Having a lunchtime running group at work is a win-win situation for everyone. That’s why seem to be growing in popularity, and that’s why I am a firm believer in them.
Companies and organisations need to recognize the physical and mental benefits for their employees and encourage them to take active lunch breaks a few times a week.
It has been almost a year since I started coaching and leading the two staff lunchtime groups at Oxford Brookes University and I can see how it has benefited our runners. Some of them had never run before, so we started from a walk to run 5k schedule and now (9 months later) we have graduated to doing Parkruns.
Some report having lost inches and weight and most are generally feeling in better health. They all say that in the afternoon after their runs, when they go back to their desks, they feel less stressed and more productive. Some, even at the beginners’ group, notice that they are experiencing a sort of ‘runners’ high’, i.e. improved mood levels for the rest of the day. They have all become firm ambassadors of the groups within their workplace and rarely miss a session, unless they really have to.
Oxford Brookes is actively encouraging staff to leave their desks and just get out in the fresh air at lunch time. They have teamed up with Run England, the mass participation arm of England Athletics, to set up sessions that are fun, knoweledgeable and safe. Our sessions last between 30-45 minutes, but for time-crunched people even half an hour gives you plenty of time to fit in a mini running session. And yes, some of our best running has been in the cold and the rain, and the feeling of accomplishment afterwards has been noticeable by everyone. And is still being mentioned weeks later.
As far as the minutiae are concerned, there are shower and locker facilities at the Oxford Brookes Centre for Sport which makes it easier for everyone afterwards. Some people survive without a shower. It does mean that your lunch ends up being a quick affair over your computer but no one has ever complained, and anyway it is only once a week.
In terms of the sessions, we try to alternate between a week of a continuous aerobic run, and a week of more challenging work, whether it be Kenyan hills, fartlek, intervals or even cross country when South Park allows (i.e. is not that muddy).
There is always an internal structure to the session, with a warm up, dynamic stretching, main part of the session and a cool down with static stretching. This way we want to minimize injury and also do some Strength and Conditioning work to enable everyone to improve if they want to. The groups are also a social and stress-free affair, and everyone is encouraged to join in no matter their ability or personal fitness goals.