Five Hints for Run Commuting

Run commuting can appear daunting, but with a little preparation (and the right gear) it really isn’t that hard. I do it at least a couple of times a week and find it to be a very efficient way to get my runs in. I’ve written about this before from a more personal perspective, but here’s five lessons I’ve learned from my years of (literally) running home from work. 

Get a good running backpack. I use a Gregory Miwok 33. I love it and have recommended it to many friends who also love it. Its big enough to fit clothes, and (even a small laptop) but not so bulky that it sits too far off your back. Some people, especially those who won’t be carrying clothes back and forth may wish to go with a a smaller bag. In shopping for the bag, you want to make sure it rests easily on your hips and sits close to you back, otherwise its going to swing around too much.

Here’s my Gregory ready for an attempt on the Presidential Traverse:

Plan to run home. If your office has a shower, mazel tov, you’re set. You can run to or from work (or both!). But if you’re like me and are lucky enough to live in a city with a good public transportation system, but unlucky enough to not have a shower at work, the only viable option is to run home. Plan your schedule accordingly. The first couple of times are likely to be an experiment in finding the best route, so give yourself plenty of time.

The view from my run commute. Definitely beats the view from the 2 train.

The view from my run commute. Definitely beats the view from the 2 train.

Leave your shoes at work. I have a selection of dress shoes stashed under my desk at work and commute everyday (whether I’m running home or not). I bring my clothes back and forth with me, but I have a friend who brings in four shirt on Monday, leaves them all at the office, and then brings them all home on Friday. This works too, I guess, if you have the storage at your office.

Prepare for the weather and distance. Depending on how far you’re running, you may need to think about the run as a short easy run, or prepare for it like a long run. My average commuting distance is about seven miles, which makes it ideal for a standard weekday run. I do notice that I overheat quicker with the added weight (and loss of heat evaporation) associated with the backpack. Plan you clothing accordingly.

Be seen and be safe! I’m lucky enough to live in the city that never sleeps, so even if I’m running home in complete darkness, it isn’t complete darkness. Still, my bag has reflective patches and when running after dark, I try to wear bright colors. You should too.

EDIT: After posting a link to this on facebook, a very old friend commented on the difficulties of run commuting in an area without strong public transportation. Here’s how she does it:

I only do it once in a while because of the hassle of the car issue. In the summer my schedule is easier and the building is super quiet so I can get away with running to work in the cool and just being way dressed down and ponytailed all day. It is way easier to find a ride home at 4 than a ride in at 7:15, especially if you plan a happy hour in there. The other thing I’ve done is run home one day and run back the next morning. That isn’t bad if I prep well enough a couple days ahead of time. I have to bring running clothes AND extra work clothes to work day 1. Wear running clothes home, run back in and change into work clothes I left the day before.

Thanks for the advice, Amy!

That’s about it. If you run commute I’d love to hear how you go about it. If you live within a reasonable distance from your office, it really isn’t that hard!

Fitness Habits of Disgraced Generals

Like much of the country, I’m following the Petraeus scandal with a mixture of sadness and fascination.  I feel for his family.  No one should have to go through a betrayal like this, especially not one plastered on the front pages of every newspaper in the country.  That said, some of the details about Petraeus and Broadwell which have come to light in the past two days have reminded me that now two  of our famous generals who have fallen from grace are in really, really good shape.*

When asked to throw out the first pitch at a baseball game, Petraeus allegedly practiced for a week.

Let’s start with General Petraeus.  Dude doesn’t play when it comes to physical fitness.  He likes to start his day off with a five mile run, done at an average of six minutes per mile, then it’s onto a set of twenty toes to bars and 100 push ups.  Not a bad morning workout — I might adopt it.  Though my miles’ll be a lot slower.

I don’t know if Petraeus does his T2Bs strict or with kipping, but knowing that he’s old school military, I’d guess strict. 

Those morning runs may have been part of what got him in trouble.  When Broadwell** was working on her biography of Petraeus, she would apparently often interview him  during his morning runs.  That means Petraeus can not only run at a six minute pace, he can do it while having a conversation.

The dude is making me feel like a slouch.

He also claims to eat one meal a day and sleep only four hours.  I hate to challenge the credibility of the general, but this, I doubt.  Over-achievers routinely underestimate (or straight up lie about) the amount of time they spend sleeping.  With this kind of exercise regime, and only one meal a day, it isn’t surprising he passed out during a senate hearing.

Apparently, after years of improvising his workouts in Afghanistan, Petraeus was looking forward to building a gym in his Virginia home.  That is until it was turned into CIA communications center.  Looks like he might get a chance to build that gym now.

There might be something about high level military officers and calorie restriction.  General McChrystal, Petraeus’s replacement in Afghanistan until he was fired for talking smack about the president, also claims to only eat one meal a day.  He’s a runner as well, apparently run-commuting twelve miles a day when he was a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.  He’s got that marathoner look too, super lean.

What’s your 10K PR, son?

What are we to make of the fitness prowess of these generals who have fallen from grace?  Probably not too much.  The military puts a big emphasis on physical fitness, and as seriously Type A dudes, it isn’t surprising that these two wanted to push themselves physically.  I am sure there are many other generals out there who are fast on the roads but aren’t cheating on their wives or pissing off the president.  Still I find it interesting, as I always do, when the busy and over committed can find time to work out.  Generals Petraeus and McChrystal will probably never be in the public spotlight again, but they can probably still beat my ass in a 5k.  That’s something, isn’t it?

*There is apparently an FBI agent involved in this whole mess who sent shirtless pictures of himself to one of the ladies involved.  His fitness regime is as yet unknown.

**Broadwell is also no slouch in the physical fitness area. She was a fitness champion at West Point, is a serious Ironman tri-athlete, and once challenged John Stewart to a push up contest and won.

My Running Commute

There is something about strapping on a backpack and running home from work at nine o’clock at night that makes one feel simultaneously like an absurdly time pressured uptight New Yorker and a total badass.  Last night, after months of injury, and more months of very slowly recovering from injury, I finally did the run commute again.  It was great.

I worked a pretty long day yesterday, finishing up well after dark.  Running through the city which so alive with people on a gorgeous fall night was a perfect way to end the day.  From my office near Penn Station, I ran down through Korea Town and Gramercy, into the East Village to Chinatown.  Then it was over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn and up Flatbush Avenue to my apartment.  Depending on the route I take, the run is anywhere from 6.5 to 7.5 miles.  Last night it was seven and I finished it in a leisurely, stuck on crowded sidewalks, 1:15:00.

Stick those working stiff clothes in a bag and hit the road.

If, like me, you live within a reasonable running distance from your work, the logistics of running commuting aren’t difficult to master.  Just bring your shit to work and run home.  Or, if your office is fancy enough, or close enough to a gym, you might have a shower available to make a morning running commute possible.  This is what my friend MT does.  He’s never sure when he’ll get out at night, and he has a two year son at home, so running into work, and showering at the office gym, is his best option.  For me, running home is the way to go.  I simply bring my running stuff to work, change in the office bathroom, fold my work clothes up into my Gregory Miwok 22*, put on the head phones and head downtown, making my way through the city I love.  I dodge tourists and sidewalk vendors, gaze at shop windows and remember landmarks long gone to the pace of constant reinvention that is New York.  As a way to get home from work, it sure beats a crowded two train.

*I’d recommend the Miwok if all you’re carrying is work clothes.  I leave my shoes at the office, greatly lightening the load.  If you need to bring home a laptop, or tons of paper, you’re going to want to look into a bigger bag.