How to exercise in the middle of a work day

So you’re fortunate enough to have a gym at work or close to work or maybe there’s a good running trail by the office. You don’t want to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to squeeze in a morning workout, and at the end of the day, you just want to go straight home. However, you haven’t considered working out on your lunch break because you don’t want to come back to your desk looking/smelling gross or you don’t think you’ll have enough time. Well here are some tips on how to manage a mid-day workout on work days. Proper prepping is the key to making mid-day workouts plausible.

Time Management

When you only have a one hour lunch break, every minute counts. After walking to and from the gym, changing twice, and fixing your disheveled self, there’s often only really 30 minutes to get in a real workout.

  1. Pack everything ahead of time. Keep all of your gym clothes and supplies packed together in a bag that you can quickly grab and go.
  2. Organize your gym bag by categories. I like to keep the things I will need before and after my workout in separate compartments, so I don’t need to waste time digging through it to find things. I usually use my towel as a divider.
  3. To shower or not to shower. Needing to shower takes up a lot of time when you have a strict one hour lunch break. Being able to cut out this process (along with drying your hair, reapplying makeup, etc) can save a lot of valuable time. See below for tips on how to still feel clean without showering after a workout.
  4. Work out harder in 30 min. If you like to go low and slow for workouts is fine when working out before or after work, but if you want to squeeze in more within a short amount of time, increase the intensity of your workout. For cardio workouts, try HIIT (high intensity interval training). For strength workouts, trying working with heavier weights.

Leaving your gym bag at work

After a couple weeks of doing lunch workouts, I got tired of carrying my work bag, a lunch box, a purse, and a gym bag. Especially for those who commute via public transit, it gets annoying lugging all of that around. Do you really need to bring it home every day? Half of the things in my gym bag don’t need to come home with me: running shoes (if you have an extra pair at home), hair dryer, hair ties, brush, etc. 

  1. Pack what you need for the week. At the beginning of each week, pack 5 pairs of socks, so you have a fresh pair each day. I like to leave a plastic bag in my gym bag to throw dirty socks in, so it doesn’t stink up the rest of the bag.
  2. Keep your bag smelling fresh. I leave a dryer sheet and a sock-ball full of baking soda in my gym bag, so it stays smelling fresh and not sweaty/stanky. I swap out the dryer sheet and baking soda periodically.
  3. Ventilate everything. When you’re done with your workout, while getting dressed make sure to hang up all of your clothes, so they can properly dry. When you get back to my desk, always leave your gym bag unzipped. I keep my shoes and socks worn from that day outside of the gym bag, and I rest my towel over the gym bag, so everything can get plenty of fresh air. The only time these items are in the zipped-up, confined space of my gym bag is when I’m walking to the gym.
  4. Bring home just what you need to wash. Instead of carrying home all of the excess gym supplies, just bring home whatever needs to be washed. I keep a smaller bag at my desk to put all my clothes, socks, and towel into that can fit into my work bag. That way, my train ride home is just a little bit more comfortable.

Don’t sweat!

Yeah I know, if you don’t sweat, then you’re not really working out. But there are small things you can do here and there to reduce how much you sweat. With less sweat, you will feel and smell less gross.

  1. Tie up your hair. By keeping your hair out of your face, it will prevent it from absorbing sweat and giving that greasy, post-workout appearance. If you typically wear your hair down, and your hair forms creases easily when tied up, get a scrunchie. It’ll hold your hair up without creasing it as tightly as a regular hair tie. I also make sure to tie up my hair last and take out the scrunchie as soon as possible just to minimize the potential time to form creases.
  2. Exercise in a cool environment. This one is probably a little difficult to control. It’s most ideal to workout in an air conditioned area or outside in the winter time, so your body doesn’t sweat as much. At my gym, a lot of the ellipticals all have individual fans which really help as well.
  3. Wipe your body down frequently. Keep a towel or moist wipe with you and frequently wipe away sweat from your face, neck, back etc. Not only will it keep sweat from building up, but you can keep your body temperature cooler by wiping key cool-down areas such as your neck, inner elbow, and back of your knees with a wet or moist towel. This will help keep your sweating down.
  4. Cool your body immediately. If you are able to, hop in the shower and keep the water as cool as you can tolerate. By bringing down your body temperature, it slows down how much you sweat post-workout. If you are coordinated enough, try to shower without washing your hair if you want to save time on not having to dry and style it later.

Don’t shower!

Eww gross, but you just got your sweat on, and you’re feeling super nasty. If you don’t have a shower readily available wherever you’re working out, or you just don’t have time, there are other ways to keep clean aside from keeping your sweating down.

  1. A hair dryer is a must. Even if you don’t wash your hair, a blow dryer is very handy for not only drying sweat on your scalp but also cooling off those previously mentioned cool-down areas. Keep the dryer on “cool” instead of “warm” or “hot” and aim it at your scalp, and neck. This will help also help bring your body temperature down and stop your hair from looking greasy.
  2. Dry shampoo is worth it. A lot of my friends use the ol’ “corn starch/flour in the hair” technique to avoid greasy hair. However, with time against you, I think it’s worth it to invest in dry shampoo. Being able to just give your hair a couple spritz from a can saves you a lot of time. It’s easier to locate in your gym bag. It also helps to freshen up your scent. I get Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Dry Shampoo ($3) off of Amazon, and it is quite convenient and cheap.
  3. Apply a fresh swipe of deodorant. Even if you think you don’t smell or don’t sweat, others might not necessarily agree. It doesn’t hurt to reapply some extra deodorant just in case.
  4. Baby wipes. If you really feel gross after a workout, but really want to avoid needing to shower, keep some baby wipes handy either at your desk or in your gym bag to wipe down those really gross areas.


These are just some of the tips I’ve seen online or gathered from experience. I’m fortunate enough to have a shower at the gym at work and not have a strict lunch break time constraint, but for others, hopefully you can find some helpful advice. Working out during my lunch break definitely helps to make sure I always find time to workout and am not too lazy to bail before or after work.


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