Today, I was lucky enough to attend Heart Research UK’s Reclaim Your Lunch Break event at Park Square in Leeds. The blurb for the event was:
It’s once again time for you to reclaim your lunch hour and step this way for a healthier lifestyle at work. Did you know that over 50% of us are regularly working through our lunch breaks?
Taking a walk during the lunch hour can combat afternoon slumps in enthusiasm and focus, with even small busts of activity boosting moods and improving overall health and well-being.
Join Heart Research UK and the Lord Mayor of Leeds for the Healthy Heart Corporate Walk this Friday, 08 July for an engaging and interactive walk around the city centre. And if you’re outside of central Leeds, mark the occasion by taking a walk on your own and getting your heart pumping.
Lovely Jodie from the Heart Research UK team had called to ask if Yoga Hero would like to be involved, and I didn’t miss a beat; we would *love* to. Movement, holistic health, meeting people and being happy are all really important to Yoga Hero, so the idea of joining up with other like-minded organisations and spreading a message of health was a must-do.
The event kicked off about midday, with the great natured Mayor of Leeds opening proceedings after a little go with a skipping rope – much fun for all involved! The initial interest and registrations to the event were very encouraging, but not everyone who’d registered came along. I found myself chatting to the Heart Research team, hypothesising about meetings over lunch time that were booked in late, deadlines to be met, the phone ringing just before it was time to leave and other situations that may have prevented those who’d registered from actually coming along. Also, being an outdoor event, there’s the added challenge of the Great British weather of course.
In chatting to the team, I was transported back a few years; to my own office job. I was an Account Manager for a digital agency, and there just wasn’t ever enough hours in the day. I didn’t have a natural aptitude for technology, so what I did know took a long time to learn, and what I didn’t know was endless (and overwhelming). There were always existing clients to catch up with, new clients to find, work in the studio to be overseen and more, and more, and more to learn! I found myself getting in to the office earlier and earlier, staying later and later, and ultimately – working through my lunch break. I felt like shit. I was tired, stressed out, grouchy, putting on weight and my shoulders constantly ached. After some time, I had a chat with my line manager and we decided I wasn’t at my best and something had to change – I was lucky that she was understanding and she insisted on a very healthy work/life balance for all employees. We decided I was get in at 9am, leave at 6pm, take 60 minutes for my lunch break, and any work that I didn’t get around to would be left for another day.
It changed my life.
Time to Reclaim Your Lunch Break
I became very strict about taking my lunch break. When the weather was nice I’d go for a walk, and when the weather sucked I’d go to the gym, but it turned out that getting to the gym, getting changed, doing some CV, some weights, getting showered, changed and back to the office within the 60 minutes was a pretty tall order! Plus, I’d forget my padlock / sports bra / only pack one trainer with a regularity which was really quite shocking for someone who was meant to be reasonably organised.
As such, I went in hunt of a new lunchtime activity, and stumbled across Pilates at Yorkshire Dance. The sessions were 45 minutes long, and you didn’t need to shower after (bonus!), but mainly it made me feel great. It was a nice leisurely walk there (not a stressful run with 100 heavy bags because I was against the clock!) and I felt completely revitalised after each session. Plus, it made me want to eat healthy things, whereas the gym inevitably made me crave pie (I think I’m on my own here…)
But, it wasn’t to be. After a couple of months, the Pilates class was cancelled with no replacement. Gutted. But the Pilates had ignited my fire for healthy lunchtime activities that weren’t weather dependent and didn’t need me to plan time and handbags to the nth degree.
And so I turned to Yoga. Yoga yoga yoga. Oh how I love you. Some colleagues and I went to Yoga Lab on Lower Briggate with the wonderful Jamie for a challenging 45 minute lunchtime ‘Minimum Daily Practice’. We did (it felt like) 800 sun salutations, standing poses for at least five minutes in each, and the most incredibly divine Savasana. I was tired but energised, feeling like a new person! I booked in the next day, walked back to work and after being accused of interacting with some Class B drugs (I was *that* chilled out!) I boxed off three quarters of my to do list. Boom.
For the next two years – right up until I left that job to work at Yoga Hero full time – I attended as many lunch classes as I could possibly afford or reasonably fit into my schedule. I always had leggings and a top in my drawer, and if my lunchtime was clear, I’d go to yoga. If my lunch hour didn’t look clear, I’d do everything I could to clear it. Some days it wasn’t possible – but something strange happened – the more yoga I did, the more my diary seemed to open itself up for more classes. Perhaps the universe understood I was just a damn site more effective after yoga, whereas if I had to work through my lunch hour, I was neither use nor ornament all afternoon.
So, coming back to the Heart Research event, I would imagine that everyone who registered but didn’t attend will have a very viable excuse as to why they didn’t come, but I would say, in my humble opinion, that your lunch break – away from your desk – with some movement if possible – is an investment in the rest of your day. You poor hips, shoulders and brains aren’t designed to do the same thing from 9am – 5pm or longer. They need a break. You need a break! It’s called a lunch BREAK for a reason!
There’s definitely a culture of ‘more hours = better work’ that’s common, but I think we’re slowly moving away from that, and rightly so. With the Royal Armouries offering staff free yoga classes, Asda having a Wellness Week for employees and a very, very busy ‘Mindful Employer’ event a few weeks ago, we’re starting to realise the importance of the health of our colleagues and employees. But there’s nothing better than leading by example. If you take your lunch break, and still get all your work done (plus being happier), your colleagues probably will too. Then maybe they will inspire their friends and family – and so it goes on.
Stress and bad posture has SUCH an impact on overall health. Taking time in your lunch break to move your body and de-stress will help to improve your overall physical and mental health. Plus, it means you can have your evenings to yourself, smugly knowing you’ve done your exercise for the day.
Yoga might work for you, and if it does, we have lunch classes every day in the studio (and a class every Tuesday at Northern Monk Brewery, and Wednesdays at L1 Performance) – all 12:15 – 1:00pm. But we’re all different which is what makes the world such an interesting place. Why not go for a walk, or a swim? Or Ping! England have workplace table tennis tables. Maybe you could play football or try a dance class.
Whatever it is, give it a go. If I was partial to betting, I’d bet my Downward Dog that you’ll be more effective in the afternoon, you’ll feel better: more awake and more alive.