Run commuting is an excellent way to build exercise into your daily schedule, save money on transport and de-stress on your way home from work. The benefits are fantastic, but running to work has natural limitations – how often you can run commute depends on the distance to your work place, your level of fitness, the amount of time it takes you to recover after a run, and your other exercise commitments. The key is to build yourself a reliable routine that will allow you to start running to work on a regular basis.
Picking a Schedule
The first few times that you run to work, you’ll find it a big change. Depending on the preparation you had to do (bringing kit to work in advance, etc.) you will already have formed a rough schedule: bring clothes to work on Monday, run on Tuesday, take kit home on Friday, and so on. As you run more, you’ll find obvious slots to add extra runs, and a natural rhythm will evolve. Your aching legs will stop you from overdoing it and keep you progressing at a sensible pace. This is a great way to begin your run commuting career, so find a comfortable frequency and stick with it for a while.
For a while, just take your time and build up a healthy base. Get used to your new exercise routine. To begin with, allow yourself to settle into the new pattern and form a habit – the important thing is to make a long lasting positive change to your lifestyle that will hold firm for years to come.
After a time your run commuting routine will become a normal part of your life. You’ll be fitter, stronger, lighter, and (if you’re anything like me!) happier too. And after a while, you might begin to look for new opportunities to run. This is a great opportunity to take your run commuting to the next level – by running both to and from work on the same day.
The idea of running twice per day, or “doubling up”, can be quite intimidating for relatively new run commuters. But just as running to work is an excellent change to your lifestyle, so is deciding to do it twice as often!
When you take the leap and add a double run to your schedule, consider the effects it might have. Firstly, you’re likely to find that the extra run to work is accompanied by extra calories – and extra hunger to go with it! Depending on your goals – losing weight, getting fit, or building stamina – you’ll react differently. Sometimes that means taking a lot of extra lunch, sometimes not. But even if you’re really keen to shed fat, you should still be sure to add a few extra snacks to your day. Even if you’re keen to run a regular calorie deficit, a little extra food is critical to keep your sugar levels up and ensure you’re able to keep yourself moving.
Finding a Balance
The key to the regular “run to work” is to build it into your life in a sustainable way. Add runs to your schedule until you find a comfortable balance, and tweak your routine from there. Perhaps you can add speed work, intervals, longer runs. You’ve got a clear way forward, with plenty of scope for training as much or as little as you like.
Soon enough you’ll have found a sweet spot to provide all of the benefits of running to work without burning yourself out – and from there you’re ready to embark on a lifetime of success. Go to it!
What’s Your Routine?
Everybody has a different way of fitting their regular runs into their life. What’s yours? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
In my article on how to start run commuting I talked at length on the first key steps to running to work. There’s a lot to consider, but at it’s purest you can just get out their in your shorts, shirt and sneakers, throw your work clothes in a backpack, and go for it. Simple! Or is it?
That barebones approach can work, and is a great way to get started cheaply, but anyone who has run to work a few times will have already noticed the niggling inconvenience of running in a backpack. The types of rucksacks people have lying around at home fall into two categories:
Normal gym backpacks. These do the job, but they can be really loose and jiggle around everywhere as you run, banging against your back. They don’t have any straps to secure them firmly in place as you jog.
Hiking backpacks. These often come with straps to secure the bag in place, but are relatively big and often much larger than you need, weighing you down with a bulky bag that makes you look like you’re ready to scale Kilimanjaro.
After a few runs with a heavy bulky weight on your back, or a few in which the contents of your bag slap around as you run, swinging wildly, you’d be forgiven for thinking that their must be a better way.
Well, you’re right – you just need a running backpack! It turns out that there are plenty of bags which are pretty much perfect for run commuting.
3 Key Tips for Buying a Running Backpack
When you’re making a purchasing decision, you can’t go too far wrong as long as you follow these three key tips:
1. Get a backpack with waist and chest straps
This is the single most important factor in buying a backpack for run commuting. With just the usual pair of arm straps, the bag will jiggle up, down, left, right, back, forth – all over the place. It’s not nice. But if you buy a back with waist straps and chest straps, and all of a sudden the bag begins to hold steady! A set of adjustable straps to keep the bag firm will give you a chance to focus on your run (not just your balance!).
2. Get a light pack
Any bag is going to add weight – and therefore difficulty – to your run. When run commuting it’s almost inevitable that you’ll need to take something with you, even if just a spare pair of underwear and your lunch, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying to minimise the weight you carry. If you can cut down your load, you can buy a smaller backpack – one which is in itself lighter, easier to secure, and better for your back!
