How to run your commute
After a winter under wraps, my running legs have been feeling twitchy in their hibernation.
The pavements and parks, previously shrouded with mist and drabness, have been glowing with spring and sunshine. And for the first time in months, a run has looked enticing rather than torturous.
Plus of course there’s nothing like signing up for a 10-mile race at the end of April – and the fear of humiliation – to get you back out pounding the streets. (Read about losing my running mojo.)
But to be fair, it’s taken me a while to work out how to squeeze in a run.
The obvious early morning and evening slots are full: I already wake up early each morning to work before my three kids are up, and in the evenings, I’m exhausted (or working on this blog).
Running to work
Recently a runner friend told me she runs to work once a week.
And I decided this was the answer – rather than standing on the Tube reading my newspaper, I should use my commuting time to get fit.
The chief problem with this theory is that I live 11-odd miles from the office where I work four days a week. But I hit upon a plan, and have been running to work once a week since mid-February.
Okay, I say ‘running to work’, but I don’t mean all the way.
By running to a station about a mile from my home, I can travel some of my journey to work by Tube. Okay, so I’m a bit out of breath and red in the face for the journey, but I just keep looking out of the window and hope no one notices. Luckily, I haven’t had time to work up much of a sweat
I then jump out at a station a good distance from my office: I started at about 3.5 miles, but by getting off the train a stop earlier or varying my route along the streets, I’m managing another 5 or 6 miles. (It’s not quite enough for that 10-mile race, which is getting ever closer, so I’m feeling rather nervous about it. Still, it’s the thought that counts.)
And there’s nothing like having to make it to your desk for the start of the day to encourage you to run just that little bit faster.
The last couple of miles of my run are through two of London’s beautiful Royal Parks, past golden daffodils and trees dotted with spring blossom.
Here’s a pic of spring blossom in St James Park as I ran past one morning.
If I’m lucky, I see the soldiers on parade near Buckingham Palace. Or possibly the royal gardeners and their lawnmowers on the Queen’s front lawn…
Once I’ve showered and am sitting at my desk with my breakfast, I feel amazing.
I think the fresh air and activity really helps me focus and increases my energy levels at work. It helps to beat that post-lunch slump too.
However, running your commute does require an extra layer of organisation the day before, plus of course some willing childcare help (thanks, DH!) so you can set off early.
Here’s what I’ve learned about running to work:
1 Invest in a set of travel-sized shower goodies
I keep moisturiser, deodorant, shampoo etc in a bag in a cupboard at work. Don’t be like me and forget a hair brush.
2. Remember to bring in some of the bulky but essential stuff the day before…
For example, your towel for the shower, the following day’s work outfit and shoes
En masse, these items are too heavy and bulky to carry when you run. I’m a bit of a chilly Milly, so I also bring an extra jacket to wear on the way home the day of my run.
4. Remember a tasty breakfast
I stash blueberries and a pot of Greek yoghurt in the work fridge the day before, plus a sachet of porridge and some seeds.
5. Invest in a specially-designed running backpack
At first, I ran very light indeed with just my phone, travel pass and office swipe, but I kept forgetting to leave in my desk drawer certain essential items, like make-up, the day before. (That was a bad day.)
I ended up buying a mini running backpack so that I could make sure I always had on me my make-up, money, my work diary and anything else I’ve forgotten. (There’s always something.)
The backpack sits quite snugly, so while I never forget that it’s there, I don’t find it too irritating.
6. Don’t forget breakfast and possibly lunch
I can also fit a plastic container of lunch and some fruit into my running backpack. But if I’ve managed to be very organised, I’ll bring them in the day before too so that there’s less to carry when I’m running.
7. Be proud
You’ve saved yourself your train fare, had some fresh air and decent exercise – and still made it to work on time. Sure beats standing around on a crowded train.