Before I share a few tips on making your run to work routine convenient and effective, there are a few basic factors to consider if you’ve never run to work before. Many of these suggestions are ‘common sense’, so forgive me if they seem obvious, but sometimes it’s the little or simple things that get overlooked.
Firstly – do you live far enough from work that a run seems worth the effort? If you’re less than 2 miles from where you work, I’d consider walking – or going for a longer run that eventually leads to work. Almost a waste of time and effort getting changed otherwise.
Do you live further than 5 miles? It might seem strange, but to try and run anything further might be biting off more than you can chew. Once might be okay, but when you’re running in, working a full shift and then running home again – that’s a pretty demanding day. Unless you might choose to run one day and drive the next, this is quickly going to create fatigue, perhaps even injury and your running will suffer.
You might consider building up gradually, by driving in – running home and then next day, running in – driving home. As long as you can afford to leave the car at work, it helps to do this until you’re sure you’ve the stamina for more.
Next you might think about the logistics. And this is where a little experience goes a long way.
I’ve developed a routine for running to work, that has varied over 4 years and has become about as effective as I can manage for now (unless anybody has any suggestions).
The main gist is this:
I run to work 4 or 5 times a week, which always means running there and back – 3.75 miles x 2 per day. I clock about 37 miles per week on average.
I try to set off in plenty of time, so I’ll be able to run at an easy pace, arrive early and have time to get cleaned up/changed on time. If you don’t have much in the way of wash facilities at your place of work, I’d suggest getting a pack of wet wipes from Morrisons – they’re like, 49p and clean anything off. Leave the pack at work so you always have an effective wash waiting for you.
On days where I have to be completely self sufficient, I’ll use an OMM Ultra 12 pack and fill it with dry bag full of clothes, mobile phone and whatever else should remain dry no matter what. I’ll have with me a Montane Featherlite Marathon windproof that I know keeps me warm, even when wet (usually takes 30mins of light rain/drizzle to soak through). I carry a head scarf and sometimes gloves, depending on time of year. Occasionally I will carry a tablet (computer) or spare pair of shoes. I also sometimes carry one, if not two lunch boxes.
All of this can be a bit of a drag. The pack can be heavy. The contents can get thrown around and potentially damaged. Lunch sometimes looks a little sorry for itself.
So I’ve developed a strategy. I’d recommend, where appropriate – you try to do likewise if you’re going to commit yourself to the run-to-work lifestyle.
The biggest help initially was leaving work clothes/uniform at work. I have a locker, so I leave it full of clothes I can change into once I arrive.
Next step, food. I’ve started buying and/or preparing food in bulk, then transporting it to work on the odd days that I still use the car. This is also when I change the clothes around. If I’ve bothered to carry bulky tubs and lunch boxes in, I’ll often just leave them at work a few extra days and take them all home in the car at the same time.
And a note about that dry bag – if you haven’t got one, get one. I ran at first with my change of clothes on my back, only to discover upon reaching the store, that I’d sweated through the pack and soaked my stuff. I use a dry bag every time I go anywhere with a pack on my back. Just the safest way to ensure the important stuff stays dry.
So – what else? Well, once the job of running twice every day began to feel achievable, then comfortable – I looked at how it might aid my training.
Most weeks I run because it saves me the cost of fuel. It takes slightly longer than driving, but means I don’t have to find an extra 60mins at the crack of dawn or at the end of the evening to squeeze the running in all the same (though I still do every now and then).
There are times when the calendar reminds me that the functional run to work routine might serve me better if I use it as deliberate training towards whichever event I have coming up. If I’m down for a race, perhaps a hilly one – then I look at adopting a hilly route to work. If I think it necessary, I’ll do that same hilly route back again the same day, but just as with the run/car build up I mentioned, I can start with hills one way, then flat on the return, until ready to do back-to-back hills. I can of course do a back-to-back hill on one day of the week, but stick to flats on the surrounding days, more in keeping with Team Accelerate’s general rule about alternating between hard and easy runs (good advice for all runners). I vary the terrain a bit as well, alternating between trail shoes and road, wherever appropriate. Some days I’ll stick to pavements, others I’ll seek out the available trails and canal paths for a bit of a difference.
With these techniques I get to travel light whenever I run.
Larger packs help when trying to cram extra food, clothing, tools, electronics and whatever else you’ll need for a day at work – so invest in a practical run pack that holds plenty of kit, but still offers all of the stability and comfort it should. You’ll be using it day in/day out, so it ought to be a reliable design, such as my OMM Ultra 12, or maybe a UD Fastpack20.
Food: My diet leaves a lot to be desired some days, but the basis of my lunchtime routine is Beans on Toast. I carry as many tins of baked beans as I can get away with, in the car, about once a week to a fortnight. I also fetch in a full loaf of bread at the same time and chip away at that one day at a time. I might sometimes carry a few slices in a bag/tub when the loaf’s all gone, but I’ve tins left over. Bread doesn’t weigh very much. There are obviously more exciting things to eat.
Clothes are waiting for me in my locker, as are any towels or toiletries. I leave a pair of shoes (at least one) for use at the shop, which allows me to only use one pair of running shoes for running and the other for standing/walking in through the day. Unlike a lot of jobs, mine doesn’t prevent me from wearing trainers, quite the opposite – but it’s still far better to only run in shoes that have had time to expand back to full form and haven’t already been crushed beyond the point where they do their job properly. Bear that in mind if you were considering using the same pair, all day/every day (might mean that by Wednesday your running feels like it’s doing more harm than good (because it probably would be).
My sweaty kit gets hung up outside, or tucked away in my dry bag, until coming out at the end of the day for me to put back on. It’ll be a little smelly, but that’s life. I tried sticking it on a radiator, but that didn’t make me any friends. It’s worth collecting a few more pairs of shorts and some running tops, so they’ll last a few days between washes. It’d be insane trying to wash them every day and have them ready for the following morning. I can go all week on 5 tees and 5 pairs of shorts (I have a spare pair of socks that remain in my bag all week in case my feet get wet). One wash a week for all of my running stuff. It’ll all last a very long time this way and I never feel rushed by the laundry, though I do have to prioritise favourites if I’m doing something special at the weekend and wish to use my preferred outfit.
Running to work is fun when you’re capable of maintaining such a regime.
Between 2 and 5 miles would be my idea of an ideal distance, that most regular runners can cope with and won’t take too much out of your day.
In bad weather, on days when roads are closed or when there’s a football match, Sheffield in particular gets very busy with traffic and I can find myself getting home just as soon if not quicker than I would have done in the car anyway. Plus, I get to run past those queuing in their cars, which I really like doing.
Using the car isn’t against the rules. Either at first, as you build the frequency, or like me you carry all the awkward heavy stuff once a week when you need to, the car can make the logistics a little easier. One day a week, dropping off food and clothes, while removing laundry and empty containers – helps to keep the running simple and lightweight. Also – if you’re down to enjoy a longer run at the weekend, you can afford yourself an extra rest day in the week.
And that, I think, is about it.