Take your running to a new level and still have time to shower with these quick midday sessions.
You meant to run this morning before work—really, you did. But you got up late, or you have an early meeting, or the kids wouldn’t cooperate, and you just couldn’t fit in your workout. So, you’ll run tonight, right? Maybe. But then those dinner plans popped up, or you have to fit in that errand before the store closes, and you’re exhausted from the day.
We get it. We’ve all been there, and we all have the best of intentions—but we also know we’re more likely to miss that run the longer the day goes on.
The good news is: It is totally possible to fit your workout in during your midday break. With a little planning, you can be out the door for a quality run and back in less than an hour—with time for a shower and a quick lunch, too.
The key to getting value from a shorter workout is simple: intensity. Laura Mizumoto, D.P.T., the director of physical therapy at Experience Momentum in Lynnwood, WA, says that mixing up your shorter workouts with periods of intensity and challenge helps deliver serious results. “Hills, changing speeds, strength training—all of these are going to help runners build intensity into their workouts,” Mizumoto says. “It creates a foundation of balance and strength and helps prevent injuries.”
Turns out that midday might just be the perfect time for a run, too. “Your lunch hour is the time when you’re likely to be the most awake and the least fatigued,” Mizumoto notes. “Otherwise, you kind of dread your run if you haven’t gotten it in, and you’re feeling guilty as the day goes on.” Mizumoto’s clients report that they run their best on their lunch breaks—after they’ve been up for a few hours, but before the afternoon fatigue sets in. And after that run, they’re feeling great and more energized for the second half of the day.
How to use these workouts: All of the workouts here were designed by Mizumoto to get maximum training value from just 40 minutes of movement, from the warmup to cooldown. To ensure you’re training at a solid pace, use a scale of perceived effort: 50 percent effort represents an easy jog, while 100 percent effort is your fastest sprint. If you’ve raced recently, you can also use your goal race paces to gauge the effort. Use this table to figure out your goal paces for these workouts:
- Warmup/recovery pace = 50 to 60 percent effort
- Goal half marathon pace = 65 to 70 percent effort
- Goal 10K pace = 75 to 80 percent effort
- Goal 5K pace = 85 percent effort
- “5K-plus” or all-out pace = 85 to 90 percent effort
How to warm up: For each workout below, start with a 10-minute warmup to gradually increase your heart rate and get your muscles ready for a harder effort. How fast you move is up to you: Some days, you’ll be ready to run from minute one; other days you might need to ease into your workout a little more gradually. Your goal is to be running easily and fluidly at about 50 to 60 percent effort by minute 10. Then, choose one of the four workouts below.
Workout 1: Smooth and Steady
This is a classic tempo run. After your 10-minute warmup, run:
- 20 minutes at half-marathon pace (70 percent effort). You should feel challenged, but not out of breath.
- If you’re up for it, push the pace in the last 5 minutes of your tempo session (up to 80 percent effort or so).
Finish out your workout with 10 minutes of recovery running.
Workout 2: Push the Pace
After the warmup, perform five 4-minute interval blocks for a total of 20 minutes:
- 3 minutes at 5K-plus pace (85 percent effort)
- 1 minute at recovery pace
Then, do a 1- to 2-minute all-out sprint to torch your muscles—challenge yourself! Wrap up your workout with 8 to 9 minutes of running at your recovery pace to total 40 minutes.
Workout 3: Progression Run
In this challenging workout, start at half-marathon pace, then kick the pace up a notch for each time block. Time blocks get progressively shorter and faster. After a 10-minute warmup, run these progressive intervals:
- 8 minutes at half-marathon pace (70 percent effort)
- 7 minutes at 10K pace (75 to 80 percent effort)
- 6 minutes at 5K pace (85 percent effort)
Finish with a 9-minute recovery run (50 percent effort).
Workout 4: Speed and Strength
Push your pace and strengthen the muscles runners most often neglect with this sprint-and-strength combo workout. After a 10-minute warmup, repeat the following exercise block for 20 minutes:
- 3 minutes running at 5K-plus pace (85 to 90 percent effort)
- Squat Jump: 15 reps
- Side Lunge: 10 on each side
- Burpee: 8 reps
Set a goal to complete 4 to 5 rounds of the sprint/strength block in 20 minutes. Finish up with 10 minutes of recovery running (50 percent effort).
Stand upright with your feet hip-width distance apart, hands clasped in front of your body. Send hips back and bend knees to lower into a squat position while keeping your core and back strong. From the squat position, push through your heels to rise back up and jump, extending your arms. As you land, lower yourself back into a squat. Repeat for 15 reps.
Stand upright with your feet hip-width distance apart. Take a big step with right foot out to the right side, keeping your toes pointing forward. Bend right knee and send hips back to lower into a side lunge position, taking care to keep your knee over your toes and your core strong during the entire movement. Push up from right heel to return to starting position. Repeat for 10 reps, then repeat the entire sequence with the left leg for 10 reps. To make it more challenging, hold a dumbbell or kettlebell at your chest.
Stand upright with your feet hip-width distance apart. Squat down and place your hands on the ground directly in front of your feet. Jump or walk your feet back to a high plank position. Perform a push-up (option). Jump or walk your feet back to the starting position behind your hands. Raise your hands in the air as you jump off the ground. Repeat for 8 reps.
Bonus note: If you have access to a track, you can turn this workout into a game. At Experience Momentum, Mizumoto leads clients in her RunStrong class through a 400-meter run in place of the 3-minute intervals at 5K-plus pace. Every month, her runners count how many full sprint/strength blocks they can complete in 20 minutes: a great way to track fitness progress over time.