When you’re short on time thanks to work, family, friends, volunteering, laundry and numerous other obligations, the only free time you have during your day may be your lunch break.
While working out on your lunch hour might sound inconvenient, lots of people with fast-paced jobs and lives swear by their midday workouts, not only to help them fit exercise into a jam-packed day, but also to clear their head and help them focus for the rest of their work hours.
Here are eight time-tested strategies real professionals use to squeeze in workouts at lunchtime:
SCHEDULE WORKOUTS AS FIRM APPOINTMENTS
You’ve probably heard this advice in reference to workouts before, but it’s even more important when you’re juggling meetings and a to-do list around your workout.
“I work out during lunch because it helps prevent the stress of finding time around my long morning commute or necessary nightlife participation during the evenings,” says Jessica Gramuglia, a supervisor in the music industry.
“I schedule appointments on my calendar that are non-negotiable. My work calendar is marked busy so I won’t find a meeting pop up on my calendar,” she says. Her go-to lunchtime activities? “I use this one-hour break to go on bike rides, walks, surf (I’m near the water) or do HIIT workouts.”
PLAN WORKOUTS AROUND YOUR WORKLOAD
As a busy working mom of three, Wynn Newingham doesn’t exactly have a ton of time to hit the gym. “I decided about six months ago to work with the time I did have, and that time was my lunch break,” she explains. “I get an hour lunch break and my work has a small gym room and shower area. I give myself about 30–45 minutes to either lift weights, run outdoors or get on the rowing machine, and about 15 minutes or so to shower.”
To hit her goal of three workouts per week without disrupting her work day, she schedules them based on what she has going on at the office. “For example, if I know I don’t have any meetings in the afternoon, I’ll choose running because it takes a lot longer to cool down compared to lifting weights,” she says.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Finding a gym or studio near your office can make all the difference. “On Mondays and Fridays, I have a break in my schedule that’s not quite long enough for me to go home in between classes,” says Yana Givorg, a language teacher. “So I found a yoga studio nearby, do an hour and a half practice, then shower and relax at the studio during my break.”
TAKE A WALKING LUNCH
You don’t need a gym to get a good workout. “I go on long walks during my lunch break — usually close to a mile round trip,” says Simon Ponder, an SEO outreach manager. “I make time for it by bringing my lunch and eating it at my desk shortly before my walk (or after), and it’s usually something simple like a salad or a bowl of soup I can quickly heat up.
DO A LITTLE GIVE AND TAKE
“I swim laps once a week during my lunch break,” says Jesse Jayne Rutherford, a marketing manager and writer. “The pool is close to my office, and there is no preset ‘lunchtime’ at my company.”
While not everyone has a flexible schedule, if you do, Rutherford’s strategy might be a winner: “Because it takes me about an hour and 15 minutes to drive over, suit up, swim, rinse off and drive back, I make up those 15 minutes at the end of the day or by eating lunch at my desk another day of the same week.”
BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR TIMING
While some people find lunchtime workout success by making an appointment with themselves and sticking to it, others find being flexible works better. “I work out at lunch several times a week,” says Charly Rok, a publicist. “It may be a workout at 11:15 a.m. or 4:15 p.m., depending on the break in my work day. When I can slip away, I do. I change into workout clothes and use the streets as my running path!”
There’s no reason you can’t do a little multitasking while you’re at it. “I have been known to run while on a conference call when I am told to listen and learn rather than participate. It is the best feeling to get two things done at once,” Rok says.
FIND A WORKOUT CLASS OR BUDDY
“As a trainer, I personally work out in the afternoons because that is when I get a break from work,” says Alysa Boan, a certified personal trainer. “Often times, the hardest part is showing up to the gym, so I schedule a class or partner workout on days when I know I will be tired just to make sure I get my workouts in.” That little extra bit of accountability can go a long way.
MAKE IT A HABIT
Lunchtime workouts are easier to stick to if you make them habitual. “For example, every Wednesday, I try to get out to a tennis court to practice tennis for a little bit,” notes Tyler Weinrich, a real estate professional. “That is my Wednesday cardio. After a few times of doing this, I found it easier to maintain in my schedule.”
Plus, his midday workouts help him increase productivity. “It is a nice break in the day,” Weinrich says. “It helps me reset my mind and get re-energized for the final half of the day (more work, taking care of baby, cooking dinner, etc.). I find that I get more done if I work out during lunch and stop whatever task I’m on than if I just spent 100% of my day focusing on work.”