“I run six-to-eight miles a day, plus weights and aerobics in the lunch hour. I also lie a lot, which keeps me thin.” -Hugh Laurie
A few months ago, I did a post about the benefits of developing a morning workout routine.
One of the caveats I mentioned in this article is that you shouldn’t sacrifice sleep in order to accomplish this. Sleep is one of the most underrated fat loss and weight management tools because it regulates growth hormone, insulin, and many other different hormones directly tied to fat loss. Not to mention you need adequate sleep for proper recovery and repair of muscle tissue. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, that AM workout won’t do you much good. After all, many fitness experts argue that the best time of the day to workout is when you are feeling your best and I agree 100%. Being more of an anti-morning person and recognizing the importance of eight hours of sleep each night, I’ve recently adopted a daily exercise routine at lunch time which has been working really well.
There are many benefits to working out during lunch.
As I mentioned, the biggest one for me is that it allows me to get more sleep. I’ve noticed that I generally go to sleep at the same time whether I wake up at 5am or 7am. Therefore, waking up at 7am translates into more sleep. I’ve also found at my job, it’s “socially acceptable” to take an hour long lunch break. Much more socially acceptable than it is to work the same number of hours, but leave the office at 4pm. You may have to feel this one out depending on your work situation, but in general I get the impression that people feel really bad for you if you are forced to skip a meal. The irony is that I skip meals regularly as part of an intermittent fasting eating strategy. I don’t need the lunch hour for eating. I need it for training. But who knows the difference, right? This is one of those loopholes you need to take advantage of if your situation allows it.
My guidelines for working out during lunch are simple.
Keep it short, keep it intense, and use compound movements. When I say short, I mean really short. 15 minutes tops. You might think that this is not enough time for an effective workout, but I disagree. If you craft the right type of workout, you can get more out of 15 minutes than you can out of lounging around the gym for an hour and a half after work. The other day, I did an Ab Strength Guide workout. This is a program that is all about efficiency: 10 minute workouts that are so intense that they produce EPOC or afterburn effects for up to 48 hours following the workout. I wasn’t sure if I believed this at first, but I did after I experienced DOMS in my legs for three days following the workout. This is just one example. When your workouts are that short, you are forced to concentrate 100% on every single rep and movement to get the absolute most you can out of every minute of exercise.
So I think I’ve covered the short and intense part.
What about the compound movements? In the spirit of getting the most bang for your time, you need to select exercises that hit as many large muscle groups as possible at the same time. Your precious time will not be well-spent on doing bicep curls or sit-ups for 15 minutes. You want to do challenging variations of pushups, presses, squats, lunges, things like that. Trust me, if you do the right exercises, you will naturally work your biceps and core. Hitting the large muscle groups and hitting them hard is what will produce a larger EPOC effect and help burn more calories after your workout. By doing these types of compound exercises, you will also develop functional strength which will make you more athletic. The muscles in your body are designed to work together, not in isolation.
Here are my favorite lunch workout routines:
Ab Strength Guide: I mentioned this one earlier. Best time-efficient workout program I have ever used, hands down. All workouts are 10 minutes long and incorporate all the points I discussed. They are full body, compound exercises that you cycle through quickly and intensely. Even though “ab” is in the name, this is a full body program that naturally benefits the abs because your core supports all the exercises you do in various ways.
Bodyweight circuits: My favorite example of this is Craig Ballantyne’s Crazy 8 bodyweight cardio circuit, which I did a post on a while back. This is just about as good as Ab Strength Guide in terms of compound movements and intensity. You will be winded at the end. I like this one a lot because it requires no equipment so you can do it anywhere. If you don’t live close enough to work, all you need to do is find a little bit of space to crank this out.
Kettlebells: The possibilities are endless with these. You can craft a number of different routines that suit your preference and you are almost guaranteed a great workout. I try to do kettlebells at least once a week and focus on basic exercises such as swings and Turkish get ups. But if you get really into these, you can do a lot more with them or even combine them with bodyweight exercises. Check out Srdjan’s post for some examples.
I’m really enjoying this new breakthrough.
By training at lunch time, I get more sleep and I still have time after work for playing sports, social activities, and other things like cooking or working on my blog. An added bonus I’ve found is that it curbs my hunger. I’m usually not hungry at all immediately after a really intense workout. Sometimes, I can even make it all the way through to the end of the workday before I feel the need to eat. I am also fortunate enough to live extremely close to work and to have a job with flexible lunch hours. I can easily go home, train, shower, and even have time to whip up a protein smoothie in the Magic Bullet before heading back to work… all within one hour. After reading this, you should have no more excuses about not having the time to workout. If you are in a similar situation, you should strongly consider a daily exercise routine during lunch. Have you experimented with a lunch workout routine yet?