In my opinion, the hardest workout exercises of all is not the 4×1000 or the 500 for time or the 10×100 with the interval set at your race pace; no, the hardest workout is the after work workout.
Some people thrive in the hours from 4-9pm thus making getting to the pool after a full day of work easier, but I know for a fact that many struggle with getting there during that time. Be it because of having to pick the kids up at school and taxiing them around to after school activities (hopefully swim practice) or just wanting to crash on the couch after a full day of putting out fires and mindless meetings at the office, it is tough to find a time slot and the energy to get your workout in. But these workouts can have huge benefits to your fitness and training.
While I know many triathletes prefer to train in the “peace of the morning” before work and before the day gets ahead of us, sometimes we have to workout in the afternoon possibly because you wanted to sleep in after a late night or that is the only time that the pool is open to the public.
Studies have actually shown that the afternoon between 4 and 6pm is when our body is best suited and receptive to do intensity exercises while the morning is best for aerobic, fasted workouts. Moreover, while there is no scientific evidence to support my theory, I think working out in the afternoon when we are mentally and physically tired from the day makes us stronger (proverbially, it puts hair your chest); it is similar to when we have to dig deep at the end of a race when our legs might be tired already and our mindset not 100%.
Over the past couple of months, I have added in an afternoon workout into my routine to add in some extra weekly volume and to build this mental strength. At first, it was a STRUGGLE. I didn’t really want to put on my swimsuit or lace up my running shoes. I was tired from not only my morning workout but also work, and all I really wanted to do plop down on the couch and watch Netflix.
But I did it anyway because I knew the workout was not going to complete itself. Each and every time, I felt instantly better after the first minute as the stress of the day melted and sweated away. After the first week or two, I settled into my new routine, and going to the gym at 4pm became habitual.
If you struggle with the PM slump, I have found some helpful hints to get you through and optimize these sessions:
- Don’t ask yourself if you will do the workout, ask yourself, how you are going to do it. By removing the option of bailing, and honoring your commitment, your mind becomes more resolute.
- Keep on reminding yourself that you will feel better during and after the workout because you will.
- Get dressed at work and pack ahead. Instead of heading home first, go straight from work to the pool. I even put my swimsuit on at the office to further remove any possibility of not going.
- Don’t worry about the quality at first. If the thought of a hard workout stresses you or gives you anxiety (it does happen), then throw out the workout and go by feel. Especially if you are super tired, tell yourself, that you are going to warm up and go from there. If I have to just do quick sprints and drills, then I will, but I am going to at least start the workout.
- Go light at lunch: While you do not want to go into your afternoon session depleted you don’t want to be nursing a food baby either. I typically go with an Amrita or RX bar coupled with a green tea for caffeine, which will give me energy for the set without making me feel sluggish. Then, after my workout, at dinner I am sure to refuel with a large, fully loaded salad since I know that I will have the time to digest all of that fiber.
- Join a group or meet up with friends to keep you accountable.
There you go: six tips for an awesome PM workout. Are you an early bird or night owl when it comes to training? Let us know. We love hearing from our crew.