Choosing to become a run commuter can be a life-altering decision. As we outline in our Become a Run Commuter series, one must first tell themselves that they will do it, and then begin the planning and logistics necessary to ensure success. If you already have a challenging life as it is, then throwing a run commute into the mix can be difficult – You may have to wear suits every day; your route may lack adequate public transportation; your office may lack shower facilities; you may live 20+ miles from the office, and so on. In this series, we will address some of these issues individually. First up, parenting.
Note: We realize that everyone has unique circumstances that may not fit the solutions provided in this article. We offer these only as examples of how to overcome some more common challenges.
Run or hike with a pack long enough and you may begin to notice tiny annoyances about your gear transporter that are enough to drive you crazy.
For example, your zippers may make jingling, tinkling noises with each step. The quiet, sloshing water in your bottle or hydration pack might start to sound like you’re camped next to a gushing waterfall. You may even get noticeably angry at your straps that keep swinging into your arms as you move.
Some backpacks come with pre-built solutions for all these issues, but many do not. What can you do to keep yourself sane while out on the run? We’re here with answers!
In our first Pack Hacks instructional post, we’re going to show you how to deal with excess backpack straps.
Here’s How to Do It
The No-Shower Cleanup is – for some – almost as controversial as wearing shorts over running tights, or the correct pronunciation of “gif” files (is it “JIF” or “GIF”?) So, do you scrap the morning run commute because your office lacks a shower? You shouldn’t. Here’s a detailed post on how to cool down, clean up, and smell good at the office after your run.
Note: We cover cleaning up after your morning run commute in our Getting Started series (Part 5: Sweaty to Office-Ready), but we wanted to go into a bit more detail so that you would understand – specifically – how it works.
Your cleanup routine will be easier if you have short (or no) hair
Unscented baby wipes are better than scented
Microfiber towels and washcloths seem to work better than cotton for absorption and cleaning
You will be fine without using powder at all, but it helps to absorb moisture and odors that arise during the day
You can wash your running gear in the bathroom sink after you’ve cleaned up – “camp soap” works great as a detergent.
“Hair is a woman’s crowning glory”, according to my grandma. Granted, she’s 95 years old, and we might hope that nowadays women are appreciated for more than their hair, but to an extent my nan is still right: for many women, long, flowing locks are still the go. When they’re styled-up or blow-dried they’re magic. But what about post-runcommute sweaty, frizzy, out-of-control long hair? I would hazard a guess that long hair is the reason that many females who are potential runcommuters baulk at giving it a try.
If you are just such a female — contemplating run-commuting but put off by the ‘long hair problem’– trust the women who have runcommuted before you when they say: it can be negotiated successfully.
Here is both the Good News and the Bad News from the perspective of the female no-shower runcommuter.
The Bad News:
Long hair that has been sweaty can become dry and feels disgusting for the wearer.
Due to this, you have to commit. Always fully wet your head—scalp and hair—with fresh water, no matter how inconvenient this may initially seem.
The Good News:
Once you have done this a few times (wetting your hair and scalp thoroughly) it simply becomes a part of the general run-commuting routine, and is no more of a hassle than anything else.
Shampoo is not necessary (unless you don’t use hairspray or other product on your hair, in which case you may need to use a tiny bit of shampoo just to avoid the ‘earthy’ smell of hair washed in water only).
As both Josh and Kyle suggest, have a proper shower before leaving home. This will mitigate all sweaty-hair problems somewhat.
Long hair necessitates one additional product for female no-shower run-commuting and it is…..the extra towel. In the name of successful hair management, a sufficiently absorbent, sufficiently large extra towel is the key piece of equipment. It needs to be able to absorb as much water as possible if you want your hair to be as dry as possible. It also needs to be large enough to be securely tied up. Not the same kind of miniscule stamp-sized micro-towel that might be perfect to dry your body with, as it won’t be long enough to wrap up your hair and tuck back into itself. Specific ‘towel-turban’ products exist (see below). Crucial here is pre-run practice: wrapping your hair in the towel before using it on a real life runcommute, to make sure it’s long enough.
