Running as a transportation alternative: the introductory guide

Since more than a year, I started to do my daily commute by running. I run between 10 to 15 miles a day, depending on my mood, the weather, the temperature and the age of the captain. This decision was primarily based on transportation and timing efficiency, incorporate my daily workout into my schedule and avoid to waste time when commuting. Also, as Pittsburgh offers a good and heterogeneous elevation profiles, it is easy to use various routes with different characteristics (elevation profile, type of path, etc.), this was a great opportunity to vary the type of training every day.

This article constitutes an introduction to run commuting. If you want to try it, I recommend to read the run commuter website and get more tips, info and gears reviews.

Where to go now? So much possible routes!
Where to go now? So much possible routes!

Planning ahead

Planning ahead is one of the most important aspect. Do you have a shower at work? How can you change? You’ll need to plan to get several clothes but also snacks or food at work. Plan accordingly. I usually pass by my office during the week-end to drop clean clothes (jeans, shirts, etc.), food (several packages of soups) and take back dirty clothes to wash them at home. I have approximatively enough for two weeks without coming back so that if I am very busy during one week-end, I will still be ok. For food, I usually take packages I can keep for several weeks so I do not have to worry about expiration dates. Also, using something easy to prepare is a must: the focus when being at work is being efficient when preparing, not spending one hour to cook. Favorite items are Black Bean Soup or Lentil Soup. Not very exciting but they have a great nutrition profile: organic with a lot of protein, low-glycemic index carbs and very cheap when buying big quantities at Costco. Just enough to be fueled without being overloaded during the afternoon. Also, for snacks, I use Protein Bar: these are also less than 200 Kcal with more than 10g of protein, which is great for a post-run recovery snack.

On the other hand, when you need small items, you can carry in your backpack (underwear snacks for the day). The goal is to plan and have all the big stuff on site so that you can just adjust and carry small items. You might also just buy your lunch at work but it might be expensive and not so healthy (restaurant portions are huge and this is difficult to control what is inside).

Wash and change

Ideal scenario: you have a shower and a locker at work. In that case, you can wash at work and do not have to worry about getting to dirty and have a bad smell. On the other hand, if you do not have shower, you can still use baby towels. The run commuter provides tips to clean but this is clearly not optimal.

Also, as part as your weekly trip to drop food and clothes, drop new towels. I always have one or two clean and dry towels at work to replace the current one. Also, bring your own soap and do not assume there will be soap in the showers!

Using the right gear

Using the right gear is really important. You do not need to spend thousands to get many items, a couple of hundreds bucks for the right one is more than enough. Consider to have at least the following:

The ideal backpack
REI Stoke 9: a good backpack that will not fool you!
  • a small and lightweight backpack: probably the most important part. You will then be able to carry your belongings (wallets, ID card, cell phone, etc.) without even feeling it. Check the run commuter website for an extensive selection. I have the REI Stoke 9 backpack and I am more than happy with it. Very light (14 ounces), you do not even feel it, you get used to it after a few days.
  • headlamp: very important during winter, when the night come quickly and early. The headlamp will then help you to see in the dark. Do not take the cheap model and do not hesitate to put a few bucks more for a good model. I use the Black Diamond ReVolt that has the huge benefits to be rechargeable via USB. So, as soon as you are home, you can recharge the batteries for the next day. For less than $40, this is a good option!
  • rain/wind jacket: there is a high probably that one day or another, you will have to run home on a rainy day. And while the rain can cool you down, it can also be very uncomfortable, especially when temperatures are low. You cannot carry your own furnace on the run but can protect yourself from the rain/wind. A rain/wind jacket (about $80 to $100) is a great investment and you will not regret it when it will start pouring.
  • hat:  a good hat is not mandatory but will be appreciated during cold days to protect your ears from the cold. Any regular hat will do the job, you do not need a fancy one!
  • gloves: try to use gloves made with technical fabric so that it brings moisture away.
  • hydration bottle: always keep water with you in case you need a sip or two! No need for a full bottle, a small one (8 to 12 ounces) will be more than enough. Also, they often have a pocket so that you can put some money in case of emergency.

