2015 – The Year of The Run Commute

What better way to kick off the new year than to start run commuting? For those who are thinking about it, check out our Beginner posts below. Already a run commuter? Great! Maybe your new year’s resolution could be to run commute more frequently this year? Let’s make 2015 the Year of the Run Commute

Need some inspiration? Read profiles of new run commuters here.

Part 1: Mentality

Part 2: Route Planning

Part 3: Gear and Transporting it to the Office

Part 4: What to Wear

Part 5: From Sweaty to Office-Ready

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Groceries on the Run

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.

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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.

Just arrived at the grocery store

Just arrived at the grocery store

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.

Running with a pack full of groceries

Running with a pack full of groceries

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!

Holds a bag of rice just as well as it holds Little Timmy.

Holds a bag of rice just as well as it holds Little Timmy.

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!

 

 

Transporting Food in Your Backpack

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

Reusables containers and a disposable container

Reusable containers and a disposable container

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.

Glass Containers

Dem beans...

Dem beans…

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

Stainless Steel Containers

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

Reusable Bags

Reusable 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.

 

Plastic Baggies

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.

Aluminum Foil

Tin foil

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”

Soup ThermosBest Foods: Soups, stews, chili, oatmeal, lentils, beans

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.

Plastic Wrap

Standard plastic or “cling” wrap wraps wraps well.

Standard plastic or “cling” wrap – works great for sandwich wraps.

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.

Combinations

My preferred way to transport food these days is by combining several types of container into one unit.

Open container with crackers, granola bar, and sandwich and  closed container, with little empty space inside.

Open container with crackers, granola bar, and sandwich and closed container, with little empty space inside.

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
By | 2016-10-22T20:26:44+00:00 November 8th, 2013|Categories: General, How To|Tags: , , , , |1 Comment

Noisy Backpacks

Do you mind the sound of keys jingling?  No?  I bet you would after you heard them make that noise over 5,000 times in 45 minutes.  That’s how many times the loose keys in your backpack could make noise on a 45-minute run to work.  How’s that for some early morning ear candy?

Well, fellow run commuters, we’re going to show you how to silence your commute.  No more key jingle.  No more water sloshing.  No more tink-tink-tink sounds from your zippers – just a nice, quiet pack for your run to work.  Let’s tackle them in the order of annoyance:

Top Noise Makers

  1. Keys
  2. Belt Buckles
  3. Zippers
  4. Hydration Bladder/Liquid
  5. Loose Items/Food

Solutions

 

1.  Keys

I have a lot of locks to open, so I have a lot of keys on my key ring.  And, key ring cards.  And, doodads.  All of those together make for a baseball-sized bundle of noise.  I’ve found that there are two ways to effectively silence keys.

Camera Case

I had one of these lying around unused, so I tried it out one day and found it worked very well.  As a bonus, it has a small zippered pouch that my metal watch fits into nicely.  You can easily find one that will fit your keys, no matter what size they may be. Simply go to a camera case display at any store and try it out with your own keys to find the best fit.

Key SilencerRubber Band

For the especially frugal or minimalist run commuter, you can use a rubber band.  The one pictured here was holding some store-bought vegetables together (either asparagus or broccoli).  It’s wide, short and durable, making it an ideal combination to bind your keys together.

 

Belt Buckle Silencer2.  Belt Buckles

There is one particular type of buckle that will annoy the crap out of you when you’re running – the web belt buckle.  There is a little metal bar inside the metal buckle that will bounce around clanging and jingling, almost like the sound coins in a cup make.  For this solution, we turn to our old friend rubber band.

Once again, it does the trick.  Just be certain to pin the metal bar down under the rubber band or it won’t work.  You can also secure the entire belt by wrapping part of the rubber band around the coiled belt and buckle.

3.  Zippers

These pics should be self-explanatory.  There are probably a few more techniques I missed, but these are the main ones (and pretty simple and low-cost.)

 

Add a Zipper Pull

Use Some String/Cord

String Monkey Fist

Tie whatever works – just remember to burn the ends of the string so the ends don’t come unraveled.