3. Get a breathable bag
If you’re anything like me, you’re going to sweat while you run to work – even if only in the summer. But the build-up of sweat, and the horrible feeling of being sweaty, can be reduced by picking a bag with breathable back and breathable fabric. That can keep the backpack drier, keep your skin and clothes drier, and lead to a far more pleasant (and less chafing) experience.
Recommended Backpacks for Running to Work
Picking the right backpack for run commuting is a tough choice and so many new models are released annually that any recommendation I make will soon be out of date. That said, here are some great choices to use as reference points.
This awesome backpack has been my own firm favourite for some time. Straps hold it firmly in place, and 20L is a perfect balance for capacity: large enough that I can take everything I need back and forth, while being small enough to keep the weight on the right part of my back!
This bag has excellent zippable pouches on the waist straps, perfect for storing gels, snacks, gloves or hats on the move!
Best of all, this bag gives me the freedom to go on longer runs, bike rides or hikes too due to the included 3-liter HydraForm reservoir – a hydration pack to allow you to take water on the move! I don’t use this for my shorter work commutes, but on hot days when I plan to take a longer detour it’s a lifesaver and really useful to have built-in.
Another great backpack with a removable waist strap, a nice tight sternum strap, side mesh pockets, and zippable pouches. This 10L pack is the perfect size for a small amount of clothing and your lunch, helping you stay light on the run. It’s sturdy and well-built too.
Importantly, the airy mesh system on the back will do a very good job at keeping your back ventilated and cool – reducing sweat build-up and avoiding any chaffing.
All in all this is a light and comfortable backpack. Highly recommended.
One for the ladies, this bag offers many of the same excellent important features mentioned above: waist straps, shoulder straps, pockets and pouches. As above, this bag is great for running and carrying some clothing to work – but it is also excellent for day trips and hikes. This bag even has a whistle for getting attention – a handy safety feature for evening runners!
This bag also has an external bladder compartment, meaning it’s “future proof” if you get bitten by the running bug – if you want to start using a hydration system, you can slot it right into this bag!
What’s your favourite bag?
Obviously I’ve only covered a small number of bags that I’ve had a chance to see and try (or had recommended by a friend). There are plenty more choices out there! What’s your favourite backpack? Please leave a comment at let me know!
Running to work can seem like a daunting goal. Particularly for the new runner, the idea of running before the workday has even begun, or running home after a long slog at the office, can be extremely off-putting. But as my article on the benefits of running to work discusses, run commuting can also be an incredibly rewarding and healthy lifestyle choice.
I’ll assume you know the benefits – a wide range of perks from improvements in health and fitness through to huge savings – and I’ll assume you want to get started. After all, almost anybody can run to work if they want to! So, let’s get to the question in hand. How do I start run commuting?
Think About the Distance Involved
It sounds obvious, but step one in running to work is being sure you can make it all the way. To begin with, this doesn’t mean being able to run all the way in one go – far from it – but there are a few things to take into account.
How far is your workplace from your home? As a first step, use a tool like GMap Pedometer to find out how far you’d be running if you took your usual route. Or, if it’s easier, take an “as the crow flies” estimate to get a rough idea of the distances involved.
Are there pavements, footpaths or tracks on your route? Some people who regularly drive to work might take routes that have no sidewalk, or cross busy junctions. Is there a safe way to run that route? If not, find an alternative route to run that will get you to work in one piece – without dodging traffic or running down blind alleys!
If you had a bad day, would you be able to walk the majority of the distance if you needed to do so? If you’re 5km or less from work, this shouldn’t be a problem – at worst you have to leave home a little earlier. But if you’re travelling a greater distance, you need to consider how you’ll cover the miles if you’re tired or unable to run any further. Those with a much longer commute might even want to consider taking a bus or driving part way to work, then running from there!
Running to work is fine. But how will you get home? To begin with, you’re unlikely to want to run to and from work on the same day. Doubling up is a great move later down the line when you’re fitter, but initially you should take it easy and run at most every day or two. This means you’ll need to find an alternative way to or from work. A neat way to do this is to alternate methods of transport – leaving your car at the office overnight while you run home, then running back to work in the morning, for example. Of course, if you use public transport at the moment, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Once you’ve figured out how far it is to get to work, a safe route to take, your backup plan in case of fatigue, and a way home after you’ve run to work, you’re good to go. The swotting up is done: now for the physical stuff.
Give Yourself a Physical
Most of us are not habitual runners, nor trained athletes, nor – if we’re honest – are we in the best shape of our lives. And so for most of us, simply hitting the street and running to work isn’t as simple as it sounds. First, let’s take stock of our physical condition.
If you’re following along, by this point you should know how far it is to run to your place of work. Ask yourself three simple questions:
Is your place or work 5km or less from your home?
Could you comfortably walk 5km if you needed to?
