Out Of Office

Take charge of your fitness by making the most of your lunch break.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

1 Try Out Fartlek!

Fartlek is a Swedish word that means “speed play”. It’s an easy way of upping the fitness effects of your activity. “During a walk or run, pick out a landmark in the distance, such as a lamp post, bin, sign, or tree, and challenge yourself to go faster until you get to that point,” says personal trainer Julia Buckley. “Slow down to recover, and then pick another point to get to at speed.”

2 Use Natural Features

Who needs a gym membership when you’ve got the outside world? Go for a brisk 30-minute walk and find things you can use to boost your workout.

UPSLOPES: These are the ultimate cardio booster and muscle toner because walking uphill requires the muscles in your thighs  and bottom to produce greater force. March to the top, march back down and repeat. Lean slightly forward from the ankle, shorten your steps and use your arms to power you up.

STEPS: This is the perfect place for step-ups – do sets with a leading leg, so 10 on your right, then 10 on your left. Aim for 40 in total. As you get stronger, try jumping up onto the step with both feet at the same time – as long as the step isn’t too high – and then step back down. And repeat the process.

BENCHES: Tricep dips work well on a bench. Sit with your palms on the seat, push your bottom off the bench and then lower it towards the ground. It’s easier with bent knees and harder with straight legs. You can also try squats. Stand with your back to the bench, squat and allow your bottom to touch the seat before rising up again.

3 Pack Equipment

A small backpack filled with a bit of equipment can give you an excellent lunchtime workout.

HAND WEIGHTS: Use them alone or add them into resistance exercises to work several muscle groups simultaneously. They don’t have to be heavy – for example, add a 2kg weight to each hand when doing a squat. As you rise up, raise the weights in the air above your head and lower as you go back into the squat.

RESISTANCE BANDS: These are cheap and easy to use. For instance, wrap the ends of one around your hands a couple of times and stand on the middle, then use it to perform bicep curls and lateral raises (arms out to the side). There are hundreds of upper and lower body exercises you can try with them, you will find lots of videos showing you what to do on YouTube.

SKIPPING ROPE: Skipping burns 590 calories per hour, plus it tones the lower body, boosts cardio fitness and is an excellent weight-bearing exercise to improve your bone health.

4 Get Fit With HIIT

“Working at high intensity is a really efficient way to exercise in a short time frame,” says Julia.

“Because the intervals are short, you can push yourself – this burns a lot of calories, and your body adapts to the new challenge by increasing strength and fitness.”

Try Julia’s routine below. 

Warm up with a five-minute walk.

Set a timer for intervals of 40/20 seconds – 40 seconds exercise, 20 seconds rest between exercises.

Complete the circuit four times, then stretch at the end.

Side Lunges: Take a wide stance and push your bottom out behind you as you bend one knee and straighten the other leg, moving your weight over the bent leg. Keep your head and chest up. Straighten and return to the start position. Repeat on the other leg.

Incline Press-Up: Find a bench to place your hands on directly below your shoulders and get your body in a straight line. Brace your core and squeeze your glutes as you bend your elbows, keeping upper arms close to the body and lower your chest towards your hands. Return to the start position.

Burpees: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and push your hips back, stretch your arms out in front of you and lower yourself to the floor. Jump your legs behind you, so you’re in a pressup position, then jump the feet back in towards your hands and power up into a jump (or standing), and repeat.

Squat Side Kick: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and push your bottom out behind you as though you’re going to sit down. Ensure that your knees don’t go out beyond your toes. Rise up to standing position, and placing your weight over your right leg, lift the left knee and kick out to the left. Return to the start position, then squat and kick with your right leg. Keep repeating, alternating legs to complete the interval.

Knee Strikes: Put your weight on one leg and bend the knee slightly. Extend the other leg out to the side, then drive the knee up towards your body. Use your abdominals to help pull the knee up. Stay tall and don’t lean towards the knee. Do this for 40 seconds, then switch legs.

5 Focus On Flexibility

“Working on your flexibility combats tightness, and also enables you to stay injury-free and perform exercises such as squats more effectively,” says Harkirat Mahal, founder of Motivate PT. “After a brisk fiveminute walk, find a quiet space in a park and repeat the following sequence a few times.”

LUNGE MATRIX: To open your hips, stand with feet hip-width apart and lunge forward, diagonally, sideways and then backwards with your right leg, coming back to standing between each one. Repeat on other leg.

DOWNWARD DOG: This common yoga pose is excellent for stretching the calves and hamstrings. Begin on your hands and knees. Align your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Exhale, tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling, so you’re in an upside-down “V” shape. Your heels may not touch the ground, but gently ease them towards it.

LEG SWINGS: This move opens up the hips and lower back. Stand side on to a wall. Place your hand on it for balance and swing the right leg backwards and forwards for 30 seconds, keeping your upper body still. Swap legs.

SUMO SQUAT: This squat mobilises the muscles in your bottom and stretches the inner thigh. Stand with feet wide apart, toes turned slightly out. Keeping your back straight, bend your knees to lower yourself as far as possible. Return to standing.