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Lunchtime Workouts


Updated August 05, 2014

Woman running up stairs
Klaus Vedfelt/Stone/Getty Images

Midday workouts are a great choice if you have trouble squeezing workouts into your busy schedule. Not only can you get a great workout in a short period of time, you'll boost your energy for the rest of the day. The problem is, the logistics can be a nightmare. What if you don't have access to a gym? Where do you change clothes and how do you clean up after? When do you eat and what do you do if you only have 20 or 30 minutes? Some planning and preparation can make lunchtime workouts a reality.

The Benefits of Lunchtime Workouts

Lunchtime workouts may not work all the time, but just one or two a week can help fill in any gaps in your workout routine or help you burn a few extra calories during the week. A midday workout can also:

  • Boost your mood and energy level - You may feel a dip in energy reserves after lunch, but a short workout may give you more energy for the rest of your work day.
  • Give you more free time - Working out on your lunch hour means you're free for other activities after work.
  • Clear your mind - Getting away from the computer and moving your body can clear your mind and help you refocus for the rest of your day.
  • Save money and calories - Working out at lunch means you won't eat out as often, which may save you both money and extra calories.
  • Reduced stress - Exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and is much better for you than what many of us do to get rid of workplace stress - Hiding in the break room and eating leftover birthday cake, for example.
  • Time to reflect - A brisk walk or jog is a great way to free your mind, solve problems or come up with new ideas for your projects.

Lunchtime Workout Logistics

To make lunchtime workouts actually work, you'll need to do more planning and preparation than you normally would for a typical workout. That's one reason you may want to keep your lunchtime workouts to a minimum at first. Once you practice a few times, you'll figure out exactly what you need for a midday workout. A few basic tips include:

  • Pack Your Lunch: You may need to plan your meals more carefully if you're working out during lunch. Eat a light snack (such as yogurt and fruit) about an hour before your workout and then eat your normal lunch later. Another option is to eat part of your lunch an hour or two before you exercise and the rest later in the day.
  • Schedule Your Workout: Look at your week and choose the day(s) with the fewest obstacles in your path for a lunchtime workout. Schedule it in your calendar just like you would any other appointment.
  • Keep your gym bag ready: Keep a gym bag at the office or in your car so you're always ready for a workout. If you don't have access to a gym, all you need is a pair of shoes for a low-sweat walking workout. If you're doing something more vigorous and don't have a shower handy, use no rinse body wipes, wear sweat-wicking clothes to keep you cool and dry and use a dry shampoo to get fresh, clean hair without water.
  • Be Creative: I once had a co-worker who used a conference room every day for her own aerobics session (with the boss's okay, of course). In my office days, I would sometimes wear my exercise clothes under my work clothes (when possible) for a quick change in the bathroom. Another friend suggested leaving essentials in your car (money for coffee or snacks, a file you'll need later in the day, etc.) and taking the stairs to get them throughout the day. Think of your own creative ways to make exercise more accessible as well as necessary to get the job done.

Your Lunchtime Workouts

If you don't have much time, the workouts below give you ideas for what you can do to get the most bang for your buck.

Circuit Training

If you don't have much time, circuit training is a great way to hit all your muscle groups in a short period of time. You can choose 6-10 exercises, either all cardio, all strength or a mixture of both and do each for 1 set (or for a timed period) before moving onto the next exercise. The idea is to hit all your muscle groups and move at a fast pace to keep the intensity up. Some examples:

Staircase Workout

This simple workout is perfect if you have a low-use staircase in your building or a set of stairs at a nearby park:

  • 3 minutes Warm up: Walk up 3-4 flights of stairs at a slow, easy pace (if you only have one flight of stairs, walk up and down for 3 minutes)
  • 1 minute: Walk up the stairs as fast as you can
  • 1 minute: Walk down the stairs at an easy pace
    • Strength Circuit:
    • Stair Pushups - 16 reps
    • Step Ups - 16 reps with the right leg
    • Squats to Step - Stand with your back to the stairs and squat until your backside just touches the second step (or as low as you can) - 16 reps.
    • Step Ups - 16 reps with the left Leg
    • Triceps Dips - 16 reps
    • Cardio Circuit:
    • 1 minute: Walk up the stairs, taking them two at a time
    • 1 minute: Walk down the stairs to recover
    • 2 minutes: Walk up the stairs at a slow, steady pace
    • 1 minute: Walk down the stairs to recover
    • Cardio Circuit:
    • 1 minute: Walk up the stairs, taking them two at a time
    • 1 minute: Run up the stairs as fast as you can
    • 2 minutes: Walk down the stairs to recover
    • 1 minute: Run up the stairs as fast as you can
    • 2 minutes: Walk down the stairs to recover

No-Sweat Office Exercises

If getting out for 30 minutes is out of the question, there are things you can do at your desk or in your office to keep your blood flowing:

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