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Lunchtime Exercise: How to Still Look Fresh When You Go Back to Work

Exercise, Health and Beauty

The answer to the question “When is the best time to exercise?” is the time of day you are most likely to stick to it. If you aren’t a morning person, and exercise tends to get pushed aside in the evenings when your schedule backs up, you might be inclined to try hitting the gym on your lunch break. However, one concern you may have is how to return to work without looking completely disheveled. Hair and makeup experts are here to offer tips on how to stay looking fresh for that afternoon client meeting or evening happy hour date.

Lunchtime exercise has many positive benefits. Physical activity can help regulate the amount of food you eat during your noon meal and in the afternoon when you might otherwise be tempted to hit the vending machine. Exercise can provide stress relief and can improve blood flow to the brain to help you remain productive in the afternoon, instead of hitting that 3pm slump. Also, a regular time can help you make exercise a habit – and you might even be able to recruit co-workers to join you, as support from friends often helps you keep your commitment to daily physical activity.

But of course, squeezing in a mid-day workout means that there is likely not much time to shower, reapply make-up and wash and blow dry your hair. So how can you accomplish being both physically fit and fresh-looking?

Makeup advice from the pros

Looking good after a workout starts with selecting the right kind of make-up. Kevin James Bennett, a cosmetics expert for the International Esthetics Advisory Board of Leslie Baumann MD (dermatologist), suggests wearing makeup that can withstand the heat and sweat created during a vigorous workout. Choose a silicone-based foundation which not only is water-resistant, but will also be less likely to clog the pores and cause breakouts. Avoid oil-based cosmetics and look for products that are “non-comedogenic” or “non-acnegenic.”

A make-up with light coverage is also best, such as a lightweight tinted moisturizer, as heavier products with more pigment are also prone to clogging pores. Applying a primer first may also help keep makeup from sliding off. And if you exercise outdoors, always remember waterproof sunscreen with at least SPF 15.

After the workout, use blotting paper sheets to get rid of shine. “You can dust on a bit of powder if you need it” says Rae Cosmetics founder Rachelle Rae, “but always blot first to keep the powder from caking, leaving you with a nice glow.”

Tips for Hair and Body

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Did you know that a third of women surveyed in a Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center study cited hairstyle maintenance as a reason for skipping exercise? According to dermatologist Amy J. McMichael MD who led the study, the trend is especially prevalent in African-American women who use heat or chemical products to straighten hair.

Even the US Surgeon General herself understands. “If you go out and spend $40 to $50 to get your hair done, you don’t want to go out and get it all sweaty and wet that afternoon before you got to show if off,” Regina Benjamin said at a recent speaking engagement at the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show in Atlanta. “Other ethnic groups would come up and say the same thing. I don’t think it’s limited to African American women.”

One solution that Miss America 2009 Katie Stam uses is a thick cloth headband which holds the hair back during exercise, soaks up perspiration, but doesn’t leave the air crimped as would a traditional ponytail elastic.

Former Miss New York and Radio City Rockette Kandice Pelletier relies on dry shampoo to freshen up hair after a workout. The product can come as either an oil-absorbing powder you tap onto the scalp or in an aerosol that sprays an alcoholized version. Both drugstores and department stores sell a variety of brand options today. Using a diffuser to absorb dampness instead of a blow dryer can also maintain a hairstyle into the afternoon’s activities.

For body sweat, you probably don’t have time for a full shower, so bring along some portable body wipes or have a quick sponge bath using cold water. Apply some deodorant and/or body powder with a fresh scent.

More Advice for a Lunchtime Workout

Because the lunch hour is just a limited amount of time, what workouts give you the best bang for your buck (so to speak)? Intensity is key, notes Phil Tyne, director of the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center and former conditioning coach for the San Diego Chargers. "Research has shown that even just 15 minutes of exercise can net you nearly the same effects as 60 minutes of working out, if you increase the intensity," he says. Try an interval program or circuit training program that combines cardio workouts with short bursts of resistance training.

As for lunch, it is best to eat after a workout rather than before. Opt for something light and low-fat, which is easier to digest after vigorous activity. If you have inadvertently skipped breakfast, or if you just need a little energy to get you through a workout, try a small “shot” of a protein shake or an energy bar before you exercise.

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Don't use deodorants or anti-perspirants. They block the lymphatic release of toxins through the armpits and are one of the major causes of breast cancer. Just keep armpits clean and, if your nutrition is pure, there should be no problem.