Maximize your run commute

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Athletes are taking their commutes into their own hands. Instead of subjecting themselves to factors outside of their control—like traffic, trains, or even a bike tire that could get a flat—they’re turning to a more effective and active mode of transport: their own two feet.

“I’ve noticed people building run commutes into their weekly schedules in cities like New York, London, and Sydney, and also in rural communities,” says Michael Olzinski, a Precision Run coach and group fitness instructor at Equinox Market Street in San Francisco. “Quite frankly, it’s one of the best times to fit training into a time-starved life.” (Even Seth Meyers and SNL’s Kate McKinnon are fans.)

Run commuting pushes physical progress during a time of day when we often stay sedentary in a car or on a train, says Patrick McGrath, a trainer at PROJECT by Equinox in New York City. “Plus, it’s a great way for people to mentally focus and relieve stress,” he adds. 

Morning miles often mean you have to push through grogginess and deal with pre-sunrise temperatures. Gaining the mental strength to face challenges in less-than-ideal conditions can help you have more grit in other areas of training and life, Olzinski says.  

“Typical run commuters have very big goals and are on very tight schedules,” he says. He knows marathoners and triathletes who use the strategy to build in light recovery runs, and he’s also noticed it growing in popularity among people who simply want to get into running.

“Commit to run commuting a certain number of times per week and stick to it,” McGrath says. If you cover all your bases ahead of time, you’ll be more likely to make it a habit. 

Master your commute on foot with these tips from Equinox experts.

Find your purpose. 

“Just like any other workout, it’s important to give purpose to your run,” says Arthur Tang, a Precision Run coach and group fitness manager at Equinox West 50th Street in New York City. Maybe you’re trying to boost base mileage or establish an early morning endorphin rush. 

Recognizing why you’re run commuting on a given day can help you get the most out of it, explains Wesley Pedersen, CSCS, lead coach for the Equinox Run Club in Orange County and complex group fitness manager at Equinox Sports Club Irvine. If your goal is to add miles onto the day, your mindset will be different than if you’re simply trying to clear your mind.

Pack accordingly.

A good running backpack is an important investment. If it bounces with each step, it can contribute to upper-trap soreness, chafing, and other types of discomfort. To avoid unnecessary movement, keep the weight you’re carrying as close to your body's center of mass as possible, Pedersen suggests. That means tightening the straps so most of the weight rests on your mid-back.  

When you’re filling it with essentials, pack the biggest, flattest objects (like a laptop) against the back of the bag, says Kelly Baker, a New York-based regional spa manager for Equinox. Fill the base of the bag with bulky items like water bottles, wipes, and dry shampoo.   

“I wrap my products in shirts and shorts, then roll them so they don't protrude,” says Baker. She recommends using solid products instead of liquids (like face wipes instead of face wash) to avoid spills. Use the gaps for smaller must-haves, like deodorant and a mini brush. In the video above, McGrath demonstrates how to pack your bag to perfection.

Plan for a slower pace. 

Even if you generally run a sub eight-minute mile, give yourself extra time to get to the office, McGrath says. Street crossings and the weight of the bag might slow you down. Your pace will gradually increase over time as you get used to the added elements, he adds.

Pay attention to fuel. 

Once you know your routes of choice, look for water fountains along the way, Tang says. If not, pack a bottle with a secure cap in your bag.  To curb the hunger that often strikes post-workout and help your body recover, stock your desk with foods full of healthy fats, protein, and hydration, Olzinski says.