Time-Saving Fitness Tips

Featured Article, Fitness, News and Advice, Weight Loss
on March 23, 2011
Media Bakery

Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes—and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.

QUESTION: I just had a baby and I work full time.  I read in your book that you worked out over lunch when you had your son so as not to take any time away from your family.  How did you find time to change, workout, shower and do your hair and makeup all in one hour? —Allison

DEAR ALLISON: It’s a challenge, I tell you that (in fact, I still work out over lunch). But I have to say, I love the break from the work routine, and I often come back to the office brimming with ideas and solutions to problems I’ve been struggling with.

Key to making it work is having a fitness club nearby or access to an onsite shower. Both now and at my previous workplace, I’m only ½ mile or less away from the Y, so I make that home base. I wish we did have a shower and locker room in our building, though, for days when I just want to run outdoors. (If you don’t have a health club nearby or a shower on site, you can still get some exercise over your lunch hour—you probably just need to limit it to walking.)

I use these tricks to make lunch hour workouts work for me:

  • Pack right. My gym bag, stocked with staples like a brush, hair clips, deodorant, pressed powder and lipstick, lives in my car. I have two pairs of running shoes: one that stays in the bag, one that lives in the house. Every day, I simply trade out my top, shorts and socks for a clean set (toting it from the house to my car when I leave in the morning). This system reduces the chances of my leaving the bag or my shoes at home. If I forget my clothes, I can at least throw on my shoes with my work outfit and take a quick walk.
  • Skip classes. Unless, that is, they’re “express” classes of 40 minutes at the most, or the boss is traveling that day and you’re not in danger of being docked if you stretch your lunch hour to a lunch hour-and-20 minutes. I tried to go to a noontime weight training class years ago, and had to quit because the instructor was chronically late. All I could do was sit there and watch the clock ticking away my precious lunch hour. I’d rather be in control of my time and not the victim of someone else’s schedule.
  • Choose high-quality workouts. When you’re time-pressed, you have to be as efficient in the gym as possible. Interval workouts, in which you alternate between periods of high intensity and recovery, are perfect for this. For instance, a 30-minute walking workout can be divided up into a 3-minute walk at a warmup pace, five intervals of 3 minutes fast/2 minutes at recovery pace, and a 2-minute cooldown. You can apply this technique to any cardio activity, from cycling to elliptical trainer to swimming. I also like to do circuit workouts that mix cardio and strength training. So, I might do a 10-minute stretch of cardio (running, walking, elliptical, cycling), then do one set of 5-7 upper and lower-body strength exercises, followed by a second 10-minute cardio stint and a second set of strength exercises. A complete cardio/strength workout in about 30 minutes!
  • Keep primping to a minimum. OK, so you may need to lower your standards here. Think about the minimum you can get by with primping-wise to get you through the rest of the day. For instance, I don’t wash or even wet my hair—I simply quick-dry the sweaty ends and rush back to work. I don’t redo my makeup, relying on a bit of pressed powder to patch things up, cotton swabs to remove any runny mascara, and a swipe of lipstick for good measure. Investing in waterproof mascara and wearing minimal eye shadow and liner (if at all) on workout days will simplify things, too.
  • Take a dry run. Try it once—maybe on an off day, if you can swing it. See how it works, adjust for any kinks in the plan, and try it again. I didn’t get my system right the first time. But I didn’t give up, either, because as important as it is for me to be a good mom, it’s just as important to be a healthy mom.