W e 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.
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.
(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.
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:
(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: