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+00:00December 29th, 2011|Categories: How To, BecomingARunCommuter|Tags: , , , , , |30 Comments

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  1. Kristen December 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    This is a wonderful post! I’ve actually tried biking to work once in the summer, but was completely unprepared. In the end, I was a sweaty mess. I gave up after that because I had no idea how people made it work. Now I know!

    • Kyle
      Kyle December 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm - Reply

      Thanks, we hope it is useful to you! As G.I. Joe would tell us, knowing is half the battle. (The other half was apparently a mix of code names and gouging.)

      If you again attempt summer biking, or run commuting, we would love to hear about it, Kristen.

  2. Sabby December 31, 2011 at 8:44 am - Reply

    Let me tell you my run-commute routine, which is also my bike-commute routine.

    I’ll preface by saying: I’m a 37 year old woman, runner since May 2008, run commuter since Feburary 2009, but so far only in the winter/spring. In the summer/fall I bike commute. As soon as I can figure out how to build up heat tolerance (I have special issues so I can’t do it the recommended way) I will run commute in the summer and fall.

    Furthermore – this is a ramble. Unstructured and long.

    I pack all of my clothes, including shoes, in my backpack/saddlebag,packing it up the night before. I’ve thought about leaving shoes at work but that means committing to one or two pairs. But, if I think about it I really only rotate 4 pairs. And I don’t wear those pairs for anything else. So perhaps I should store all 4 at work (must think of space).

    In my backpack I carry my lunch. I prefer to carry foods that are easy to stuff into a bag – sammiches, granola bars, apples, the occasional can of soup on a cold day. I eat several small 200 calorie meals a day so this is pretty easy to do. Also in my backpack are any work supplies I need EXCEPT for my computer. I am wary of running with a fragile hard drive strapped to my back. So on days I need to bring my computer I bike, but those days are rare.

    Now, I should probably also mention that I am a fairly low-maintenance woman. I don’t wear makeup or jewelry on a daily basis and I have short hair. But, I do keep some makeup for emergencies, face soap, face wipes, deodorant, baby wipes, a towel, and some hair wax (aka pomade) at work. I have one filing cabinet drawer dedicated to my personal grooming stuff. Also, if you still have to worry about shark week it’s easy enough to keep a supply of bandages at work.

    Luckily, at my workplace we have a single-person bathroom to accommodate wheelchairs, yet no one at work uses a wheelchair. So, it has become my locker room.

    But first, let me tell you what happens when I get to work after a 6 mile run. I am as sweaty as a racehorse, including nasty hair. I go to my desk, log in, and answer emails and such for 30 minutes while I cool down. My workplace is pretty tolerant of this because my workplace is the CDC and they encourage alternative commuting. If you’re worried, have a conversation with your supervisor. Tell her/him that you want to start biking or running to work and what it will involve. Assure her/him it will not cut into your working hours but that you might be seen looking like a gymrat, though assuredly you won’t attend a business meeting as such. I think you’ll be surprise to find your workplace supportive. Mostly because people get a kick out of the idea of someone running to work.

    Anyway, after I’ve cooled down, stopped sweating, I take my gymbag of stuff and head to my personal locker. I, too, take a sink bath, though I’ve called it a sailor’s bath. In the winter this just means wiping down with baby wipes, deodorant, work dress, washing the face, wetting and fixing my short hair with my fingers, and off I go. In warmer weather I’ve been known to actually use a few papertowels and soap to clean up.

    Now, I used to have waist length hair. I have to admit I never figured out what to do with it other than this: I wore it in a bun nearly all the time. I’d strap it down with several hair bands for the run. And when I got to work I’d make a looser bun. Because my hair would be sweaty and I was not washing and drying it at work. So, i’d finger rinse the hairline and wrap it back up. Made for a boring style. But when I’d go to some work social after hours and show up with my hair all fluffy and down to my waist I’d get all the ooohs and aaahs.

    Honestly, though, one reason I cut all that hair off was because it didn’t fit into my lifestyle anymore.

    But ladies, please don’t forget to pack your bra. I know it seems silly to say it, but I’ve managed to do this more than once. Problem is, I am of not-insignificant endowment. And I’ve had a kid. AND I’m middle aged. NOBODY wants to see that shit.

    Fortunately, I keep a big voluminous button up funky lime green hoodie sweater (not sweatshirt) on the back of my chair. It does a GREAT job providing me with coverage when this happens. Even in meetings. I just tell everyone I’m cold. And with the temperamental thermostat (pun) at my office, people believe it.

