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How to Run-Commute to Work

A runner wears a business suit during a workout

Last summer, I had a minor car accident and couldn’t drive my car for two weeks. It was a frustrating hassle, but it came with a silver lining: I had to get creative with my transportation to work. I discovered the run commute as a result! 

I only lived 5.5 miles from my office. I didn’t want to run both ways every single day, so I came up with some strategies for carpooling, running and cycling that got me where I needed to go and energized my training schedule. 

There are so many good reasons to run commute. Here are a few:

A runner wears women's Fleet Feet x Brooks exclusive apparel for Spring 2019

Benefits of Running to Work

  • Save time. You were going to run anyway, and you had to get to work somehow. Now you’re completing those two tasks simultaneously. Granted, it will likely take you longer to get there by running, but you’re still blending two tasks into one. This also means that you can sleep later!
  • Make the most of the daylight. During the winter months, there are fewer hours of daylight. Some workplaces offer flexible schedules, making it easy to do a mid-day run. But many of us have to run before or after work, which means starting or ending a run in the dark. If you combine your run and commute, you can get more out of your daylight hours.
  • Increased time with friends and loved ones. When you schedule strategic carpools and meetups, it gives you an excuse to hang with your favorite people. More about this below.
  • Increase running mileage and move more throughout the day. Run commuting to work and back is a great way to add double-run days into your schedule. Many people find it’s a great way to energize yourself before work and let your mind decompress afterward. It can help you add more miles to your schedule and reduces your sitting time in a car.
  • Environmental benefits. Your car will use less gas and create less pollution. There will also be fewer cars on the road, less mileage on your car and more money in your pocket!
  • Variety is the spice of life. I don’t know about you, but I love to shake things up. Sometimes it’s nice to change your running schedule and try something new.
  • Reduce stress. While I like the independence of having my own car, I hate traffic and don’t like driving in general. Perhaps you love to drive, but I find that getting somewhere powered by my own two feet is far less stressful. Plus, one of my favorite feelings in the world is when I’m running down the sidewalk faster than all of the people in their cars stuck in rush hour traffic. I love knowing that I have saved myself from that fate.
A runner ties a pair of Brooks Glycerin 17

How Run-Commute to Work

There are multiple ways that you can run commute. Of course, the details depend on how far you’re going, options for alternative transportation and the culture of your workplace—the dress code and whether you have a shower at work are just a couple of the things to consider.

When I started run-commuting, I lived about 5.5 miles away from my workplace. I didn’t want to run commute every single day, but I did it a few times a week, in different ways, depending on my schedule. This will be different for everyone, but here are strategies that worked for me.

Carpool to work, run home

As long as you can get a ride to work, this is the simplest strategy. It works well if your commute is too long for a double and a ride is easy to come by. It’s also nice because you can eat a regular breakfast and arrive at work clean and dressed.

Arrange a ride to work with a coworker, partner or roommate. Get ready for work as you normally would, but pack running clothes and a way to carry your essentials home on the run with you. I bring a Nathan Hipsterwaist belt which fits my phone, keys and ID, plus any cards I may need. At the end of the work day, I simply change into my running clothes and run home with my Nathan belt and the few things I need to bring home, leaving my work clothes at the office to bring home another day.

Riding to work and running home also lets you plan to go the opposite way the next day. When you’re packing for the day, bring an extra lunch, a portable breakfast, plus an extra work outfit and toiletries. Bring a towel if you’re lucky enough to have a shower at the office. You’ll thank yourself in the morning when you lace up to run to the office.

Run to work, carpool home

Running to work is so much easier if your stuff is already at the office waiting for you. Some people will run with a pack that has their work clothes in it, but this is not my preferred strategy. I’m happiest when my work outfit is waiting in my office, and my food for the day is in the fridge. 

I can set off on my morning run commute with my running belt, essentials (keys, phone, cards) and nothing more. When I arrive, the trick is to get presentable for work. If your office has a shower, AWESOME! Mine doesn’t, so I keep a few fresh washcloths at work that I use to clean up. Some people like wipes, but they always leave me feeling sticky. 

Baby powder can be helpful too, and it doubles as dry shampoo! Feeling clean is easiest in the winter when you don’t sweat as much, but you can get clean enough in the summertime with the right strategy and enough time to cool down. I recommend leaving a permanent toiletry bag at work with deodorant, extra undies and other essentials so you don’t want to forget. Now, start the day feeling energized and have some breakfast while you catch up on email. 

Carpooling = more fun with friends!

Sometimes when I run to work and carpool home, I’ll turn it into a date night. When I worked in downtown Asheville, my husband and I would meet up, go out to eat and make a night of it before heading back home. If you’re carpooling with a co-worker, see if she wants to get a drink and go to trivia night before giving you a ride home. Carpooling can be a perfect excuse to have more fun and spend quality time with the people in your life. 

Run both ways

The logistics are trickier, but it’s a great way to work a double run into your schedule and skip cars altogether. Again, it helps tremendously to plan ahead and have clothes, toiletries, and meals at work waiting for you. It’s also easier if you go out for lunch at work and don’t have to worry about bringing food. The same strategies apply as above when considering what to pack and bring along with you. 

Two runners wear the ASICS x Fleet Feet exclusive apparel for Spring 2019

Other Ways to Shake Up Your Commute

Ride your bike one way. This is a great way to add cross-training into your week, and it makes it easier to carry what you need to work. It’s much more comfortable to ride a bike with a backpack or a bike bag full of your belongings than it is to run with them. It helps if you’re able to leave your bike in a secure location if you ride to work and run home. Then you can run to work and ride home the next day. 

Incorporate public transportation. If you have a good bus system where you live, this gives you extra options to ride in one direction or even ride part of the way to work and run the rest. Think creatively! You probably have more options that you think you do.

Invite friends! This is a fun way to meet up for a run if your friends live or work close by. If you have a co-worker who wants to start running, see if they want to join you for all or part of the run. It’s a great way to motivate them to get active too. 

Other Tips for Running to Work

  • Plan your whole week in advance. I know, that sounds like a lot of work. But it becomes easy to decide how to structure your run commutes once you figure out your routine. You’ll also learn to navigate common obstacles. For example, you may not want to run to work on the day you have to make a big presentation. Plan ahead. Pick the days that you will carpool, schedule something fun with friends and when you’ll need to bring extra clothes or supplies. Bring extra snacks and hide or label them so that hungry coworkers don’t take them.
  • Keep some permanent supplies at the office. If you have your own office, a locker or just a spot under your desk, it’s easier if you always have a bag waiting with deodorant, dry shampoo, makeup, extra underwear or whatever you’re afraid you might forget. I always keep a nice work dress at the office that I don’t wear in my casual life. If there’s a surprise meeting with a special client, it always helps to have something ready. 
  • Don’t make the office smell like a gym. Be courteous to others, and make sure to take your stinky stuff home every couple of days so that your coworkers won’t hate you. 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to cool off and clean up. Don’t jog into the office five minutes before a meeting. You’ll be drenched in sweat and flustered that you’re not ready to get down to business yet. 
  • Be aware of the time of day you’ll be running. If there’s a possibility that your meeting will run late and you will be running in the dark, be sure to have visibility gear (like a running headlamp and lights) ready so you can be safe. 
  • Have a backup plan. If you were going to run home but suddenly your foot is in pain, be ready to catch the bus or ask for a ride home. 
  • Have fun! Do something different because life is an adventure! 

By Kate Schwartz. Schwartz has been running competitively for 20 years, and she currently runs with the Asheville Running Collective. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, Alex, and their cat, Clementine.

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