In an ideal world we’d all go to bed at a reasonable time, arise refreshed after at least seven hours of sleep, and enjoy plenty of time to exercise before taking on the day. We live in the real world, however. And often times, things just don’t work out that way.
Maybe in your real world, you roll out of bed with only the bare minimum amount of time to get ready before your day starts. And maybe your real world includes evenings filled with errand running and family commitments. And by the time you’re finished, you’re too exhausted to even consider working out. You want to exercise, you really do. But it’s just so hard to find the time. Therefore, the time has come to get creative. Consider fitness for lunch.
Think about it. Lunchtime is the perfect time for exercisers who are not morning people as well as for those too tired to hoof it to the gym after a long, hard day. Besides, fitting exercise into your daily routine offers oodles of benefits you don’t want to miss out on. Exercise not only increases your energy, helps you sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety, but it also boosts your immune system as well as improves your mental outlook. Plus, there are all those great long-term health benefits such as reducing your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis, colon cancer, and diabetes.
Start with a Plan
As the old proverb states, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” The evening before your lunchtime workout, gather everything you're going to need. Some items include:
Healthy pre- and post-workout meals (see below)
If you enjoy listening to music while you exercise, remember to charge up your iPod or MP3 player the night before and pack your headphones.
Before the Workout
Hopefully you eat healthy breakfasts each morning. But if you’re ordinarily famished by lunchtime, eat a light snack about one hour before your workout. Eating too much beforehand can leave you feeling sluggish, or cause stomach cramps. Eat too little, and you may not have enough energy to make it through your workout. Some great pre-workout food choices include:
Fresh fruit (bananas are a great choice)
Whole-grain crackers with peanut butter
In addition, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking two or three cups of water two to three hours before your workout.
Start with a few minutes of warm-up. Research suggests your weekly exercise program should include a combination of aerobic and strength-training routines. You may choose to alternate cardio one day with weight work the next, or implement a daily form of circuit training to get the dual benefit of increasing your heart rate while working your muscles. Breaking your workout down into manageable chunks is fine. As long as you work out for at least 10 minutes at a time, your body will benefit.
After the Workout
Don’t skimp on doing a cool-down, and be sure to include some stretching to help reduce muscle soreness. It’s critical to rehydrate your body immediately after your workout. If possible, eat a meal containing both lean protein and complex carbohydrates within one hour of your exercise session. This combination helps your muscles recover and replace glycogen stores. Some good post-workout food choices include:
Yogurt and fresh fruit
Peanut butter or lean meat sandwich
String cheese and crackers
Nuts and dried fruit
The Bottom Line
Fitting in a lunchtime workout will provide an afternoon pick-me-up that is so much better for you than downing junk food, sugary sodas, caffeine-loaded drinks, or indulging in sweet treats snagged during a mid-afternoon vending machine run. You’ll experience overall health benefits and an improved sense of well-being just knowing you’re doing a great thing for your body.
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