    Lastly, what if you have to run errands or pick up the kids? Well, honestly, most times I don’t have to worry about it. I’ve adopted a lifestyle where I run most errands on the weekend. I only have one kid so it makes it easy. He goes to an afterschool childcare program 3 days a week. So when I get home from work I sometimes have to drive to get him. But most times my husband, whose work is 18 miles away and he drives, will pick him up on his way home. And now that our son is 10 he’s pretty independent and the days he doesn’t go to his aftercare he walks home from school (a half mile), and lets himself into the house.

    If you, either mom or dad, have adopted a habit of doing it all with regards to kids stuff, whether because it’s necessary or because you just took it all on, then you’re going to have to either figure out a way to share the load a bit, or work around it all. The latter may mean you can only do a partial run/bike commute. But just think – once you’ve run or biked to work you don’t have to leave home or work to go to the gym, which you know you all dread. Working out a gym always felt like a chore to me. It’s EXERCISE and I hate exercise. By run or bike commuting you can save money and time on that gym membership.

    AND, by the time you get home you’ve wrung any work related tension out, leaving you relaxed for your evening.

    • Kyle
      Kyle January 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm - Reply

      Awesome! Thank you, Sabby, for such a detailed look at your day, and for your excellent advice. The BRASSIERE: of course. I also like the idea of keeping emergency clothes (your sweater) at work. I have twice forgotten slacks, so needed to wear one of my suits, which I leave in a closet or on the back of my door. I would like to pull some or all of this for a stand-alone post, with your OK.

      • Sabby January 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm - Reply

        Hi Kyle,

        Feel free. Also, please feel free to edit and pretty it up. It might seem out of context, otherwise.


        • ikthos77 March 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm - Reply

          Hi Sabby! Thanks so much for all this detailed and awesome advice on run-commuting for women! I must say though, you are NOT middle aged, you are only 37!! :)

  3. Agusha January 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    Great post! It’s all about planning and thinking ahead! I’m just starting the whole running commute adventure, and love getting the tips from your blog. Keep up the good work:)

    • Kyle
      Kyle January 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Agusha! Drop us a line after a few weeks and let us know how your run commute is going. We would love your take.

  4. Eric Nolan January 28, 2012 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Informative post–I’ve just started the run commute and have been seeking answers and most of them were found in your writing. So, thank you! But might you add where you store your wet running clothes during the day? I mean, they have to get dry before the pm commute, right?
    best, Eric

    • Kyle
      Kyle January 31, 2012 at 11:51 am - Reply

      Thanks, Eric! How long is your commute? I hope you are enjoying it. Your concern about storing, and drying, clothes for the afternoon is a great subject. I will follow up to this in a post.

  5. Testing, 1, 2, 3, Run Commute! | HEAVY MEDAL January 28, 2012 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    […] Run Commuter – I particularly like Part 5: Sweaty to Office Ready. Man’s point of view. Good stuff in the comments section for ladies. Advertisement […]

  6. caroline March 1, 2012 at 10:26 am - Reply

    this post is so great! I can’t believe others do this!! I have been run/walk commuting for 3 years, 1 hour to work, 1 hour back. I definitely agree with all the advice here.
    Personally, your #3. is absolutely key…bring everything you can to work. Although this can be a bit of an investment in the short term, sure beats gym membership fees. I have a whole filing cabinet drawer where I keep extra makeup, a flat iron, deodorant, a couple of bras and extra socks. Half my closet must reside in that drawer but I have learned that some key fabrics will definitely help you get extra mileage out of some clothing before you have to start hauling some pieces back piecemeal for laundry. Merino wool can definitely be worn a few times before the stink factor settles in as are some lululemon tops (run swiftly tech top) which come in many colors and look like a basic clean crew neck top. In winter I wear a lot of leggings which don’t take up much space. Being a nutritionist, I am not the only one in my department who walks or bikes to work so I do get a lot of understanding why a sports bra, for example, might be drying on the fan cord (my office partner and I often have to fight for drying space). (Thankfully we don’t see patients in our offices). With regards to drying stuff off, a small fan is very helpful especially for wet sneakers…I will place the fan on the floor next to them and they’re usually quite wearable when I leave by 3:30 ( I arrive around 7 am).
    Because I share an office, I tend to arrive earlier and slowly check e-mails during the cool-down period while I get the fan going, fire up the flat iron and hydrate. This has a beneficial effect on my stress because I really like my privacy while I’m fixing my hair and getting dressed. Re-applying deodorant is important especially to get extra mileage with work clothes.
    What has been most challenging is dressing every morning. I live in Montreal where it is -30 degrees C in winter and +30 degrees C in summer. Often in the winter you end up getting hot and sweaty ever though it’s freezing out there! Anybody with any ideas regarding a good running fat for the winter that has “wick away” properties??

