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The Ultimate Lunchtime Workouts: Part I

In part one of our new Lunchtime Workouts series, Team Iffley's Tom Wheatley takes us through an efficient lunchtime running workout, that is guaranteed to rejuvenate you and leave you feeling ready to conquer the rest of the day.

Fitting in fitness with minimal effort is all well and good for the average Joe that works a 9 to 5, and has nothing better to do than watch Netflix or nip to the pub after work. That doesn’t happen very often though. Whether it’s kids, working late, commuting or extra-curricular hobbies, many of us don’t have a lot of spare time to train like elites.

It’s all too easy to get yourself into the mindset of ‘I just don’t have time for it’. Not only because it’ll breed a negative association with fitness, but also because exercise is, like most things, all about habit. If you somehow manage to make time to go running around your busy day, you’ll train yourself to make it a consistent part of your day instead of training yourself to accept that it can’t be.

Sure, running or heading to the gym before work can be pretty tough with all the other responsibilities going on in life. The same goes for after work, especially if you’re leaving late. That leaves one option: lunchtime.

The Benefits of a Lunchtime Workout

Ask anyone who trains over their lunch hour and they’ll tell you with grandiose enthusiasm that it’s one of the most important things in their working day. Not only does it make you feel good about yourself in a multitude of ways, the change of location can effectively break up the working day and make it more manageable. Exercise helps relieve stress and you inevitably spend your afternoon with a sense of smugness as you reach for that packet of chocolate digestives.

But running over lunch doesn’t come without its issues. An hour is not a lot of time to work out, change, shower and get back to your desk before your 2pm meeting with Chris from accounts. That means you need to be efficient, whilst still maximising your effort. Luckily here’s a running workout that’ll do just that.

Lunchtime workout: Close up

The major problem that crops up with training during your lunch break is that you don’t really have enough time to train at any sort of distance. At most the fittest athletes will manage a 10k in that time, with the majority of us probably looking at 4 – 7k realistically. That’s all well and good to get a bit of exercise and increase the heart rate, but it makes it very difficult to improve and get fitter.

The simple solution is to focus on improving speed instead of distance. Find a place near enough your work that it only takes you a maximum of 5 minutes to get back from and that gives you a good mile stretch to work with.  Even a small park or square will do because the mile breaks down very neatly into 4 x 400 meters.

The Warm Up

The distance between work and the start of your stretch is the warm up. Take a light, safe jog to the starting point and combine with a few running drills along the way to activate the necessary muscles. Walking leg swings, high-knee skips, side leg swings will do the job, as long as you don’t kick some unsuspecting office worker into the Thames as you stride past them.

Lunchtime workout: Dynamic stretching

The Workout

Now you’re ready for the real workout. With your previously planned out mile path (use Google maps to work it out or grab a fitness tracker and do an initial reconnaissance run), your aim is simple, run the mile as fast as you can. The mile is a weird distance for any runner as it activates more than one of the body’s energy systems, which means 1) it’s really hard to do and 2) It’s really good for you. Not only that, but it’ll help increase your speed for longer distances, quickly push your fitness level and give you a simple indicator of your fitness level and its improvement.

So, you’ve finished your first mile and checked your watch. That’s your benchmark from now on. You need to improve on that. If you were an elite athlete you’d be looking at around the 4-minute mark for a mile, which means you could complete five-mile attempts in half an hour, with about a minute's break for recovery in-between. Not many of us can do that so your time will dictate how many times you can happily fit in the mile within half an hour. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 or 5, as long as you’re looking to improve.

Lunchtime workouts

Progression is important.  So if you start with 2 x 1 mile in week one, aim to add half a mile in week two and then build up to 3 x 1 mile in week four. Before you know it you’ll be at 5 x 1 mile.

When your time’s up, keep a note of the times it took you to complete the distance so that next time you can compare your sessions. You can also look at the time it takes your heart rate to come down between each lap, this is called recovery time and is a good indicator of how your fitness is improving.

The Cooldown

With your mile runs done, use the route back to work as a light cooldown jog, before carrying out a few static stretches back at the office (maybe a bit before if you don’t want co-workers seeing you sweat profusely outside reception).

The other beauty of the mile workout is that co-workers can actually come down and join you without affecting your own training. They may only manage 2 laps and you’ve smashed 4, but you all finish in exactly the same place. Pretty much the perfect lunchtime workout to be honest.

For added fun find a mile that goes uphill.

You can view the other posts in our Ultimate Lunchtime Workouts series below:

Part II

Part III

Tom Wheatley

All Rounder

Combining running with all sorts of other physical activities, Tom ”loves running as a way of exploring new places and enjoys nothing more than spending my Sunday doing any race I can find.”