Running on Lunch Break

So, you want to run on your lunch hour?

For a long time, I’ve flirted with the idea of running on my lunch break. I don’t always get a typical lunch break. Depending on the day it could be a half hour, an hour, or eat-on-the-fly.

So, I sat down and thought through the details of what I wanted to accomplish. My goal was to complete a run of between 2 and 4 miles. At my current mile pace of between 8:00 and 8:30, I knew that these distances would be easily achievable in a typical hour break. I also wanted to make sure I had enough time to stretch, clean up and change before I needed to start again for the afternoon.

Here are the steps I took to make it all happen.

Prepare the day before.

  1. I looked ahead at my work schedule to ensure that I could expect to have a full hour for lunch. Check!
  2. Packed all of my running gear into a gym bag for transport.
  3. Realized I’d also need a towel and washcloth to clean myself up.
  4. Made sure to include cologne in case I got too sweaty!
  5. Included a plastic bag to put my washcloth and towel into after the run.

As I started packing my things up, I told my wife about my plans. This was both a good way to be held accountable, and to let her know that I wouldn’t be available for our typical lunchtime chat.

Before work preparation.

  1. Double checked to make sure all of my gear was present and accounted for.
  2. Made sure to pack an extra water and snack with my lunch.
  3. Packed a lunch that could be eaten quickly without much cook time.
  4. Put the bag by the door so I didn’t forget it (like the last time!).

In the morning, I’m usually rushing around getting myself and my son ready to go. I have to drop him off at preschool before work some days, and that means that I have both his stuff and my stuff to remember. I always remember his stuff, but last time I forgot my running gear and had to sit there and feel lousy about myself on lunch.


  1. Discreetly locked my office door and shut the blinds on the window.
  2. Layed out all of my gear, so I could change as quickly as possible.
  3. Changed as quickly as possible!
  4. Sneaked quietly out of the office and started my run.

I don’t like to make a big deal about the fact that I run. I know what it’s like to have that one co-worker who is constantly talking about working out, and how annoying it is to hear about how well they’re doing when you’re just sitting there like a slug. So, I tried to make things as quick and quiet as I could given the circumstances.

Some of my co-workers noticed, but they were supportive and not judgmental. Apparently, I didn’t end up stinking too bad!

Post-run clean up.

  1. Slipped back into my office and shut the door.
  2. Spent about 5-10 minutes doing my usual stretching routine.
  3. Went to the bathroom to wash my face and wet my washcloth.
  4. Back in my office, stripped my shirt off first and washed my upper body.
  5. After the upper body, I doffed the pants and shorts and washed my lower body.
  6. Took a minute to cool off (but not too long because…well).
  7. Quickly re-dressed and put my running gear back into the bag.

After a couple of spritzes of cologne, it was like I hadn’t even left! Well, maybe not quite that discreet, but I wasn’t sweating too badly at the end and I didn’t get any comments about my smell.

My impressions and reflections

I did this run in February, and the outside temps were in the low 40’s F. There was a nice breeze, and it was a sunny day, so I would alternately sweat and then get cooled by the breeze. After running 3 miles and cooling down for half a mile, I wasn’t too wet when I got back to my office.

If I were running in the middle of summer, I’d expect to have been drenched! But, I don’t usually do a midday run after about May anyway for this very reason. I hate running when it’s too hot and humid, because I find it difficult to breathe and that my muscles become more easily exhausted.

I thought I’d be more hungry after finishing the run, but I actually felt really good. I did eat my lunch, but with only a little extra gusto. Definitely should have packed more water! A few hours after the run, and I was feeling quite parched, so I would pack an extra 32oz for the next run.

Mentally, I wasn’t as drained as I expected. I was much more relaxed, but not in a tired way.

Overall recommendations for running on lunch

  1. Have a private place to change and clean up.
    • I can’t imagine doing this all in a public bathroom. Stretching, changing and cleaning up took most of my office space.
  2. Prepare the day before.
    • I made sure my schedule was going to give me plenty of time to run, change and eat.
    • Make a list, or just get together all of your running gear.
    • Be sure to include a plastic bag for your washcloth and towel.
  3. Make an appropriate lunch plan.
    • Pack extra water. I should have packed an extra 32oz at least.
    • Plan to eat a quick lunch that doesn’t take you a lot of prep time, or that you could eat while you work in the afternoon.
  4. Clean up appropriately.
    • If you sweat a lot, or if the day is going to be hot, plan to take extra time cooling down.
    • Use cool or cold water to wet your washcloth, and start with your face and neck. These spots tend to help you feel cool faster.
    • Make sure to leave time to let yourself air dry a little before getting dressed again.
    • Definitely don’t wear the same socks and underwear to work and workout.
    • Bring some scented lotion or perfume to apply just in case you smell. Your co-workers will thank you as long as you don’t go overboard!

Parting thoughts

First, people with long hair may need to take this into consideration. Your head will likely sweat more, and you might not be able to do a shampoo wash. I think there are options for dry shampoos, but I’ve never used them personally. My recommendation would be to wear your hair up, which would allow your neck and face to cool faster.

Second, evaluate your route before you go. I knew about how long my route was, but I actually under-estimated its length. Also, I didn’t realize that there was limited sidewalk space for parts of my route. You definitely want to make sure your route is safe for running, and sidewalks are the safest. The roads around my office are very narrow and curvy, which means that running on them puts you in the line of cars going too fast with little warning of your presence. Alternatively, if you work in a rough part of town, you may not want to run there. Some folks are probably lucky enough to live near a park, in which case I’m jealous!

Third, consider a membership to the local YMCA or nearby gym. We have a YMCA just down the road, and if I planned to do more lunch-time running in the summer months, I’d definitely get a membership just to use the showers. The added benefit is that you could also use their treadmills when the weather was inclement.

Running on my lunch hour at work wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t ideal. I had been wanting to try it out, and I’m glad it went well. It makes for a nice option on those days when I hit the snooze button one-too-many times!

Let me know what you think. Do you want to run on your lunch hour? Do you already run at work? Any tips or tricks to share?

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