Help with creating a workout schedule for shift worker

  • I work a pretty odd shift based on a 4 week cycle and trying to fit in a workout routine is quite a headache.  I find it pretty much impossible to work out on work days as I work a 12 hour shift (7am-7pm) and I've got a 35-45 minute commute each way.  My gym is only open from 5:30am-8:00pm so I can't get there on workdays.  Additionally, my work load is quite varied.  Some days I'm in the lab or in front of a computer screen all day.  Other days, I'm running around, hauling heavy materials and engaged in fairly strenuous physical work.  After twelve hours of a physical day, I'm too wiped to do much other than prepare my meals for the next day, read for an hour and then hit the sack.

    Anyway, my scheule is based on a 4-week rotation and laid out like this:

    1st Week:

    off Sunday

    work 7am-7pm Monday

    work 7am-7pm Tuesday

    off Wednesday

    off Thursday

    work 7am-7pm Friday

    work 7am-7pm Saturday


    2nd Week

    work 7am-7pm Sunday

    off Monday

    off Tuesday

    work 7am-7pm Wednesday

    work 7am-7pm Thursday

    (on even months) work  7am-7pm Friday

    (on odd months) off Friday

    off Saturday


    3rd Week

    off Sunday

    work 7pm Monday night to 7am Tuesday morning

    work 7pm Tuesday night to 7am Wednesday morning

    off Thursday

    work 7pm Friday night to 7am Saturday morning

    work 7pm Saturday night to 7am Sunday morning


    4th week

    work 7pm Sunday night to 7am Monday morning

    off Tuesday

    off Wednesday

    off Thursday

    off Friday

    off Saturday



    Getting to the gym on days off is no problem (except the first day after night shift.  That hits me pretty hard) but during those days that I do work, the gym is out and even aerobic stuff can be hard to get in if it was a physical day.  Eating is also problematic with the 12 hour shift because it's often hard to get away for anything other than the 30 minute lunch break at 12.


    Any advice or tips?  Thanks



  • I also work 12 hour shift, but my schedule is 7pm to 7am.  I normally workout right after work before I go home.  As for eating, I prepare at least 2 meals prior to my work week starting and I add in supplements such a EAS shakes and bars.  It is easier for me to eat a EAS bar then to sit down and eat a meal at work.  I do limit my self to only eating supplements 1-2 times and day.

    I do understand that it can be a struggle to fit in time to exercise, but BFL only works if you work it.  The other day I worked a double ,which for me was 7pm to 11:45 am, and I still managed to make it to the gym to do my upper body weights.  I was very proud myself Going to the gym made me want to eat better and not waste the workout by eating something not on the plan.  

  • I work 12 h also 7a-7p and I do my cardio on work days before work, then I do my weight training on my days off.  It is working well so far, Im on day 6!  Good luck

  • I'm thinking of doing the same, Chuck.  Cardio after work and gym on the days off.  

    Lisa, as I said, the gym simply isn't possible for me on work days.  I wouldn't make it there until 7:45pm and they close at 8.  Mornings are no good either as they open at 5:30am but, from the gym, I'd need to be on the road by 5:45.

  • Sounds like a plan

  • First week is done and it's been rough.  I've been doing as I planned and riding a stationary bike after work and hitting the gym on my days off.  I'm still trying to fine tune the gym workouts as I used to spend more time at the weights and just worked two body parts per session.  I find I'm either going too light in the middle of the routine and breezing through it or killing myself on the high point and only getting 7-8 reps before muscle failure.

    The diet is what's really been the hard part.  I'm using the Loseit! app for the iPhone so I know I'm consuming roughly the same amount of calories as before, but my carbs (esp lower glycemic carbs like rice and bread) are way up.  I feel like I'm eating more though and I'm having energy crashes at random times during the day.  I don't have the space in the work fridge for 4 small meals through the day, so I've been having two small meals and two replacement shakes.   I'm a bit leery of taking in all these supplements, shakes, BCAA, CLA, GABA and other powders and poultices.  You can see my urine from space and I wonder about the effects of consuming so much.  

    I'll keep at it until the 6 week mark and see if I'm making any progress.  If not, it'll be time to modify the diet.

  • Looks like you need to get up early for cardio. And possibly squeeze in 1 lift day before work.  I find leg days to be shorter since you can do abs whenever if you run low on time.  I think diet is key tho.  If you can't give it all on every workout you should be trying that much harder with the diet.  That's where the most results will come from.  

  • No way in hell am I getting up any earlier to work out before a 12 hour shift.  That'd put both my and my co-workers at risk.  

  • I dunno.. we work a very similar shift and it's what I do.  Except I bounce from 5am start to 9am each week.  For 9 am shifts I get up at 6:45 and hit the gym by 7 and for the 5am shift I get up at 4am and normally hit the gym by 5pm.  It's tough and I only work 10 hours but I do pull lots of OT of 13+ hours some days.  My secret is a good pre workout.  

  • If it works for you, that's excellent.  I know it doesn't for me.  My days are highly variable and I can't count on any given day being a quiet one.  Last Monday, for example, I was run off my butt from the start and didn't get so much as a water break until 3:35.  Had a bad case of swamp *** and the chafing was bad enough that it was painful to walk for 2 days afterwards.  Given that I work with chemicals that are lethal and given that I'm often required to calculate correct dosages and flow paths, I need to be focussed.  An early morning workout isn't going to aid that.  Besides, my gym isn't open that early so I'm pretty much limited to running around in circles in a field at that time of day.

  • I don't mean to sound like a jerk but if losing weight was easy everyone would be doing it.  It takes commitment and sacrafice.

  • sacrifice.

  • yea, I'm aware..  Typing on my phone makes me grammar lazy.. doesn't change the point I was trying to make.  You're making excuses.  I used to do that a lot too.  But you really can fit this all into your life if you try.  Best of luck!