Between commutes, errands, overtime, and just your regular ol’ 8-or-more-hours-a-day job, work days don’t allow for much free time, and that means it’s all too easy for people to skip weekday workouts. But you don’t have to be one of them. Got a lunch hour—or even a lunch half-hour? Transform it into exercise time. It’s a great strategy –just 30 minutes of exercise a day can boost energy levels and help you slim down and shape up. Not only that, but working out at lunch can help bust midafternoon fatigue and make you more productive all day long.
As with most fitness endeavors, making it easy is key to your success at regular exercise. Here are some strategies.
1. Workout shoes: When you get a new pair of kicks, bring the old ones to the office and stash them under your desk. Don’t forget to bring in a couple of pairs of socks to tuck into them.
2. Dress for (exercise) success: If your office is casual, you might not need to do a full-on change of clothes to work out at lunch. You might not even work up much of a sweat with 30 minutes of brisk walking or a short run in cooler weather, so consider wearing clothes that can do double duty. Ditch the lacy bra in favor of a good sports bra. Casual Friday jeans? Make sure they have some stretch to them. Often you can layer fancier sweaters and jackets over basic T-shirts that are appropriate for a workout.
3. Enlist a partner: Or the whole office, see 5 Steps to Create Team Wellness. Knowing someone else is relying on you for their workout helps you stick to your own goals.
4. Food: Bring a light but healthy lunch to eat at your desk after your workout. A mix of protein and carbs will help you recover quicker. Good choices include Greek yogurt with fruit and granola; a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread; or a salad topped with nuts or cubed tofu.
Just Do It
What can you do in 25 minutes? Here are a few ideas, plus the approximate number of calories burned.
1. Walk briskly 1.8 miles (142 calories)
2. Jog 2 miles (200 calories)
3. Bike 4 miles (170 calories)
4. Do squats, lunges, push-ups, bench dips (128 calories)
5. Climb the stairs in your office building (227 calories)
After your calorie-blaster workout comes the challenge of how not to return to your office smelling like a gym. Here are some tips on how to stay fresh while incorporating a workout into your lunchtime routine.
Even if your office doesn’t have a shower, you can still wash up sufficiently after your mid-day exertion. Your main enemy is moisture –in this case, sweat, obviously. You can combat moisture in different ways.
1. Wick Wear: Wear clothes that breathe and wick away sweat. It’s a fine line: Many synthetic materials trap sweat, keeping it close to your body and not allowing it to evaporate, leaving you stewing in your own stinky juices. Yet other synthetics are designed specifically to wick sweat from the body and out into the ether, keeping you relatively cool and dry. You want the latter. A quick glance at the tag will usually let you know if that sports bra you’re buying is made to wick. Look for clothes made with Coolmax, Supplex, DryFit, and other similar materials.
2. Powder Before Workout: Sprinkle yourself with ample amounts of baby powder, Bonds, or some other moisture-absorbing powder before your workout.
3. Cool-down: Post-workout, place a cold washcloth or even ice cubes on your pulse points and the back of your neck. The sooner you cool down, the less sweat builds up.
4. Dry Shampoo: Dry shampoo is readily available and easy to use. Most work by simply applying it to hair, then combing it out. The shampoo absorbs –you guessed it—moisture.
5. Tops & Tails: You can take a sponge bath using baby wipes or a washcloth (make sure it’s clean and dry), soap, and water from your office bathroom sink. Remove as much grime and sweat as you can, then dry off with a clean towel (make sure you have a fresh towel every day; otherwise, bacteria, mold and dirt build up will add to the funk). A hairdryer or fan can speed drying.
6. Topper: Witch hazel is known to kill odor-causing bacteria, so a quick spritz of a witch hazel spray is a good topper.
Always consult with your healthcare professional before starting a new health or exercise regime.
Jonanna Widner lives in Portland, where she writes about sports, music, travel, and fitness. She often gets her run in at lunch.