I Worked Out in the Middle of the Day For a Week to See If It Would Boost My Energy — Here’s What Happened

published Feb 9, 2021
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I never thought I would be the kind of person who worked out in the middle of the day. “Those people” had different schedules, the kind without midday meetings that therefore allowed for enough time to plan for a workout, a shower, and getting back to your desk all before your boss noticed you were gone. Working out in the middle of the day seemed like a day-off luxury or an endeavor for the weekend.

Fast forward to last March, when I began working from home alongside a lot of other people. Suddenly, I had nowhere to commute to and no gym classes to structure my day around. It was up to me to figure out when and how I would work out — and given that I was continually reaching for more and more coffee to power through my day, I wondered if switching up my workouts would help me stay alert and on at work.

According to Nike Master Traini Kirsty Godso, “A midday workout can help save your afternoon productivity if you often fall into a slump.” Of course, working out at any time of the day can give you a boost of energy, but she believes that the practice of a midday workout “will prop you up better than coffee or similar liquid stimulus we often rely on,” she told Apartment Therapy.

Curious to see how the other half lives, I challenged myself to work out in the middle of the day for an entire work week. Here’s how it went:

How I Prepared:

I kept my plans relatively simple: I would succeed if I moved my body at some point in the middle of my day. To me, this meant any time between the hours of 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., and any kind of movement counted. (I used to be the kind of person who scheduled their workouts a week ahead of time, but now I’m more focused on listening to what my body wants to do each day and in each workout.)

I also wanted to avoid any time-based goals — the plan here was not to recreate an hour-long HIIT class, gym-style. “Your workouts don’t have to be long to add value. You can move for 10 to 20 minutes and it’s still going to have a positive effect,” Godso said. Not only does that manageable chunk of time help you get into the habit of moving, but those bursts of movement can quickly add up.

“You can use the often-dead 10- to 15-minute windows of time that are scattered throughout your schedule that might not be long enough to make a call or hammer out that brief,” Godso said. “But it’s long enough for you to work on some glute and core activation or a quick circuit of bodyweight exercises. Stack a few of those across the day and boom, you’ve moved for 45-60 minutes before you even know it.”

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Day 1: Monday

I felt my energy lagging around 2 p.m., so I put up a “be back soon!” note on Slack, closed my computer, and pulled my living room table to the center of the room to prep my workout space (aka, unroll my yoga mat). I opted for a 30-minute workout through the Sweat app, because I felt suddenly very aware of how much time I was taking away from my work computer.

The workout flew by, though I did have to make sure to play music on my headphones so as to not disturb my roommate’s meeting. I also picked a barre class that was tough, but not vigorous enough to get me really sweaty, which allowed me to log back on after my workout without fear that I wasn’t Zoom-ready. Overall, the workout left me feeling refreshed, and with the boost of endorphins I needed to finish out the rest of my workday.

“Oh no,” I slacked my coworker when I checked back in. “I think it actually works.”

Day 2: Tuesday

This was a busy morning, with nonstop meetings, and emails that needed quick responses. By the time 1 p.m. rolled around, I was drained… too drained to pull out my weights from their storage corner and follow a routine. Instead, I threw on my sneakers, put on a mask, and went for a long walk instead.

It was a necessary reset, especially because I regularly forget that walking totally counts as a workout. By the end of my 45-minute walk, I felt refreshed, and I had boosted my step count considerably for the day. Mission accomplished.

Day 3: Wednesday

I was able to step away from my computer at 2 p.m. and transform the corner of my living room into my workout studio. This time, knowing I would end the workout in a better mood than when I started, was motivation on its own. I also didn’t have any meetings planned for the rest of the day, so I opted for a tough, leg-focused circuit. I ended a little sweaty and could certainly feel the endorphins pumping. The only downside? I now had to keep my damp hair in its bun for the rest of the day.

Day 4: Thurdsay

And just like that, I hit a wall. I didn’t want to work out. I didn’t even want to take a walk. So I simply didn’t. Instead, I did a 10-minute stretch session through the Peloton app, and called it a day. (Experts recommend incorporating active recovery days into every workout program, so this is a great option when you don’t have it in you for a full-fledged workout.) If you’re looking for a free active recovery workout, try this popular stretching routine from YouTuber Heather Robertson.

Day 5: Friday

I woke up ready to hit the ground running, so I actually completed a strength workout in my little workout corner before logging on for work at 9 a.m. I still wanted to test the theory of whether a midday workout would help my energy levels. Except, here’s the thing: The morning workout also helped boost my mood, so by the time 2 p.m. came around, I didn’t feel a familiar energy lag.

Even so, I knew it would be in my best interest to step away from my computer for a few minutes. (Experts agree that mindful breaks actually help boost productivity more effectively than working straight through your allotted time.) So I took another walk to cement the habit and get another burst of much-needed fresh air. Not only did my energy levels stay high, but they lasted me through the end of the day.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

What I Learned:

By the end of the week, I’d gotten into a decent enough rhythm — but I knew there would always be days where I simply did not want to work out, at any time. (Not in a house, not with a mouse… you get it.) The trick, I realized, was to listen to my body.

I also realized that I should work on my relationship with what defines a workout to begin with. Some days that will include queuing up several strength videos in a row on my Peloton app, other days it’s okay to take a walk and call a friend to catch up. What matters most is to take the time to move, period.