When I used to be a teacher, time was pretty scarce. I was at a boarding school, so my schedule was long and tiring. Some days I’d get up at 7 and work until 11, only having the stray break to eat or change clothes. Time for training and getting away to the woods was almost non-existent, so I tried to think creatively. I was lucky because my only true break was an hour-and-a-half double lunch right in the middle of the day. So I decided to make the most of it and started a lunch ride tradition that got me through one of my busiest professional seasons.
I knew that to be successful with the lunch ride, I had to lower my expectations. I couldn’t go to all of the best trails or get a beer on the way back. I had to be tactical and have a plan, knowing exactly where I would ride. I also knew I had to ride solo since I wouldn’t have the bandwidth for other people to mess with my schedule. So, I picked a small network of trails in Bent Creek Experimental Forest, about 15 minutes from my house, and committed to getting 45 minutes to an hour on the bike, hauling ass home to change and get back in the classroom.
The first couple of times I rode, I tried to give myself enough of a time buffer for incidentals. I kept my rides brief and learned the traffic to and from the trailhead. I refined my preparation process as well. Before I headed to work, I ensured my bike was on the rack, water ready to go, kit laid out, and a post-ride snack prepared to grab. It wasn’t an exact science, but after a month of riding at lunch 2-4 times a week, I started to see the benefits of more consistency. As a result, I felt stronger on the bike during my long weekend rides and had better handling and balance. I also ensured that 2 of the 4 rides were more interval rides: opportunities to punch it hard up hills or take an extra turn that would lengthen my ride by at most a mile. Since riding on the clock, I knew I had to increase my pace to make it back on time.
There were also several unintended consequences of riding at lunch. The first was that it cleared my head to be more productive during the rest of my day. I have a habit of crashing around three if I’ve been working all day. Riding at lunch gave me a quick hit of energy and beta-endorphins that prepared me to meet the rest of my day. I also found myself losing weight since I wasn’t as focused on filling my plate and sitting around at lunch. Instead, I grabbed a small snack and ate on the move, waiting to get my recovery calories at dinner.
Now that I work remotely, I find that I have a lot more flexibility, which makes riding at lunch more doable. However, I’m not as close to a trailhead, so my lunch rides occur more on the road than I would prefer. Still, getting in a ride and being outside on your rig is never a bad idea. In addition, most workplaces are more conducive to exercising at lunch, even if it takes longer than an hour. So, if you have found yourself eating more than you’d like at lunch and then scrolling through your social media feeds for 20 minutes like most of us, I challenge you to try the lunch ride. Of course, it may not be as epic as your weekend adventures, and you may be a little stinky around your coworkers. Still, it will undoubtedly sharpen your mind and body and leave you much more fulfilled during work.
Comment below on whether you do a lunch ride and your favorite route!
Matt Chisholm is a data analyst and freelance writer who studies the environmental history of the Southern Smoky Mountain region of North Carolina. He was a contributor to Lost in Transition: Removing, Resettling, and Renewing Appalachia and the 2016 edition of the Journal of East Tennessee History, for which he won the 2017 McClung Award. When not writing, Matt enjoys road and mountain biking, hiking, trail running, and drinking beer around Concord, NC where he lives with his wife, daughter, and twin boys.
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