Save Time and Get Fit! The Beginner’s Guide to Run Commuting

 

A detour through Ottawa’s Arboraetum

Running long distances as fast as you can requires commitment. In the build-up to my sub-three-hour marathon in 2014, I learned that a fast marathon meant putting in miles. Lots and lots of them!

 

That year, I put in many 130 kilometer weeks. Over the course of the year, I ran over 5,000 kilometers! I committed over 380 hours to running alone. Between holding down a full-time job and a happy marriage, becoming a good runner occupied most of my free time.

Fast forward to 2017. I now run a small health and wellness business, and I have a little baby on the way! Free time is at a premium. But the call of the road and trail never fades for a runner. I need running. I’m at my best in body and mind when I’m putting in lots of kilometers.

I’ve recently started run commuting. It’s the answer!

Now that I run PlantKind out of the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa driving isn’t an option for me. I’m not willing to pay thirty dollars a day for parking and rush hour traffic is unbearable!

Run-commuting has many advantages over driving to work.

My run to work route is 11 kilometers. By converting some of my commuting time into training time, I’m able to rack up easy base training miles. Unite the tasks of training and travel saves time!

 

Fog on Dow’s Lake. And early morning in May.

I experience less guilt taking the time to run, when I know I would be on a bus otherwise. This will be a huge advantage when our baby arrives. It won’t feel fair to take long stretches of time for myself on top of work hours.

 

It also provides valuable reflection time before work. The hour of steady exercise allows me to prepare mentally for the day. I work through problems and make plans for a smoother work day. I arrive at work with my metabolism fired up, wide awake, confident and alert.

Exercise and fresh air allow me to unwind and decompress on the way home. My route takes me along the historic Rideau canal and through the experimental farm. Time well spent on this scenic run. Once I’m home, work, training and personal time are all accounted for. I’m present and relaxed for my home life.

After weeks of rain, May shines colour and light on the commute. 

 

It saves money. The bus costs $3.30 a ride – $33 a week. The key is not to spend this money on food to make up for the calorie deficit of so much running! I’m not joking. You need to prepare for the added caloric burden of running so much. Buying extra food downtown every day is a real budget destroyer! Imagine it cost you $12 in gas to drive your car 11 kilometers. If your car ate bean burritos, you’d see what I’m talking about!

Run commuting builds fitness. I know this seems obvious, but it’s not only the extra mileage that is making me fitter. Because I don’t feel rushed, I’m able to keep the pace slow and steady. One of the biggest training errors runners make is to run easy days too hard. Because I’m saving time rather than spending it, I can slow it down and put in those base miles at the right pace. This leaves me refreshed and snappy for harder workouts.

If you have an interest in the benefits of run-commuting, here are five tips to get you started:

1.) Plan Ahead. You’ll have to think about what you’ll be carting to and from work. At the very least, you’ll need a change of clothes. If you are able to keep some items at work or bring your clothes for the week, this can help cut down what you have to carry.

I keep my work shoes in my office at all times.

Bring your lunch in a light Tupperware container that is well sealed! There’s nothing worse than opening your bag to find your work clothes covered in soup! I’ve been there. When it doubt, put your containers in a plastic bag for extra protection.

2.) Find the right bag. There are many options for carrying items from light race vests to large day bags. It’s worth getting something with a little extra room. It also needs to fit well and keep your items secure but not bound around too much. I’m a big fan of the Gregory Miwok 18 that I bought from MEC.

Don’t skimp. Buy a good one. It will make your commute more enjoyable. You’ll make that money back by running more!

miwok
It’s worth spending money on a good commute pack. 

3.) Take it easy! Running with a pack is its own challenge. Commute runs best serve the function of easy training volume. Running intervals or tempo workouts with a day bag swaying on your back is not the best idea.

Proper workout runs are best left as dedicated runs, not multitasked as travel.

Get to work fresh, and get home relaxed by keeping the pace slow.

4.) Stay fuelled and hydrated. If you are planning on running home, you need to make sure you are fuelling well throughout your work day. This means planning and not getting so busy that you forget to take care of your needs.

Keep water with you at all times, and eat your lunch with plenty of time to digest before heading out! You definitely don’t want to eat a big lunch at one, only to run home with a sloshing gut full of undigested food at three!

I’ve discovered that keeping dried fruits such as dates and raisins at work is the perfect backup plan. These high energy dried fruits digest fast and will top up your glycogen stores in a pinch. Keeping fuelled is the best way to maintain motivation and energy to run well and often.

5.) You don’t have to do it all the time! I admit I’m a bit of a fair-weather run commuter. The thought arriving to work dripping wet or frost-bitten doesn’t motivate me to get out the door in the morning. I’m trying to make my commute more enjoyable, not prove I’m the toughest guy out there.

Commuting one way, once or twice a week is worthwhile. I’ve committed to running when the weather cooperates. Most days I run one way and bus the other. Running both ways is 22km, which is great sometimes, but too much for every day.

Now that it’s spring, I’m considering bike commuting one way, and running the other.

There are many ways to do it. You’ll find a rhythm and frequency that works for you. Start small, and then see where you can take it!

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