So you’ve made the decision to start running to work, fantastic! This is the start of a new path to change and improve your life. RunnersWorld gives six benefits of running that improve your health which is backed up by a wealth of medical research. Running to work is a great way of maintaining your running fitness and losing weight. I’ve compiled a list tips to help you get started in your journey to work, literally! Please leave any comments below, share your own tips in the comments below and we might add them to this list.
Running to Work Tips
For ease, we’ve split the list into specific sections:
- What’s Your Motivation?
- Getting the right kit.
- Preparing for the first time.
- What to carry?
- Getting to work.
What’s your motivation?
1. Why Run to Work.
Perhaps the first and most important tip is to figure out why you want to run to work. What is your motivation? Is it to get fit, train to enter a race or just lose some weight. Mentally you need to make running to work a life change rather than something you will just do for a few weeks.
Having some kind of goal will help tremendously before you start. It might be helpful to write this down as some kind of target. This definitely helped me when started as I wanted to get down to a certain weight so I was able to run quicker for a half marathon event I had entered myself into. Perhaps you could enter an event to challenge yourself?
There are plenty of free apps for most phones (both IOS and Android) including Strava, RunKeeper or MapMyRun. All of these apps will help you to track your progress over time and motivate you more. I especially like the social angle of Strava, which allows you to get competitive with your friends over running speed and distance.
There are paid versions of these apps as well which offer more detail and analysis plus expert training plans.
3. Develop running routines and habits.
Consider that you have set some goals from point 1. There will be many bumps along the road in achieving those goals. You might get injured or your resolve weakens that Monday morning when it is pouring with rain.
If your goal was to lose X amount of weight then you should consider breaking this down in to smaller manageable targets. Losing the full amount could seem insurmountable at the start to give yourself mini-goals along the way. That way if you miss a day or too, you’ll still feel the motivation to get back out there.
If you’re struggling for ideas on goals, this post might help give you some ideas.
Getting the right kit
4. Buy a decent pair of running shoes.
…and I mean decent! I’ve been there and got the t-shirt trying to run with cheap shoes that don’t offer the correct support.You will fall into one of three categories, over-pronation, neutral or under-pronation. This is all to do with how your foot moves as you land to absorb the impact. Runnersworld has a great article on explaining each of the three as it goes beyond the scope of this post.
In my humble opinion I advise having Gait Analysis at your local running shop. This will help you buy a pair of running shoes suited to your form which should prevent future injuries. This certainly helped me find a pair of running shoes I was comfortable with.
5. Buy a decent running backpack.One of the most important pieces of kit you will need to invest in is a running backpack or rucksack (as we call them here in the UK!). First of all you will need to consider points 17-20 below to understand exactly what kit you’ll need to carry. This will different for every running commuter.
The backpack you choose needs to have decent straps and a waist band to increase stability. Do you need to carry equipment to work such as a laptop or iPad. Be sure to buy a bag that has the capacity for this as some of the smaller running backpacks don’t.
There are some backpacks which are made specifically for running (or cycling). You will want to look for one which has good padded shoulder straps, a chest strap and hip strap. All of these things combined will help to minimise the amount of jiggling around that happens when you’re running.
6. Buy more running kitAnd then go and buy some more! You’ll find as you get bitten by the running bug that you’ll want to invest in more running kit. From a practical point of view, if you’re going to run to work five days a week then you will need to think about having enough kit to last each day. In reality you may find yourself also running at weekends too so the more t-shirts, tights and shorts the better.
If you regularly participate in running events, you’ll start to accumulate race tops which are always good for using on your daily commute. These have the added benefit of advertising your running prowess to passers by. This does no end of good for your ego!
You should invest in a pair of warm running tights as well to ensure that you have something to keep you warm if certain mornings turn out to be chilly.
7. Invest in a running watch.Ok this might not be the first thing you want to invest in but it would certainly be a useful addition as you get more experienced at running. If you are a regular runner and are just starting to run to work you may already own one.
One of the problem of running with just an app on your phone is the lack of ‘to-hand’ information. Most modern running watches use GPS and will give you up to the second information on speed and time. Adding a heart rate monitor also lets you know how are you’re working.
Popular brands of running watch include Garmin, Polar and Fitbit. All have their respective advantages and disadvantages and it’s certainly worth doing more research into the one which best suits your needs.
