There are as many excuses not to work out as there are hours in the day: In the morning, you tell yourself you need sleep even more than exercise; after work, you’re too tired. “No time” is one of the prime reasons most people give for not exercising. But what if you could find an extra hour that wouldn’t cut into work, family, or precious sleep time? Welcome to the 30-minute lunchtime workout, an increasingly popular exercise regimen gaining credence in gyms and workplaces throughout the country.
“It’s found time,” says Lisa Corsello, ACE certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and nutritional counselor in San Francisco. “If you’re going to go for lunch or hang out in someone’s office, why not use that time for yourself – and your body?”
And for busy people, midday turns out to be the best time of day to exercise. You reap physical and psychological benefits, too – a boost in energy, less stress. “People get lost in their day at work, there’s a lot of stress and anxiety,” Corsello says. “Being able to take a step away [in the middle of the day] from whatever is going on can clear your mind and help you refocus.” In fact, she says, you’ll find that you’re calmer and have a sense of accomplishment that carries through the rest of the day. And you may get an added bonus: Less time to eat might just mean that you actually eat less.
However, squeezing exercise -- and eating lunch -- into your usual lunch hour does call for a bit of advance planning and some special strategies. Here’s how to make 30-minute lunchtime workouts work for you:
Write Lunchtime Workouts Into Your Calendar
“If you start off with the idea that you’ll be at the gym every single lunchtime Monday through Friday, that’s not realistic,” Corsello says. “You’ll feel like you’re failing and then be less likely to go.” A better strategy is to sit down with your calendar on Sunday night, figure out which days you’ll have the most time, and write lunchtime workouts in for those days. Treat your lunchtime workout as you would any other appointment and you’ll be much less likely to bag it at the last minute.
“If you’re worried that your boss will give you flak, you might want to talk to him or her first,” says Lisa Johnson, certified personal trainer, Pilates instructor, and owner of Studio Elle Pilates in Brookline, Mass. “Ask them to let you try it for week. Tell them you’ll be calmer and more productive. If you’re getting your work done, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
No matter how great a boss you have, chances are you’ll need to keep your workout to 30 minutes to leave enough time to get there, change, and clean up afterward. “You don’t want to be stressed and anxious about getting back,” Corsello says. If you want to do cardio and tend to sweat a lot, you probably need to keep it to 30 minutes to allow time for showering or stick to strength-training. “If you can get to the gym four weekdays, you can divide it up to do 30 minutes of cardio twice a week, and strength-training the other two times,” suggests Johnson. “Then on weekends try to schedule a longer session.”
Make the Most of Your Lunchtime Workout : Try Circuit Training
When you have limited time, it’s more important than ever to make the most of it. The key to getting maximum results in 30-minute lunchtime workouts is circuit training, moving from one set of exercises to the next with no break in between.
“Start with a 3-to-5 minute warm-up to get your heart rate up,” says Corsello. “The goal is to target all your major muscles groups, upper body, core, and lower body. For instance, you can start with your lower body, doing lunges and squats. As soon as your legs are fatigued, move right away to your upper body,” Corsello says. That way you give your legs a break without wasting a minute. “Then you can repeat the cycle – just keep moving and you’ll burn more calories.”
No Gym? No Problem
If you can’t get to a gym, simply take a hike most days. “Just put on sneakers and get out there,” Johnson says. “If you walk for half an hour a day and maintain a relatively healthy diet you can lose 10 pounds in a year.”
Streamline Grooming – Beauty in a Bag
Keep a bag with your sneakers, gym clothes, and basic grooming necessities stashed at your office so you’re always ready for a lunchtime workout. Women with long hair can tie it back to sweat-proof it. “My favorite secret is baby wipes,” Johnson says. “They come in small packs and can get you cleaned up really fast so you don’t have to wait in line for the shower.” (You might not want to share that particular secret with your work colleagues!)
Bring Your Lunch
“Pack your lunch ahead of time so you don’t have to waste time waiting in line,” Johnson suggests. To stave off hunger and keep your energy up, she recommends a small pre-workout snack. “Twelve almonds or six whole walnuts are a good idea.” Corsello adds that cottage cheese and an apple or some oatmeal are also smart choices.
Skip the Post-Workout Calorie Fest
“One mistake people make is that they figure, Hey, I just burned 300 calories, I can have a cheeseburger,” Johnson says. In a word, don’t. You’ll wipe out almost all the benefits and feel frustrated with yourself afterward. And the last thing you want to do is sabotage your post-exercise calm.