Despite the seismic shift toward remote work culture over the past three years, people are (however reluctantly) heading back to the office. That might be good news for those who thrive on watercooler catchups, but not quite as positive for the folks who have been squeezing in exercise between Zoom meetings.
So what does this mean for your weekday workouts? With a little planning, you can still keep your Monday to Friday routine, even if you’ve migrated back to a desk.
There’s solid reason to do so too. Prioritizing exercise can actually make you better at your job: Employees who moved more showed increases in productivity and efficiency and a reduction in absenteeism in a 2017 study published in BMC Public Health. And those who exercised during working hours were not only better at time management, but they also felt more satisfied with their jobs, older research from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found.
But making time for a routine that’s going to make you feel better—and not stress you out—can be a little tricky. Dicey, but not impossible. We chatted with fitness, nutrition, and HR pros for tips on how to make a workday workout work for you.
1. First, decide when you’ll work out during the day.
There’s no one best time to exercise during the day—it all depends on your schedule and what’s doable in your place of business—but for many people, it’s going to be around lunchtime.
If you work in an environment where people often leave for a “lunch hour,” this might be the easiest time to get away, since you can just head out. Otherwise, you may want to talk to your manager first about blocking off time. “Be very specific about what it is that you’re asking for and why,” Greg Hill, the chief people officer at Exos, a performance brand that trains professional athletes and corporate clients based in Tempe, Arizona, tells SELF. “The example I typically use is, ‘I’m asking to schedule an hour to myself two or three times a week, and this is why I think it would be good for me and good for the team.’” If your intended workout has you stepping away for more than an hour, you can also ask about flexibility to make up the extra time later.
“I have clients in different time zones, so if I work out in the middle of the day and need to work a little longer into the evening, I’m okay with that—in fact, it makes for a nice balance,” Charly Rok, a vice president at Edelman in New York City who runs daily during the workday, tells SELF.
Once you get the green light, treat that time like anything else on your schedule. “Block off your calendar—that’s the most important part of actually getting away to do it,” Hill says.
If you’re in the kind of job where leaving for an hour or so will be more stress-inducing than stress-relieving, consider taking mini breaks instead, like 20 minutes for a quick workout in the morning and another 20 in the afternoon, says Hill. Basically, you’re looking for whatever timing allows you to feel strong and centered rather than unfocused and frazzled.
2. Come up with a workout plan for the week.
Successfully integrating exercise into your day may require reframing what a “workout” is in your mind. “Every workout counts, no matter how small,” Kelly Borowiec, an ACE-certified personal trainer based in San Francisco, tells SELF. Even short bouts come with perks like higher energy, reduced stress, and better blood flow, she says. Any amount of physical activity brings along benefits.