Preparing for the first time
8. Scope out the best route to work.
So you’re ready to go, all of your equipment is in the bag. It is worth using a tool like Map My Run to work out which will be your most ideal route to run. In many cases this will be the route of shortest distance at first, but consider how busy the route is.
If you work in a major city or near to any major transport hubs it might be worth trying to navigate along side streets rather than the main roads. The advantage of this you’ll have less people to avoid as you run. You may also find that you have to stop less at major run junctions.
Another piece of useful advice is to chose a route with wide pavements to help so you’re not fighting your way through hoards of people.
9. Pick the right day to start
Trying to start running to work on days where you’ve been drinking the night before or had a particularly heavy meal will no lead to discomfort during the run. This is turn is unlikely to make the run enjoyable and more likely to stop you from doing it again.
Try to also pick a day when you know the weather will be favourable, you’re more likely to actually run!
10. Practise with a dummy run
It is worth running the route to your workplace one weekend before you actually do it for real. This is good for a couple of reasons. Firstly, It avoids having to clean yourself up in the workplace so there is no need to carry your back full of gear.
Secondly, unless you plan on getting the bus home again, you’re going to effectively run the route there and back so your confidence will be high safe in the knowledge you can actually achieve the distance.
11. Just run one way in the beginning
If the thought of having to run there and back puts you off, you could always opt to only run one way. If you don’t fancy having to tidy yourself up when you get to work then the obvious choice would be to run home from work.
The added bonus here is that you don’t need to worry about sweaty running gear in the office and you can just throw your work shirt into your running back pack and not worry about it getting creased.
12. Look for scenic routes
Look for routes which take you along footpaths or trails where there is less traffic. Perhaps there is a route through a wood, local park or along a river which won’t involve navigating as much traffic. Running these routes can be a wonderful experience and highly energising first thing in a morning.
At some point you will want to vary your route and with increased fitness you should attempt to run further. Often it is hardest just to get your running kit on and make it out of the door on a cold morning, so why not extend that 5km route to 7km to maximise the opportunity each day while running to work.
14. Fuel your run to work
It might be tempting to not eat before your early morning run to work, but this will easily deplete your energy reserves. This leaves you feeling flat when you arrive or worst still causes you to stop on the way as your glycogen reserves are depleted. This is also known as hitting the ‘wall’.
Having experienced this a couple of times, it is not recommended!!!
In an ideal world you should eat at least two hours before your run according to advice from the campaign group Run2work. This would usually involve some healthy carbohydrate-rich foods such as porridge, granola, pancakes, eggs, wholegrain toast or muffins, fruit or fruit smoothie, nuts, cottage cheese, low fat yoghurt.
If you’re anything like us though you won’t have two hours to wait before needing to leave so you have two options.
- Eat a carbohydrate-heavy meal the night before, things like pasta, rice or potatoes or;
- Try eating a small, light snack first thing which is full of quick releasing energy. Things like fruit, nuts or a shake. My personal favourite is a banana!
15. Make a playlist
We love nothing better that a good playlist to motivate our running even more, but there is clear pros and cons of running to music. There are those that suggest music can motivate you to run faster or to a consistent pace.
There is also an argument that having headphones puts you at risk of not being alerted to potential dangerous situations like traffic.
If you’re unsure which way to go on this, further research has shown that even listening to music before and after a run can help improve performance.
I’ll let you make your own mind up, but run safely.
16. When things go wrong (don’t panic!)
When picking the route you will take it is worth considering what you might do if the worst happens. If you turn your ankle over a kerb or simply hit the ‘wall’ how will you continue on your journey to either work or home.
For the first few weeks of running to work you may want to consider running along a transport route (bus or train) so that if the worst does happen you will still be able to make it into work in time.
It probably goes without saying that it is always important to carry a small amount of cash with you running. This can be very handy for an emergency bus ticket of stopping to refuel.
What to carry?
17. Minimise what you carryThe first thing to consider is what you will be able to carry and what you can leave at work. The plan here is to leave as much at work as possible!
This will very much depend on the dress code at your place of work. If you are required to wear a smart suit to work, it is worth leaving the suit and smart shoes there and simply take a fresh shirt with you in your backpack.
Your other option here is to consider taking a week’s worth of clothes to the office on say Monday using regular transport and then run to work the other four days.
Backpacks around 15 litres will carry a fresh shirt, a small coat and an iPad. You might squeeze a small laptop into it as well, but it worth checking.
