If you're one of those people who only has time to squeeze in their runs on their lunch hour, here are some must-follow tips to make your runs as awesome as possible.
- A word about sleep: An epic afternoon run starts with the night before. Be sure to hit the hay early so you can clock in at least seven hours of sleep so you'll still have energy by midday.
- Breakfast is key: Even though you're not exercising until four hours from now, make sure to eat a healthy, filling breakfast. Keep it to about 350 to 500 calories, and go for protein and complex carbs. Oatmeal with fruit and nuts, yogurt with fruit and granola, eggs and toast, or a smoothie paired with a whole-grain muffin are perfect. Do not — I repeat — do not skip or skimp on breakfast.
- Sip on this: Dehydration can cause dizziness and cramping, so sip on water all morning long before your run. It also keeps your digestive system moving along, so you won't have to worry about cramping up from constipation. Just be sure to hit the ladies' room right before heading out.
- Start your day a little early: Whether you work or go to school, busy schedules can make it downright impossible to steal away for your workout. Even if you make a point not to skip it, you'll feel so stressed during your run that you'll despise every second of it. On days you know you want to run at noon, getting to work or cracking the books 30 to 60 minutes earlier will help you get a head start on your workload, so you'll feel ready and stress-free when it's time to lace up your sneaks. If that's not possible, plan to stay at work a little later to make up for the time you were running.
- Make it known: You're not the only one who should know you're heading out for a run at lunchtime. Tell your co-workers, boss, family, or whoever needs to know ahead of time that you're stealing away for an hour midday to get in a run. It should be considered as important as a doctor's appointment or a work meeting so you don't get any last-minute requests or phone calls that would prevent you from being able to take the time you deserve.
- Socks? Check: Since you're most likely squeezing a run into the middle of your busy day, you don't have one minute to spare, so don't waste it trying to find your missing sock. Get everything ready that you need for your run including sports bra (you could even wear this under your work clothes to save time getting dressed), running shorts, hairband, sunglasses, and headphones so you can grab them and be ready for your run in minutes.
- When and what to nosh: If you're waiting to eat lunch until after your workout, then make sure you snack on a little something around 11 a.m. before your noontime run. Whether it's a banana with a little peanut butter, a few crackers and cheese, or a small fruit and yogurt smoothie, a combo of quick-digesting carbs and protein is key. Don't try to get by on eating breakfast at 8 a.m. and waiting to fuel up until after you shower — you won't have the energy for an intense workout and will likely suffer dizziness and a headache during and after the run.
- Warm up: Seriously. This is important before a workout at any time, but especially if you've been sitting at a desk for the better part of your morning. Your body feels so tight that doing a few Sun Salutations to get your blood flowing, Circling Three-Legged Dogs to open tight hips, and this knee-in plank warmup to stretch the lower back and hamstrings will not only feel amazing, but it can also help prevent injury.
- Know your route: If you're into running outside, make sure you have your route planned out so you know exactly where you're running and how long it'll take. You don't need any midrun stressful thoughts like "Oh crap, how do I get back to my office?" or "Oh no, I'm never going to make it back in time for that meeting!" Keep it simple such as an out-and-back run, hit an outdoor track, or do block repeats so you're close to where you need to be.
- Outside motivation: Use whatever you need to get you excited for your run. Make a date to meet up with a running buddy, create a new kick-ass playlist like this, or listen to an audiobook to take your mind off the physical demands. You may even run an extra five minutes so you can listen to that one favorite song or that last exciting chapter.
- Reward your efforts: You deserve more than a pat on the back for sweating it out. Knowing you have a little something special to look forward to when you get back like a yummy sandwich or new smoothie recipe is sure to put a smile on your beet-red face. Get it ready either the night or morning before your afternoon run so you can grab it and refuel and not take any more time away from your busy schedule.