4 Tips for an Active Commute

two women on bicycles

Changemakers can often be found navigating complex social and bureaucratic systems, packed schedules, and office politics. But they’re also navigating city streets and scenic roadways in an effort to maximize their use of time with an active morning commute. 

Whether it’s running or riding a bike, starting or ending the workday in motion can be an effective way to log miles, decompress, and practice some serious self-care. A bit of planning and a few key essentials are all it takes to crush an active commute

Pick a route

Because there’s no need to follow train lines or roadways, active commutes can sometimes feel like a “choose your own adventure.” Websites such as Strava or MapMyRun offer tried and true routes, as reported by fellow riders, as well as new options for home-to-work travelers.

You can chart a scenic course that winds through a local nature reserve, or one that passes by a colleague’s house for a meeting in motion on your way into the office. If you want to take it easy, consider the number of bridges or hills on your route. To travel light, you can commute through city parks where ample water fountains make carrying hydration packs or bottles mostly unnecessary.

Always be sure to keep safety in mind by riding in bike lanes and staying on well-lit paths and roads. Consider wearing a headlamp or reflective gear when commuting in the dark, and always let friends or colleagues know your travel route.

Make a plan

Planning an active commute requires more than simply picking a route. Changemakers who want to successfully log miles to and from the office need to think ahead when it comes to meals, clothing, laptops, and post-workout showers. 

Map out the week in advance to determine which days will include running or cycling. This can help you identify when you can carry extra items, particularly heavy laptops, to the job. Planning to run on Tuesday morning? Be sure to bring an additional lunch and an extra change of clothes to the office on Monday. Riding your bike home Thursday night? Then be prepared to tote the week’s workout clothes and lunch containers home on the train on Friday evening. 

Quick clean-up post-commute is another part of successful planning. Offices with on-site workout facilities make showering after a morning run a breeze. But for those without office showers, it can be a bit more challenging. 

Joining a gym near the job can be a no-fuss way to wash up en route. Renting a locker where you can stash stuff 24-7 means carrying less when logging miles. Those without a gym nearby can keep essentials like baby wipes, deodorant, and dry shampoo in a desk drawer for rapid refresh upon arrival.

Travel light

Part of what makes commuting on foot or by bike enjoyable is the freedom it offers. No overcrowded trains, traffic jams, or waiting for forward motion. But traveling light is key if you want to feel liberated on your way to or from the office.

Hydration packs are perfect for carrying items like extra clothing and paperwork. Plus, they hold a liter or two of water, which is ideal for those logging longer commutes. Small personal item (SPI) belts hold keys, wallets, phones, and credit cards in a collapsable belt that weighs practically nothing. Both offer those on-the-go options for toting essentials to and from the office without a lot of added weight or bulk. Looking to carry a laptop? Consider adding a basket or bag to a bike to offset additional bags and weight.

Stash the essentials

Because active commutes require carrying only what’s necessary, it’s helpful to keep some items in the office in a designated desk drawer. In addition to toiletries, keeping a change of clothes as well as a few pairs of office appropriate shoes at work means carrying less while working out more. A headlamp or bike lights, as well as a reflective vest can also be helpful for keeping safety in check on late-night and winter weather commutes.  

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Jill Nawrocki is a Licensed Social Worker and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer living in Brooklyn. She is an ultra runner, freelance writer, and social justice warrior with a background in program management, direct practice, mindfulness, and advocacy.
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