Wrap Them With Tape

Tape Zipper

I used easy-to-remove painter’s tape here, because, hey – you might want to hear that noise again and don’t want to hassle with a difficult removal. (Note: the blue tape was used for the pic – choice tape is electrical or the king of tapes…DUCT TAPE.)

4.  Hydration Bladders

This one is pretty simple.  Turn the bladder upside down and suck out all of the air.

5.  Loose Food/Items

This one is sort of simple, too.  The key is to eliminate the empty space.

Loose Food

Loose Items

The first thing you can do is to ensure that the items in your pack are arranged properly.  One of our favorite companies, Osprey, created a handy graphic that shows you how to pack items based on weight.

Osprey Packs - "How to Pack Your Pack" http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/web/how_to_pack_your_pack

Osprey Packs – “How to Pack Your Pack”

When run commuting, however, we don’t always run with a full load.  So no matter how well you arrange things inside, there may still be plenty of empty space for things to bounce around.  That’s why we recommend a pack with compression straps:

Stratos Compression Straps

Top and Bottom Compression Straps

Compression straps allow you to change the size of your pack by squeezing the outside layer of material closer to your back, which in turn pulls items inside together tightly.  No more bounce!

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Hopefully you found some of these tips useful.  If you have any other suggestions, let us know!

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:46+00:00 March 4th, 2013|Categories: Gear, General|Tags: , , , , , , , , , |4 Comments

The Run Commuter News Roundup – January 16, 2012

Welcome back to another edition of the News Roundup at The Run Commuter!  I didn’t think we’d have another edition so soon, but I was happily surprised to see a few news alerts hit my inbox this past week.

Today’s articles come from bloggers around North America and they’re all writing about one thing in common – How to run commute.  Enjoy!

How to Beat Westside Traffic:  Run Home

LOS ANGELES, Cal. – Excluding weekend long runs, I’m not a morning runner. I could be if I didn’t go to bed so late.

Still, I’m not about to change my habits since running after work fits my schedule. Working out between 5-8 is a big improvement over my old habits. When I first started working out regularly 3 years ago, I rarely made it to the gym before 10. That worked for me then too. I was was a super self conscious newbie uncomfortable about working out in front of other people. So, working out in a nearly empty gym was just what I wanted.

Now, I’m used to running on weekday evenings. In the spring and summer, getting in my post-work run in is not a problem. I look forward to it during the day. I don’t mind running at dusk or in the dark. In the winter and fall my motivation wanes when it’s very dark at 5 or 6. At least it’s not very cold here. It’s worse when I leave work around 6, have a 45 minute commute (if lucky) and don’t get a run in until after 7. In January, that feels late.

One way I’ve found to deal with the winter running is the run commute. I’ve seen other bloggers talk about running to work (Runner’s Kitchen). I could do that, but I prefer the run home. It fits with my evening running habits. Plus, it’s logistically easier and the route is almost all downhill.

By | 2016-10-22T20:26:50+00:00 January 16th, 2012|Categories: News|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

Where to Run (or How to Survive in the War Against Cars)

Lately, it seems like there has been an increase in running-related accidents (Tim Nelson of Seattle, and Sophie of TRC) or near-accidents (myself) everywhere you turn, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about where to run.  I’m not talking about the safest or best cities for running – I mean where you position yourself while running in an urban, suburban, or rural environment.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s latest data, 4,092 pedestrians (runners included) were killed in traffic crashes in 2009.  That number has been nearly unchanged for 10 years.  While you are more likely to die in a very specific situation – In an urban environment at night with normal weather at a non-intersection – where are runner’s most safe?

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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.

(more…)

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

Hot Running: Heat, Humidity and Dew Point

There is a great article in Running Times this month called It’s Not the Heat, Nor the Humidity.  You can’t read it online, but the ladies over at The Bitchy Runners have summarized it and created a replica of the dew point chart that you should check out.

I incorporate race training into my run commute.  It’s not that exciting, but it can be pretty intense based on which route I am running at the time (hills vs. flat).   Sometimes during the summer, it REALLY sucks the life out of me; almost to the point where I am worthless the rest of the day.  I always chalked it up to humidity, but after reading the RT article, I realized that what I should really be keeping an eye on is the dreaded dew point. (more…)

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