Could you jog for 60 seconds non-stop?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then in my opinion you’re already good to go. You can skip to the next section if you’re feeling brave. If not, then you might have a little training to do before you get started.
If fitness was the problem – you’d worry about walking 5km or jogging for 60 seconds non-stop – then worry no more: there’s a famous running program called Couch-to-5k which is practically built for you. Take a while to follow this plan, then revisit your goal of run commuting when the answers to questions 2 and 3 are “yes”. Trust me – it’s a great plan, and will be well worth the effort.
If the problem was distance, you have two options. The first option, and easiest if you’re impatient to get started, is to find a way to reduce the running distance to something more manageable. This might be achievable by driving or taking public transport part way through the journey, as suggested above. The second option, the tougher choice, is to train yourself after work (or before) until you can comfortably run half the distance or all but 3km of the distance (whichever is longer). To be honest, unless you’re already comfortably running 3-5km, I favour the first option.
In any case, sooner or later I hope that everybody who ever reads this will be able to answer “yes” to all three questions or else work around the situation as per the above. Once you’ve done so, you’re ready to move on to the next stage.
Grab Your Bags, We’re Getting Out of Here!
The last stage of preparation is to figure out how to decouple the sweaty act of running from your workday responsibilities. This comes in three categories: clothing, hygiene, and equipment.
First, let’s talk clothing. Your employer might have a dress code or uniform, and if that’s the case then you’ll need to be sure that you can either bring your clothes with you each time you run – i.e. on your back! – or else find some way to leave them safely at work in advance. For offices with a smart dress code, this can often mean bringing in a few days worth of clothes to the office on Monday in preparation for the rest of the week. You can rotate this out at the end of the week, and leave yourself free to run unburdened mid-week.
What about hygiene? Well, most employers will have a bathroom where you could wash, and some even offer shower facilities. As with clothing above, bring in the necessary bits and bobs in advance and make sure you can find a way to stay fresh – even if that means a quick soapy flannel down in the bathrooms after you arrive.
Finally, you might have equipment that you regularly take to and from work – a laptop, perhaps, or some other paraphernalia. In this case, ask yourself whether you really need to take it all home, whether you can get spare kit (one to leave at home, and one to keep at work) or whether you need to take the load on your back.
You’re Ready to Run To Work. Just Do It!
With all of that preparation behind you, you’re ready to begin run commuting. You know your route, you’ve planned a way to change and wash, perhaps you’ve even got your kit and clothing to work in advance. Now you just have to run. But… how?
In many ways, this is the easiest bit. For those of your who answered “yes” to my three questions earlier on, it’s easy. Just strap on some running shoes, pick a t-shirt, and put on some shorts. Throw anything else you need and haven’t already taken to work into a backpack. Then, a reasonable time before you need to be at work, step outside and you’ll be on your way.
You might want to stretch a little, but don’t worry too much about what you do. Just get yourself walking briskly towards work, and carry on until you break a sweat or begin to heat up. When you’re ready, maybe 5 minutes in, begin to jog at a leisurely pace. Keep it up for as long as you can: maybe for 60 seconds, maybe for 5 minutes – it all depends on you. When you need a break, walk for a bit. Keep yourself moving. Recover a little, then jog again. Rinse, repeat, and soon you’ll find yourself at work.
This might seem a little like throwing yourself in at the deep end, and in a way it’s true. You can’t give up and pat yourself on the back for a jolly good effort after 5 minutes – you have to get to work, even if it means walking all the way. And with that motivation, why not run as much as you can? The important thing is that you’ll get to work sweaty, tired, and flushed – but you’ll have run to work, and in doing so you will have taken your first steps into the world of run commuting!
No matter how much you walked, you still ran to work. You’re now officially a run commuter – congratulations!
Run commuting is for life, not just for one well-planned trip. You’ve done it once, and you’ll do it again. Maybe first you’ll only try it once per week, or twice. Keep at it, gradually running more and walking less, until you can run the entire distance in one go. And on that wonderful day, you’ll know you’ve achieved something awesome.
From there, the world is your oyster! You might find yourself running more often each week, running twice a day on occasion, using your run commuting as a base for race training, picking longer routes to get more miles under your belt; the possibilities are endless. You just need to take the first steps.
Comments, questions, or in need of advice? Please add a comment below!
Run commuting can be a wonderful way to improve your lifestyle. The benefits of running to work are numerous – not least because it enables you to fit a run into your daily routine without dedicating a huge swath of additional time to working out! We are huge fans of a morning run to work or an evening jog home, and this article gives our top 10 benefits – 5 obvious and 5 surprising – of running to work.
First of all, let’s look at the obvious benefits!
