How to Arrive at Work Wrinkle- and Stain-Free

How do I keep my work clothes from getting wrinkled is a question I have been asked a lot regarding run commuting.  Each run commuter carries different items to and from work depending on their access to showers or enough storage at work (e.g., TRC posts: Josh & Kyle).  In this blog post, I’d like to share with readers my technique for making it to my work cubical without looking like I ran in.

Each day, I carry my work clothes, heels, undergarments and, often, lunch to work in my backpack.  The solution to keeping my clothes wrinkle- and lunch-free is a combination of laundry garment bags and an extra plastic bag around the food container.  Laundry garment bags are light-weight cloth bags used to protect delicate items in the wash. They are inexpensive and can be purchased in almost every super market near the laundry detergent.  An alternative to the garment bags would be to use other cloth or plastic bags.

wrinkle-free clothes
My work attire typically includes dry-cleaned slacks, work top, cardigan, undergarments, and a pair of shoes.  The clothes packing process follows this order, as pictured:

step 1 – obtain laundry garment bags

step 2 – lay out clothes

step 3 – roll clothes up like a stromboli (e.g., Kyle’s TRC post)

step 4 – wrap the clothes roll in the garment bag

I have even carried a suit jacket using this method and arrived at meetings wrinkle-free.  Rolling the clothes and placing them in a garment bag helps to give the clothes more strength and form, so they do not crumple in the backpack.  Additionally, the garment bag adds a bit of protection from spills in the backpack if you’re carrying toiletries, food, or from an unexpected rain soaking.

Shoes don’t really wrinkle, but I still place them in a shoe bag.  The bag was free and protects the shoes from potential spills and protects my clothes and lunch from my dirty shoes.

lunch-free clothes
Pick a sturdy container to put the food in, wrap it up in an extra plastic bag, and place it at the bottom of your backpack.  If the container spills, gravity will help the food stay away from your clothes.  If the container is on top, gravity will do everything to get the food all over your clothes.
Yes, this is soup.  I have successfully run commuted with soup in my pack.

final stages
This is what my daily backpack load looks like:

All my shower needs are pre-staged at work, so I shower and pull myself all together.  Here’s the final product, at work and wrinkle-free:

Taking this photo was the most difficult part of this blog post.  It was hard for me to look at the mirror and click the button at the same time, so hard in fact, I forgot to smile!  Here’s what you missed:   :D

I hope this post helps a few ladies and gents stay stylish at work without sacrificing sportiness during their commute.

Cleaning Your Running Clothes and Gear

Start run commuting on a regular basis and you’ll quickly learn two things about your clothing: 1) You don’t have enough; or 2) You’re doing laundry every other night. If you don’t have the money to sink into multiple sets of running clothes, then hopefully you are doing your laundry in a way that extends the life of the fabric to the maximum extent. In this brief post, I’ll show you how to take care of your technical fabrics and equipment.

Fabric Types

If you’ve been running races over the past 10 years, you will have likely noticed an overwhelming trend in race shirts moving away from cotton to technical fabrics. Pre-2005, cotton was king. Now, I would say about 90% of the races I’ve run over the past few years have all given out tech shirts at the finish line. Why the switch?

Technical fabrics have several advantages over cotton – They are more breathable, more durable, dry faster, and, in most cases, fight bacteria and odor much better. I say most cases because I have found that this type of gear becomes particularly stinky after running during rainstorms in the city.  They take on a new level of funk of which George Clinton would be proud.

Wool is another cotton-alternative that runners, like TRC’s own Kyle T., swear by (and at sometimes). Wool has similar advantages as technical fabrics and, when surveyed recently, 9 out of 10 sheep preferred it over cotton.  So there you have it…

Cotton has been around for a long time. A lot of runners simply prefer the feel of cotton over anything else. The main thing I dislike about cotton is that it gets heavy when wet. Also, it has a higher chafe factor.

Note: The methods described below are what I have been using for years and generally accepted for use on technical clothing. Be sure to check your tags first to make sure you are doing the right thing. I don’t want to be responsible for ruining your new ultra-breathable, eco-friendly shirt made from the fur of 1,000 Peruvian hamsters (sustainably harvested, no doubt). (more…)

By | 2016-12-24T10:24:19+00:00 February 17th, 2012|Categories: Gear, How To|Tags: , , , , |7 Comments

Roll away your wrinkles

It occurred to me as I titled this post that you, dear reader, will now see banner ads wherever Internaut takes you, proclaiming Housewife in East Cupcake finds miracle trick to smooth her face! and Follow this one simple rule to avoid crows’ feet! and so forth. But I write not of laugh lines and the folds in one’s turkey neck, but of slacks and shirts: jamming them in your backpack and arriving wrinkle-free (well … wrinkle-light) at work.

