After years of working with clients to regain their health through the simplicity of the basic movement I decided it was time to share much of what I have learned with you. Working the night shift certainly doesn’t lend itself to an abundance of energy and there has certainly been many a night when I have found myself pumping pure caffeine through my veins to stay awake during a shift. That said there is this perception that fitness should be a shredded physique accomplished by hours or sweat drenched floors in the gym. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure I have had many a workout session that has left me breathless on the floor unable to get up. But hey I work the night shift, you already know that I am weird.

In the following template below I would like to help you find your footing as it were. By escaping the need for the chronic cardio which usually ends up putting you on a non stop carbohydrate binge and refuel after every session you will reclaim more of your time and accomplish the same results in less time, with less effort.

To give you and idea what I mean let me tell you where I started, feel free to skip ahead to the workouts if this drags on. When I started on the night shift I was still in my 20’s, after just leaving the military I had this drive yourself into the ground mentality. If it didn’t hurt it wasn’t working. So I would end my night shift at around 5-6 each morning and proceed to leave it all on the road. I typically logged about 4-5 mile run on the light end each morning before the whole world had even had its first cup of coffee. After which I would drag myself to bed and pray that no one that day was doing any landscaping or construction so I could sleep. Upon waking I would drive myself to the gym so I could get in an hour weight training session before my kids got home from school. Let me tell you even in your 20’s this isn’t sustainable in the long term, especially if you are working the nigh shift.

Here is a the irony of it all, chronic cardio tends to lead to over eating. Sure you could go for that run and then just crash, but more than likely you are going to just end up eating exactly what you just burned off because cardio makes you hungry. Or you simply make the excuse you just exercised so I can fudge my diet a little.

Either way no matter where you are starting this workout plan is going to get back to basic movement. It is simple, effective, and best of yet won’t have you in the gym for two hours followed by a massive dietary binge. By inserting fundamental basic movements into your routine followed by some high intensity workouts and sprinting you will find yourself feeling fresher and probably a little leaner. I can’t guarantee it will make the night shift any more bearable. But even if you need to scale the exercises movement starts by moving.

Monday – Sprint
Tuesday – Lift Heavy Things
Wednesday – Move Slowly, Play or Rest
Thursday – HIIT
Friday – Move Slowly, Play or Rest
Saturday – Lift Heavy Things
Sunday – Move Slowly, Play or Rest

Sprinting

There is honestly very few workouts as humbling to your fitness level than sprinting. Picking up your feet and moving them at a complete 100% all out effort will definitely put you in your place and remove all ego from the equation. But of course sprinting benefits go far beyond simple ego. In the age of the constant have in now mentality we appear to have lost that basic primal instinct to just cross short distances to hunt for our food at an all out maximal effort. Imagine if the next time you decide you were hungry and whether or not you ate depended on your ability to cover a distance in the shortest possible time.

So to break it down here are some of the benefits of sprinting:

  • Improves your body composition
  • Improves your longevity
  • Improves your aerobic and anaerobic systems
  • Reduces stress (no brainer as most exercise does)
  • Increases your metabolism
  • Increase Insulin Sensitivity
  • Time Saver (Talking to you chronic cardio junkies)

Sprinting is pretty straight forward: run a maximal(100% effort) for short bursts. But don’t just enter into sprinting blindly, and certainly don’t enter into it with cold muscles. To remove some of the misconceptions spiriting is about the effort not the medium you choose to exercise that effort. So if running is your thing then run, if biking is your thing then bike, or if swimming is your thing, you guessed it, swim.

For the example I am going to choose running as hill sprints as it is one my favorite, and low impact, method of sprinting.

  • The Warm-Up: It’s important to warm-up carefully before any workout, but even more so for sprinting due to the increased demand placed on muscles, joints, and connective tissue. A warm-up consists of 5-10 minutes of very comfortably paced cardiovascular exercise—something registering a 1 or 2 on a 1-10 scale. For all but the fittest folks, this is simply a brisk walk, perhaps an easy jog.
  • Mobility Exercises: Move your muscles through an exaggerated range of motion, but not applying extra force beyond what’s required to go through the range of motion.
  • Sprint: Choose a duration between 10 and 20 seconds, and target your reps between 4 and 10. (If you’re new to sprinting, stick to no more than 4-5 reps.)
  • Rest between Sets: No really, rest. Take as much time as you need, typically 1-2 minutes, to fully recover your fuel systems enough to be able to go again, ideally close the same pace as before.
  • Finally Cool Down. Depended upon the exercise you chose 7-10 minutes of light effort where you let your heartrate drop back down, if you are tracking it would be 180-age. This could be a jog, slow backstroke in the pool, or just pedaling slower.

Lift Heavy Things

Lifting weights is probably one of my favorite exercises of choice, and I get it lifting isn’t for everyone. But to dispel the myth right away you won’t get jacked by lifting alone. Lifting in concert with your diet is what causes you to get jacked. If you aren’t eating in a caloric surplus, aka a lot of food, you won’t grow huge. Now if that is your goal then that is a whole other conversation. So just like before lets get into some of the main benefits of lifting, and why everyone should be doing it at least twice a week.