Some specific towel-turbans:
(Click on all images to open product page in Amazon.com). This one looks chunky, but purports to do all kinds of super-technical hair-drying. Claims it is: “Super Absorbent Will Suck The Moisture Right Out Of Your Hair.” Gosh!
This one is less chunky, and it’s patterned:
You may need either one or two towels to wash and dry your body, depending on whether or not you embrace wetwipes. If you do, then you may need only one towel, probably a micro-towel such as those reviewed by Josh in his ‘Destinkify’ post, to dry your skin after you have wetwiped it. If you prefer soap and water, or plain water, you can use a face-washer sized micro-cloth and wet it to clean your skin. Then you’ll need another, probably slightly larger, towel or cloth to dry your skin.
The fluffy cotton basics (I just love the brand name of these ones!):
Some super cute ones….
And some high-tech functionality ones, which claim to remove makeup with warm water only!
Finally, the ‘cheap and cheerful’ 24-pack:
Hairspray, styling gel or mousse or other hair product
a little bit of shampoo
Whatever your usual makeup products. See ‘methods’ for further advice.
Optional Changing Robe:
This can be either a home-made job, a basic store-bought beach product, or a full-on, warmth-focused professional outdoor sports DryRobe. If you run-commute in really cold conditions, you might want to check out DryRobe’s range of robes that you can change underneath. Their robes are used by pro surfers and so on, to stay warm or when changing on a cold beach. The inside of the robe is synthetic lambs’ wool. Check it out here:
Can be anything from your soap container to a vessel you have specially designated your ‘hair washing’ container – your choice! I use a very small, soap-bar sized clip-lock tupperware container that also holds my soap. I put the soap on the basin and then use the container to wet my hair and scalp. (See pic)
You’ll need flip-flops to allow you to get out of your running shoes and socks, but without exposing your bare feet to the germ-party that is a public bathroom floor. Theoretically, you could take off your running shoes and put your work shoes on immediately, but you can’t put your clean underwear/tights on until you’ve wiped down your legs and ‘business’ areas, and it’s hard to get them over your work shoes. The issue of balancing on high-heels might also come into play if you wear heels.
Step 1. Post-run-commute: Claiming a ‘clean up’ space
Pick up your makeup/towels/flip-flops/changing robe from their storage place (See Note 1 at end).
Proceed to the bathroom.
Go into one of the toilet cubicles and hang your pack on the back of the door. (See Note 2).
Go back out to the washbasins, whilst still in your running gear, and wash/rinse your hair and scalp under the tap or by tipping water over your head from your container.
Once you have sufficiently rinsed the sweat off your scalp and hair, wrap your hair up in your ‘towel turban’.
You can now proceed back into the toilet cubicle for Step 2: Gettin’ Naked!
Step 2. Gettin’ naked! (and then washing and getting dressed again)
In the cubicle, strip off your running clothes, leaving your towel turban on.
Use your wash/dry towel to wipe your limbs, torso, and private areas down, and then to dry them. The method for this last directive changes depending on your choice of ‘washing’ equipment.
Chemical-covered wet-wipes are technically supposed to be safe to use on your ‘lady parts’, given that they are used on babies’ bottoms, which are surely some of the most sensitive skin around. However, everyone’s skin is different, and some women may find it more pleasant to stick with plain water.
If so, this may require a thinking-through of method.
The wet-wipes method:
Go back into your cubicle
Wipe down your body with wet-wipes
Dry your skin thoroughly with your dry towel.
Apply body powder if desired.
If you eschew wet-wipes, there are two methods you can adopt for the body wash:
No wet-wipes method 1:
Whilst still dressed in your running clothes, but having wet your hair and tied it up in your ‘towel turban’, wet your ‘washing’ cloth/microtowel thoroughly under the tap. Squeeze it out until most, but not all, of the water is out.
Take it back into your cubicle. Shut the door (!)
Hang the wet cloth on the hook over the top of your pack
Wash your whole body bit by bit (except your face).
Hang the wet cloth back on the hook.
Use your dry towel to dry your whole body
Exit the cubicle. Wash out your wet cloth, refresh the water it is holding, and wash your face and neck at the basin.
Dry your face and neck with your dry cloth.
