A How-To Guide to the Run Commute

I’ve written about this before (March 2009, to be exact!), but with my recent move to Brooklyn, I’m going to revive the run commute. At my old place, I was only about 3 miles from work, so it usually made more sense to run early, shower at home, and then take the subway. Now, however, I’m about 7-8 miles from the office (depending on the route). Perfect for a morning run! That distance takes me about an hour to run whereas taking the subway would take about 45-50 minutes. By adding just a few more minutes, I can double task and get my run done! It’s not feasible to do this everyday (especially when the weather is bad), but I plan to try to run into work at least 1-2x per week. Here’s how it went down this morning:

6:30am – wake up, put on running clothes, gather my gear. Note: I’ve stopped drinking coffee before most morning runs, now I usually wait until afterward and it saves a lot of time. I may not be as peppy without coffee, but I usually get out the door much faster. I noticed that I dilly-dally too much when I sip coffee pre-run!

7:00am – hit the roads and run for about an hour. If I plan things out the day before, I’ll leave a change of clothes at my desk. However, this morning I had a doctor’s appointment, so I had to carry some clothes with me. I love using mini-drawstring backpacks for running. They key to preventing it from bouncing is to cross the straps over your shoulders – wearing it like a normal backpack will cause it to move around too much. You could also fasten the straps in the middle with a safety pin!

The weather this morning was perfect! Sunny, 65 degrees, a slight breeze, and a gorgeous view of the Brooklyn Bridge. I also listened to an episode of This American Life on my iphone. One of the things I miss most about living in NYC and not having a car is that I never listen to the radio anymore. This morning I pretended I was driving to work, listening to NPR. Wow, that sounds a little dorky.

8:01 am – I finished up my run at a gym location near my doctor’s office. I packed light so my bag wouldn’t be too heavy – top, skirt, underwear, bra, sunglasses, metrocard, ID, cash – that’s it! Luckily my gym has shampoo, towels, etc. so I can just bring the basics. If I’m running straight to the office, I usually keep a bag locked in my desk drawer, grab it, and then head straight to the nearby gym for a shower. I keep a blazer and heels at my desk (permanently), so they’re always on hand. And yes, occasionally an early arriving co-worker will catch me sprinting through the office in spandex. NBD.

If I know in advance that I’ll be running to work, I’ll try to bring 2 days worth of breakfast and lunch the day before. If I forget, I rely on my snack drawer (I always have dried plums/cranberries, Clif bars, and dark chocolate in there) and then buy my lunch.

The run commute can also be done in reverse – bring your running clothes to work, lock up your purse, and then head home by foot! That can be a great way to de-stress…

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A few weeks ago, I was contacted by about trying the new SMART STUFF variety of Marathon Bars. I tried them and they’re good! Big thumbs up to the crunchy chocolate crisp flavor. They also offered to have their sports nutritionist/RD, Jennifer Vimbor answer some Questions regarding fueling for endurance events. I know a lot of readers are gearing up for marathons, half-marathons, triathlons, and adventure races this Fall, so Jennifer answered some common nutritional concerns.

1) When training for an endurance event, do I need to focus on getting more carbs or protein? Or both?
We need both but, pre-race, focus more on carbs than protein. About 70% of our calories should come from carbs. About 2 hours before the run, go for a balance of carbs and protein.

Post-race, still go for carbs and protein in order to start replenishing the fuel used during the race. I recommend the Marathon Protein Bar. If you don’t have much of an appetite, it’s still very important to refuel with a small snack.

2) Do you have any advice on what I should eat before/during/after my long run? Ex. soon my marathon training will require 20 mile runs! That’s over 3 hours of running, eek.
Regarding eating during long distances, go for simple carbs/sugars such as gus, jelly beans and sports drinks (which are great for both fuel and electrolytes). Don’t over-do-it though as eating too much during any run can cause GI distress. Alternate the ‘fuel’ (sugar) with water.

3) Do I need special vitamins or supplements during marathon training?
Generally, I suggest eating a variety of foods and taking a multivitamin to ensure your body is getting everything it needs. When replenishing nutrients and/or just having a snack, try a Marathon Bar as it has 14-16 essential vitamins and minerals, as well as up to 21 grams of protein!

