How best to workout at work?
December 12, 2006 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Bit out of shape, me. Would like to fix that. Our office has a small gym. In this gym is an expected fleet of treadmills, stationary bikes, free weights and a single stair-climber. We've got shower, locker room and changing facilities as well. Given these tools available, what would be my best use of them? Workout before work? After? And which for how long?

I'm not trying to be all buff, but rather just reverse the tiredness/laziness that my desk-bound career seems to engender.
posted by grabbingsand to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in a deskbound career as well. I work out almost daily (4 days a week) after work. I've found that the most important thing for me is cardiovascular with a moderate amount of weights to keep some muscle under the skin - which will burn calories and improve your general health.

I generally run on a treadmill for two miles (trying to keep an 8 mile a minute pace, but I'm fairly in shape right now) or bike for about 30 minutes on an 'interval' pattern. I don't reccomend doing either of those at first; just work on getting your heart rate up and keeping it up using whatever pattern of running/walking on a treadmill or biking fast/slow/high resistance/low resistance on the stationary bike that you like. When you feel like you're in shape and it's not really anything to sit down and pedal for 30 minutes, then start doing intervals.

I am very lucky in that the place I work out has an indoor track. I work for a university and pay to use the student rec center. I really prefer running on a track to running on a treadmill.

After that, I work my shoulders by picking up a few heavier (35-45 lbs) hand weights and 'shrugging' ... that will help reduce the risk of RSI or neck problems from sitting in one place so long. I then do curls with some 10 lbs weights, and 'Arnies' (lay on your back on a bench and using two 5 or 10 lbs weights, push up away from you, then turn the weights and make the ends hit, then turn them back and bring them back down, then spread your arms out like you're on a cross, then bring them back in. Repeat about 8 times. Work up in sets, not weight.

Of course, the most important part is consistency. If you don't go 3 days a week at least, you're not going to do much of anything really towards reducing that desk spread. Find someone else who goes, or figure out when the CEO's young, cute assistant goes and get on the machine behind her... whatever it takes to motivate you.
posted by SpecialK at 8:26 AM on December 12, 2006

I say 45 minutes to an hour before work, either on the treadmill,stairclimber or lifting weights. Make the workout strenuous and you'll feel invigorated for much of your day.
posted by dropkick at 8:27 AM on December 12, 2006

err 8 minutes per mile pace. I can't really run 8 miles per minute... but damn, I wish I could.
posted by SpecialK at 8:27 AM on December 12, 2006

And the important thing with the running/walking and stationary bike at first is just that you do it for 30 minutes, no matter how you do it.
posted by SpecialK at 8:28 AM on December 12, 2006

I've never found a good way to work out at an office facility before or during work. Get up, shower, get dressed up, go to work, change to work out, shower, get dressed up again... feels ridiculous. Working out afterwards and heading home to shower and put on jeans for the evening seems more natural to me.

But you might find more ideas in some of the endless fitness features of Men's Health magazine, or Men's Fitness. Or even the sites AskMen or
posted by Tubes at 8:37 AM on December 12, 2006

I think it really depends on you. Some people find a morning workout to work for them, some people prefer after work. During the lunch hour seems like it would be way too tight, time-wise. As for what you should do? There are TONS of askme questions about fitness training for random various goals. But if you're just looking to increase your fitness levels, you can't really go wrong throwing yourself on the treadmill for 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Start off slow, and work your way up.
posted by antifuse at 9:19 AM on December 12, 2006

Overweight desk-potato here, been working out on and off for about 5 years at the work's gym.

The few times I've managed to keep up a before work schedule, it was get up, throw on gym clothes, get to gym, do workout, shower, put on work clothes.

It is quite invigorating, and a routine I would like to try and get back into. Bonuses: you're using the gym's hot water, you speed up your metabolism early in the day, and (if you're like me) you don't feel like breakfasting until about 11.

Evening workouts have a different effect - you get the virtue, but not the all-day buzz. And I'm 100% more likely to go for a pint after an evening workout. But I'm already awake in the evening so the workout goes better, and I'm much more likely to do it. I'm so not a morning person that it's fairly difficult for me to get into the AM routine.

