Evidence suggests that all those miles we log driving to and from work have deleterious effects on our health and well-being. The ills of car commuting include everything from higher blood sugar levels, higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, higher anxiety, and higher risk for depression to decreased happiness, lower life satisfaction, insomnia, loneliness, and even increased rates of divorce (BBC, Slate, Time).
But we don’t need studies to remind us how much we hate being stuck in a metal box in rush hour traffic. Let’s face it. Driving to and from work sucks. Of course it’s stressful. So why not find another way?
Let me suggest the run commute. Everyone is familiar with the bike commute—the run commute’s close cousin—and both are healthful alternatives to the stress inducing car commute. But you don’t always need a pair of wheels to get from point A to point B. Runners know this well, but how often do we apply it to our work commute?
Implementing a run commute has many advantages and benefits. You just need to overcome a few logistical hurdles to make it part of your routine.
Advantages of the run commute
Easily increase your mileage. A great way to increase your mileage is to increase the frequency of your runs. With a run commute to and from work, you can log two-a-days more frequently.
Simulate end of race fatigue. How often do you feel fresh at the end of a race? How do you train for that? Running home when you are tired after a long workday is one way to simulate that end of race fatigue.
Reduce long periods of inactivity. If you sit a lot at work—even if you are an athlete—you are a candidate for a whole host of health problems. Instead of leaving work to sit some more in the car, adding a second run at the end of the day helps break up those long periods of inactivity.
Shake off the workday stress. Stressful day at work? There’s nothing like a run to lower the stress and reenergize the body. No matter how tired and stressed you are at the end of the day, chances are you will feel immensely better with a run rather than a drive home.
Practice running with a pack. Running to work often means carrying a pack, which can be good practice if you are training for longer events—trail runs or marathons—where you need to carry water or extra clothing.
Change of clothes. Although you can conceivably bike to work in your work clothes, you probably won’t get away with that on a run commute. So you will either need to carry your work clothes with you or stash some in the office. To lighten your daily load and avoid wrinkled clothes, drive in once a week to drop off clothes and other things (like food) you might need for the week ahead.
Running pack. For the things you don’t keep stashed in the office, you will want a suitable running pack to transport items you will need on a daily basis. There are numerous running specific packs on the market that will allow you to carry a load relatively comfortably.
Shower options. If your workplace has a shower available, maybe that’s an auspicious sign you should be running to work. But if it doesn’t, it doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. If you don’t have a shower available in your office building, look for a nearby health club or recreation center that you can use.
Admittedly, implementing a run commute requires a manageable commuting distance among other favorable factors. But whatever your situation, the key is to think creatively.
Instead of run commuting both ways or every day, consider ways to work in a one-way run commute or strategically choose days when you want to add extra mileage—for example, integrate a run commute as part of your weekly long run.
And, of course, the run commute need not always be used to go to and from work; it also works well for trips to the pool or the gym. As you explore alternative transportation options to lower the stress of commuting by car, consider how you might use those options to support your training and improve your overall health and well-being.