5-step workout for a wacky schedule

In my 25 years as a strength and conditioning specialist, I’ve worked with clients who work every type of schedule, but the life of a nurse may well be one of the toughest to schedule a consistent exercise routine around.

I’ve had RN clients go for 12 hours on, then two days off, then five days in a row of night shifts. I’ve seen firsthand how your irregular hours can get in the way of a regular workout.

I’ve tailored this five step routine to fit into (or around) a nurse’s wacky schedule, knowing that if you’re devoted to weight loss, you’ll work out your body whenever you possibly can.

1. First, get your exercise either in your “early morning” (just as you wake from your pre-work nap or whatever is your time before heading to your shift) or on your “lunch break.” If you need to, split the time between the two to get both cardio and strength work done.

2. You don’t need access to a gym or any equipment to make real progress toward weight loss and/or energy and performance improvement goals. Step outside into the fresh air (hopefully you don’t work next to the freeway!) to power walk or jog for at least 20 minutes. If the roads nearby aren’t conducive for walking, head to a school or college track near your home or work. Another option is to get your own treadmill or elliptical trainer. Spend a couple of Saturdays on the garage sale circuit and you’ll probably find one for a song.

3. For strength training, start with 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions each of push-ups. I recommend you start with a modified push-up on your knees if your body weight or skill level prevents you from performing the standard “plank” push-up.

4. Next, stand in a doorway (using the frame for balance) and do 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions of standing leg raises and deep knee squats.

5. If you’re in a relatively private spot (at home or a closed-door break room), you can get on all fours and perform donkey kicks (extend one leg at a time straight back, flexing the glutes; repeat). Roll onto your back and do a few standard crunches plus some knee-to-chest tucks.

Breathing hard? Good! You’ve just worked your heart, chest, arms, legs, glutes and abs. And you should be able to do it all in about 45 minutes.

Of course, make sure you get enough sleep before you work out. Proper rest and recovery are critical not only for your best focus while on duty, but for your body to make proper use of the fuel you give it and the exercise you provide it. As a health care professional, you know that haphazard patterns or completely insufficient hours slept means you’re not only not at the top of your game at work, but weight loss is tougher and working out is much less efficient.

Finally, if you find yourself starting strong and then exercising less and less, team up! A friend’s support may be just what you need to break from the smoking and snacking crowd. Invite a friend along on the walk or jog, offer to teach colleagues your break-time exercise routine and give each other support as you decide not to light one cigarette a shift, to make one less candy machine visit, to drink one more glass of water, and to feel better and better every day.

I wish you the best of health.

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