Admittedly I don't do it often enough but running to work comes with many benefits. It's an easy way to log more miles, avoid the traffic and is the best way to get you energised for the day ahead.
Make sure you travel light
This is where I fail to be honest, but I just can't seem to change. The best way is to have everything you need for work already at your workplace. However, that is obviously not always possible, so here’s a rundown of what you need for your daily run commute.
- A decent running bag. You'll need to invest in a specific running bag that is designed to fit snugly and avoid bouncing and chafing. The size you will need will depend on what you are carrying. I tend to shove quite a lot in so I opted for the Quechua FH900 17L backpack. Technically it's a speed hiking bag but it’s also the best running backpack for commuting. It has straps around the hips and chest to keep it in place and comes with a waterproof cover. Decathlon also have other running bags available that come in various sizes and designs.
- Packable down jacket.There is a strong chance, especially when you’re starting out with run commuting, that you’ll need to take public transport at some point during your day. Therefore it can be really handy to make sure you have brought a warm packable down jacket with you.
- Your work clothes. Depending on what your work entails, this takes a bit of week by week strategy. To avoid having a bag that weighs you down, make sure you pack as lightly as possible. To do this, be economical with the positioning and folding of every item of clothing. If you wear a shirt to work it can be helpful to do up every button, as it helps hold their shape. If there is one thing I try to commit to, it's keeping a spare pair of shoes at work. Without a doubt these will take up most of your bag space if you carry them with you and are not the lightest of things. It also makes sense to bring a spare pair of underwear, just in case.
- Running gear made from anti-odor material. There’s two things to ask for from your run commute clothing. The first is that it’s reusable for multiple runs during the week. Having to constantly wash your running kit is a fast way to give up on your daily routine. Secondly, no matter how easily you complete your run, you don't want your run commute clothes drawing attention to themselves during the rest of your day. By choosing apparel that’s made from anti-odor material, such as merino wool, you’ll be able to solve both of these issues with ease.
- Waterproofs and head torch. Regardless of time of year, you can never rule out rain. Therefore, if you are planning on doing a transport-less journey, you should make sure you’ve got waterproof gear. The same applies for head torches if you’re planning to run home during the evening. Rush hour is a busy time, and it’s vital for you to be seen.
- Mircofibre towel. It’s a fairly common workplace no-no to hang soaking towels out to dry. I’ll come to showering later on, but when picking out items for your running commute, a microfibre towel should be one of the first things you pack. They have all the qualities of a normal towel, plus they lose their dampness really quickly, meaning you won’t have to hang them up to dry, and you can get multiple uses from them.
- Arm warmers. Regardless of whether you run in the morning or evening, throughout most of the year they’ll be done in colder temperatures. The use of hand and arm warmers will help you avoid catching a chill during the winter months.
- Additional items. These won’t be must-haves for everyone, but can work very well if the situation requires it. Collapsible lunch boxes are a good idea if you want to both bring your lunch from home and run to work, as it will free up space on your journey home. Also, bringing extra carrier bags for once your run is done can be a great way of separating dirty and clean clothes
Prepare everything the night before
For me the hardest part of the run commute, is getting myself out of the door. It's too easy to make excuses. So with that in mind the key is to prepare everything you need the night before. By simply having your running kit laid out, lunch prepared (dinner where I'm from) and bag packed the night before, you're less likely to drop out. It’s also wise to not have a big breakfast before you start your run, and to instead eat once you get to work.
Choose and plan your route ahead of time
Before you set off out of the door you'll want to have a route planned. You'll need to make sure that it's a distance you are comfortable with and of course how long it is likely to take. There are various platforms you can use to plan a route such as Strava, Google Maps, Map My Run, etc. You'll also need to bear in mind the terrain and especially during the winter the visibility. Will you need trail shoes for a muddy section or the aforementioned head torch for the poorly lit sections?
Also, if you are regularly planning to run your commute, it can be a good idea to plan several different routes. Explore the sidestreets of the area you live, and do your best to delay the point where you’ll have to run on busy or main roads, as that will make keeping up your pace tricky and will reduce the strain on your legs. Try to find at least three different routes and name them ‘the fastest’, ‘the most scenic’ and ‘the easiest’. I’m sure you’ll develop more as you go, but this is a good start.
Make your run-commute goals realistic
The easiest way to fail is by making a commitment that is just too unrealistic. So if you've never run to work before it's probably best you don't commit straight away to running every work day. For run commute beginners, it’s also an idea that if you’re going to make a choice between running in the morning or evening, choose the morning. It will leave you feeling fresh, ready for work and it’s less likely to be pitch black. Also, maybe commit to 1 to 2 days a week at the start. Before you know it the habit might turn into 5 days a week.
Take it easy
I find it's best to treat your commute as an easy run. You're more likely to stick at it when you keep the pace leisurely. There's no point wearing yourself out before you've even got to work. On the way back home the temptation is also there to go quickly, why wouldn't you want to get home sharpish? Just keep in mind that if you're going to commit to more than one day of run commuting or if you have other training sessions you'll want to be fresh enough for them. Running at a slow pace still has its benefits, my run coach Ian taught me that important lesson - Junk Miles? The Truth.
Pick a podcast (preferably at 120 bpm)
While many people find running itself enough of stimulation, others often need devices to keep them on track or even distract them from challenging parts of their run. If you are going to go the way of putting together a playlist for your run commute, it is scientifically proven that listening to music with 120 beats per minute and above can help elevate mood and has excellent benefits for exercise. While I am sure everyone has their own music tastes, here are five suggestions of songs which are 120 bpm.
- Let it happen by Tame Impala
- Money can’t buy me love by The Beatles
- I’m a believer by The Monkees
- One kiss by Dua Lipa and Calvin Harris
- Call me maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen
For more on running with music, you'll find our article on using music to stay motivated.
Alternatively, if you feel like you don’t have enough time to catch up on your reading, or are missing opportunities to stay on top of current events, then your run to and from work could be an ideal time to do that. Time spent with an audiobook or a podcast are great ways to lose track of time, just so long as you keep attention on what's going on around you.
Preplan your showering
Obviously the ideal situation for this issue for you to have the option to shower at work. Of course this is often not the case, but there are other options, such as joining a gym or leisure centre with showering and changing facilities that are close to your work. This would also work well if you planned on exercising in other ways during lunchtimes or after work. There’s also the option of purchasing products that have many of the similar showering effects, including:
- Shower in a can
- Dry shampoo
Whatever you do, just make sure you have somewhere to freshen up before you start work otherwise your colleagues might not be too happy...