  • Increases HDL – High Density Lipoprotein (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL – Low Density Lipoprotein (bad cholesterol).
  • Reduces risk of diabetes and insulin needs.
  • Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Lower high blood pressure.
  • Lowers risk of breast cancer – reduces high estrogen levels linked to the disease.
  • Decreases or minimizes risk of osteoporosis by building bone mass.
  • Reduces symptoms of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
  • Reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Decreases colds and illness.
  • Strength Training Supports Fat Loss
  • It Can Transform Your Body
  • It Can Help Your Mental Health
  • Strength Training Improves Balance
  • Strength Training Supports Healthy Bones
  • It May Help You Live a Longer, Healthier Life

For a more advanced routine you can check one out here.

While gym junkies will certainly want more day two days a week is plenty for overall fitness. As a gym junkie myself I can tell you if you take these exercise seriously it will leave you feeling less drained than usual. Burnout is a constant danger with night shift as you certainly already find yourself dealing with a lack of energy.

To get the most bang for your buck we will focus on the tried and trued multi joint exercises that have formed the foundation of strength and power building routines for generations.

Day One

Back Squats
Bench Press
Bent Over Rows
Dips (weighted, if possible)

Day Two

Deadlift
Overhead Press
Pull-ups/Chin-ups (weighted, if possible)
Thrusters

Be sure to do a few warm up reps with each exercise to avoid injury but after that aim for 4 sets of 5-8 reps. Aim for something difficult but not near your max. Leave a couple in the tank.

Beginners not used to barbell exercises or people without access to equipment might try:

Air Squats (or just the bar to practice form) 5 sets of 10
Lunges (perhaps with dumbbells) 5 sets of 10
Push-ups 5 sets of 10
Pull-ups 5 sets of 10
Inverted Row 5 sets of 10

And for the second session:

Air Squats 5 sets of 10
Lunges 5 sets of 10
Push-ups 5 sets of 10
Pull-ups 5 sets of 10
Handstand push-ups/presses 5 sets of 10

Increase the the number of reps as needed, or decrease if needed. But for basic fitness you don’t need to do a whole lot more than what is listed. If you wish to grow stronger your most optimal option is access to a barbell. But if you wish to simply get fit this workout will get you there.

HIIT

I want to dispel some misconceptions of HIIT right out the door, a large majority of the you tube videos claiming to be HIIT are really not. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. If you are not doing it at high intensity then you are not doing HIIT. These workouts will be extremely exhausting but they also don’t need to be extremely long. The biggest reason I love these workouts is that they can be done with minimal to no equipment and you can accomplish in 15 minutes more than you would get from slogan along on the elliptical or treadmill for over an hour. Now to be fair LISS, or Low-intensity steady-state, work different energy systems in the body. But in the world of general exercise where anabolic or anaerobic are just foreign words more in less time sounds better.

The key here is metabolic conditioning – subjecting yourself to a steady barrage of multi-joint, compound exercises performed rapidly and with little rest to build muscular and anaerobic endurance. So crunches are out, not they were doing much for you anyways. The beauty of HIIT is that you can combine any series of exercises as you see fit, or are capable. Each exercise you choose should ideally incorporate more than one muscle group done at 100% effort. I caution however if you haven’t done something like this before to make sure you are completely comfortable with the movement patterns associate with your exercise of choice. Otherwise you can risk injury at 100%. To put it simply imagine sprinting at an all out effort, if you suck at running you wouldn’t want to sprint. Each of these exercises are a sprint.

The well known modality in the world of HIIT is Tabatha. Which is essentially choosing two exercises, full effort for exercise A at 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, full effort for exercise B at 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds. Repeat for 4 rounds. You are done. If you can pick your self up off the floor you may not of gone hard enough.

Sample HIIT workouts

Prison Workout

  • 5 pull ups
  • 10 prisoner squats
  • 15 pushups
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • 5 Rounds

Endorphin Mainline

  • Step Ups  (12 per leg)
  • Wide Grip Push Ups (20 reps)
  • Prisoner Squats (25 reps)
  • V-Ups (10 reps)
  • Shoulder Press Pushups (10 reps)
  • Wall Squat (30 seconds)
  • Mixed Grip Pull-Ups (5 reps each grip)
  • Superman (up for 10 seconds, rest for 5 seconds; 6 reps)
  • Repeat for three rounds.

Rest/Play/Move Slowly

As adults somehow the idea has escaped us that playing is okay. As we work and live our busy lives we find ourselves more often than not sitting on a couch binging the latest hit TV show. Guaranteed this is technically resting but if you find yourself starting to absorb into you couch maybe resting should take on a different meaning.

What you choose to do this day largely depends on your body. Your body will give you natural cues that will tell you wether  you need to take it easy, or whether a 5 mile hike is in order. Ideally this day should be filled with some sort of low impact low stress movement. Typically I will choose a day devoted just to mobility and joint movement. A day devoted just to getting outdoors and moving. And every day I try to make sure I get the family outdoor to play in some way.

As a tv and movie fanatic it is important for me to practice self control when it comes to my own device usage. I try to be the example for the rest of family. Having a 7 year old that loves to run around and play makes it easy for me to get outside. But as much as she loves to jump and play she also loves to stare at a screen. So play forms a very important role in all my of my children’s upbringing.

Conclusion

Working out is highly individual. Where one person doesn’t love to lift weights another may be a gym junkie. The key here is movement and listening to your body. Don’t burn yourself out with overly complex exercises you don’t enjoy or you are doomed to quit, or burn out.

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About the author : Robert Eilers

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