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Park the Car and Run

With a proper plan, run commuting can be an option no matter how far you live from the job.

Run commuting is a convenient way to get in some extra mileage without being a major time commitment. In addition to being a valuable training tool, it will also save you money on gas and help the environment. While bike commuting may seem more conventional, running to and from work is just as possible for many people in Canada. Depending on your fitness, it works best if you live within a 10K radius of your workplace, but there are options if you live further away.

Some people struggle to find the time to run every day. Others are looking to add morning runs to their routines. Follow these nine tips to make the most of your commute:

1. Plan Ahead

By car, a 10K drive can take between five and 30 minutes. Running the same distance requires about 40 to 60 minutes, depending on pace. The further a person lives from work the more planning is involved. Some run commuters take a suitcase into work at the start of the week and leave it under their desk, stocked with clean dress clothes and dry shoes, and hanging up their shirts and suit jackets. Many office buildings have showers or fitness centres nearby where you can change and get cleaned up. Keep a towel and a few essential toiletries at the office or in your backpack. If you don’t have access to a shower at work, a few wet wipes and a wash cloth can do the trick, depending on how much you sweat.

If running twice a day isn’t part of your schedule or the distance is too far to handle, consider running to a public transit hub and taking the bus part way. With a proper plan, run commuting can be an option no matter how far you live from the job.

2. Get the Gear

Run commuting doesn’t have to mean shelling out loads of cash, but new running gear might come in handy. A good running backpack is essential. Look for something that isn’t too bulky but large enough (bigger than a hydration pack) to hold a change of clothes, toiletries, your wallet and your lunch. The backpack should fit your body and be strapped tight enough to minimize bouncing. The leading manufacturers offer technical, breathable fabrics, important for hot days. A high-power headlight and reflective clothing will enhance visibility for early-morning and late-night commutes. Moisture-wicking clothing dries quickly and will make your commute more comfortable in all seasons. If you live in a rainy climate, it may be worth investing in a fitted waterproof cover for your backpack.

3. Prepare for the Worst

If you can get yourself psyched to run to work through a spring rainstorm or a -40 windchill in the middle of January, the rest of the conditions will feel like no problem. The key to inclement weather is layering and traction. Wearing base, thermal and shell layers will make the winter commute manageable and you’ll be much warmer than your colleagues waiting for the bus in their parkas. Winter runners also need to be aware of their footing. If ice is a problem, consider a pair of trail-running shoes or even traction devices like those made by Yaktrax. The less slipping and sliding, the more your hip flexors and groin will thank you.

4. The Importance of Fueling

You probably won’t want to eat a greasy breakfast before running into the office, but you will want some food in your belly. It’s not the same as fuelling for a workout, but you’ll need enough calories to handle the exercise. After you reach the office, don’t delay – ensure you replace your carbs and fluids quickly. If you don’t, you could be more prone to cramping during the day.

5. Stay Safe

Safety goes beyond your choice of gear. Stick to routes that don’t have a lot of vehicle traffic and don’t cut through unfamiliar parts of town. Run on sidewalks whenever available and if you’re running on the shoulder, go against traffic. A road ID with proper emergency information and a mobile phone are also good things to carry.

6. Running Errands

Run commuting is about more than just running to work. It’s also an option for that quick jaunt to the corner store, meeting friends for a coffee, or to check out the newest running store deals. Some running clubs organize “run to brunch” events. For these kinds of trips it may not be necessary to carry a backpack; a few companies such as Maloc Design and Runcuf make wristbands that double as wallets. It’s a hassle-free way to carry your money and house keys. In the extreme heat, you may only want to run home from social gatherings, since you’ll likely need a wardrobe change after the run.

7. Involving Family and Friends

Having the support of family and friends will make the commute easier. Can you talk your spouse or parents into dropping you at work in the morning so you can run home? Start a run to work club at your workplace. You might end up with some commuting buddies.

8. Make it a Challenge

Don’t forget to record the miles of your commute in your daily running log. Make a promise that you’ll always run to the office on certain days of the week. Talk to the others in your running club and challenge them to a commuting duel.

9. Enjoy the Benefits

Mileage before the start of the work day can be an excellent recovery tool if you had a taxing workout the night before. The same goes for the way home. “Run commuting home is a nice way to stretch my legs after sitting behind a computer all day,” says Mary Enquist, who lives in New York City. “It allows me to continue to meet my goals during busy times at the office.”

It may sound counterintuitive, but run commuting can actually save time over the course of a day. For example, if your commute by car or transit typically takes 30 minutes each way – 60 minutes total – and you still planned a 60-minute run in the evening, that’s two hours spent commuting and running. If you could spend your commute time running, then you wouldn’t need to do an additional run in the evening, saving about an hour of your day. Put another way: if a 10K run typically takes 45 minutes and a 10K drive is another 10 minutes, if you run commute for 10K, you could potentially save 10 minutes each day. By using running shoes instead of tires, the commuting runner uses time more efficiently.

Clint Cherepa is a freelance writer based in Michigan.