My job currently affords me all the freedom I need for my training, but during the first 3 years of my employment here, I had little freedom. I was hired with the typical one hour lunch break, and I was expected to be timely. So I had to be efficient with that time if I wanted to use it for training. Before I share my lunch break training tips, if you don’t already have a job…
Before you get any job
Before you get any job, read my thoughts about full time jobs and motivation. Next, here are examples of jobs to avoid,
- Transportation worker (trucker and wrecker especially)
- Police jobs that require you to “cruise” all day long in a car
- Jobs that require constant airline travel
- Nurse or surgical technologist
- School teacher (college professor is fine)
- 3rd shift jobs
Features of these jobs may include:
- Forced sitting or standing (discomfort)
- High stress
- Circadian rhythm (sleep) disruption
- No ability to negotiate hours or schedule
- Difficulty eating when and what you want
- Not enough pay
- Long hours
This shit will make you suck at training. You want a job with these features instead:
- Freedom to get up or sit down whenever you want
- Low-Medium stress
- Normal daytime hours
- Routine and flexible schedule
- Freedom to eat when you want
- At least medium pay (enough so you don’t have to worry too much about money)
- Part time hours or 40 hours per week maximum
- Work located near a gym
- Short commute
Not all of these features are necessary for training success, but having more of them is better for your training success. I’m describing what to many may be a dream job, or I may simply be describing an engineering job at an upbeat firm with a forward thinking culture. Damn you engineers, I’m jealous. I wish I had chosen that path in college instead of Biology! I could have had something similar to the easy job I have now, but with 3x as much pay and retirement possibilities! gah. Moving on.
When you already have a job
#1. Find the closest gym to your work and get a membership there. This is your #1 priority aside from getting a job that is compatible with your training lifestyle. Obviously, if you only have an hour to train on your lunch break, and your gym is on the other side of town, it’s simply not going to work. Try hard to dig out a gym close to you, look everywhere! For tricking, look for nearby parks or fields. (Oh, and parks are great places to rig up some rings for ring training.)
#2. Wear your training clothes underneath your work outfit. When you arrive to train, just strip your work clothes off. A fast change out like this can save you about 5 minutes. (This works extraordinarily well for tricking in particular.) I actually have observed much more interesting tactics from other gym goers during the lunch hour. I used to see this one guy, who wore traditional business attire (jacket, suit, tie, dress pants and shoes) just take off the top and put on a t-shirt and work out still wearing his dress pants and shoes! That’s dedication! Of course I never saw the guy train his legs… Hmmm. Maybe he saved leg day for Saturday? I’ve also observed some more casual wear workers (like myself, jeans and a shirt with sneakers for example) just work out wearing these same clothes, maybe with just an optional shirt change.
#3. Skip the shower and use a wet rag to scrub your armpits and wipe off your upper body. Then apply a few “glops” of hand sanitizer under your arm pits, then follow with deodorant. This can save you about 13 minutes on cleaning up (typically a shower takes me 15 minutes and this only takes me 2 minutes).
#4. Actually have a workout plan. If you know exactly what your exercises are and how much you are doing, then you save time thinking of what you’re going to do next during your workout. And make sure your workout plan has a plan B! For example, there have been at least one hundred times I showed up to the park to trick, and the park was closed, under maintenance, or filled with children in an organized church event or some shit… Then I’d have to find another park. Plan B. And if you’re at the gym and you plan a 3 exercise workout all in the squat rack… what if that’s the only squat rack in the entire gym and you walk in to find a trainer with two clients swapping in and out of that rack during their crossfit training workout? Then your entire workout plan has been destroyed. It’s like they just sunk your fucking battle ship dude.
Look, during any other circumstances you can just do an extra long warmup while you wait for someone to finish using something. But extra long warmups and waiting are not things you can do during a one hour lunch break training opportunity.
#5. Super-setting and rest period restrictions are intra-workout tactics you may consider using to get more out of your time training. Speaking of rest periods, I actually never, ever weight train without timing my rest periods anymore. That’s been one of the things that’s made the most difference for me the past few years. If you’re not doing it, start doing it.
