Run-Commuting Tips From a Pro: How to Run to Work This Friday (And Every Day!)

Take note of these tips as you prep for this Friday's #RuntoWorkPHL.

This post was originally published on September 21st, 2015, after the second annual #RuntoWorkPHL. As you prepare for this year’s Run to Work Day, coming up this Friday, September 16th, these run-commuting tips, courtesy of a run-commuting pro, are sure to come in handy. You find details for this year’s #RuntoWorkPHL here

On Friday morning, the Philadelphia running community rose to the challenge to run to work. We skipped our regular commutes and instead pounded the pavement, snapping sweaty selfies along the way and rolling up to our office buildings with a slightly funky smell. It was glorious, right? For the rest of the day, we all had a runner’s high, happy that we were able to fit in a morning workout and skip whatever dreadful commute we normally have to endure. I bet you found yourself wondering, “Why can’t every day be like this?” I’m here to tell you it can!

Run commuting is a great habit that can really jumpstart your day: It provides health benefits, keeps you on your training schedule and can even save you money. A few months back, I started run commuting two to three times each week, and I now I’m hooked. It all started for me when I found out about some woefully underutilized private-shower bathrooms on the floor above mine at the office. The very day I learned about the showers, I was already making a mental to-do list to start my run-commute habit. Because why not? I would normally run in the morning around my neighborhood, get ready at home, and then commute to work. Now I am skipping a step — arguably, the worst one — and enjoying my commute so much more.

Over the past few months, I’ve learned a few things about how to make run-commuting work (even if you don’t have shower access). I hope you can use these tips to turn #RuntoWorkPHL into a regular occurrence.

1. Stash your clothes.
Plant your change of clothes at your office a day or two ahead of your run to work days. Provided you have a little bit of storage space, you can bring one outfit at a time or bring in two to three outfits on Monday morning during your regular commute so you’re prepared for the week. A typical stash includes a clean outfit, undergarments (don’t forget a change of bra/underwear/socks if you need them!), a belt, tie and shoes. When I first started run-commuting, I found that shoes were my most frequently forgotten item, so now I have a pair of desk shoes that I leave in my office all the time. If you don’t have anywhere to stash clothes, you can invest in a nice quality running backpack, or simply carry some clothes in a small drawstring backpack. You can prevent the latter from bouncing by crossing the straps over your shoulders (wearing it like a normal backpack will cause it to move around too much). You can also secure the straps in the middle of your body with a safety pin.

2. Build a shower basket.
If you’re lucky enough to have a shower inside your building, you have hit the run commute jackpot. Stash a small mesh basket at your workspace with some shampoo, soap, lotion, extra hair elastics, a comb and shower sandals. Don’t forget a few towels! It’s a good idea to bring a towel to work for every change of clothes. Don’t have a shower? No sweat! You can easily gather everything you need for a “bird bath” style clean-up: deodorant, baby wipes, foot powder, scented dry shampoo spray, and lotion go a lot further than you might think. The key here would be to shower when you wake up or the night before, run to work, then give yourself a once-over with some travel supplies. It really works! I have found that the weather cooling off is making an actual shower less necessary than it was in July, so I think you could get by with the bird bath.

3. Plan your return trip.
Those of us who normally take SEPTA to and from work will want to stash our SEPTA pass or token in a pocket or pouch along with photo ID and an entry badge for your office, if you need one. You’ll probably also want to take along your house keys. I take my stinky running clothes and towel on the return trip home on the train. (You’re welcome, fellow riders!) I have a few tote bags stashed in my desk now, because I usually end up with lots of clothes and towels to take home with me.

4. BYOB: Bring your own breakfast.
If you know in advance you’ll be running to work, chances are you’re going to roll up to your office the day before with clothes, shoes, a towel and shower supplies. What’s one more item? Bring your breakfast or lunch (or both!) with you to stash in your desk or office fridge. You can ensure you have the perfect post-run nutrition for your needs if you plan ahead and bring it with you. A typical breakfast for me on the day of my run commute is protein cereal, almond milk and berries. The berries keep well in a larger Tupperware container that eventually becomes a cereal bowl. I bring the cereal, like Kashi Go Lean, in a Ziploc baggie. I keep the almond milk in a small Mason jar. All of these things store well in my office fridge and desk without taking up much room. After getting cleaned up post-run, I add the cereal to the berries and pour over the almond milk. Yogurt and granola would also work well, and so would instant oatmeal. For lunch you can layer a salad in a large Mason jar with the dressing on the bottom, pack a sandwich, or pop some hummus and veggies in the fridge. Anything you can transport from home that keeps for a day or more will work!

5. Do it in reverse!
Can’t run to work? Seems like too much hassle? Run home! If you take public transit or carpool, it’s sometimes easier to reverse the run commute. All you need to bring with you in the morning is running clothes and sneakers. Don’t forget to take your transit card so you can get back to work the next day and your keys to get in your door. This can be an excellent way to decompress at the end of a long day … or really work up a thirst for happy hour.

The key to run commuting is to become sort of a MacGyver of the workplace. Clean out an entire filing cabinet drawer at your desk to use like a dresser drawer. You don’t really need all those old files, right? Or you can make space on a shelf in a bookcase. Don’t want your boss to see? Hide your supplies behind some boring books.

If you have a larger backpack, you can transport two to three days of clothes, breakfasts, lunches and towels early in the week to set yourself up for success. In the winter, I may seriously consider arriving to work on Monday morning with a small rolling suitcase as the weather cools off and my clothes become thicker.

All it takes is a little planning and some determination. You’ll be a #RunToWorkPHL regular in no time.


LeeAnne Mullins is a proud member of the Philadelphia running community, who enjoys exploring the vibrant food scene in Philadelphia, cooking, catching a live show from a great band, or planning her next world adventure. LeeAnne dreams of spending her next milestone birthday in Antarctica.

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