To make running at lunch times work for you, preparation and good organisation are key, so here's how to make things easy:
- Tell your employer what you are going to do, so that they know this is your sacred running time and is not to be eaten into by more work.
- If you don’t have access to showering facilities at work, or you don’t work from or close to home, consider joining a gym close by where you can use the showers. The gym’s treadmills might be of use to you too.
- Leave a kit bag at work with enough gear to last you the week. This way you will only need to bring it in on Monday and take it home on Friday.
- Get into a routine of making your lunch at home so you don't waste precious lunch time.
- Spend a few minutes reorganising your kit bag at the end of the day, so it's not in a state the next day forcing you to search through the sweaty stuff when you should be running. Rinse out your drinks bottle, too.
Start your warm-up at the office
To make every minute count, start your warm-up at the office. Run up or down the stairs instead of taking the lift; raise and lower your heels and tap your toes at your desk; do a few shoulder rolls, gentle twists and neck bends; walk briskly to the toilets/changing rooms; and take some deep breaths. This will help to get your body geared up for activity, so it will respond more quickly when you begin your run.
Lunch hour training sessions
If you are intending to run at least three week day lunch hours, then Monday, Wednesday and Friday are best, since this will provide you with a day to recover between each one. It is possible, of course, to run on five days, but if you do, you'll want to make two of those sessions easy-paced runs.
Each of your sessions should be slightly different, as this will be far more beneficial to you than repeating the same session each time.
The best option is to have those two rest days and head out on a long run at the weekend. Each of your sessions should be slightly different, as this will be far more beneficial to you than repeating the same session each time.
Here are several different suggested lunch hour running sessions. None of them will take more than 45-50 minutes including a warm-up, so you should still have time to get a bit of lunch.
Interval session – 45 minutes
Focus: To increase aerobic capacity, increase leg turnover and improve running economy (i.e. the amount of energy it takes to run at any given pace).
Start with a slow jog, building up gradually over ten minutes to your usual training speed. Now speed up to the fastest pace you think you can sustain for five minutes (you shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation during this time – and remember, it’s five minutes, not 30 seconds!). Follow this with a three-minute slow jog. Then repeat this three more times, using the final slow jog recovery (it doesn’t matter if this is longer than three minutes) to make your way back to work.
Tip: Ideally you should do the five-minute efforts around the same route, so that you can keep tabs on whether your pace is being maintained or if you are slowing down slightly as the reps go on.
Work on speed with a short intervals session: start with the warm-up as above and then alternate one minute fast with one minute slow for 20 minutes. Then cool down for five minutes.
Threshold run – 35 minutes
Focus: To raise lactate threshold and improve speed.
Start with a slow jog, building up your speed over ten minutes to your usual training pace. Now gradually speed up to a pace that is just beyond comfortable (so that you can say the odd ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but can’t natter away if you’re running with a partner), and sustain this for 20 minutes. If this is too daunting, then go for ten minutes, take a two-minute rest, and then do another ten minutes. When the threshold run is finished, jog slowly for five minutes to cool down and to get rid of the lactic acid from the muscles.
Time-pressed alternative: Kenyan Hills session – 30 minutes
A Kenyan Hill session differs from a usual hill session because you don’t get a recovery between efforts – which will improve your lactate tolerance and clearance, as well as leg strength. Start with a ten-minute warm-up jog towards a long, steady hill. Then run up the hill swiftly, and after you reach the top, turn and run down swiftly while allowing your strides to open out. Run up the hill again without a break, continuing for seven and a half minutes. Take a two-minute rest and then repeat the seven and a half minutes. Then jog slowly back to work.
Varied-pace (Fartlek) run – 40 minutes
Focus: To become accustomed to running at different speeds, and work on different aspects of fitness such as power, strength and speed.
Start with a five- to ten-minute warm-up and then use the environment around you to dictate some bouts of varied pace. For example, if you encounter a row of park benches, you could increase your pace each time you pass one until you’re running flat out. Then slow down till you recover. If you find a steady climb, you could run up it swiftly and then jog back down to recover, and repeat this a few times. Alternatively, if there aren’t many features in your surroundings to work with, count your strides instead. For example, 50 strides at top speed, followed by 100 to recover.
Time-pressed alternative: any shorter amount of time
Your ‘Fartlek’ run can last any amount of time at all – so, if you’re time-crunched, simply fit more efforts in and take fewer recoveries, so that you’ll be able to fit the session into the time available.
All the above sessions are challenging, and will help you to get the most ‘bang for your buck’ in your lunchtime run. However, if you don’t feel up to doing a strenuous run – or if you want to run more than three times during your working week – then include a steady run as follows:
Steady run – 35-50 minutes
Focus: To improve stamina and fat use – and to reinvigorate you for the afternoon.
This steady run is all about you. It’s one you should ideally do at your favoured pace in a pleasant environment such as a park or riverbank (though listening to your music while running on a treadmill could work, too). Concentrate on running with great technique i.e. make sure you are relaxed, running tall, and using your arms to help power you along. This way you will get more out of your run – and enjoy it more too!