For so many busy, on-the-go runners, just about the only time we have to get our run in during the work week is during our lunch hour. It isn’t a lot of time, but if that’s all you have, you have to make the most of it.
Making the best use of our lunch-hour run is a definite key to maintaining fitness. But you have to use that hour efficiently to get a decent run in, take a quick shower and be back with a minute or two to spare. To accomplish that, you have to know how to maximize your workout time so you get all the benefits and don’t waste a second of your valuable free time.
Preparation and planning are the keys to lunchtime running so you don’t waste a moment. Here are some tips on how to do it so you get all the benefits of your run without sacrificing any work responsibilities and/or get in trouble with your supervisor for spending too much time running.
1. Make it clear that your lunch hour is your running hour. Let everyone know how important this time is to you so you aren’t expected to show up at a meeting which begins at noon. Or, go to lunch.
2. Warm up. A few minutes before leaving your office to change, get up and stretch. When it’s time to leave, move quickly and jog up some stairs as a way to warm up.
3. Pre-hydrate. In the final 30 minutes before you leave to run, make certain you hydrate so you don’t have to waste any time on the run getting a drink.
4. Know exactly where you are going to run. Indecision wastes time. If you can, run straight from work which eliminates any wasted time in a car.
5. Plan ahead. This includes factoring in exactly how long it will take to get ready, shower, stretch and run.
6. Know which workout you are going to do ahead of time. Don’t debate it with your running friends. Firmly insist on doing a specific workout so there is no doubt (or waste of time) deciding what to do.
7. Have your running clothes and shoes ready. When it’s time to head to the locker room, bolt. Have everything ready to go so all you have to do is slip out of your business attire and into your running gear.
8. Don’t chitchat. This isn’t the time to discuss your latest race or the long run. Get dressed, get out the door and get moving.
9. Post run showers? Ideally, you can take a quick shower, get dressed and get back to work. If there isn’t a shower handy, consider joining a nearby gym where you can change and shower. If that’s not available, a quick rinse-off in the sink usually works OK. Or, when it’s warm, merely “shower” with an outdoor hose or sprinkler. It isn’t ideal, but it will wash off the grime and sweat quickly.
10. Grab fluids before returning to the office. The need to hydrate again is obvious. Do so immediately after returning. The colder, the better.
11. Lunch? Brownbag it. Bring a sandwich and some fruit with some easily digestible carbs such as pretzels or an energy bar.
12. If you can, stretch. When you get back to your desk, do a few stretches and move around a bit to keep from tightening up. Maybe roll your tired feet on a golf ball or roll your hamstrings and quads on a foam roller
13. Walk. After getting back, walk around the office for a few minutes. Go to the supply room or water cooler. Do anything to keep moving for a few extra minutes.
14. Limit your running chatter. Don’t get all euphoric about your lunch run with your non-running co-workers. They won’t get it anyway and chances are will just resent it.
15. Keep a water bottle handy. Since you’re probably dehydrated from the run, continue drinking all afternoon.
16. If possible, place your shoes outside. Take them out of your gym bag and place them in the sunlight to allow them to air out. Remove the insoles if they are smelly.
17. Change your running clothes (and towel) every day. Don’t try to make it through an entire week with the same pair of shorts, socks and shirt. Your running friends will thank you for changing clothes every day.
What type of workouts you do will certainly matter. Your lunch runs should compliment your weekend runs as you train for whatever goal is in mind.
But your lunchtime runs should be more than just a daily jog of 45 minutes. Some days that’s fine, but you want to maximize the benefits you get from these weekday runs. Each run should have a different focus to give you variety.
If you are running five days a week during lunch, two of those runs should be easy and relaxed runs. Typically, this means Monday (after a long, hard weekend run) and Friday (keeping it light before the weekend). If you run three days a week, you should keep a similar pattern of easy days on Monday and Friday.
Cramming in a serious workout that will advance you toward your goal is entirely possible on the other days.
Here are four sample workouts that will take about 45 minutes, giving you enough time to change, warm up and change back into your work clothes—provided you don’t dawdle.
Short intervals. The goal of this workout is to increase your speed, but you don’t need a track to do this. A road is fine. So is the Lady Bird/Butler Hike and Bike Trail. Simply start the 45-minute workout with a slow jog, eventually building up to your normal training speed. Hold that speed for five minutes and then increase it to 5-K race pace or a speed which you can sustain for five minutes. This is pretty quick and it should be fast enough that you have to work hard to maintain it. After five minutes, recover with a two or three-minute jog. Repeat three or four times on the same loop. Your final recovery jog should get you back to your place of business or gym.
Sustained run. The goal of this workout is to work on pace and speed. Begin with an easy jog, building up to your normal training pace. Hold that pace for five minutes. After five minutes, gradually build your speed to half-marathon race pace—or a speed which is slower than 10-K race pace, but still quick. Maintain this pace for 20 minutes. Afterward, cool off with a five or 10-minute recovery jog back to work.
Fartlek run. Everyone’s favorite workout is some type of fartlek or varied speed run. The goal of this workout is to get used to running at different speeds and paces during a continuous run. Begin with an easy jog and gradually build up to your normal training pace. Hold that pace for five minutes. By definition, fartlek is a free form of running but it is speed. You can either run to certain landmarks or run for a specific length of time. Whatever you choose, run the fast portion of the workout at a controlled pace which you can sustain as long as need. Then, slow down until you recover before launching into another surge. Vary your pace, the length and intensity of the run.
Steady run. A good steady run is all about strength. Simply pick a solid, but not too fast pace that you can maintain for 40-45 minutes. It shouldn’t be a jog, but it shouldn’t be race pace either. Something comfortable, but also a pace that you find invigorating and leaves you stimulated and motivated for the afternoon.