#6. My personal recommendation for a lunch break training routine when time is limited is to keep it ultra simple. For example, here were some of my old lunch break training routines before my own time limitation was absolved:
- 100 pullups total and 200 pushups total at the park, time attack mode.
- As many bar muscle ups as I could do in 45 minutes.
- My ring routine (takes only about 40 minutes).
- Go tricking and train only one or two tricks. The warmup is specific to those tricks only.
- Go to gym and do one compound exercise (ex: just deadlifts, or just front squats).
- Go to gym and do an upper body part split (ex: just shoulders, or just biceps/triceps, or just chest).
These may sound too simple, but listen to me and do it anyway: strip your workouts down to these bare essentials, then as you get better at them and more efficient, add more stuff at that point. Build them back up later if you can… Start low and less if you’re new to lunch break training limitations.
#7. Rent a locker. A locker allows you to always have certain things available without having to remember to bring them. You may even choose to keep your gym bag in your locker for the ultimate convenience (as long as your gym bag isn’t a gigantic 30 lb, chalk breathing, ammonia inhalant smelling behemoth like mine).
#8. If you own a car, like me, you may choose to keep training items, gym outfits, foods, and supplements in your car at all times, so you never have to remember to bring them. I do this, and in doing so, I never have to spend time packing for the gym, and I never forget anything, ever; Everything I need for training is always with me in the back of my car. Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, If I’m in the mood: I’m ready for training.
#9. As hard as it can be, if you are really strapped for time, forego things that tangle, tether or act as time vampires. Your first targets should be your music playing device and your cell phone. They can freeze up (and thus, distract you while you try to get it working again), get in the way, misbehave, you name it. “Where is that damn song anyway? I could have sworn I added it to this playlist?” Besides this, text messaging!
Seriously, these devices can rob you one minute here, one minute there, and it can add up. Music is one of the very best performance enhancers and makes working out a lot more fun, but when you are training on your lunch break with time limitations, then you should probably go music free. Look, the more spartan you are, the less time you will waste trying to attend to technological gremlins. Just walk right in and move that fucking weight. Save the tunes and cellphone stuff for the weekend session when you can take your time and piddle around.
#10. “What about lunch?!” you may ask. If you’re training on your lunch hour you still gotta eat! So here is some inspiration for you from my own workday meals, these take little time to prepare and eat, are cheap, are effective, and can be stored without needing chilled.
Another cheap, effective alternative that also takes little time to prepare and eat is a meal shake: prepare a giant meal shake the night before work for lunch, bring it along in a cooler, and crush it when your training session is done. I did this for years. Here’s an ultra experienced tip: if you let it sit out of your cooler for about an hour before you drink it, it’ll warm up enough so you can slam it without getting a brain freeze. That’s important if time is a restriction. Afterall, it’s hard to drink a really cold shake fast, but it’s not hard to drink a shake fast that has been set out to warm slightly. So right before you leave work, take your meal shake out of the cooler so when you get back you can attack it full speed!
#11. This last strategy may seem a bit lame, but it’s a strategy with a lot of potential: RUSH. I want you to recollect on a moment in your life when you were rushed to do something faster than your default pace. An emergency or urgency.
- Perhaps you had to clean something up really quickly before your parent(s) returned home.
- Perhaps you had to get dressed really quickly to be on time for an appointment.
Think about how fast you think and move and do things during these type of moments. Can you rush during your lunch break training opportunity?
- Travel as fast as you can to the gym. Break the speed limit on the roads if you drive. Run red lights.
- Run or move briskly into, within, and out of the gym.
- Dress/undress quickly for training.
- Prepare your weights/machines/training station quickly.
- Eat your post workout meal quickly. Furious Pete that shit.
These days it seems socially unacceptable to be rushing about like this, people think it’s an emergency when you run or do things really fast. But if you want it bad enough, if training is something really important to you, then you will do what I did, and negotiate to have a longer lunch break with a change of hours so you don’t have to rush your training anymore! Or you will get a better job! Good luck!