One recent sunny day at noon, I watched the exodus from the office, and it occurred to me that we don't have a lunch hour as much as break time. Everyone regularly goes for a midday ride, run, walk or swim. Working out at lunchtime re-energises you and is a great way to fit training into your schedule.
Many triathletes don't ride at lunchtime because they feel a ride needs to be long to be worthwhile, but that's not true. Others are discouraged by common, but easily sidestepped, challenges.
The fundamental problem with a lunchtime ride is that it occurs five or six hours after breakfast. Even with a midmorning snack, you may not feel like riding because your energy is low.
First, you should fuel up with a real breakfast, such as one comprised of two cups of wholegrain cereal with skimmed milk, a bagel with low-fat cream cheese, orange juice and coffee (which adds up to around 800 calories, 140g carbs, 30g protein and 13g fat). Then have a midmorning snack that's mostly carbohydrate but also contains a little protein and fat, such as yoghurt and muesli, or an energy bar.
Most people won't need to eat during a lunchtime ride because it's so short, but if you consume some fast-acting calories 20 minutes before your ride, in the form of a gel or sports drink, you'll feel a nice swell of energy just as you head out the door.
This is important because you're more likely to commit to a high-quality workout when you start out feeling strong.
Places to ride
Because you might not have time to ride out to clear roads, find some in-town routes, particularly those near parks or along rivers, that don't have too many junctions. Or, find a short, quiet loop and do laps. The best in-town loops have a hill; you can do everything from 30- to 60-second VO2-Max intervals, overgeared resistance work or accelerations starting 200m from the top.
No showers, no problem
A lunchtime ride is about working hard, so you should work up a sweat. If there are no showers where you work, head to the gym or wipe down with baby wipes. To help fend off skin irritations, wipe down with Brave Soldier First Defense. It's normally sprayed on road rash as an antiseptic, but it contains witch hazel and tea tree oil so it can double as a light skin cleanser.
You can do this midday stress-busting workout on a loop as short as half a mile. With warm-up and cool-down it takes around 45 minutes. Pick a starting point such as a lamp-post for one-minute intervals. Accelerate to maximum effort over 20 seconds, then hold that intensity for the rest of the minute. Space the starting points so you can do the interval, then cruise for less than three minutes before the next one. Complete four intervals then ride easy for six minutes before starting a second set.
To maintain focus and energy levels all afternoon, ideally you'll have a healthy packed lunch. But if you're not going the homemade route, try these fast-food fixes:
• Subway's 12-inch low-fat sub with veggies packs around 700 calories and contains roughly 100g of carbs, 45g of protein and 10g of fat.
• Pret a Manger's Smoked Salmon Sandwich delivers 348 calories, 34g of carbs, 26g of protein and 11g of fat, some of which comes in the form of heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from the salmon.