or lunchtime routine.

Work smarter, not longer: “Getting multiple muscles at the same time just makes your workout more efficient,” Hefez says, adding that even a five- or 10-minute routine is better than nothing. She recommends combination moves like planks, weighted squats, and plié squats with a bicep curl. “I’d do the same move 20 times, but do multiple muscles,” she says.

Arber likes body weight resistance moves, which can be done when you’re short on time or space. She recommends doing 10 reps each of jumping jacks, burpees, push-ups, sit-ups, and squats, then nine reps of each, then eight, and so on.

Rethink your commute: “Combine transportation and workout time by pedaling, walking, or running, depending on the commute,” Arber says. “It beats sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.”

Make your office your gym: If you can, squeeze in a mini workout during your lunch break or before you start your day. Arber recommends tricep dips or push-ups on your desk, step-ups onto a sturdy chair, or using office equipment as makeshift hand weights. If you’re looking for something a little more subtle, invest in an exercise ball to sit on. “People can use it as their chair—it’s great for posture and developing core strength,” she says. “You can also use it for other exercises, like a quick ab workout.”

The Meal Plan

If you’re not used to exercising in the morning, you may find that doing so leaves you much hungrier than usual. Registered dietitian and sports nutritionist Elizabeth Avery shares her tips for getting by.

Rehydrate: “I would first recommend rehydrating before consuming any solid food,” she says. “Thirst pains feel the same as hunger pains, so we often take in excess calories by eating out of thirst.” Start drinking water before your workout. After you finish, aim to gulp one to two cups at the very least.

Eat before you sweat: Avery suggests eating before you set foot in the gym. “By fueling your body properly before a workout, you will last longer, perform better, and gain strength,” she says. An hour before a tough cardio workout, she says to eat one gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. If you don’t have time to do that, eat something small, such as a banana, shortly before.

Refuel with purpose: It’s important to eat protein and carbohydrates after a workout. Avery says to eat one gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight 30 to 60 minutes after working out, and 20 grams of protein within two hours of working out. Her favorite post-workout meals include a veggie omelette with toast, yogurt and granola, a smoothie with fruit and dairy, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a turkey sandwich, or lean protein and pasta.

The Gym Bag

Among the most challenging parts of balancing work life with gym life is going from sweating profusely to dressing professionally in a flash. Here are some products that make it easier.

Dry shampoo: Bring your hair back to life without a drop of water. We like the versions from French standby Klorane ($20) and local brand Living Proof ($22).

Sweat-eating body spray: Yes, seriously. Cambridge-based Mother Dirt‘s AO+ Mist ($49) contains active bacteria that literally eats sweat sitting on your skin. We wouldn’t recommend subbing it for a shower if you’re dripping in sweat, but it could be just the trick after a barre or yoga class.

Micellar water: Products using micelles cleanse and moisturize the skin in one step, and they typically don’t need to be rinsed off—which is perfect if you’re rushing. Try La Roche-Posay’s micellar water ($20).

Body wipes: If you’ve truly got no time to hop in the shower, towelettes will help in a pinch. Nathan’s Power Shower Wipes ($4) are specifically meant for gym goers.

All-purpose mist: How’s this for time saving? Aura Cacia’s yoga mists ($10) can be used on your face, body, and yoga mat, killing three birds with one stone.