Kind of an ironic title given that when you think of nurses/nursing you think of good health. Unfortunately though, I hear from a ton of nurses, and nursing students, how it’s so hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The hours themselves are long, and usually the work is pretty exhausting. Even on days that aren’t busy at the hospital, I still come home feeling exhausted for whatever reason. I mean, it’s hard work. There isn’t really a way around that!
I work as a RN in a medical intensive care unit (MICU). It was my first job out of nursing school; I started there in March 2016. While there are so many things I could cover within nursing, for now I’m going to cover how I balance an overall healthy lifestyle with work as this seems to be the most commonly asked question–how I plan my meals on days that I work and how I fit my workouts in.
So, I work day shift(only); I am NOT a night shift person LOL. However, I have worked night shift before and I do have a blog post on how I balance my workouts and eating during those shifts (read about that here).
You may know that as far as workouts go, I follow Paosfitworld’s guide. So, after work I do one of her workouts. Several of her workouts only take 25-35 minutes so I usually pick one of these workouts to do after a nursing shift. Therefore, I usually do arms & abs, or a shoulder & back workout. These workouts from her guide are typically pretty quick and aren’t hard on the body. For example, I would never do leg day after a 12 hour shift–talk about torture! So yes, I still workout after work but I do an easier and shorter workout. I sometimes will workout before work. For me, working out after work has just become a habit, but if you’re a big morning person then get your workout in beforehand! Anytime I do that I am always grateful that I got it out of the way.
Since I workout 6x a week, I pretty much always take my rest day on a day that I work. If I work 3 days in a row, I usually take my rest day on my last shift. After 3 shifts my body is pretty exhausted and I’m not really up for a workout. If my shifts are scattered throughout the week, it just depends. Maybe one day I have an extra exhausting shift so I choose to make that my rest day. Or, I have plans one night after work so I make that my rest day instead. Just depends! Also as a disclaimer, you do not need to workout 6x a week. That is just what I do but working out 5x a week won’t kill you–this way it’s just 1 workout you have to get in after a 12 hour shift. Just do what feels right for your body!
I will say, I am extremely lucky in that I have a very convenient apartment gym that I go to. I’ll be honest, if I had to drive to go to the gym after work it would be a huge pain in my ass. I mean, I’d do it, BUT, it definitely wouldn’t be as easy. In this case, I would suggest two options. One being packing your gym clothes and a snack, and going straight to the gym from work (and again, choose a quick & “easy” workout). The other option is to just workout at home those days! Paola’s guide has at home exercises (in her “plus” version), and there are lots of other guides, or you tube videos that have workouts you can do at home. Again, it doesn’t have to be a super strenuous workout. 20-30 minutes is great.
Regarding eating. On days that I work I plan/pack all my food from breakfast, lunch and snacks. This way, I know exactly what I’m eating throughout the day and I know that I am hitting my macros. Whether you count macros or not, I highly recommend packing all of your food. This helps ensure that you stay on track and that you’re eating healthier options and getting your proper nutrients in. I know a lot of nurses say that they are often tempted by treats or food that is brought into work. I am very familiar! Sometimes I will partake and just put whatever in my macros, but overall, I find if I bring plenty of snacks and food for the day that I’m not as tempted.
Overall, forming and maintaining healthy habits on a nurses schedule takes some habit, discipline, and motivation. I know it’s not fun or ideal working out after a 12 hour shift, but you have to decide what your priorities are. If you have specific fitness goals that you want to achieve, then working out post nursing shift is just going to be part of your weekly grind–get over it! 😉 If you’re working out more to just de-stress, or instill some healthier habits, then you don’t need to break your back in getting to the gym after work (just my opinion). In the end, we all have different things that are important to us, so you just have to decide what yours are. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Trust me, I don’t think any less of anyone who doesn’t workout after a nursing shift 🙂 But hopefully these are some helpful tips for those who want to incorporate a weekly workout & eating routine with a nurses schedule!
Thanks for reading guys! Was this helpful?! Let me know! And nurses/future nurses, what else do you want to hear about on this topic?