By: Matt Setlack
This article is the second in a three part series regarding my experience with the run commute. The goal of this article is to provide guidance on how to start run commuting and to provide a few tips on how to keep up the momentum with run commuting.
The series will be comprised of the following three parts:
- Part 1 - WHY do I Run Commute? (to view this previous article, please click here)
- Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute (see below)
- Part 3 - Common Run Commute Challenges and How to Overcome Them (future article)
I have been run commuting to and from work practically every weekday for the past three years. I run all year around in temperatures as cold as -45C with the windchill in the winter and as warm as +35C in the summer. From mid-October to mid-February I run to and from work in the pitch dark. My run commute is approximately 10 miles round trip.
Part 2 - HOW to Run Commute
The bottom line is that if you want to run commute, just go for it. There is no magic formula or secret method to achieve success with the run commute BUT the tips and advice that I am about to offer in this article will likely make your journey a little smoother.
A Day in the Life:
I always wake up at the very same time every morning. From the time I get up to the time I’m heading out the door, it is 35 minutes max. Sometimes I even set a second watch alarm 5 minutes before departure to ensure I will be on time. If it’s really cold outside, I like to have a warm cup of cocoa in the morning and put on a massive red North Face Himalayan parka (the ones people wear up Denali and Everest) and down slippers/booties around the house as I get ready – these things help warm up the core. Emily and I are quite "energy conscientious" and like to keep the temperature overnight cool. My run commute typically take 35-40 minutes each way. If I’m running through a foot of snow and snow drifts up to my knees, then it takes about 50-55 minutes each way. However, the city of Cold Lake and the 4 Wing Cold Lake Snow and Ice Clearing Team are phenomenal at clearing the Millennium Path quickly and efficiently. It’s the perfect setup; I couldn’t ask for anything better.
Routine is incredibly important for me. Getting into a routine makes run commuting A LOT easier. It is much more challenging to run commute (or even train consistently) when your schedule is all over the place (i.e. during vacations, courses, etc).
Breaking the Old Routine and Setting a New Routine – This is one of the first obstacles that you will have to overcome if you would like to run commute. Getting into run commuting can be challenging at first but once you get used to the new routine, it will feel natural to you and you won’t even think about it anymore. Friends often ask me if I ever think about not run commuting and the answer is: when I first started I considered it but now that I have run commuted so much, I don’t even think about it; it’s just what I do now. There’s not even a moment of indecisiveness.
Waking Up a Bit Earlier – To deal with this, I started going to bed at a fixed time every night like 10:00 or 10:30 pm so I wouldn’t be tired in the morning. Every morning (even weekends), my alarm goes off at the same time. I have done it so many times now that I tend to wake up at the same time every morning even without an alarm.
Going to Bed Late – If you stay up until 2 am and expect to wake up at 6 am to start the run commute, chances are you will be too tired to run commute and will fall back to your old ways of driving a vehicle to work.
Be Prepared – This is a big one. Physically lay out you running clothes next to your bed the night before so you will see them first thing in the morning. Jump out of bed and straight into your running clothes. Some people prepare their lunch the night before but I like to prepare it in the morning so that the vegetables are freshly sliced.
If you want to be successful with the run commute, I personally find that it’s much easier to just do it every day rather than starting then stopping then starting again. Remember Newton’s First Law, an object at rest tends to stay at rest and vice versa.
However, if you are brand new to run commuting, consider the following options:
- I would strongly recommend that you start with bicycle commuting in the summer. It is faster, easier, and you can even wear your work clothes if you like as you probably won't break a sweat. Once you get comfortable bicycle commuting, then you could gradually transition into run commuting.
- If you decide to jump right into run commuting, then consider asking a friend/co-worker to drive you to work Monday morning with all your heavy work clothes in a bag and you wearing your running clothes. You can then run home Monday afternoon and to/from work every day. At the end of the week, ask your friend to pick you up on Friday afternoon.
- Consider alternating run commuting days with drive commuting days. That way you only need to run commute two or three times per week.
WHAT TO WEAR
Thermoregulation - This is a big one. The weather in Cold Lake is constantly changing. It is not unusual for the temperature to be -10C in the morning and +10C in the afternoon. To deal with this, I check the Environment Canada website every morning (and evening) before I start running and dress accordingly. I always use the same website so it is consistent as different weather websites show different temperatures. Generally, I account for headwinds and tailwinds (wind chill factor can make a big difference in the winter).
Good Quality Running Clothing – If you buy quality running clothing once, you will have it for years; it is also good for the environment. Ronhill and Running Room make fantastic running clothes for running all year around. Stay away from cotton! A few years ago, I did a complete cleaning of the house and I put all of my cotton clothing in a box and donated it to the Bee Hive Thrift Shop and Orbiting Trends second hand store. I NEVER wear cotton socks (that is asking for blisters) or any type of cotton clothing.
WHAT TO CARRY
Carry as Little as Possible - I pack my Ronhill Commuter Xero 10L + 5L Vest running backpack in the morning and ensure it is as light as possible. The only thing I bring in it is my lunch for that day and a spare change of underwear and socks, identification, and an extra tuque and mitts. Depending on what the weather is like, I will bring a spare t-shirt or long sleeve shirt in case the weather warms up/cools off.
Leave Work Clothes at Work – This is another big one. Only bring your work clothes (not your footwear) home when the clothes need to be washed. You can even bring a few sets of work clothes to work at the start of the week. Lugging your work clothes and heavy steel toed work boots (aka: leg weights) to and from work every day will make you very discouraged very quickly. You are unnecessarily burdening yourself by carrying extra weight. Don’t punish yourself by doing this. Be as lightweight as possible. Light is Right!
Dry Your Running Clothes at Work – This is not essential because you could always bring a spare change of running clothes in your bag but it is really nice to have as you don’t have to carry unnecessary weight.
I hope you have found these guidelines for run commuting helpful. Run commuting is a very enjoyable activity. The hardest part is getting started and getting into a good routine. Once you have done that, then it becomes easier and easier every day. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Stay tuned for Part 3 – Common Run Commute Challenges