Lunch Hour Workouts

So yesterday morning (Tuesday), I planned on going to my favorite 7am spin clas at the gym. Unfortunately, when I tried to sign up online, I found out that class was full. That made sleeping for an extra hour an easy decision. However, my a.m. snooze left me with limited workout options for the day. I had plans immediately after work (happy hour with co-workers), so an evening gym session was out of the question. This left me with just one chance to get my sweat on – lunch hour. I contemplated going to a 12:15pm spinning class, but I wasn’t a fan of the instructor, so I decided against that. Sometime around 11am I got the crazy idea to do an interval workout instead.

My lunch break is limited to an hour, so I needed to be efficient. Working out during your lunch hour takes some planning, but it IS possible. I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in emails or to let a grumbling tummy take precedence over a noon-time run, but since it was my only option yesterday, here’s how I made it happen:

  • 12:01pm – leave my desk
  • 12:05pm – arrive at my gym (3 blocks away), quickly change, and stow my bag in a locker
  • 12:10pm – begin my workout
  • 1/2 mile warm-up (usually I do more, but I was crunched for time!), 8 x 600m @ 5k pace with 200m jog recovery, 1/2 mile cool-down (5 miles total)
  • 12:50pm – finish my workout, jog to the locker room, wash my face, re-apply deodorant, and change back into work clothes.
  • 12:57pm – leave the gym and walk back to the office (yup, my face was still a little red, but that’s the price you pay!)
  • 1:01pm – arrive back at my desk and eat lunch/rehydrate while working.

I ran my warm-up and cool-down at around 8:30 mile pace, reps 1-4 @ 6:40 pace, reps 5-8 @ 6:27 pace, and my recovery jogs were done very slowly at 10:30 mile pace. The pace of the 600m intervals was about equivalent to 5K pace, so that didn’t feel terrible, but the 200m recovery felt SO short. Most of the time I prefer doing workouts WITH people (on an actual track), but I have to admit – yesterday’s solo workout was very efficient. No time was wasted and I kept the recovery to an honest 200m – no more!

If you’re going to try and squeeze in a lunchtime workout, the following tips might help:

  • Have a small snack about an hour before you head to the gym since lunch will probably be on the later side. I usually eat 1/2 a clif or luna bar. You want a little something, but not so much that your stomach will get upset.
  • Have a plan – your lunchtime workout will be more efficient if you decide what to do in advance. Instead of just jogging easily for 30 minutes, add some sprint intervals – you’ll get a better workout in the same amount of time.
  • To save time, I often pack my lunch and bring it from home. You don’t want to waste any precious minutes waiting in line at the deli when you could be running an extra 1/2 mile (or re-applying deodorant…)
  • Schedule your lunchtime workout like you would any other meeting – put it into your calendar and when it’s time to go, stop answering emails, and just GO. The office will survive for an hour without you!
  • If you don’t have a gym nearby, you can always try freshening up and changing in the office bathroom. If you feel awkward about it – you could discuss it with your co-workers and boss ahead of time. More likely than not, they’ll be impressed with your healthy habits and level of dedication.
  • If a lunchtime run isn’t going to happen, you can still fit in a brisk walk. Is there a park nearby? Slip into some comfy shoes and do lunges, tricep dips (off the edge of bench), and squats. It’s a great way to fit in a little bit of strength training.

And now, some answers to your running questions!

  1. What are your thoughts on running negative splits in races and have you ever done it successfully? I think running a negative split (meaning the second half of the race is faster than the first) is a very good racing plan. Back in March, I ran a 5k and started out conservatively (7:00 pace), I had enough energy to finish strong and my last mile was run in 6:30. It feels MUCH better to start slow and finish strong vs. die in the last mile. Just make sure you don’t start out TOO slowly!
  2. Can you explain what strides are?! Strides are a series of brisk, short (100 meters or so) periods of running one does as part of a warm-up or cooldown. Check out this complete running glossary for more definitions 🙂
  3. I would really appreciate you commenting on your “rolling” routine. I don’t have IT band issues, but I get pretty tight in the legs and hips and was wondering if rolling out might help. Thanks! For a tutorial on my favorite foam rolling stretches, check out this post. I usually just roll out my IT band since that is what gives me the most trouble, but if you’re interested in more foam rolling techniques, NoMeatAthlete posted a great how-to a few months ago. Check it out!

More Q’s will be answered in the next post! Feel free to leave more questions in the comment section.

Check out the latest from True/Slant:

How to become a faster runner

Chris Solinsky is first non-African to break 27 minutes in 10,000 meters (that’s a 4:20 pace-per-mile)

Solinsky-Rupp in 2010 was like Keflezighi-Kennedy in 2001

Question – Do you ever workout during your lunch break? Any tips for the rest of us?

  • I love your tips about fitting exercise into your work day. Ive been wondering lately how Ill make the transition to working a normal day job.

  • I would love to workout on my lunchbreak! Unfortunately, one of my coworkers does this and the rest of us avoid her and her “ripeness” like the pleague afterward, making me totally paranoid! How people do this without showering, or miracioulously find the time to shower post workout still evades me. 🙂

  • Great tips! Time to put them into use:)

  • I’d have to shower. There’s no way just applying deodorant and washing my face would suffice. 🙂

  • Loved this post!!