  7. Kyle
    Kyle March 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm - Reply

    Run commuting three years? C’est bon! Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and advice, Caroline. The flat iron: another thing I never would have thought of.

    So far as wicking hats go, I say stick with wool! I have three hats I typically use: a generic Target brand; one Underarmour; and a wool cap someone knitted for me. I loved the Underarmour hat. It looked like a purple gum drop but felt like it kept all of me warmed. The heat was all bottled in. Alas: I shrunk it in the wash.

    I have been more careful with the wool hat. It fits perfectly, keeps my head warm, and after a run all the sweat is beaded on the outside. It dries quicker than the Underarmour hat, too. Smartwool makes some, but I haven’t tried them out.

  8. […] 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 […]

  9. John March 26, 2012 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    I just found your site and really like it. I’ve been running/cycling to work for about 6 years now and thought I would add a few thoughts. I live in Austin where it is always summer, even in the winter. I sweat a lot, and my work place does not have a shower. Some of these are repeats, but here are my suggestions:
    1. Leave shoes and washup kit at work.
    2. Pack everything the night before. I use a Solomon 30 adventure racing pack and camel pack bladder. I carry a small waterproof pack rain cover in case the day it rains this year is a work day.
    3. This is important: Shower right before leaving home in the morning. Sweat alone doesn’t stink, so leave as clean as possible.
    4. Keep a small 10″ fan at your desk. Spend at least 15 minutes cooling off before even trying to get changed. Use the time to do triage on your incoming work email so it counts as being on the job.
    5. You do not need a shower! A simple top and tail/whore/bird bath is enough. Yes, even in Texas in the summer. Keeping your hair short helps. Women have it tougher here I’m afraid, but please don’t cut that lovely hair. Being hypnotized by a bouncy pony tail ahead of me has gotten me through the end of many a triathlon.
    6. Do NOT use deodorant! Even better and much cheaper – and without potential side effects – is Baking Soda. Put a little on and you will be good for the day. I was amazed by how well this stuff works! If you don’t believe me, give it a try on a weekend.
    7. Allow your running clothes to air dry after being washed, preferably with some sunshine to kill bacteria.

    At the moment I am recovering from an operation for plantar fascitis. Hopefully next week the doc will give me the go ahead to start running again. I’ve been going crazy not being able to run.


    • Josh
      Josh March 27, 2012 at 10:10 am - Reply

      Those are a lot of great tips, John! I’m going to give the baking soda a go and see how it works out.

      Hope you have a speedy recovery!

  10. Stefan June 5, 2012 at 6:36 am - Reply

    Hi fellow run commuter! I always thought I’m the only one doing this. This post here inspired me to write up my solution of the “sweaty to office ready” issue:

    Best regards from across the pond.

    • Kyle
      Kyle June 5, 2012 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Stefan, those are outstanding tips! Using a washing machine pan in your office is rather ingenious; I wish I had thought of it, but I certainly will give it a try this summer. Thanks, too, for your insights on No Rinse, and using baby bath liquid. I have tried every kind of baby wipe on which I can lay my hands, and I find, too, that those free of dyes, or with the least amount, are the best. I am eager to read through the rest of your blog.

  11. […] Step 5 – From Sweaty to Office-Ready […]

  12. Olivia Boyd March 10, 2015 at 12:50 am - Reply

    Ladies, for the hair dry shampoo is a fix all. I am not a running commuter (yet!) but I am a biking commuter and a pretty sweaty lady. When I feel special I treat myself to some spraying with Batiste, which is a spray dry shampoo and makes my hair look nicer than when it’s just been washed (more volume). For normal days I use arrowroot powder in a little makeup pot that I brush into my roots with a makeup bag, massage it in, brush it out. I’ve got brunette hair and it the white powder doesn’t show up by the end of the process, and my hair looks fine. Sometimes if I’m going out for drinks at the end of the day I like to spruce up my hair with another dose of dry shampoo, but it mostly does the trick till the end of the day, even on the days when I don’t wash my hair in the morning.

  13. Cesar February 22, 2016 at 1:29 am - Reply

    Mate I found your site googling about this stuff. Impressive all your info. Thanks a lot. Tomorrow will be my first run-commute.

