Just say ‘no’ to the sad desk lunch, and hit the gym instead…
At the start of 2016, I made a promise to myself. This year, I would make ME a priority again, taking the helm of my own health and wellbeing. Over the past couple of years, I’ve discovered just how easy it is to take a backseat to the needs of your world, your friends and family, your job, the outside factors of your life. How easy it is to choose work over sleep, more desk time over more gym time, comfort food over what truly comforts. How easy it is to forget yourself in the flurry of life’s responsibilities. I’ve discovered that, without a strong connection to yourself, you run the risk of losing connection to everything else. And so I’ve made some changes — some were drastic, some were minute, and some are still waiting to be made. But the change that’s made the greatest impact on all areas of my life is one that’s relatively simple: I moved my workouts from evenings to afternoons. That’s it.
I love working out, but what my brain seems to love even more is talking myself out of it. Those dark winter evenings would roll around and I’d picture myself curled up at home, shaking off the day and, when daylight savings arrived, the last thing I wanted to do at 6pm was hit the gym. It was a one-two punch to my motivation: I’d skip my workout, then beat myself up for it, a vicious cycle that was taking its toll on my mental and physical health. So, a few weeks ago I made the switch from sad desk lunch to energizing mid-day sweat session and I. Feel. Great. Not only have I not missed a workout, but I’m actually excited for it and I’ve been hitting the gym more frequently and more energetically. Leaving work behind me at the end of the day knowing I’ve already put in my time allows me to truly enjoy and be present in whatever I have planned for the evening, no rushing around, no preoccupied thoughts of should have or could have.
Whether you’re a runner or a gym buff, moving your body and getting some air in the middle of the day can have enormous benefits. More energy, more time, everything I’ve described above. It takes a little practice, but taking control of your lunch break could be the difference between slacking off and getting strong. Today I’m sharing my tips for changing up your routine and making the most of those precious minutes mid-day, when everyone else is eating at their desks, decidedly not taking a break:
Be prepared: I pack my gym bag the night before and leave it by the door, so it’s waiting to be picked up as I leave for work in the morning. This ensures that A: I won’t forget it, and B: I can spend the morning enjoying my breakfast and packing up my food for the day. Along with my gym clothes, socks and sneakers, I pack a water bottle, a fresh towel, unscented face wipes in case I get truly sweaty, a pair of inexpensive flip flops to protect against nasty public shower floors, and a zippered pouch with a few makeup essentials inside, in the event I need a touch-up post-workout. I keep a spare deodorant at my desk with some hair elastics, too, because I know myself, and I know that I always forget those very important items. If your gym doesn’t provide soap or shampoo dispensers, toss in a couple sample-sized bottles for your post-workout shower, and if you’re unable to shower after your workout, face towelettes can help you freshen up before you head back to your desk.
When I return home after work, I unpack everything. Damp towels and gym clothes are breeding grounds for bacteria and the dreaded gym bag stink, so everything gets hung up and air-dried thoroughly before being tossed in the laundry hamper, including my sneakers, which I air out next to my bag at night so they’re dry and ready to go in the morning. Forget to unpack? Learn how to de-stink your gym clothes here.
Make a date with yourself: My phone buzzes every day at 11:50 A.M., reminding me it’s almost time. While on most days I won’t forget, on particularly frenzied mornings, the alarm lets me know it’s time to step back, lace up my sneakers, and get some distance. While movement is essential for physical health, my time at the gym also allows me to reset and recharge my mind, and I’ve found I have more energy and am more productive once I return to my desk. If, for whatever reason, I’m unable to make my lunchtime gym date (meetings!), I’ll find another time throughout the day or after work to fit in a workout and write myself a reminder. Making a date with yourself or a gym buddy adds accountability to your routine, an essential element for those who love to talk ourselves out of getting sweaty. Set a calendar reminder, block yourself off, scribble it on post it notes, and then GO.
Choose a timed workout: Depending on your job, your break could vary anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, so when you’re working with a limited timeframe, a timed run or workout can ensure you get the most bang for your buck. Try high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, which can range anywhere between 7 and 30 minutes, or a timed weight circuit. I’ve been using Bodybuilding.com and the BodySpace app (both are free) to find new circuits and programs to follow and am also a big fan of Kayla Itsines’s BBG guides. Be sure to factor in any prep time you may need before you hit the gym, as well as how long you’ll need to freshen up afterwards to avoid running over your break.
BYOL: Bring your own lunch (and snacks), because you still gotta eat! After eating breakfast at home, I know I’ll need some mid-morning fuel to pep me up before the gym (go here and here to learn what to eat before a workout), then when I get back to my desk, I eat my lunch while I return to work. Preparing your own food saves you money and ensures you won’t have to search it out after you leave the gym, possibly making you late. Your lunch will be ready and waiting for you, so you can grab it and get back to work, pronto.
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+ Do you work out at lunch? Have any sage advice? Please share!