Evaluating the benefits and drawbacks

Benefits

  • Efficiency: you do not have to worry about when and where to do your workout. This is already integrated in your daily schedule
  • Schedule predictability: you know exactly when you start and when you arrive. When taking the bus or driving, you depend on the traffic and other potential factors (road closures, accident, etc.). Running at work on time depends only one your running ability.
  • Health Benefits: as you exercise twice a day, you quickly see the benefits on your health. Lower health-rate and blood pressure, fewer sleeping disorders and so on. Also, your overall health is better, the likeliness to be sick is lowered and you recover quicker from minor issue (cold, etc.)
  • Cost saving: you do not take your car, so, you save on gas and insurance (low-mileage insurance). However, this has also to be put into perspective because you will eat more and also buy more running shoes

Drawbacks

  • Bootstrap the process: when starting, making the full trip can be hard. It mostly depends on how many miles you have to run. There are alternatives to get started, we will come back on that later.
  • Control potential eating disorders: in the beginning, you will feel hungry all the time. After a while, you will fine your routine. I usually get a light breakfast before starting (a toast with peanut butter) and take an energy bar one I am done and showered.
  • Planning ahead: you have to plan and prepare change, dry clothes, soap and shampoo at work. This needs to drive from time to time, prepare a package and drop it at work. It also means that you have a place to keep your stuff.
  • Work organization: if you are working at home, you have to make sure to synchronize your documents. You can do it by sending documents to yourself by e-mail, using online services such as dropbox or google drive. Be careful, some companies have a strict policy about sharing documents and you might prefer to transfer your data using a USB stick.

How to get started?

In the beginning, running to work can be intimidating and you will wonder if your colleagues will think you are crazy and if you can go the distance all week. Obviously, regardless of what your colleagues will say, the most important is to get used to commute by running. It will easily increase your mileage and make a good training. On the other hand, you have to consider that you cannot increase your weekly mileage suddenly and commuting every day will take time.

Start by commuting only one way or just some days so that you do not increase your weekly mileages by more than 10% (follow the 10% rule padawan!). Then, each week, adds 10% to your weekly mileage. On another note, be careful about your food intake and make sure you get enough to recover. It is easy to increase the miles without taking care of the food intake. If you do not adjust it, you will get tired and increase the likelihood of injury. Also, if you do not feel ok to run a day, just use the bus.

After a couple of weeks, you will probably love to run everyday and be free of any vehicle constraints. You will log more miles, can vary the routes and be more efficient during your workout. It will then give more time to focus on other activities rather than focusing solely on running.

Resources

 

 

 

Advertisements
Running as a transportation alternative: the introductory guide

4 thoughts on “Running as a transportation alternative: the introductory guide

  1. I have tried to think of ways to do this but we don’t have a shower at my work so that poses a problem. It’s about 10 miles to work, and mostly flat except for a decent hill coming home. I may have to try and figure a way I can just run home.

    1. Well, in that case, why not just running back home and take the bus the next morning (or carpool/having somebody to drop you/etc.)? The key is planning ahead. For example, consider running from work to home 4 times a day: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On these days, you take your running clothes to run back home. And on Wednesday, you can take a rest day/go to the gym and, as you take your car to come back, you can get the dirty clothes back to wash them.

      The difficulty is more in organizing and planning ahead. Once you have the routine in mind, this is very easy! Also, having at least 10 miles will help to log long runs and if you feel ok, you can do more and vary according to the goals.

  2. Thanks for sharing this post. Here in Bombay, India we have just a handful of people attuned to this idea of running as a mode to commute. We have a wave of marathons so people are gradually getting attuned to the idea of running to keep fit, but not so much to commute.
    I try to showcase outdoorsy fitness options on my site http://www.letsbeoutdoorsy.com in the hope that some day Indians will be more fit and outdoorsy. Do you think you would like to write about running in the US for my site?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s