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How to Rock the 30-Minute Lunch Workout
Between meetings and deadlines, it can feel like you have no time to exercise. But a quick midday sweat session could be exactly what your body and mind need.
When you’re juggling a jam-packed work schedule and a full boat of after-work commitments, finding time to fit in a workout can seem impossible. But that sliver of space around lunchtime is all you need for a 30-minute sweat session. Learn why a midday workout is so important to your health and fitness—and how to get the most out of it.
Lunch Workout Benefits
Maybe you’ve always believed that a workout doesn’t count unless it’s at least an hour. Heather Stevens, master instructor for Studio Three in Chicago, begs you to reconsider. “Shorter workouts keep your fitness routine sustainable,” she explains, noting that many studios are now offering 30-minute or “express” classes to help busy clients find the time to prioritize exercise. Look at it this way: If the choice is between doing a shorter workout or no workout at all, the shorter workout wins every time.
The perks of movement go beyond physical health, especially if you’re dealing with extra screen time these days. “Midday workouts have the benefit of giving you a mood boost in the middle of your workday and offer time away from your desk and screen,” Stevens says. “Working out during lunch will give you an endorphin rush and can lead to increased productivity in the afternoon; you'll come back to your to-do list feeling accomplished and refreshed.”
If you typically spend the first few minutes at the gym scrolling through your phone for the exact workout you want to do, or searching for the perfect playlist to hype you up on your run, it’s time to reconsider your habits. Sure, it’s a nice way to ease into your workout, but during a 30-minute workout over lunch, you don’t have the luxury of time.
Whether you’re hitting the gym, streaming an at-home routine, or heading out for a run, you need to plan ahead to keep yourself on schedule. “If you’re taking a virtual class, have your workout leggings and equipment set out and ready,” says Stevens. “If you plan your own workouts, write them down in advance. Being prepared helps you switch gears right away and jump in.” That way, you know you’re not wasting a second, and you’ll feel less pressure to cut your workout short as it gets closer and closer to your first post-lunch meeting.
Swap Time for Intensity
When you don’t have a lot of time, you’ll want to maximize your efforts in order to get the biggest bang for your buck—and that calls for HIIT. HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is a type of workout that alternates between short bursts of intense effort and recovery.
There are multiple ways to structure HIIT workouts. You can combine cardio with strength moves in order to maximize the burn for the rest of the day. “Or if you’re a strict cardio lover, sprinkle a few sprints into your run, rather than holding the same pace throughout,” says Stevens. If low-impact workouts are more your speed, choose simple strength movements with a resistance that really challenges you. “The focus should be on making your workout enjoyable but tough. Use shorter workouts to really test your limits,” Stevens says.
Post-Workout Beauty Tricks
One of the biggest challenges for lunchtime workouts is putting your sweaty self back together in time to make your first post-lunch meeting. Be realistic with yourself about how much time you have versus how long it actually takes you to do things like shower, blow-dry your hair, re-apply makeup and change out of your damp tank top and into work clothes.
If it’s a tight turnaround, skip the full hair wash in favor of a quick body rinse and dry shampoo. Let the natural flush of your cheeks act as blush and throw your hair into a messy-on-purpose topknot for the afternoon. If you’re doing a low-intensity session, you can even work out in an eye-catching sweatshirt that doubles as professional Zoom call attire (after all, sweatsuits are the new power suits). To stay on the safe side, try to schedule your first post-workout meeting as a conference call (or try the whole Zoom with your camera off trick).
Aim for Consistency
If you’re not used to breaking a sweat in the middle of the day, it can take a little getting used to. “Make a habit of working out at the same time several days a week, so you begin to look forward to it and lessen your chances of skipping the workout,” says Stevens. “Consistency is key.” To that end, block off your work calendar for the time you’ll be exercising to make sure no unexpected calls or meetings pop up. Putting your session on the calendar will also help hold you accountable for actually doing it.
Still, staying consistent doesn’t mean you have to stick to your exact workout plan on days you just aren’t into it. “If you’re not feeling your HIIT workout, go for a walk instead,” says Stevens. “As long as you make being active part of your lifestyle, you’re on the right track.”