I'm always fatigued after a night shift and it's quite often the excuse I use to skip training. So how am I meant get anywhere with my fitness for the ADF? Does this sound familiar to you? If so.... read on...
‘I do shift work’ has become a common excuse among many applicants. Over the years we have found that there is an increasing number of people who work night shifts or inconsistent shift work. This is often used as an excuse as to why people haven’t trained or why they didn’t train to full capacity. Sure, we get that you’re fatigued after a night shift but if you continually use this as an excuse to skip training, how can you expect to get anywhere?
When Michael & I were deployed to Afghanistan, we spent almost 6 (Carly) & 9 (Michael) months on constant shift work. We were working weird hours across the entire 24 hour period in order to get the job done. However we were the fittest we’d ever been during this time. Sleep patterns were all over the place and sleep was often interrupted as it's common to share a room with many people who were often on different shift times. There were many factors that could have prevented us from getting our training in but we prioritised it. Staying fit and healthy meant that we had a stronger clarity of mind to help us do our jobs well. It meant that we had the strength to lift equipment, work in body armour and help out where we might be needed. Staying fit meant that our bodies didn’t perish when we were required to sit and fly drones for long periods of time. Fitness was a priority, it gave you a purpose outside of your job and it was a part of the day to look forward to.
Whilst exercise may feel impossible after a long shift, being consistent can help you maintain your energy and keep you at your best. Try and get some fresh air by walking to and from the gym if it’s possible for you.
Remember that you made the decision to join the ADF so it’s up to you to figure out how to make this work. There are 24 hour gyms everywhere. We recommend that you train once your shift finishes so that you can 'compress the stress'. As in, just get it all done whilst you're up and about and a bit tired anyway. However if you've got the discipline and the ability to do it before, go for it.
Let’s talk shift work and fitness.
We’d like to educate you guys and share some information that might help you adjust your mindset towards your fitness and help you prioritise it.
WE ALL HAVE THE SAME 24 HOURS IN A DAY
Everyone has 24 hours in a day that they can utilise to do whatever they want. It’s up to you as to how you craft your life within this 24 hours. If you work at night, get your training in straight after your shift and then sleep the rest of the day then you’ve got everything done. This is the same as working all day, training after and then sleeping the rest of the evening. Sure there will be other factors that can distract you or cause you to fall off the wagon but the important thing to remember here is that we all have the same 24 hours in a day and it’s up to you to decide how to use it.
MOTIVATION IS GENERATED THROUGH YOUR PRIORITIES
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to train before or after your night shifts then it’s very likely that you’re not prioritising your goals in the way you think you are. You have to make your end goal the priority in order to allow it to motivate you. If you’re not feeling motivated after a shift then it’s because you haven’t put your goal of joining the ADF at the forefront of everything you are doing right now. If you want it bad enough then you’ll be able to adjust your schedule and find the energy. Once you prioritise your application then you will find that your training naturally becomes a priority. Motivation will be generated once you’ve made this shift. You’ll find that you want to spend time training because being in the ADF is what you want for your life.
IS IT SAFE TO TRAIN AFTER A NIGHT SHIFT?
It’s completely safe to train after a night shift. A lot of people find that their sleep is not impacted in any way. In fact, many shift workers report that they sleep better after a workout as their minds are given a chance to wind down. Ensure that you’re complimenting your workout with healthy food and aim to get around 7-9 hours sleep.
HAVE A PLAN
Take the time to plan out your week. Take responsibility for how the week will go. Work out when you will train around your shifts, what food you’ll eat and what times you plan to go to sleep and wake up. Try and use this plan as a form of accountability and be disciplined enough to stick to it.
GET A PROGRAM
If you're coming off a night shift and dragging yourself to the gym, then the last thing you want is to have no clue what you’re doing. Get yourself a program that is specific to your goal like the programs we provide at TBG. This way when you arrive at the gym you can open it up and avoid wasting any time. If you'd like a program then contact us here.
Using resources like ear plugs, an eye mask, meditation and a dark, quiet atmosphere will give you the best chance to promote quality sleep. If you have the ability to utilise block out curtains in your room for sleeping during the day then this will create a dark environment. This is the best way to trick your body into thinking it’s nighttime so that it can produce the right chemicals required to fall asleep.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR DAYS OFF?
If you have a day off in the middle of your shifts then try and keep consistent with your sleep/wake cycle. If you try and fill that day with errands, activities, lunch with a friend when you know you should be sleeping and keeping yourself stimulated then you may find it harder to wind down to sleep before the next shift.
Exercise on a day off is great because it will tire your body out in a positive way. You’ll feel good once you’ve done it because you’ve prioritised your training.
GO UNPLUGGED BEFORE SLEEP
Avoid the use of devices or staring at the TV. If you’re falling asleep with the TV on or with your phone buzzing away on your bedside table, you may want to reassess if this is having a negative impact on your ability to get to sleep and the quality of sleep you’ll be having.
Sleep experts recommend that you turn off devices 1 hour before you go to sleep and switch to reading a book. This gives your brain a chance to wind down and relax. Avoiding the stimulation and blue lights that are emitted from electronics is crucial. Look at how you could go about changing some of these habits.
Try and fight the urge to have a chocolate bar for dinner from a vending machine or yet another coffee to keep you going. These types of snacks are false calories and won’t fill you up or give you the energy you require to excel during your shift (and during your training session after). They are a quick fix and what we refer to as a 'bandaid' fix so that you and trick yourself into thinking that you're full.
NUTRITION AND WATER CONSUMPTION
Working a night shift means that the local healthy food spots won’t be open during your break times. This means you’re going to have to be organised and bring your meals and snacks to work if you want to ensure you eat correctly. Plan ahead, grocery shop, meal prep and be organised. Make sure your house is stocked up with nutritious food to make sure you maintain energy levels.
Start thinking about convenient options like smoothies to drink on the way to work. Prepare snacks like fresh fruit, fresh veges and hummus or a handful of nuts. Cook up simple, balanced meals full of lean protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Experiment with food and find out what energises you and what keeps you full. Good quality food is going to be the key to keeping your mind clear and your body healthy.
It is crucial is drink plenty of water throughout shifts. Hydrating will help you maintain energy and you’ll actually feel less hungry. You’ll also be adequately hydrated for your gym session later on.
It’s very likely that none of this is ‘new’ to you if you’re a shift worker. You probably already know most of this information and you just need a reminder to apply it to your life. It’s imperative that as a shift worker who wants to join the ADF that you take control of your lifestyle.
You chose to join the Military, no one is forcing you to do it. So if it’s hard to do whilst also doing shift work, then that’s on you to figure out. You’re not the first person to successfully get into the ADF whilst working shifts and you’ll likely find yourself on shift work when you get into the ADF. Find a way to make it work and make sure that it works in your favour.
Get yourself a good training program that you can follow. Here at TBG we coach MANY applicants who are shift workers and they heavily rely on the accountability of their program with us. If you’d also like some help then please get in contact here us here.
Michael and Carly both have walked the path you are about to take and are commited to help you get started with your training for a successful enlistment with free tips and articles.