So those are my thoughts on timing. Apropos of what exercise to do - I'd do a bit of each of the machines to begin with. Aim for at least 30 minutes cardio which at the start might be 10 minutes run, 10 minutes bike, 10 minutes stair. But mix it up and try and work up to the stage where you can do 30 minutes of each. The reason I say this is because boredom is such a factor in the gym, and tying yourself to just one machine isn't going to help that at all. Keep a note (when you get back to your desk) of your best times/levels/calories burned score and compete with yourself, because seeing your own progress over time is a real motivator.
posted by handee at 9:20 AM on December 12, 2006

I go in the mornings for an hour Mon-Fri. 45 min cardio and 15 abs or calves.

Then for an hour and a half in the evenings, focusing on weights. 45 min weights and maybe 30-45 min cardio. I do this every weekday except Wed evening, which is my 'midweek break'.
Sat, same Sunday. I realize you may not be able to workout at the office on Saturday, but walk or run outside, go hiking, rockclimbing, whatever.
It sounds like a lot, but if you give it a month, you WILL see changes.
Good luck.
posted by nineRED at 9:44 AM on December 12, 2006

How about a quick lunch and then exercise after eating?
posted by JJ86 at 9:56 AM on December 12, 2006

I really like an early morning workout, but so do a lot of people. Your company gym sounds rather small, so perhaps you should ask around and find out when it's least busy.
posted by Sara Anne at 10:03 AM on December 12, 2006

You lucky duck! 20 minutes of rapid walking on the treadmill at lunchtime would help clear the cobwebs and give you pep to make it through the afternoon.
posted by SteveInMaine at 11:01 AM on December 12, 2006

I've been going to the gym for a number of years, using the regular bikes, the recumbent bikes, the ellipticals. Nothing has transformed my body like running three times a week on the treadmill. I go after work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

I started with this goal: get to the point where I can run for 30 minutes without walking and without collapsing. Then I aimed to run 3 miles without walking or collapsing. Then 3 miles within 30 minutes. Now I'm trying to get to the point where I can run 3 miles within 30 minutes comfortably, then I'm going to try to improve my time still more.

When I look in the mirror, I love what I see. An hour and a half a week, and in just a few months I really feel transformed.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 12:56 PM on December 12, 2006

The best workout you can adopt out of all your choices is the one you will keep doing. Don't get wrapped up in 'best,' concern yourself with what you like well enough (or hate least enough but can find a way to entertain yourself during) to get into and stay in the habit of doing.

Within that framework, if you have limited time and don't do anything else that gets your heart rate up during the week then exclusively cardio is going to make the biggest difference in your life - both longevity and personal energy-wise.
posted by phearlez at 2:21 PM on December 12, 2006

The best workout you can adopt out of all your choices is the one you will keep doing.


And that may or may not be in a gym. I did the gym thing for a year and hated hated hated it. But then I bought myself a nice bike and my 15-20 miles a day commute keeps me trim and is a whole lot of fun, since I include trails whenever the weather's OK.
posted by unSane at 2:40 PM on December 12, 2006

Whatever you do, don't work out just after eating, its a quick recipe for making yourself throw up! Drink a lot of water so you're hydrated. Given the choice of cycles, treadmills and stairclimber, then stairclimber is the best cardio, followed by treadmill, followed by bike. Bike really isn't that great. Stairclimber is excellent but you may hate it (thigh burn!). If you prefer treadmill then do that instead. 30 minutes on the stairs or treadmill, don't go crazy and try to step/run full pelt, you will just burn yourself out too fast. Thirty minutes cardio, vary the pace to try and keep your heartrate at the suggested level (treadmills usually have a guide calculated on your age and weight). Good luck and try to have fun!
posted by Joh at 3:02 PM on December 12, 2006

go balls out and do a CV workout and a weights workout :)

do a 30 min CV routine in the mornings if you are just wanting to get fit rather than drop loads of weights just keep it steady hit the 30 mins. then ramp it up over the following weeks the intensity though not the time.

if you are after weight loss do interval training. thats where u go hard for 1 min steady for 2 mins repeat.

as for the weights [in the PM] just do a general workout and hit the free weights. split it into 3 seperate workouts. chest/triceps, shoulders/biceps, back/legs

work it like the followin

monday PM weights
tue AM CV
wed PM weights
thu AM CV
fri PM weights
sat AM hit the streets for a run/jog/walk

i used to do this type of working out when i was cutting weight. but it is a total lifestyle change.
posted by moochoo at 3:16 PM on December 12, 2006

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