Some people may feel that there is insufficient refreshing of the water in the wet cloth when using this method. For example, you may feel like you want to wash sweatier areas in a separate ‘go’. If so, the second method is the one for you.
No wet-wipes method 2: (Start off in the same way as per Method 1 up to and including “Get undressed”.)
Put on your ‘changing robe’ (take a moment to feel smug that you have a ‘changing robe’…).
Using your cloth underneath your robe, wash the sweatiest (or least sweatiest, your choice) areas on your body with the wet cloth.
Still wearing your changing robe, exit the cubicle, rinse wet cloth under tap, refresh with water, and either return to cubicle to wash remaining areas, or wash them in public, underneath your robe. Your colleagues cannot complain you are being indecent, because your nakedness is hidden under your robe!
Once washed go to cubicle, shut door,
take off changing robe so you are completely nude, and use your dry cloth/microtowel to dry off your body.
Get dressed in work clothes. At this point you should be dressed, but still wearing your towel turban on your wet hair.
You are now ready for Step 3. Hair Management.
*Remember though, if you go with the wet wipes option, throw them in the bin, don’t flush them down the toilet! See here for why (but not if you’re eating whilst reading this post).
Step 3. Hair Management
There are a few options here. The easiest is to wear your hair up for the day somehow. This reduces the need for product, though a full head of wet hair sitting there all day can feel ‘heavy’ and cold in winter or cold workplaces.
If you want to leave your hair down, you can either blow-dry some of your hair before applying product, or just apply product straight to your wet hair. (See Note 3).
Step 4. Makeup
Female-specific ‘no shower’ runcommuting is the same as runcommuting in general. It is all about planning and organisation. As with many things that require planning and organisation, the payoffs are totally worth it. Try it tomorrow.
Note 1: If you don’t have a private filing cabinet or drawer or any other place to permanently store your makeup, you may need to adopt Kyle’s ‘secret ceiling panel’ method as detailed in his ‘From Sweaty to Office-Ready’ post.
Note 2: Most toilet doors have hooks on the back. If your workplace has toilet doors without hooks, you have a problem! My advice in such a case would be to either: ask management to install them, or install one yourself, without asking.
Note 3: Some workplaces will now have those blow-driers for hands that are designed to blow upwards, from waist-height, in a narrow slot in which you lower and raise your hands to dry them “in ten seconds”. This is an unfortunate development for the long-haired female runcommuter, as it is impossible (though some have tried) to stick your head in a five-centimetre slot. Technology: always changing, often for the worse. If your workplace has invested in such machines….I have no advice. Suggestions welcome in the comments below!
Note 4: Personally, I don’t use a huge range of makeup products, so I’ve been able to adopt the method of simply buying a duplicate set of products. This may be more of a hassle for women who have an extensive or expensive set of makeup products costing hundreds of dollars. But think of it this way: you’d have to buy another set eventually anyway, for runcommuting you’ve had to buy two at the same time but they will last double the time.
Several months ago, we were asked to help put together a run commuting manual by our good friend Silvia, founder of Brazil’s number one run commuting website, Corridiaamiga. Silvia and some fellow Brazilian runners, nutritionists, and fitness leaders decided to create a booklet to explain the logistics and idea behind run commuting to those whom were interested in learning more about it. After several months of work, the manual was complete and published just in time for Silvia to present the case for Running as a Mode of Transportation to the Congress of Urban Mobility in Sao Paulo, Brazil!
The manual was originally written in Portuguese, and then translated into English. Both versions are available below, as well as under our “Become a Run Commuter” section on the website dropdown menu.
“What do you do when it rains?”
This is among the inner circle of Common Comments I receive, reigning with How Far Do You Run; Do You Shower; That’s So Impressive; and I Could Never Do That. If I might answer them in reverse order: you can do far more than you think; when you realize what you can do, that will be impressive; no shower, but I’m a clean-up ace; five miles; and, to answer the first, at the risk of sounding flip:
I get wet.
To be fair, run commuters will ask of themselves something similar: what do I do when it rains? How do I keep my gear dry, and keep from becoming an absolutely sodden mess? Let’s talk rain wear, dry bags, planning for your rainy run and soggy jogging, and how puddles and downpours can quench your thirst for adventure and joy.
