The Lunch Run: How To Perfect Your Midday Workout

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For a lot of runners, it can be a struggle trying to fit training in around commitments such as work, family, and other responsibilities.

Some people like to train first thing in the morning before getting to work. Whereas others really look forward to the end-of-day run to help them clear their heads and forget about the stresses from the work day.

However, there’s yet another option to get your run in during the working day.

The lunch run.

In this guide, we will give you 11 tips to fit your lunch run in to your busy schedule.


Let’s jump in!

A person holding a clock and a sign that says time for lunch.

The Lunch Run

Running during your lunch break is an excellent way to clear your head, breaking up your workday and leading to an increase in work productivity.

I’ve been living and working in Madrid, Spain for the past 3 years and one of the typical Spanish things that differ from my past jobs is the concept of the long lunch break. It’s not unusual for a Spaniard to have a 3-course meal for lunch that lasts over 2 hours.

While most of my colleagues are engaging in this leisurely activity, I make the most of the long break and go for a lunch run.  When it comes to the crunch, I like to choose a “RUNch” over a long lunch any day!

Now, not all of us have the luxury of this long lunch culture and the 1-hour lunch is universally more common.

To help the time-poor runners, see our step-by-step guide and 11 helpful tips to get your lunch run completed in the middle of the workday:

A person on their lunch run.

#1: Be Time Efficient – be like a German

Germany has a reputation for getting things done in an efficient manner. So let’s be like the Germans and be time-efficient.

You should have your lunch run bag packed the night before and there are a number of other things you can do to ensure you don’t waste precious time getting changed. For instance, I know of some male colleagues that put their running t-shirt on under their work shirt to help them save some time.

Related Article: The Best Under Desk Treadmills To Keep You Active In The Office

#2: Pack your things the night before

Packing your lunch run kit bag the night before is something people preparing for marathons will be familiar with and when it comes to the lunch run, the same methodical planned approach makes things easier.

Here’s a list of essential items for your lunch run kit bag:

  • Sports bra, if needed 
  • Cap (for sunnier climates)
  • Post-run underwear 
  • Towel
  • Deodorant
  • Soap/ body wash, face wash 
  • Baby wipes, if you don’t have shower access
  • Sunscreen 
  • Dry shampoo
  • Brush/comb

You should also consider leaving a running jacket or some long-sleeved t-shirts permanently in your lock at work so that you can still get out during the winter months.

A gym bag filled with shoes, headphones, an apple and a phone.

#3: Plan your route

Do you have access to a park near your work? Are there streets close by that have some sort of gradient? These are the types of questions you’ll have to ask yourself as you think carefully about where you will run.

We recommend you use Google Maps or look on Strava for routes nearby to give you some ideas. What I like to do is get to know the area on foot first. You could go for a 30-minute walk one lunchtime and see if there are any out and back routes or loops close by to your place of work.

The standard 15 minutes out and then turn back on yourself is a classic and you’d be surprised how many different options are out there once you get out and explore.

Plan your route the night before or the morning of the run.

#4: Snack before going out

In addition to keeping well hydrated during the morning, we recommend you take a pre-run snack. Bananas, a handful of nuts, or an energy bar would work well.

We recommend you have this snack 90 minutes or 1 hour before your run, to give your body ample time to digest it.

A person drinking water.

#5: Hydrate

Drinking water throughout the working day is very important for all office workers. Moreover, if you are going for your lunch run, you´ll want to ensure that you are properly hydrated.

We recommend you try and drink 2l of water before the run and if it looks like it could be quite a sunny day, you could add an electrolyte tablet to ensure your body has all the essential minerals and is not lacking.

#6: Plan Out Where to get changed

Some of us are lucky in that we have changing room facilities at work, with lockers and showers. Also, your office may be close to a gym. However, this is not always the case so you’ll need to improvise a bit and consider where best you can get changed.

