Photo at right: You CAN commute to work by bike. ©Chach Photography
Run or bike to work: save money, save the planet and get in shape. It sounds like there’s no down side, so why aren’t we all actively commuting?
Because when some folks think of running or biking to work, they see a life or death game of Frogger through traffic, followed by arriving to the office windblown and sweaty, panting and thankful to still be alive. Can one realistically, actively commute to work without becoming a sweaty mess or even road kill? Yup, and people do it every day.
Whether you are a cyclist or a runner, the game plan for commuting is basically the same. A little planning is all it takes.
Depending on your fitness level, different commute distances may be doable for some on foot or bike, but not for others. Get online and find the quickest, safest, most accessible route. For runners, check out a website like www.runningmap.com. Cyclists can use Google maps, which gives bike directions, helps you find bike lanes and avoid big hills and major traffic zones.
Plan ahead to give yourself enough time to not only get to work, but to freshen up once you arrive. Try your trip on a weekend and time yourself to make sure you won’t be late. If you feel your commute is too long to do it round trip, consider actively commuting one way and riding the bus or carpooling the other.
Lugging your gear, both for your workout and work, is the biggest obstacle. The lighter your load the better, so leave as much of your stuff at work as possible so you don’t have to bring it every day. Work shoes can be heavy and awkward to actively commute with so leave a few pairs under your desk. If you have a shower available at your job, use it. Keep a bag of all your toiletries and some extra clothing at work so you will always have what you need. If you do not have access to a shower, learn to love the sink shower: your coworkers will thank you. For those things you need to bring along, consider a running belt. Cyclists can use a backpack or bike pack to bring along the essentials.
Know the rules of the road. If you are running: stay on the sidewalk as much as possible and bicyclists should obey all traffic laws at all times. Check your equipment before you go. Your gear—either your bike or your body—should be in tip-top shape so you don’t get stranded. Make sure your shoes and clothes are in good condition, weather appropriate and reflective. Be sure to have a light source if your commute will be happening during low light hours.
You don’t have to actively commute every day to reap the benefits. Try it once or twice a week until you have a comfortable routine. Physical activity, without a doubt, increases your productivity at work, so make yourself, your boss and your health happy by powering your own way to work.
Kelly Turner is a professional fitness writer from Seattle. Her no-nonsense, practical advice has been featured on DietsInReview.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Yahoo! Shine, and she has a regular fitness column in The Seattle Times. Follow her on Twitter @KellyTurnerFit.