In short: roll them. To begin, make a few folds, as shown in the photograph below. Keep your slacks/pants/khakis/trousers/dungarees/skirts (no jeggings) flat as can be; fold them in half lengthwise, along the crotch/crack axis, then in half horizontally, at the knees. Fold the sleeves back on your dress shirts. If you don’t know how to fold a shirt, follow these instructions. Leave the collar folded up, as pictured below; however, you will want your shirt lying on its face. Smooth any small wrinkles or blips from your garments.

A few folds gets you ready to roll.

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By | 2016-10-22T20:26:50+00:00 February 15th, 2012|Categories: How To|Tags: , , , , |4 Comments

Drying soggy A.M. gear for the P.M. commute home

Reader and new run commuter Eric asks a very good question:

[M]ight you add where you store your wet running clothes during the day? I mean, they have to get dry before the pm commute, right?”

Technically, no: they do not have to dry before the return home. I will impinge on no person’s prerogative to ball up sweat-soaked clothing in an IKEA bag, shove it in a filing cabinet, then don the clammy bundle eight hours later to endure a mildew-scented run home. No! Such freedoms are what made America great.

Not my cup of tea, though. While I will neither impinge upon nor impugn the right so stated above, I will talk wrinkle my nose before turning it up, and then talk trash. C’mon: gross. So I take great care to dry everything out before my p.m. run, and do so in as clandestine a manner as possible. Surprisingly, no one here has ever asked me how I dry my clothes. They must assume I am one of two things: awesome or disgusting. Perhaps both. Regardless, should they step behind my desk, they would see this beneath it:

Sub-rosa sub-desk drying

My clothing is drying, or a homeless man was Raptured.

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By | 2016-10-22T20:26:50+00:00 January 31st, 2012|Categories: How To|Tags: , , , |10 Comments

Getting Started – Part 5: From Sweaty to Office Ready

We have enjoyed great interest and discussion since we began this endeavor, but we truly knew we were going somewhere when we got our first public criticism. Rather, I should say our first public concern: hygiene; more specifically, co-workers’ exposure to our assuredly horrendous hygiene. One Reddit reader voiced it thus:

“Anyone who would run commute to their office without showering before they begin work is an inconsiderate ass hole. You think your coworkers want to smell your sweaty crotch all day long? … Yeah, that’s usually the kind of attitude ‘that guy’ has about his poor hygiene.”

First off, asshole is one word. More over: I am about the sweatiest runner you could find; in anything over 70 degrees, you are likely to hear my shoes squish as my mileage climbs into the teens; yet I am also very finicky about my grooming, and I assure you, dear readers, no co-worker nor compatriot has ever had a whiff of my tender bits. I will explain how you can run to work, even in the height of Atlanta’s sweltering summer months (all eight of them), yet still achieve a rosy glow and pleasing scent around the office.

NOTE: Some will certainly say this is gender biased toward men, for whom hasty grooming might be considered easier. As with bicycling, we have heard concerns from ladies of their hair becoming a fright. I let my tumbleweed hair grow 14 months, 11 of them in 2011. I hear you on the hair; I will give the best advice I can. If any female run commuters have ought advice to add, fire away!

 1. Start your day with a shower
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; showering is a crucial aspect of your morning ritual, too, especially if you seek to stanch the lurking workplace crotch-scent some purport to fear. Ready as you normally do. Gentlemen, shave what you want or must. Put on deodorant and lotion. Brush your teeth. Comb your hair. Stand up straight. Smile.

As my hair increased in volume (better measured thus than in length, curly as it is), especially in humid summer, I wore a hat. I hate wearing hats but I must admit this helped. My hair was sweaty but it remained tangle-free. (It also reduced my wind resistance.)

2. Planning is everything: gather your goods
Before you set out from home, know what you need for the day, and know that you have it. I typically gather everything on our bed, then view my accrued items as I mentally dress myself and plot my day’s events: socks; underpants; trousers; undershirt; shirt; belt; sweater (December and January); lunch box; BlackBerry; notebook; camera; and so forth. Then go over it again as you pack your bag.

