Finding the time to exercise can be a hassle. I've found that most people try to hit the gym before or after work, but that means choosing between peeling yourself away from your cosy sheets or training after a day of mental exhaustion from work. There is a third option, however: train at lunch. Here are the benefits and how to go about it.
The Benefits of Training During Your Lunch Break
Training at lunch, obviously, is more convenient than carving out a separate workout time. You can exercise when your leisure time is least important to you — not when you could be sleeping or relaxing after work. Instead of hanging out at Au Bon Pain with your coworkers, pack your lunch instead and eat it at your desk after the gym.
The second benefit to a lunchtime workout is purely physiological. Many make the mistake of associating food with energy. Yes, food is what provides your body energy, but not necessarily in an acute (right now) fashion. In fact, if you have ever felt a serious need to snooze after a big meal, you know what I mean. Conversely, many who practice intermittent fasting — essentially skipping breakfast — find themselves with more energy after they acclimate. Yes, instead of feeling sluggish after lunch, you may experience a second wind to propel the rest of your day.
This is because of your body's parasympathetic system, which is responsible for stimulating what many call a "rest-and-digest" mechanism. Upon eating a large quantity of food, you may begin to feel drowsy. While you've probably heard of this phenomenon called "food" or "carb" coma, scientists call this postprandial somnolence. This affects people in various degrees, but the bottom line is: while food leads to energy, it doesn't mean that you'll feel energised right away.
From dealing with clients, I've found that training before lunch seems to dampen many of the effects of that post-lunch nap time. This could be due to the effects of heightened insulin sensitivity — the ability to tolerate more food (especially carbohydrate) consumption without many of the negative effects — after a workout with less food beforehand.
The Lunchtime Workout
Given the benefits above, why don't more people train during lunch? The answer is more related to perception of not having enough time than anything else. In reality, you can get an effective workout in a short amount of time. Here's what you'll need:
- At least one hour for lunch, four days per week.
- A gym that's less than 10 minutes away (20 minutes both ways).
- A workout that's 30 minutes or less.
- All of your gym wear prepped and ready to go, giving you about 10 minutes for a quick shower afterwards.
Pick three days to focus on a strength training that progressively increases in weight. You can use the minimum viable fitness workout that we've previously linked here or alternatively find a space where you can complete a body weight workout, such as our bodyweight workout. At least one other day of the week, complete a high intensity interval training workout (HIIT), such as the 15-minute workout that we've written about. HIIT workouts will allow you to get the benefits of cardio training within your time restriction.
And that's it. Like any other fitness recommendation, there's nothing that's necessarily magical about it, except that a lunchtime gym session might be exactly what you need but have already written off. If you are someone who never seems to have the time to exercise during the day and feels like they could use a pick-me-up rather than the drag-me-down that lunch usually brings, then this might be the trick that finally gets you exercising regularly.