1. Running to work will keep you fit
By travelling to work under your own steam, one step at a time, you’re making a critical change to your daily routine. Rather than just sitting in a car, bus or train for a while and magically arriving at your destination, you’re swapping time you would have been sat down for time spent running.
The health benefits of running are well known, strengthening your heart, giving you a vigorous cardiovascular workout, working your muscles, getting your blood flowing and burning calories. By making a run part of your work routine, you give yourself an easy way to fit a healthy fitness workout into your day – reducing your risk of heart attacks, angina, high blood pressure and strokes.
2. Running to work will save you money
Running to work, whether a short run of only a few miles or a longer run of 8 miles or more, can slot easily into your workday routine by replacing your previous method of travel. Maybe you drove to work, maybe you took a bus or tram or train, or maybe you just walked and spent a bit longer travelling. However you used to commute, it took money out of your pocket and time out of your day.
As well as replacing travel time, running to work can also replace a trip to the gym. Why spend money to run on a treadmill when you could hit the streets on your way to work? Run commuting helps you spend less money on travel, can save money on gym membership, and you’ll get to work feeling great about yourself.
3. Run commuting is free
Got a pair of trainers or sneakers lying around? Do they fit? Great, then you’re ready to get started running to work. Run commuting doesn’t have to be any more complicated or expensive then just getting out the door and heading to work in your old trainers and a t-shirt.
Of course, there’s much more you can do to optimise your run commute – getting some dedicated running shoes, buying a great running backpack, picking up a GPS watch to help you track your training, or getting some high-vis running clothing – but none of it is necessary, and you can add it when you feel like it. From day one, running to work doesn’t cost a penny.
4. Running helps you lose weight
We all need to lose a few pounds every now and again, and running is a fantastic way to help manage your weight. Fat can be hard to shift, but an average person can burn over 300 calories in a half an hour of running – burning more calories than almost any other form of exercise!
It can take a while to get into a routine, but once you start running regularly you’ll find your body changing – losing fat, gaining muscle, looking toned and feeling good.
5. Running can reduce stress
Running is excellent at reducing stress levels, bringing benefits to the mind as well as the body. Exercise has many proven benefits for mental health, and the chance to reflect, think about issues than have been bothering you, or just let it all go is too good to miss. Running to work will help you arrive at work – or at home – in a peaceful state of mind, free from all the usual background noise.
We see that there are plenty of obvious benefits, but that’s not all you get from run commuting. There are some more surprising upsides to running to work, too!
6. A run will make you feel awake and alert
You might think that exercise would leave you tired, drained and in need of a nap – but the reality is just the opposite! Running flushes the body with oxygen, gets the heart pumping, and revitalises every part of the body – including the brain. In fact, runners often talk about the “runner’s high”: feelings of happiness, boundless energy and a sense of relaxation and readiness during or after a run. This jolt of energy can raise your awareness and mental outlook, helping you get through your work day feeling alert and ready to go.
7. Charity fund-raising is easier than ever
We all like to do our bit for charity, and once you’ve got yourself into the swing of regularly running to work then a charity fundraiser becomes easier than ever! If you can run a few miles to work, then all of a sudden running 5km or even 10km for a charity race seems much less daunting. Now you can get out there to raise money for good causes while barely breaking a sweat.
8. Running home helps you to clear your mind
Fitting a run in after work can give you the perfect opportunity to clear your mind at the end of a hard or stressful day. The obvious change in setting, pace and activity is a great signal to your brain that you’ve finished work for the day and are ready to go home – helping you “switch gears” more effectively and put your work worries or ideas out of your mind until the next day. Take the opportunity to run home, get any lingering thoughts out of your mind on the way, and arrive home ready to enjoy your “me time”.
9. Quality of sleep is improved by exercise
Running hard once or twice during the day gives your body a thorough workout and works your muscles like nothing else. The physical stress of the workout leaves your body stronger, but in need of recovery time – otherwise known as sleep! Your brain knows that you need a good restful night of sleep to repair your muscles and strengthen your legs, and this translates into much higher quality sleep than you might get after a day of sitting around doing nothing.
10. Workouts like running can improve your sex-life
Several medical studies have shown that runners, or other people who exercise regularly, tend to have more sex and much better sex. A surprising Harvard University study found that people between 40 and 60 years old who regularly exercise typically have the same amount of sex as non-athletes 20 years younger then them! It also found that male runners are more likely and are more able to achieve and maintain an erection, and that female runners are more easily aroused and have better orgasms! Phew. I think I’d better go for a run.
So there you have it! Running has such a huge range of benefits – we’ve only scratched the surface – and by running to work you can enjoy them immediately as part of your daily routine. What are you waiting for? Get going!