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5 Tips to Start Run Commuting

How jam-packed is your daily routine? Mine is crazy, and maybe yours is, too. Schedules today are busier than ever. People are spending more time commuting, more time working, more time running around to activities. Take a look at your jam-packed planner, and it becomes clear that your jam-packed daily routine in your jam-packed life doesn’t allow for much time running.

What if you could combine running with one of our least-favorite time-sucks? Enter run commuting. Replace that half-hour stuck in traffic with a half-hour of running, and you’ll still end up at work. Depending on what the traffic is like where you live, you might even save some time!

In this article, we’ll cover everything that you need to know about run commuting, including why you should do it, and how to start.

Why You Should Run to Work

At first, the logistics of running to work might seem too difficult to bother with. You’ll have to factor in that it might take you a little bit longer to get to work. (Then again, as bad as traffic can be in cities, you might save time.) You’ll also get to work looking like you just went for a run. But there are so many reasons why it’s a great idea.

run commuting in city with backpack

Easier Morning Schedule

First, you’re combining exercise with getting to work, meaning that you have an easy way to get runs in with a busy schedule. You’ll probably have to get up a little earlier than if you were driving to work, but not as early as you’d have to in order to fit in a run and your commute.

In the winter, when there are fewer hours of daylight, run commuting can be a way to sneak in those workouts since you won’t have to fit in a run and a commute. You’ll be making the most of your daylight hours.

Benefits of Running Itself

You’ll also get all the benefits you’d normally get from running, such as better health and mood. If you have been a little down lately, a run commute is sure to make you bright and chipper. Many runners report that exercise helps them feel better about life overall. Plus, you’ll be practicing self-discipline.

Run commuting is also a great way for you to increase your running mileage. If you have a longer commute, you can slowly work up to the entire distance, which is great if you’re training for longer races. And if you have a short commute, why not make it longer? Get a couple extra miles in by taking the scenic route on foot.

Better for the Environment and You

Run commuting is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint—everything we can do to help the environment is important. Plus, you’ll be saving on commuting costs. If money is a little tight for you right now, running to work can save you a few bucks of gas. Over a month or a year, those dollars here and there at the pump can really add up.

And if you’ve had a stressful day at work, running home is going to be an excellent way to destress and decompress. Nothing sheds troubles like running a few miles between work and home.

More In-Tune With Your Surroundings

Finally, you don’t have to worry about delayed or cancelled public transportation, or traffic if you drive. You’ll be able to bypass all of that by running. You’ll know that you’ll get a good night’s sleep every day that you run commute, making it that much easier to get up the next morning.

Plus, you’ll get a real feel for your surroundings. If you live in the country, enjoy the farms and horses at sunrise. If you live in the city, take in all the sights and sounds.

As Kyle Torok, one of the founders of The Run Commute, said about his run commute in Atlanta, “You smell the honeysuckle, the lemon pie factory, or the smoky barbecue. You sometimes get that on a bike, but you never get that in a car.”

women run commuting with backpack

How to Start Run Commuting – 5 Tips

As is the case with most things in life, the hardest part is starting. Run commuting probably sounds like a great idea to you, but maybe the idea of getting up and having to run early in the morning with your work stuff doesn’t excite you. Maybe you hear “run commute” and immediately say, “Yes, but…”

Below you’ll find several essential tips to help you get started run commuting. Make it your goal to try it for a week. If you don’t like it after giving it a good college try, it might not be for you. But there’s a good chance that you will!

1. Plan Everything

This is the most important step. You need to be prepared. Figure out what running clothing/gear you’re wearing (don’t forget clean underwear!), what work clothes you’re bringing, and where to change/clean up at work.

Most people don’t think completely straight in the morning, so it’s best if you set out your gear the night before. Some people even sleep in their running clothes so that they have one less step that they have to do in the morning. At the very least, have your running clothes set out.

It may even help to take a picture of everything and match it up to someone else’s run commute gear picture so that you can make sure that you didn’t miss anything. Also, be sure to think ahead—frozen soup is a better idea than liquid soup and ziploc bags are great for your laptop and food. 

Also, be sure to think about how you plan to run commute. Are you going to run both ways? Or are you going to carpool/take public transportation to work and run home, or vice versa? Who might be able to carpool with you? And so forth.

Kate Schwartz covers all the different permutations of run commuting as well as some other ways to shake up your commute. You could even consider biking sometimes to work to get in your cross training.

2. Buy a Running Backpack

You don’t want to mess up this step. Having a comfortable running backpack will give you that additional motivation to get up every morning and run commute. You’ll want to make sure that the running backpack won’t chafe or rub the wrong way.

Fortunately, there are so many options available made specifically for runners. You might want to look for one that has hip and chest straps, with whatever capacity you need for your work gear.

If you don’t need much capacity and can store items at your office, you might be able to get away with a running belt or an armband if all you need is a phone, keys, and cards. 

This might be especially ideal if you run commute every other day to work – you can leave work clothes at your office to lighten your load.

In any case, make sure that your backpack has plenty of storage. Clothes, laptop, hydration, and extras like lunch or work files all take up space (and weight).

3. Find a Safe Route

Make sure that you complete this step on a weekend or during other times off. You don’t want to try your route for the first time when you have to be at a meeting by 9:00. Try to find a route that will avoid traffic and is well-lit.

You also might want to look up the nearest bathrooms and train/bus stops on your route in case something goes wrong, and you need them. It’s always good to be prepared!

Then, try your route on a weekend or after work. If your work is farther away—let’s say 10 miles—and you’re not yet prepared to run that distance, gradually work yourself up to it.

You can always do a partial commute if you live far away. Simply drive or take the train somewhere closer to your job. Then run the rest. Even driving or using public transportation less will save money and the environment, so a partial run commute is still worth it.  

4. Get Cleaned Up

This is probably the most challenging part of run commuting. Nobody wants to sweat and smell like a gym at the office. Make sure that you factor getting cleaned up into how much time you need to commute.

First, find a place at work to clean up. Or if you are really lucky, shower. But even if your workplace doesn’t have a place to bathe, see if there is a gym nearby where you can shower. 

Make sure that you keep toiletries and wipes at your desk (and maybe even deodorant) so that you don’t ever find yourself in the awkward position of having no way to clean up.

You’ll also probably want to keep a spare set of running and work clothes at the job. That way, you always have a spare if needed. Maybe you forget to bring work clothes in your running backpack. Maybe it rains during your morning run and you’ll need new running clothes for the afternoon. A little planning for these problems goes a long way.

Finally, if cleanliness is really important to you and you’re skeptical about using wipes to clean yourself (if your office doesn’t have a shower), just run home from work. Once you get home, you’ll be able to get a nice shower.

This option, however, really only works for people who use public transportation or have a friend or family member drop them off at work in the morning. But if that happens to be you, you can always try just running home.

5. Don’t Do It Every Day

This suggestion may not be true for everyone, as everyone is different. But many people who have tried run commuting don’t do it every day, as it can be somewhat overwhelming. Plus, if you do it every other day, you’ll have more flexibility to take home items that you’ve left at the office.

In the end, run commuting is a great way to get in your runs, reduce your carbon footprint, and save some money. It definitely takes some time to get into the groove. You’ll have to figure out what works best for you, but it’s worth it.

Rachel Basinger
The Wired Runner