18. Pack a couple of plastic bags
You will inevitably have to run in the rain at some point so it is important to be prepared. Even the sunniest morning can turn into a heavy downpour so never be fooled!
Many running back packs do come with a rain cover concealed in a lower pocket, but we advise to air on the side of caution and also wrap all of the clothes you need for work inside one of the plastic bags.
You can just use those plastic bags that you get at the supermarket, but if you want extra piece of mind, consider one of the Waterproof Dry Bags as shown on the right
The second plastic bag is for your running kit when you get to work, if you’re not planning to run home (see point 25 below).
19. Buy a good waterproof
As mentioned above, you never quite know what the weather will throw at you so it is important to carry a waterproof jacket in your backpack. Ideally you one that packs down into a small space, especially if you decided to buy a back pack with a smaller capacity.
Some of the features you need to look for in a good water proof jacket include:
- Breathability (lets moisture out so you sweat less)
- Vents to all air flow around your body
- Slim cut around your body
- Mesh lining to prevent the jacket from sticking to your skin.
Below are some suggestions for both men and women:
One of the top mens running jackets is the Mountain Warehouse Adrenaline Mens Iso-Viz Running Reflective Jacket:
For a cheaper men’s option consider looking this jacket from Time to Run
Best womens option:
For a cheaper womens option:
You might think that running only a short distance you wouldn’t need to take a drink, but it is certainly worth while having a bottle of fluid in your back pack. This doesn’t mean a full bladder hydration system, although by all means try one.
For starting off however a simple round water bottle should suffice and most running back packs include mesh pockets on either side which are perfect for securing these.
If you’re the just starting out in your running adventure you will certainly be glad of a drink when you arrive at work so it’s good to have one to hand with you.
To go once step further, consider mixing in an electrolyte tablet which helps reduce muscle fatigue and cramping. Runner Connect have written a very thorough article on electrolytes if you want more information.
Getting to work
21. Find a storage place at work
You’re going to need find somewhere at your workplace to store a range of refreshing wipes and sprays to get you feeling fresh after your morning run.
This could be an office drawer or filling cabinet. If you’re really lucky your workplace will have lockers and showers. In my experience this still isn’t commonplace enough, maybe one day employers will catch on to the benefits of healthy employees…
22. Stock up the toiletries at work
If your workplace doesn’t have showers then you need alternative means to dry off and freshen up otherwise your work colleague will no doubt start to make comments about the smell! There is no getting away from the fact that people with short or no hair have a distinct advantage at this point.
Things to keep at work:
- Deodrant spray
- Shampoo / Dry shampoo
- Scent-free baby wipes
- Small jug
- Hair products (wax or gel etc)
A quick note on the dry shampoo. This is totally a personal preference and definitely worth testing out before you actually use it at work. Some people sweat by it and some swear against it!
23. Use the disabled toilet to freshen up
Nearly all workplaces will have some kind of disabled toilet. The great thing for a commuter runner needing to freshen up is that these are single occupancy, have a larger floor space and provide more privacy to wash yourself and get changed.
Fill the basin in the toilet with hot water and proceed to wash your face, neck and ears thoroughly. Depending on gender you can then wash the rest of your body as best you can, removing as much sweat as possible.
Use the water jug just to pour water over your head if you prefer to use traditional shampoo, or apply the dry wash shampoo if applicable.
Dry yourself off with the towl and apply deodorant and foot powder before getting dressed.
24. Have a shower before you leave
While this tip might seem counterintuitive as you’re about to go on a sweaty run but it will wash away any sweat or smells accumulated from the previous day and over night.
25. Use clothes spray to freshen up your running gear
Make sure you have a bottle of clothes freshener in your work storage drawer. If you plan to run to work and back again you will need to dry and freshen your running clothes.
Hopefully your workplace has radiators where you can leave the clothes to dry, but this will only serve to annoy your work colleague with the smell. A quick spray with something like Febreze Lavender & Camomile Fabric Refresher 500ml will do wonders to dampen the odours as your clothes dry. Give them another spray halfway through the day and you’ll have dry and fresh running gear to put back on for the home run.
So there you have it, 25 tips and ideas to help you get running to work, I hope this inspires you to take up running to work.
Here at The Running Thing I’m keen to hear from you so please leave a comment below with your own experiences of running to work. I might even add them to this list in a future update!