Obviously this Q&A promotes the Marathon Bar product, but I still think it’s sound advice. Full disclosure: Before receiving the free samples, I had bought the Marathon Protein Bar with my own dolla dolla bills.

It tastes like a Snickers Bar, but still has a good mix of vitamins, protein, carbs, fat, and fiber. This is a very good thing if you tend to (temporarily) lose your appetite after a tough run. I try not to eat processed bars everyday, but marathon (and half-marathon) training is a beast and sometimes it’s all about getting the calories and nutrition any way you can.

Have you ever done the run commute?

What’s your favorite sports nutrition bar (brand and flavor)? Lately I’ve been lovin’ Chocolate Almond Coconut Clif Mojo bars. New flavor!

  • Thanks for the tips! When it cools off a little I plan to start running home from work. I can’t run to work as I don’t have a gym membership (there aren’t really gyms that close by anyway) and there’s no shower at work. Running home from work will also let me take advantage of the daylight as the days get shorter (I get to leave at 3:30).

    I also never thought about crossing the straps of those backpacks – I always wondered how people managed to run with them. The bouncing would drive me insane.

  • Last winter I spent most of my runs on the office treadmill. An editor would pass me on his way to the men’s locker room and would always catch me in my booty shorts. (In my defense, I get overheated easily, so I wear as little as possible when working out. At least I wore a shirt on top of my spandex.)

    I would shower in the ladies’ locker room too, and the a colleague would catch me buck-naked three times a week. I guess I could have made an effort to cover up the goods by ducking into a restroom stall, but I was always in a rush and couldn’t take the time to be modest. After a while she got used to seeing me in my birthday suit, to the point of having conversations with me as I got dressed.

    Never thought about running to work — the office is 16.3 miles from my apartment. Maybe it could be a long run? Hmm.

  • I commute home once every other week or so, but never to work. I’m too lazy to pack stuff to shower in the gym there. The run home is 5 or 6 miles depending on my route and mainly downhill, so it’s pretty relaxing. When I commute home I leave my clothes in the office and only take the essentials in a spibelt (key, id, some money). Thanks for the drawstring bag tip. I was thinking of getting a backpack that would stay in place, but this seems more affordable.

  • i ran in prospect park this morning and was thinking, “i wonder if megan will be out here…”  alas, you had far loftier plans than my 3.5 mile loop. 🙂  whether i lived half a mile or 10, i don’t think i could ever do the run-commute – you are far less high-maintenance than i am!

  • Thanks for the drawstring backpack idea! I’ve been wanting to try the run commute for a while, but wondering what to do about phone and wallet (things I need to take home and then bring back the next day), which I wouldn’t want to run with.

  • Anonymous

    I think I’m going to run in PP tomorrow and Friday morning!! Any chance we might overlap??

  • I’ve never done a run commute, but you make it look really easy! I do really like chilling out in my apartment after running before work, but it looks like you save a ton of time doing it that way. And not to shabby a view over the BK bridge!

    I miss you in the mornings already, friend!

  • RunTheLongRoad

    I would love to be able to do that!  Not so much of an option for me.  And I would probably forget something important like a bra and would have to wear a sweaty sports bra all day 🙂

  • I’ve never run-muted (eh? doesnt really roll off the tongue), but partially because I live across the street from school (aka job). But, this post gives me ideas for residency ie join a gym near hospital (unless there is a shower in call room which is not usually and is usually gross) and run to or from work.

    The crossing straps is GENIUS – I always wondered how I could run without the backpack sack thing bouncing. I feel so enlightened.

  • oh – and my fave bar is the picky bar! I go between which flavor is my fave although they pretty much all taste the same!

  • Anonymous

    true story – during the first couple months at my current job, i went to the gym one morning and after my shower, realized i had forgot the bottom half of my suit. i had to be in the office early and no clothing stores were open, so i ended up wearing heels, a suit jacket, and nike spandex capri pants all day. funny in retrospect, but i almost had a melt-down in the locker room 🙂

  • Anonymous

    wahh, i miss you too! i have been doing all my running alone this week. 🙁

  • So jealous that you can run to work! Even when I lived close enough to work to feasibly do it, showering would’ve been an issue. It’s awesome that there’s a gym close enough to your work that you can just use theirs.