    • Josh
      Josh February 22, 2016 at 9:15 am - Reply

      Good luck! Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

  14. Meghan June 27, 2016 at 8:40 am - Reply

    I’ve been run commuting for a few months and landed on your site when looking for a better backpack idea. I’m usually a two-way commuter (4 miles each way), and with a similar propensity to efficient (read: heavy) sweating. As a woman, here are my tips:

    – Adopt a more low-maintenance approach to appearance (no make-up or jewelry speeds gettin’ ready time on arrival)
    – The ‘roll your clothing’ approach works well for minimizing wrinkles. I start by laying down the pants, then the shirt, then the other stuff and rolling it carefully and placing it in the pack. I’ve had good results, but you can’t be too picky if you take this approach.

    Still working on figuring out the eating options. I’m starting to look at leak-free lunch container reviews for days I want to bring more liquid-heavy foods with non-messy results. I eat a lot, so my food probably makes up the bulk of my pack weight. Thanks for the helpful site!

  15. […] Step 5 – From Sweaty to Office-Ready […]

  16. […] Step 5 – From Sweaty to Office-Ready […]

  17. Matteo December 20, 2016 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    Hi everyone, great to have found this blog and your shared stories! I live in Vienna, and have been inspired to start run commuting years ago as I was in London, and saw so many people jogging around with backpacks everywhere, I was fascinated. But I did really start myself run commuting 1,5 years ago. I like to commute from work back home twice a week, and it takes around 1 hour, except during summer when I take the hilly way and double the mileage and time on those longer evenings.
    My drawer in the office is full with shirts and all sort of clothes I need, and one pair of shoes. So I wear running shoes in the morning when I go by subway to the office, along with my backpack filled with running clothes.
    My only concern: I do not like arriving like a sweating animal in the office in the morning, and for that reason I only run from the office in the evening, and avoid doing it in the morning.
    I would like to do it though, but for that I need a shower. I have even considered taking a gym subscription just to use the shower. It would be great if some gym or sport facility could offer some kind of ‘run commuter’subscription, just to use shower and drawer. :-)

  18. Stu Corbett February 16, 2017 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    What a great website!! I have been run commuting for about 2 years in Townsville which is in North Queensland, Australia. I commute both ways every day except Friday afternoon when my wife drops off my uniforms, towels etc. for the following week. I am fortunate in that I have showers and locker room available at work, and a pool with beer fridge when I get home.
    My commute is only 5.7km (about 3.5 miles) each way so I mix the routes up a bit to give me about 60km (40 miles) commuting distance per week.
    I carry my lunch, two phones and hydration to work, and add used uniforms for the run home and use a Nathan Elevation 16 litre hydration pack. It is not waterproof so on the very few days per year that it rains I put everything in zip lock bags.
    The temperature can get quite warm with most of the year being over 90 degrees and humidity between 65 to 85% but I am so used to running in the heat that it does not worry me too much.
    I run in Salomon Sense Mantra 3 shoes and find I get about 900km out of them.
    I am 64 years old and love to run trail and have run two ultra trail races recently (64km and 74km) so run commuting is really helpful for keeping up my weekly distance.

  19. jon June 15, 2017 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Hi everyone,
    Finally moved to a place where it’s feasible to run commute to work, and my job is perfect – Showers readily available, I don’t have to wear fancy footwear and I can leave most of my work at the office, so I don’t have to lug it to and fro.

    My only problem is I have no where to store my running clothes. I’ve thought about storing them wet in a plastic baggie in my backpack, and bringing along a second set to run back in, but I’d like any other ideas if anyone has any.

    Love the website. Really excited about the whole thing.

  20. Bon Crowder January 17, 2018 at 7:40 am - Reply

    When I started runcommuting, there was a shower. Now I’m in a non-shower building. I haven’t found a private bathroom, so all my cleanup is in the shared one. Before I found my cleanup groove, I apparently offended some folks who reported that I was bathing in the bathroom (like a homeless person, I guess). Now I use two microfiber towels – one that I wet and one I keep dry. They are about the size of a bandana – not too big but not tiny either. The microfiber allows me to keep a lot of water in it to wipe with. And I don’t have the guilty feeling of filling a landfill with wipes (no judgement for those that do, though). I wash my bits in increasing order of smelliness and then give them a dry. I use powder to help with any stickiness left from the washing and I’m good to go!

  21. Smith December 20, 2018 at 1:07 am - Reply

    Awesome useful post. I had experienced this many times and now I’m using antibacterial body wipes to wipe out after a run that works better. Thanks for sharing.

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