    I ran on my lunch breaks (twice a week) all winter long! It’s too warm out to do it now for me, but in the winter, running in close to zero temps, I found I didn’t sweat that much. I also have to stick to one hour so I would spend 5 minutes changing (in the office bathroom!) and then run down to the lake and run around it and back! It was about a 4 mile run which I would try to do speedily. Another ten-ish minutes changing and deodorizing before hitting my desk for lunch and water! Wham bam, thank you maam!

    These were my fave workouts all winter because they didn’t eat into my social or sleep time and I always feel best physically midday. I highly encourage everyone to give it a go!

  • Thanks for the re-direct on the rolling techniques– new fun things to try at the gym 🙂

    Also, did you like your lunchtime routine enough to try it more often? I can do it once in a while at work if really pressed– mostly just Fridays though. You must not get as sweaty as me, because I need to plan in an extra 20 minutes for a shower!

  • I could never do lunch–shower is required over here. I’m glad it works for you, though–it’s nice to have another option! I ran this morning for my first AM weekday run since last summer, before I started my job. A more recent shorter commute and the obvious sun rising earlier are to thank, but still. It’s making my day rock.

  • Take a shower, smelly.

    hehe just kidding.

    I’ve been known to take a quick rinse and blowdry sweaty hair, so I def can’t judge.

  • Lauren

    I have been running/working out almost every lunch break for over a year. I do shower though – I get 1:15 or 1:30 for lunch, so there is ample shower time. I am however, rarely blow-dried.

  • I am the sweatiest female I know. I sweat for 15 minutes after ceasing exercise, even if I take a cold shower. TMI, maybe (blame my dad’s genes), but I know at least that lunchtime workouts could never, ever fly. I’m jealous of everyone who can swing it, though!

  • I just did a lunch time workout today and having a plan is definately the most important piece to making it work.

  • So glad you posted this! I often have difficulties trying to fit in workouts if I sleep in or have plans right after…my problem is not showering but I guess I would make my co-workers deal. Thanks for the tips!!

  • How are you not sweaty? I am usually so sweaty that my hair is soaking wet…I literally look I have been in the pool! Are you one of those lucky minimal sweaters?? haha!

  • Now THAT is some time management!

  • Great tips! I’m very impressed by how efficient you are! I never could workout during my lunch break at my old job because I hardly ever got one!

  • Hi Megan, You look fabulous! I hope you keep on committing to fitness and wellness until you are my age and beyond! I believe that foam rolling and listening to your body will keep you there! I am a foam rolling addict and have posted a whole section of my website on the subject. Stop by if you like at
    Health and prosperity to you!

  • Tammy

    I love running during my lunch hour. Unfortunately, I am one of those changing in the office bathrooms as we have no showers and the gym is too far away. I find that baby wipes do wonders for cleaning up afterwards. I sweat, but not huge amounts. The wipes do a great job. Like one of the posts earlier I loved running at lunch during the winter as the cooler air really helps minimize. Co-workers can tell I have run by the color of my face, but that’s usually it (unless they aren’t saying anything, but people keep coming near me 🙂

  • That’s so cool that you can sign up for your spin classes online! I need to get my gym to do that because it’s such a disappointment to go all the way there and find that the class is full.

  • I used to do lunch time workouts all the time, and yours sounds super similar to mine! I would start wrapping things up about 5 minutes before I would go, then dash away from my desk w my gym stuff in tow. I actually had a gym in my building so that was helpful, but I would start taking off my jewelry in the elevator down! I would also squeeze in an intense workout then hop in the shower for about 30 seconds to wash off – hair in a bun making sure not to get it wet. By the time I got back to my desk, I was still slightly sweating and my face was red, but oh well! Working in a law firm, my coworkers appreciated the intensity!
    Great ‘How To!”

  • Eileen

    Love it! I used to do the same. I’d wash my face and armpits in the sink, or shower without getting my hair wet, but that’s it. Obviously, I wouldn’t do it before a big, important meeting, but on a run-of-the-mill day, it was often a happy highlight.

  • i have lunchtime workouts down to a science too. luckily, my schedule is more flexible so i can take more time if needed 🙂

  • Ellen

    Lunch hour workouts have always seemed so unappealing to me (I hate feeling rushed when I’m working out!), but these are some good tips! So you don’t need to rinse off after? Do you not feel icky putting your work clothes back on??

  • mmm the product of the workplace hahaha.

  • I found your blog this afternoon searching for a brunch spot after the Healthy Kidney 10K tomorrow, and I LOVE. It’s definitely a different beast trying to be healthy in NYC as opposed to other places, so I’m going to read back in your archives when I have time 🙂

  • Your website is definitely full of amazing knowledge and also is really very enjoyable to see through.Properly carried out:)

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  • Katie S

    Just found this post, and it’s great. Thanks! I second the vote for baby wipes. I usually only can pull off the lunch run in winter, when less sweating happens, though my office does have a shower in case a quick rinse is warranted.

  • Elle Bieling

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