This is the most crucial part of the process. I have several times neglected to bring a belt, or socks, and a few times my lunch. The belt is the only thing that aggravates me. You will find it difficult to maintain a professional demeanor when you are manually holding up your pants.

Stoke 19 Contents - Smaller


3. Leave or keep at the office whatever you are able
Just as there is little need to daily haul dress shoes to and from work (I keep two pairs of shoes under my desk: black oxfords and saddle oxfords), it is not always necessary to pack your dress clothes in and out. It will lighten your load, and also leave you with room enough to cart home, say, a 5-pound box of strawberries you obtained from the fruit vendor outside your office, which you can then in turn present to your sweetheart. (This happened.)

On a day I bicycle to work, I might bring several clean pairs of pants and shirts along. I always wear undershirts, so I can get two wears out of each shirt, and about as many from the pants. I keep most of my ties at work. Find an empty drawer in your desk, a filing cabinet, or some abandoned cubicle; use it like a dresser drawer.

I could really use some more blue or purple shirts.

(Again, ladies, I am sorry: this is gentleman-specific advice. Your ways are truly a mystery to me and I have little idea how to transport dresses or wrinkle-sensitive garments, or outfit-specific shoes. Perhaps plan an outfit well in advance, specifically for run commute days; haul those in.)

NOTE: I keep two pairs of emergency socks at the office. I have learned over the last year or so that I am most likely to forget socks, if I forget anything. Black, gray, or zany argyle are my choices.

4. Shower if one is available; if not, take a bird bath
This is the crucial step toward avoiding stink. I now employ the term “bird bath” rather than “whore’s bath,” as the latter earned some quizzical looks from a few co-workers. Turns out I hadn’t offended them in explaining my methods; they thought I had said “horror bath” (syllables and consonants are subject to wide interpretation in Georgia), but I still wish to avoid giving offense, in sense and scents.

You can easily obtain everything you need for a quick clean-up: soap; deodorant; shampoo; comb; baby wipes; foot powder; lotion. Look in the travel/sample section of your favorite grocery or department store. Check, too, for a little bag in which to keep them; stash that in your filing-turned-dresser drawer.

All signs point to spring-time freshness.

Except in the sweatiest of months, I typically eschew the full-on sink bathing experience, instead washing my face, neck, and behind my ears (the salt really gathers there), and wetting and resetting my hair. I do these in the single-occupant, lockable restroom down the hall; however, I have at times tended to superficial clean-up in shared-access restrooms. My curly (wavy when short) hair pretty much takes care of itself. Most days, typically fall through spring, I simply tend to salt- and scent-sensitive areas with baby wipes. After a great deal of field testing, I find Huggies wipes to be supreme.

Put it all together, and you can go from something like this:


… to something like this:

If you can take a better self-portrait of a 6’4″ man when the tallest object in your office is 4 feet tall, I would like to hear how.

(No need for you to look surly, though, and I am very peppy; however, Josh mandated that we never smile, and I abide by it.)

5. Practice makes perfect
When changing your commute to bike or foot, you should one weekend plot and time your route to work. Too, I encourage you to practice readying after returning home from a weekend run. This will give you a sense of how long it might take you, what items you will need in order to complete your transformation, and the general process through which specifically you must go; you will be able to tailor this advice to your routine.

6. If you lack a private office, share a work space, or lack storage
Many offices have drop ceilings. Find a remote panel, possibly in a lockable bathroom or above a stall, perhaps even in a closet, and stash your kit up there. I have done this and it works. I got the idea from Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash.

7. If you remain concerned about stinking:

 

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:51+00:00 December 29th, 2011|Categories: How To, BecomingARunCommuter|Tags: , , , , , |27 Comments

Technique: Keeping Your Shoelaces Tied

Nothing makes me more angry than having to stop and re-tie shoes during a race.  It doesn’t usually happen during 5K’s because the laces tend to keep themselves together for that short amount of time.  But for anything over that, it’s kind of nice to not have to worry about it and focus on the run.

Over the years, runners develop their own techniques for fixing this potential problem (and many others.)  Here are a few lace techniques that I have used over the past four years without fail:

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By | 2016-10-22T20:26:57+00:00 September 21st, 2011|Categories: How To|Tags: , , , , |2 Comments

Technique: Transitioning to Minimal Running Shoes

Everyone is crazy about minimal shoes these days and running companies have responded by coming out with many new shoes this year to meet the desires of the running public. Here at The Run Commuter, we have been running in several models for a while now and so, I thought we could talk about the Transition Period.