As part of our 2014 effort to encourage not only run commuting, but running for a purpose (aside from fitness alone,) we want to show you all of the different useful and practical ways to run to get somewhere. Maybe it’s running to the library or running to the gym. Or, it could be running to pickup groceries.
Rats! You are three ingredients short for that new Mark Bittman recipe you saw on the New York Times website and you want to make it tonight. You live just over two miles away from the grocery store. Normally, you would drive your car for this errand, but you feel guilty because you still haven’t managed to get in your long run yet! Can you combine your long run and get groceries, too? You sure can! Here’s how:
Get dressed for your long run and plan a route that includes a stop at the grocery store somewhere during the last 1/3 or 1/4 of your run. Grab an empty backpack and strap it on. Don’t forget your wallet! Then, off you go.
Once you arrive at the grocery store, cool down outside for a few minutes before heading in. As you shop, keep in mind how many items you think your pack can carry. You don’t want to pack it full and have items left over that don’t fit.
Self-checkout works best when getting groceries on the run. This method lets pack your own bag as you see fit and allows you to fill any and all empty space in your bag.
Pack wisely: Unlike traditional backpacking which calls for heavy items up top, running with a pack requires heavier items go on the bottom. Those items will shift down to the bottom of your pack as you bounce along, creating havoc on softer, more fragile items as they move downwards, so placing them on the bottom keeps them from moving.
Use your discretion when it comes to choosing items to purchase for your grocery run. Some things do not pack and carry well, such as berries, chips (or any dry, crisp snack in a bag half-filled with air,) ground meats in thin, plastic packaging, soft plastic containers with liquid, and boxes of loose, dry pasta to name a few.
When finished, try on your full pack, make any necessary adjustments, and continue on the last leg of your run.
Don’t push yourself too hard on the way home. In this instance, I had an additional 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) of weight on my back. Go slow and make the last remaining miles count. If you feel up to it, throw in a few hills along the way to help build additional strength.
Everything held up really well during the last, hilly 2.5 miles of my run. While the pack only weighed 12 pounds, it really felt like 20. What would you do if you needed to do a heavier grocery shop with more items?
Use a jogging stroller!
Even if you don’t have kids, decent jogging strollers can be found for less than $60 on Craigslist. They carry anywhere from 50 – 100 pounds and some models even double as a bike trailer.
Combining trips is something that more people should think about whether they are driving, taking the train, walking, or running. Yes, it’s better for the environment, but it is also more efficient, and saves you time and money overall. Try adding grocery shopping to your list of Things You Can Do While Running!
No matter how you get yourself to work every morning, you have two main options when it comes to lunch – Bring it or buy it. If you are a run commuter and choose to bring your lunch, the unique circumstances of your transportation method will require a little additional planning and packing to ensure everything survives the trip without incident. And trust me – you don’t want an “incident” to happen in your pack all over your work clothes. No one wants to smell like soup all day. No one.
A note before we begin: Empty space is your worst enemy. That holds true for both within your food container and around it in your backpack. Empty space allows things to move around, bounce, and rub against other things. The elimination of said space is your goal in packing your lunch (and your pack, as well.)
Now, with that being said, here are the most common, commercially-available food transport options for the run commuter.
Hard Plastic Containers
Best Foods: Sandwiches, solid leftovers
Worst Foods: Cookies, crackers, chips
Pros: Cheap, lightweight, microwaveable
Cons: Destroys food that is packed improperly, microwaving plastic
Notes: When buying either type of this container, make sure to only get those that have tight-fitting lids.
Best Foods: Liquidy leftovers (e.g., chili)
Worst Foods: Cookies, crackers, chips
Pros: Microwaveable, plastic-alternative, long lifespan
Cons: Heavy, destroys food that is packed improperly, can break if dropped
Notes: Pack foods tightly into these containers! The hard surface will destroy foods that can bounce around inside.