  • Anonymous

    Baby wipes and deodorant are always an option – especially in winter when there’s less sweat 🙂

  • So annoying when it hops all over the place during a run so thanks for the idea of criss crossing your bag’s straps. 

  • I’ve never done the run commute, but we do have a nurse who bikes to work (from Brooklyn!).  I live less than ten blocks from work, so a run commute would be kind of silly.  I have thought about running RIGHT after work, as it would save me twenty minutes as I walk home, change, and leave again.  Probably worth it if I’m working the next day…hmmmm, you’ve given me something to think about!

  • I love this post. I think I’m a little too high-maintenance to run-commute in the morning, but I’ve definitely done it on the way home, AND IT’S AWESOME. There’s a lot less you need to carry.

  • Props to you for the running commute! I only live 2 mi from work so it doesn’t make too much sense to run here. Ha – I totally agree that it’s strange when co-workers catch me in running clothes. It’s like when you’d run into your elementary school teacher at the mall when I was a kid, haha.
    Love This American Life! Doesn’t Ira Glass have the most soothing voice?
    My favorite nutrition bars are without a doubt Picky Bars – Lauren’s Mega Nuts flavor – hands down the best. Also a fan of ProBar’s Whole Berry Blast.

  • I have never done a run commute but I am always envious of people who do so thanks for the tips. It sounds less daunting now. Great tip about pinning the straps of the drawstring bag in front. 

  • Wow, I would have never thought to do that – I wish I didn’t live so far away from my office now. That saves a lot of time and is extremely efficient. Way to plan ahead!

  • Jessica Rhee

    I’ve never done a run commute but super useful post as I’m probably going to do a run commute next year to go home! Love that you included the crossing backpack straps then securing with safety pin.

  • I really wish I were closer to my office, because I’d SO do that. For now, I guess I’ll just take my short lunch time runs… whomp whomp

  • J (morning Runner)

    I have been wanting to do a run-mute but I just don’t have time and we don’t have showers or a gym nearby work. But soon we will because we are moving work places! YAY!! I can’t wait to try it!  Great job! Looks like fun!

  • you are so so crafty with your runs, miss megan. i saw a dude this am with the cross-hatch ghetto bag look. i get the feeling he was doing the same thing!

  • Jemma @ Celery and Cupcakes

    Lindt dark chocolate with sea salt is one of my all time faves…yum!

  • Corey

    I love the idea of saving commuting time by making it my workout, but the past 2 years at my job I never figured out how I could make it work. My gym was much closer to my apartment than it was to work. And I don’t think I would like carrying anything on my back.
    This year I’ll be at a school 2 days per week, which is only 5 miles away but by public transportation ends up taking 1 hour, so I would looove to figure out how I could make a run commute work. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people who doesn’t sweat much and could get away with no shower…so I’d have to figure that part out. But if I could, I think I’d enjoy it. It was helpful to read your routine — thanks for sharing!

  • Anonymous

    hmm, will your new school have a gym? maybe you can shower there…if not, you could always run-commute home after class and then shower in your apartment. if you don’t want to carry stuff with you, perhaps you could rent a locker at the school to stash your stuff till the next day? run commuting is such a time saver in urban environments!

  • My boss run-commutes over the Williamsburg bridge WITH HER LAPTOP. Too intense for me. 

    I’ve thought about doing it before, but I’ve always thought it was too much of a hassle to figure out the logistics. You somehow make it seem so cool and easy, though. I might just have to try it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • Ericka Andersen

    OMG I have never seen the cocounut chocolate chip Cliff  bars before — totally jealous! I wonder why I’ve never seen them?! This is a great post because I always wonder how it’s possible to get all your stuff TO work if you do it. I could definitley do this if I wanted to…thanks!

  • Eileen

    Great post! We lived in London for a while, and soooo many people ran to or from work. It’s so smart. I think more offices should have showers/locker rooms to make it easier. Here, again, it pays to be low-maintenance. I always figured that my coworkers knew I was a runner, so it shouldn’t surprise them if my hair was in a wet ponytail or my face was a little red.

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