When I first moved back to Houston from New York City six years ago, I was thrilled to see that my new office building was equipped with a gym and a locker room with showers. Since I also lived just a few miles away, I could finally try something I had been dreaming about as a morning exerciser for years: run commuting. I went on to run to and from work for five years during three different jobs at offices all less than 4 miles from my home.
I know, the mini-luxury of a run commute is not feasible for everyone, and it's not an everyday thing (especially when the weather is bad or when you need to haul your laptop or work documents home). But if you are considering it—if you, too, have dreams of a car-free, no-traffic, no-delayed-trains commute—then here are my top five tips to help you turn your travel to and from work into a workout.
1. Plan backward from the time you have to be at work.
I knew all that middle-school math would come in handy someday. Before I even set my alarm the night before, I would figure out the timing of my run backward.
So if my workday started at 9 a.m., and it takes me about 30 minutes to shower and get ready (low-maintenance FTW!), I'd plan to arrive and be done with my run by 8:30 a.m. If my planned route and distance normally took 45 minutes, I needed to be out the door by 7:45 a.m. From there, I'd determine when I needed to wake up, depending on how long it would take to drag myself out of bed. I personally am not a snoozer, but I do like to have my morning coffee about 30 minutes before I run, so in this schedule scenario, I would plan to wake up by 7:15 a.m.
Imagine how accomplished you'll feel sitting at your desk at 9 a.m., having already had some coffee, traveled to work, and exercised!
2. Find the best route.
Run commuting is ideal for people who normally do not drive to work and have a pedestrian-friendly way to get there. That said, the quickest route is not always the safest, especially in low light conditions of the early morning or late afternoon. Think about the distance you want to cover one way and how much time you have to do so.
If you know of an obvious option for a route that avoids major roads and highways (say, a riverside path), you should be good to go. If not, take a look at Google Maps satellite view to try to map it out yourself or check out user-generated running apps like or to see where others in the area are heading.
3. Figure out your shower situation.
If your office has an employee gym and locker room, send us some info so we can apply there too. (#goals) Kidding, but if you do, you're one of the lucky ones—take advantage of it. If not, research nearby gym options. If you don’t plan to use the gym for much else other than showering, zero in on less-expensive, no-frills gyms rather than a large chain or boutique studio.
Or, if you’re lucky enough to live in a cooler and drier climate (with Houston’s sweltering humidity, I am not so lucky), you may be able to forgo the shower altogether and freshen up with cleansing wipes and dry shampoo.
4. Stash your work clothes and non-valuables overnight.
Whether you’re leaving items in a gym locker or a locked desk drawer, you’ll want to limit the stash to just your clothes (so they don’t wrinkle or get dirty in transit) and toiletries. Play it safe with your phone, keys, and wallet, and carry those on the run, either in a small backpack or in your pocket. You can even forgo the whole wallet on run commute days and just travel with your ID and a credit card (in case you need to buy breakfast and lunch, pay for the commute back home, etc.).
5. Have a backup plan.
In case of an emergency (you forgot an essential item at home, you need to cut it short and get to work earlier, you accidentally trip and fall), can you easily catch an Uber or taxi, or quickly jump on a bus or subway? The last thing you’ll want is to end up stranded and late to work without a good explanation, so plan for the worst but hope for the best.