Find ways to wind down from the day and optimize your nights in Part Three of our three-part series.
Many of us at Life Time are really in to our routines. They anchor us and help us stay focused on the things that are important to us — including our work, families, communities, and of course, our health. We also know that, when it comes to living a healthy life, there’s no single “right” routine, and there’s no such thing as perfect.
In Part Three of this three-part series, we talk to six healthy-living experts here at Life Time to get a sense of what their evening routines look like. Take inspiration from folks who aim to “walk the talk” and see if any of these ideas might work for you. (Find Part One, on morning routines, and Part Two, on midday routines, here.)
Julie Brown, 34, nutrition and assessments program manager
Julie is a registered dietitian and personal trainer. She has been married for 11 years and has a three-year-old daughter.
I aim to leave the office between 5:15 and 5:30 p.m., although I’m guilty of not always getting out on time. I have a 20- to 25-minute commute home, which I truly appreciate; I’ll listen to a podcast or audio book to help transition my mind from work.
Once I get home, I unpack my gym and lunch bags and get ready to help make dinner, which my husband and I typically tag-team. We prioritize eating as a family every night, with our meals usually consisting of a protein, veggie, and carb side. We eat between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m., but let that time flex depending on how the night is flowing. A few nights a week, I’ll pour myself a glass of red wine to drink while we cook.
After cleaning up from dinner (a clean kitchen reduces my home stress) we hang out and watch TV together until it’s time for our daughter to go to bed. We aim to keep family time as pure as possible in the evening.
I’m responsible for the majority of our daughter’s bedtime routine, which includes a bath, brushing teeth, running around to music to burn off energy, and reading a book. After she’s in bed, I wash my face, change into my pajamas, finish any remaining tasks to prepare for the next day, and then start to wind down for the night.
Unwinding typically involves watching TV with my husband, often in bed. While it may not be the best thing to do because of blue light, it works for me. I also keep a book by my bed that I read once we turn the TV off, which makes the transition to sleep easier. I’m flexible with my bedtime, but usually in bed between 10:15 and 10:45 p.m.
If I have to stay at work longer than expected, it can throw a wrench into my evening routine. I do my best to let my husband know how my day is flowing so he can help manage our dinner timeline in my absence. There’s also the occasional unexpected issue or event that may totally disrupt our routine, but I try to not let that add any unnecessary stress.
Have a bedtime routine not just for your kids, but for you as well. I have a flow to what I do once I put my daughter to bed and it truly helps ensure I’m prepared for both sleep and the day ahead.
Jen Elmquist, 49, MA, LMFT, LT Mindcoach
Jen is the designer and program lead of Life Time’s internal performance coaching program. Jen has worked in the field of mental health and wellness for over a decade. She and her husband have two adult kids and have two puppies at home.
My evenings are probably the least predictable part of my day, as they depend on when work wraps up or if I have any social obligations.
Before I leave work, I make sure I’ve followed up with anyone or completed tasks that needed my attention, make a note of anything that’s a priority the next day, then close my laptop. That’s my signal that the workday is done.
Depending on our schedules, my husband and I may go out for dinner, cook at home, entertain, or meet up with friends. I like to keep my dinners clean with a protein, vegetable, and complex starch. I don’t have a big sweet tooth, so if I do eat dessert, it might be dark chocolate or berries. Ideally, I’m done eating by 8 p.m.
If there’s time for an evening walk or bike ride, I’ll add it in, but I don’t like leaving my workout to the end of the day, as I prefer to allow my body time to relax in the evening.
To wind down, I might watch a show, read a book, or do some discovery on travel or house design, as those are both interests of mine. I also love having a glass of wine, listening to relaxing music, and having a great conversation with my husband at the end of the day.
By 10 p.m., I’ll start prepping for bed. After my skincare routine, I take my nighttime supplements and drink a cup of sleepy time tea with collagen. After that, I get into bed.
Some nights I read, others I just shut off the light. Before I go to sleep, I use deep breathing to calm my mind, check in with my heart, and let go of the day with gratitude.
Staying up too late in the evening can throw off my sleep. I try to keep those nights to a minimum, but when they do happen, it’s usually because I’m having fun, so I just accept that as a part of life.
Make bedtime an event in your life. I look forward to going to bed and take my quality of sleep seriously. It took a while for me to figure out what sets me up for great sleep, but it’s so worth the effort to find what works for you.
Lindsay Ogden, 31, group training and nutrition coach
Lindsay is a certified personal trainer who’s passionate about helping Life Time members pursue their health and fitness goals. She has a boyfriend, Brenton, and dog, Louie.
The time this starts for me varies quite a bit; I can get home anywhere between 3 and 6 p.m., depending on my schedule for the day. I have a 20- to 30-minute commute home and enjoy using that time to listen to an educational podcast or audio book. I do my best to leave work at work, unless there’s a deadline or I’m behind on something.