We recommend you use the toilet facilities, get changed in the cubicle, and then leave your things under your desk or an area out of the way of others. Hopefully, there will be one close to your desk, so on your return from the run, it will just be a matter of picking up your things and going back to get changed back into your working clothes.

Quick tip – wear your sporty running shoes to work. That way you´ll save some time during the rapid change! 5 minutes should be ample time to make this Clark Kent style transition.

For those of us who do not have access to shower facilities, baby wipes and deodorant will become our new best friends!

A package of wet wipes.

#7: Vary Your Types of sessions

Being creative is the key here. Depending on how you feel and how these runs fit into your weekly plan, you’ll be able to try some different types of runs. The key as always is to be as time-efficient as possible.

We recommend these 30 minutes running sessions:

  • Classic out and back – 15 minutes out and then turn back
  • Hill session – 15 minutes warmup, 6 x 45 seconds hill, with jog back to recover, cool down
  • Long reps – 10 minutes warmup, 3 x 5 mins reps at 10k pace, 90 seconds recovery, cool down
  • Short reps – 10 minutes warmup, 8 x 1 min reps, equal recovery, cool down
  • Tempo – 10 minutes warmup, 15 minutes at Tempo pace, cool down

Quick tip – if you’re planning on running one of the harder sessions (one of the final 4 sessions from the above list), go easy at first. Ease yourself into the first rep as with a limited warmup time, you’ll want to give your body more time to be fully prepared.

A person running on a path.

#8: Plan Your Post-run cleanup

If you’re lucky enough to have a shower at work or you have access to one in a nearby gym then you’re sorted. If not, don´t worry as there are alternative ways to have you feeling fresh and clean for the return to your desk.

Baby wipes can come in very handy in addition to using the sink in the toilet facilities with your soap and face cloth; you’ll be surprised at how sparkling clean you’ll feel.

#9: Eat at your desk (have the food prepared)

The post-run food is an essential part of the lunch run process. Following the 30-minute session and the time taken to get changed, showered, and dressed again, you won’t have time to go out and buy your lunch. So it should then be part of your packing list the night before.

We recommend you get some carbohydrates back into the system. Nice wholemeal bread sandwiches should do the trick. And if you have access to a microwave, eating up some rice or pasta from the previous night’s dinner would work wonders.

A sandwich.

#10: Stretch later in the afternoon

Sitting back at your desk after the lunchtime run will allow you to recover from your efforts, but don’t neglect the need to stretch later in the afternoon.

We recommend you find the time for a 5 or 10-minute break late afternoon where you could walk around the office a bit, and then use the toilet cubicle as your sanctuary for stretching.

Focus on calves, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

#11: Make the most of the post-run glow

Give yourself a well-earned pat on the back after your efforts to get out and stick to your running routine. With all the endorphins and high levels of serotonin now flowing through your body, you can really make the most of this newfound energy and avoid the afternoon slump that affects so many office workers.

Maybe structure your working day so that you can really attack a creative task during the hour straight after your run.

Remember, see the run as a chance to alleviate stress and clear your mind.

Two people smiling and conversing at work.

If you can meet a friend during the run, if possible, try and find a work colleague who runs at a similar pace. That way you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan. However, if this isn’t possible, don’t worry. After all, we are all different and some people prefer the benefits of going alone and being able to be with their thoughts.

So have a go and if you commit to a lunch run over a consistent period, you’ll be amazed at how both you and your company will benefit from your increased energy levels and newfound creative spark!

For a closer look at the different types of workouts, you could work into your schedule, take a look at our All Types Of Running Workouts Guide.

Photo of author
Cathal Logue is an avid runner and coach. After competing against Sir Mo Farah aged 16, he suffered several injuries throughout his 20s. Despite not reaching the same heights as some of his contemporaries, he still holds impressive PBs of 9.09 for 3k, 15.36 for 5k, and 33.36 for 10k. His goal now is to help runners of all abilities reach their potential and likes exploring the mountains north of his current home, Madrid, Spain.

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