Friday, November 12, 2010

How to Enjoy a Lunch-Break Run

(Photo from Wikipedia)
Running during work hours is often an elusive activity for most runners. Even if a runner is fortunate enough to work in an environment that's open to casual attire, the opportunity to squeeze a decent run into a lunch "hour" is a rare thing. I mean, every minute counts while you're walking out the door, changing clothes, running, stretching, cleaning up, changing back into work clothes, and sitting back down at your desk.

I've made the lunch-break run a reality for myself on a few occasions in the past year. And, the only time I've been able to do it in less than an hour was when I ran two miles on the treadmill in the gym downstairs—not the best way to enjoy a run, at least not in my opinion.

So, here is my how-to guide for having an enjoyable run during regular work hours.

Run when you know you can afford to take a long lunch break. Sure, the standard American lunch break is an hour. But, if you're lucky enough to work somewhere in which there's a degree of leniency in your lunch break duration, make sure you take advantage of it. Don't take long lunch breaks all the time, of course. Not many employers would appreciate this. But, if one or two long lunch breaks are acceptable, go for it. (Apologies to those of you on strict lunch break time limits. This how-to guide does not really apply to you)
It is important, though, that you do not take an overly long lunch break. An hour and a half is doable. Two hours is too long. So, timing is everything in this exercise.

Make sure you bring all the running gear you'll need. Also, be sure to have a towel or something to wipe off the sweat when you'r done. If you want to take a shower in the gym, assuming a shower is available in your work place, then go for it. I don't bother. Diaper wipes are excellent for wiping away perspiration. Don't forget the deodorant either.

Pick a day when the weather is gorgeous. Don't plan to have an awesome run on a treadmill. you won't. Sure, treadmills are great when circumstances mandate that you run inside. But, this guide assumes you're attempting to enjoy a pleasurable run, something on ideal. So, we're running outside folks. And, if we're running outside, we want to run when the weather is fantastic. Don't run during lunch when it's 89 degrees with a dew point of 70. You and your colleagues will suffer for the rest of the afternoon. Choose a day in the Fall or Spring when the weather is more pleasant.

Bring your lunch to work that day. You will be hungry after your run. And, you won't have time to stop for lunch on the way back to the office. So, have lunch waiting for you when you return.

When you're ready to take your lunchtime-run break, leave quickly. Have your route picked out. Know where you're going to park if you're driving to the running course. The travel time must be executed with precision. How long does it take for you to get out of the building? How far away is the starting point? Where are you changing into your running clothes? There is no time for dilly-dally!

Know the course. Whether you're running the course for the first time, or not, you need to know where you're running. This is especially true if you're running on a trail rather than the streets near your office. As you know, technical trails can take up much more time than easily navigable pavement. And, taking a wrong turn on a trail can lead you far off course, thereby extending your time running. Getting lost is a sure way to turn an extended lunch hour into an afternoon off, which is not what we're trying to do here.

an enjoyable run on a Fall day during lunch in Umstead State ParkEnjoy the run. Since we are addressing an enjoyable run during work hours, I assume you've chosen a running route that has the potential to be enjoyable. This is a matter of personal taste. And, for me, an enjoyable run would be in a park with trails, somewhere that gets my mind away from the office and computers. Sure, we're in a bit of a rush here. But, it's all pointless if you don't take time to enjoy the run itself.

Stretch as efficiently as possible. The run is over. But, you still need to stretch. Do it quickly and effectively. I do not advise skipping the stretching session. Also, be sure you have water to drink immediately after the run. You'll want it. You always do.

Change back into your work clothes quickly. If you've driven to a running location, determine if you want to continue cooling off in your running clothes while driving back to the office. I change into my work pants in the bathroom at the park where I run. But, I leave my running shirt on while driving back. This ensures that I don't sweat profusely all over my work shirt with my back pressed against the car seat. You may find that you'd rather change completely once you return to the office. Figure it out.

Begin some work immediately upon returning to the office. Open up your email, or whatever, so that your computer looks busy. This is good, because it gives the impression that you've not been gone long. Hopefully, none of your office mates have eaten your lunch while you were gone. Eat that lunch. It'll be delicious.

Finally, don't get used to an enjoyable lunch-break run. The weather isn't perfect for long. And, you may find at times that your schedule, or that of your supervisor, is not as conducive to long lunch breaks. So, you should appreciate these types of runs during work hours for the rarities that they are. Do not be tempted to abuse them. That'll just make them less enjoyable for you.

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