For those that don’t already know, minimal shoes differ from normal running shoes in a few important ways:

1)   Less material = Lighter and more flexible

2)  Heel-toe drop is small or zero

3)  Little or no arch support

There are several popular transitioning techniques and regimens, such as running barefoot, slow mileage buildup, mixing running in your regular shoes with running in minimal shoes, etc.  However, most runners do not want to sacrifice their current mileage or speed to get to the point where they are running in minimal shoes 100% of the time.  As a result, they end up with stress fractures or other injuries.

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By | 2016-10-22T20:26:59+00:00 July 24th, 2011|Categories: Gear, How To|Tags: , , , , |3 Comments

Run Commuting Tip: Pre-Staging

One thing that I’ve found extremely helpful with run commuting is pre-staging. By pre-staging, I really mean 2 things, but they both have to do with preparing for your run commute well ahead of time.

First, is pre-staging my gear at home the night before, so that I’m ready to get up and go in the morning. I start work at 6:00am, so on the days that I run commute, that means my alarm goes off at 4:40, and I’m out the door by 5:00. There’s no way I’d be able to get up and out the door so quickly if I didn’t pre-stage my gear the night before. I have my bag packed with work clothes and my lunch, and get my running clothes all laid out for the morning. Having everything ready to go the night before also gives me one less excuse to wimp out in the morning.

Second, is pre-staging gear at work. Assuming you aren’t run commuting every day, you can pre-stage some of your gear at work on the days that you don’t run. Carrying a backpack full of stuff isn’t exactly my favorite way to run, so leaving extra work and/or running clothes, lunches, etc. at work is a huge help. I’ve even had days where I don’t have to wear a backpack at all on my run commute.

Pre-staging your gear definitely takes some planning and preparation, and requires more work up front, but it pays off by making your run commute much more enjoyable and worry-free.

By | 2013-04-26T12:50:15+00:00 July 18th, 2011|Categories: How To|Tags: , , , |0 Comments

Running Injury Free

What do shin splints and a bad carburetor have in common?  Both of them will keep you from getting to work until they’re repaired.  For run commuters, a small injury can keep you off the road for a week or more.

We have to remember we’re not out running a race – we’re running to or from work, so there is no use in sprinting to the point of exhaustion (and we’re running with backpacks for goshsakes).   In addition, when you look at footfall of runners in general, a majority of us are heel strikers…

Which leads us to a great article from No Meat Athlete, called The Simple Way to Injury-Proof Your Stride (For Good!) that offers an excellent and easy technique that I think is very applicable to us as run commuters.

It’s simple: three steps per second (or 180 per minute) while running.

When you turn your legs over at this rate, you:

  • Are forced to take shorter, lighter strides
  • Keep your feet underneath you, rather than way out in front
  • Strike the ground with your midfoot, rather than your heel
  • Spend more time in the air and less time “braking” on the ground

All these factors add up to two big things: Greater efficiency, and dramatically reduced risk of injury.

One thing I’ve personally noticed about running faster with a longer stride length is that your pack tends to move around a lot more (not to mention you really feel the weight) than if you just take it a little slower.   I’m also a firm believer in a feet-underneath-you, midfoot-strike running style, so the appeal of a simple change in cadence in order to correct most issues is awesome.

Try it out and see how it works for you.   We would love to hear the results!

By | 2016-10-22T20:27:01+00:00 July 1st, 2011|Categories: General, How To|Tags: , , , |2 Comments

Getting Started – Part 4: What to Wear

Kyle and I started running together regularly a little over a year ago. I had recently started running to and from work, and shortly after meeting for the first time, we found out that both of us liked to run. We were interested in some sort of adventure. Something off-road. Something different. So we decided to run the proposed Atlanta BeltLine route. And on January 2, 2010, we started running a section at a time – kind of like Appalachian Trail section hikers – until we ran the whole thing in one go, March 20, 2010.

But the reason for this background info (and why it relates to the post topic), is what we wore on our first run… Atlanta BeltLine Running Now I’m pretty sure you’ll have a hard time finding runners looking like this on the cover of Runner’s World, Running Times or Trail Runner magazines, but you know what? It doesn’t really matter. (more…)

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