I try to meal-prep as much food as I can on Sundays, so cooking tends to be lighter during the week. But my dinners always consist of a good amount of vegetables and some kind of protein. Since I work out in the morning and take little breaks throughout the day, my main movement in the evening is taking my dog for a walk.
Most often in the evenings, I’m spending time with my boyfriend. If I commit to get-togethers with friends or other activities, I try to make sure it’s something that will “fill my cup” not drain my energy. I try my best to get to bed by 10 p.m. so I’m rested when my alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m. the next morning.
I often find myself either overcommitting to social activities that don’t allow for downtime or getting looped into work at night. To prepare for this, each Sunday I go over my calendar for the week and make sure I’ve left one or two evenings without plans and make a conscious choice to not open my laptop on those nights.
Don’t overstimulate yourself. As much as you can, limit your exposure to electronics and instead opt for conversations with loved ones, curling up with a good book, or relaxing in a bath.
Michael Dregni, 58, deputy editor at Experience Life magazine
Michael is a year-round bike-commuter, husband, and dad to two grown sons and a puppy named Rosie.
Commuting by bicycle is a fantastic way to unwind. I get home between 5 and 5:30 p.m., walk and feed the puppy, and start cooking dinner. Meals are all over the board — Italian, Indian, and Mexican foods often — most of them veggie-based and ideally with veggies from our garden.
We often eat at 6:30 or 7 p.m., and we always eat together — my wife and I, plus my younger son and his girlfriend when they’re around. We also eat dinner with my parents, my brother and his family, or my wife’s sister about once a week. I typically drink water and sometimes beer or wine.
I play ultimate frisbee two or three evenings a week after dinner. I wind down before bed by reading for about 30 minutes, and I avoid electronics. I shoot to be in bed by around 10 p.m.
I often hit an energy low point around 4 or 5 p.m., where I feel like I’m dragging a bit, and usually have a snack of nuts or fruit to revive myself before dinner.
Eating a light, early dinner with no snacks afterward is a form of intermittent fasting. Go to bed on the early side — 10 p.m. is good — to get lots of sleep and make your morning routine easier. Exercising during the day can also help you get a good night’s sleep.
Jamie Martin, 36, editor-in-chief at Experience Life magazine
Jamie is a wife and the mom of two school-aged girls whose activity and social calendars keep the whole family on the go.
I aim to get home from work by 6 p.m. at the latest. I use my commute to think about family priorities and schedules, or to catch up with my parents, sister, or friends — using the Bluetooth in my car so I’m hands-free, of course! By the time I get home, I am prepared to give my full attention to my family.
We sit down for dinner together most nights of the week. The majority of our meals are homecooked, though we’ll definitely pick up meals on those nights when time is short. I typically drink water at dinner — and occasionally a well-deserved glass of wine.
After dinner, we frequently go for a walk or short bike ride together, or hang out with our neighbors— there are often impromptu gatherings outside while all the kids burn off energy. A couple nights a week, if it works out, my neighbor and I go for walk or run or do a strength workout together — it’s social movement, which I love.
The girls’ bedtime routine starts around 8 p.m. My husband and I share responsibility for helping them with showers, teeth-brushing, and getting their gear ready for the next day. We take turns reading with the girls, each of us getting that special time every other night.
Once the girls are in bed, I may spend another hour doing some work while hanging out next to my husband. To wind down before bed, I’ll sometimes take a hot bath; other times I’ll read. Reading is probably the most consistent aspect of my routine; I try to do that for at least 10 to 15 minutes a night. It’s lights out between 10 and 10:30 p.m.
It never feels like there’s enough time in the evening! By the time we get home from work and have dinner, bedtime is just around the corner. Thank goodness my husband does a lot of the cooking! Another obstacle is my girls’ activity schedule, which is getting fuller as they get older. This is why a consistent morning routine is essential for me.
Having my neighbor as an evening workout buddy keeps me accountable, especially on days when morning workouts don’t happen. I also keep kettlebells, a yoga mat, a resistance band, and a foam roller in the living room so I can squeeze in a little extra movement while we’re hanging out in the evenings.
Bob Holper, 56, certified personal trainer and nutrition program coordinator
Bob is an early riser, bodybuilding competitor, and strength-training enthusiast. He’s a dad to three adult kids and a recent newlywed.
I get home from a day of personal training plus my own workout around 5 p.m. I make myself a small recovery meal of oatmeal, two scoops of collagen protein, and a half-cup of blueberries. Then, I’ll wait another hour or so and have dinner — I typically have grass-fed beef, or some pork or chicken breasts, plus vegetables.
The evening is the first time I sit down to relax all day, and I’ll usually chill out and watch TV for a bit. I also get started preparing my food for the next day — making my shakes and getting my meals ready to go.
Just limited time. I like to have everything ready for the next morning by 7:30 p.m., which leaves me about an hour when I can just relax. Around 8:30 p.m., I head upstairs and start getting ready for bed.
I take opportunities to relax when I can. I find that a hot shower before bed really does this — I usually fall asleep within five minutes of hitting the pillow!