Stainless Steel Containers
Best Foods: Leftovers, sandwiches
Worst Foods: Cookies, crackers, chips
Pros: Lightweight, durable, plastic-alternative, shiny
Cons: Medium-weight, destroys food that is packed improperly, not for use in dishwashers
Summary: The best lightweight plastic-alternative.
Reusable, Resealable Cloth Bags
Best Foods: Sandwiches, cookies, crackers, chips, fruit slices
Worst Foods: Soup, leftovers
Pros: Reusable, lightweight, plastic-alternative
Cons: Not airtight/watertight (may leak), hand wash only
Notes: These are a great environmentally-friendly alternative to the plastic bag.
Best Foods: Sandwiches, trail mix, crackers, cookies, chips, pretzels
Worst Foods: Soup, stews, heavy leftovers
Pros: Lightweight, semi-durable, air/space can be removed
Cons: Rubbing inside your pack can create holes in bag, short lifespan
Notes: These are your best defense against travelling food’s worst enemy – empty space. With these bags, you can push the air out and seal them, leaving virtually no space left inside for things to bounce around.
Best Foods: Pizza, sandwiches, breads
Worst Foods: Anything liquidy
Pros: Lightweight, shape-able
Cons: Tears easily, short lifespan, not microwaveable, leaks, not airtight/watertight
Notes: This is the best thing to use for carrying a couple of pieces of cold pizza or a slice or two of grandma’s banana bread.
The Thermos® or “Vacuum-Insulated Food Jar”
Worst Foods: Anything dry and/or crispy
Pros: Keeps food warm or cold for long periods of time, durable, leak-proof, long-lifespan
Cons: More expensive container on our list, not microwaveable
Notes: Ideal for liquidy lunches, however, cannot be used in microwave, so food should either be heated in the morning before putting it into the food jar, or the food jar contents should be emptied into a microwave-safe container and reheated at lunchtime.
Best Foods: Wraps, breads, sandwiches, hot dogs in buns, pizza
Worst Foods: Any foods that have a lot of liquid in them
Pros: Wraps foods tightly and securely (even more so if you add a piece of tape), inexpensive
Cons: Flimsy, easily punctures
Summary: Plastic wrap is great for wrapping oddly-shaped items.
My preferred way to transport food these days is by combining several types of container into one unit.
In this instance, I used the packaging that the crackers came in by rolling it down, and securing it with a clip (a rubber band works, too). The granola bar was left in the wrapper it came in, and the sandwich was simply wrapped in paper towel. All three items were then placed inside a long, flat, reuseable plastic container and placed inside my backpack, with the crackers at the bottom. Remember – your containers will pack more securely lying flat against your back, so place them inside strategically, with the idea that the contents will slide downward.
Additional Food Transport Tips
- Use the food’s packaging to your advantage
- Some fruits, like apples and bananas, transport fine without a container
- Wrap sandwiches in paper towel before placing them inside a container, it keeps your container clean and you have a napkin for lunch
- Soft berries, such as raspberries and blueberries, don’t travel well
- Eliminate empty space around your food and inside your pack
- If your pack has them, utilize the external compression straps to further secure your contents
- Pre-packaged food, like frozen meals or dry noodle packages, can be carried as is
We’ve been trolling through The Run Commuter archives in our Wayback Machine, seeking every tidbit possible of women-specific comments, questions, and advice. This is a comment shared by run commuter Sabby, December 2011. She readily gave the OK for us to share it, allowing, too, for us to “pretty it up” or edit as needed, as she presented it as an unstructured ramble. We are all for stream of consciousness, so we are going to let it run wild and free.
She touches on shoes and hair, but we will present up front Sabby’s most valuable takeaway, something other women run commuters have echoed: double-check that you’ve packed your bra, or keep a spare at the office. And it wasn’t until perhaps my third read-through that I understood what she meant by, “… if you still have to worry about Shark Week it’s easy enough to keep a supply of bandages at work.” This is one of the finest menstrual euphemisms I have encountered.
For readers’ ease and quick-scrolling reference, I have put into bold text those items in Sabby’s narrative that would be of most interest or specificity to a lady’s run commute. We will pull much of this together for an entry in our Become a Run Commuter page.
Now, TAKE IT AWAY, SABBY. (more…)