I was contracted to write this article for an online fitness and wellness journal.
What to do for lunch
It doesn’t seem like much on a daily basis, but used wisely, your lunch hour can add up to sixty golden minutes of bonus time in the middle of your day.
“But what can I do in an hour?” you may ask while perched on your ergonomically correct office chair inside your three-walled work cubicle. Well, get off that chair for a start. Stand up, take off those fancy work shoes and lace on your sneakers. Unless it’s chilly and you need a jacket or sweater, you are now completely kitted out for a stroll around your work neighbourhood. Fresh air is a proven panacea to the dreaded afternoon work slump – you know, the one that hits you around 2 p.m. when your body convinces you that nothing but a chocolate bar or another jolt of caffeine will keep you focused on the task at hand.
There are several ways to take a walk. Sauntering along window shopping is a great way to relax, as long as you don’t put your budget in peril by stopping to buy – remember, it’s a walk, not a shopping excursion. Perhaps you’d prefer to commune with nature by strolling serenely through a local park or along a waterfront. If all this relaxation chatter sends your Type A personality into a tailspin, you can opt for a serious power walk that will burn calories and tighten your buns and thighs.
As a matter of fact, if getting fit is a personal goal, there are many gyms that offer workout classes tailored to fit into a lunch hour, taking into account that participants need time to change in and out of workout clothes and have a bite to eat before returning to the salt mines. These will feature stretching, a little cardio, and weightlifting, but not so heavy on the cardio that you’ll go back to work dripping sweat, looking awful and smelling worse. Of course, you can get maximum calorie-burning in a short time if you work out at a higher intensity; raise your speed on the treadmill and either lift your weights quickly with little rest between sets or choose heavier weights with fewer reps. Just remember, you may need to factor in shower time before mingling with your co-workers again.
Actually, it may not even be necessary to leave your office to work your muscles. Lunges and squats are time-honoured lower body shapers, and can easily be done in a small space. Elastic exercise tubing can be stuffed into a purse or briefcase, is incredibly versatile, and can deliver an amazingly strenuous routine. Invest in a few exercise DVDs so you can learn the moves – depending on your office set-up, you may even be able play them on your computer at work and follow along!
While lunch hours provide a great opportunity to give your body a workout, they can also give you some precious “found” minutes to give your spirit a workout. There’s a great emphasis on journaling these days as a tool for personal growth, but how many of us actually make the time to do it? I know, I know, you say you’ll get up a half-hour earlier every morning and write while you sip your first cup of coffee . . . but then there’s the dog to walk, a baby is sick or you have to make your lunch, and . . . Well, there is a spare half-hour, or more, just waiting to be utiliized in the middle of the day. Bring your journal to work, and take the opportunity to jot down your hopes, dreams and observations about life.
Reading is another past time many say they would pursue if they just had the time. You can pack the latest bestselling novel along with your lunch every morning and let literature give you insight into other worlds over your noon break. Many people would like to delve deeper into the religious texts of their faith. It’s a simple matter to slip your Bible or a Koran into your briefcase and find a quiet place to study a chapter or two. It’s amazing how much reading you can pack into just a half-hour a day.
The point is that while it’s called “lunch” hour, no one really spends the whole hour eating. Look at it this way. Say you take three weeks holiday per year, plus the odd statutory holiday here and there. You still have approximately 240 hours of “free time” in the middle of the work day per year – that’s almost 10 whole days to fit in a workout for mind, body or spirit – it’s your choice.