Working out amidst a wacky schedule

Ah (*sigh*), springtime. Beautiful blooming flowers, warm sunshine, festivals galore, birds chirping…

Wait. Warm sunshine means pools are opening and lakes are welcoming guests. Pools and sunshine = bathing suits. Dreaded bathing suit season!

Does any of this go through your head after hibernating all winter? Clearly this response is less exaggerated in places with mild climates. Some would even consider Atlanta to be mild, but I will say that after months and months of hiding under layers of warm clothes, sweaters and yoga pants, the only thing that I wasn’t looking forward to this spring was having to put on a bathing suit. My strategy for getting past the anxiety and anticipation? A strict workout plan.

Similar to a previous post where I discussed the differences between my schedule and my roommate’s M-F, 9-5 work week, the issue of finding time to exercise amidst a nurse’s wacky schedule rears its ugly head again. I sometimes harbor jealousy towards my roommate’s daily 6am workouts, where her workout is done before her day even begins. However, I am here to reveal how an exercise plan can be managed with a little discipline, even for those who work long, erratic hours.

Working out on your days off

1) No excuses, fit it in. Although it is sometimes hard to get out of bed early after a spree of three shifts in a row, realistically, even with a day packed full of errands, babysitting, appointments, and festivals (if days off fall on a weekend), there is no excuse for not taking an hour or two to exercise.

2) Follow a to-do list. If you put it on your list of things to do for the day (a list always helps me), then you will have those uncrossed-off words “MUST WORKOUT TODAY” staring at you until you fulfill it.

3) Keep things interesting. I try to fill my days off with a variety of exercise options to keep my body guessing. Each day I will choose something new whether it be running, swimming, biking or going to a weight class at the gym.

4) Make your off day workouts count. When I am in training mode for half marathons, I always try to save my long runs for my days off so I can be well-rested and refreshed to optimize my running performance.

The tricky part: working out on work days

1) It’s been a long day is NOT an excuse. Sure, taking three days off exercising a week is fine for some- and then I quickly remind myself that it is NOT fine for me when I look in the mirror at myself in a bathing suit. This is where the discipline comes into play, even after a 12 hour shift.

2) Figure out what works best for you. Running for me is only feasible at night after a shift because I don’t like to run by myself in the dark in the morning. But I try to limit my post-shift runs in mileage because being on my feet all day is tiring in itself. For those that come home to a family, what a better way to catch up on the day’s events than to take a nice long walk with your husband and kids.

3) Try working out at home. I have found workout videos, i.e. P90X, to be extremely effective for me on my work days. I only have to get up 45 minutes earlier than usual, can do a workout right in my room, and have an energy boost for the day.

4) Be a gym rat. If your gym is close to work (mine is conveniently located in between my house and the hospital) you can hit up the gym in the morning and get ready for work there, or stop by the gym for a class on the way home.

I’ll be the first to admit that making myself exercise on days that I work 12 hours is not always fun, but it is always rewarding. I find that exercising even regulates my sleep patterns and allows me to sleep more soundly when I am on night shift. The benefits of exercise extend well beyond my petty bathing suit example, but any motivation counts. Nurses should not allow unpredictable work schedules to ruin their workout plans. With discipline and determination a routine exercise regimen is a reasonable feat for all of us. See you at the pool!


Nicole Lehr

Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.

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3 Responses to Working out amidst a wacky schedule

  1. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    Great tips Nicole! The sacrifice is hard – but worthwhile.

  2. Steph

    Great tips…I started working out the year my husband returned from a 18 month tour in Iraq. My health really suffered in those 18 months and my babies were only 2 & 4. With the stress alone of “not knowing” gave me an ulcer, countless sleepless nights, talking about insomnia!!!

    I decided I needed to stay healthy to see them grow up.

    I have been hitting the gym consistantly for 5 years now, I call it “my therapy session” because I’m not Mom, Nurse, Wife….I’m just ME.

    Working out is good for your mind, body and soul!! I’m now considering competing in our state’s fitness competition!!

    For those of you who are already exercising….keep up the great work and those of you who haven’t….it’s NEVER too late to start!!

  3. Nicole Lehr Scrubs Blogger

    @ Sean- Thanks! I always enjoy your health-related posts and love when other nurses can relate to the trials and tribulations of fitting in a good workout. And I agree, totally worthwhile for an improved lifestyle.

    @ Steph- I love you comment about being YOU during your workout. You are a great motivation for those that need a little boost to get started. Good luck in the state competition!