Active Commuting: Quick Tips for Running or Cycling to Work     

cyclists by Simon Cousins
By  Janice Enloe, personal trainer and running coach, RUN Oak Park and Weights and Measures

Run and cycle commuting is growing in popularity. Maybe it’s Oak Park’s close proximity to downtown Chicago, the need to log training miles for an upcoming event, or the realization that an hour at the gym followed by 23 sedentary hours doesn’t add up to a truly healthy lifestyle.

Almost every runner I know has been stuck on the Eisenhower at rush hour and calculated the amount of time it would take to run home. And maybe you’ve seen early morning cyclists heading down Lake Street toward their jobs in the Loop, or loading bikes onto the front of a CTA bus.

With a bit of preparation, your commute could become an important component of your health and fitness plan. If it seems daunting, remember that you needn’t run or cycle every day or all the way.

Calculate distance. Don’t be discouraged if you live far from your workplace. Consider taking public transportation part of the way and running or cycling the rest. Bikes are permitted on Metra and CTA trains during non-peak hours and at all times on CTA buses.

Determine your best route. Type your destination into Google Maps, then click on the walker or bike icon to get an idea of route options and estimated travel times. Be sure to take a test run or ride before game day to avoid any surprises.

Make a list, check it twice. Will you be run/bike commuting in the morning, evening or round trip? Round-trip commuters will need to pack the full complement of work clothes/shoes and reflective gear for the evening trip. Remember to check the weather report so you are prepared for weather changes for the return leg of your journey. Gather your goods — clothing and toiletries — ahead of time to avoid forgetting essentials. Leave as much as you can at the office and bring it home on a rest day.

Go from sweaty to office ready. Lucky commuters will have showers available at work or a nearby health club. If that’s not an option, invest in baby wipes and dry shampoo — and hope for tolerant coworkers. Before your birdbath, cool down in front of a fan and drink some icy water until you stop sweating and then proceed to the restroom to perform your ablutions. It’s helpful to store your clean-up gear at work to lessen the load during the commute. If the logistics of an at-work clean up are just too much, focus on using the return journey for your run/cycle adventure.

Gear check. Safety first! Your phone, in a waterproof cover, is number one on the list. Reflective vests, jackets and blinking lights are essentials for early morning and evening trips. Cyclists should learn how to change a flat tire and carry an extra tube along with air pump and tools. Panniers for cyclists or a running backpack are helpful to transport all your daily necessities. And don’t forget your rain gear and a jacket because, after all, it’s Chicago.

Active commuting is certainly not for everyone. But with some preparation and a good fitness base you’ll arrive at work sharp, energetic and ready to face the day, the envy of your co-workers. Run or cycle home and arrive relaxed, clear headed, and ready to put your feet up, secure in the knowledge that you’ve added mileage to your training calendar, gotten closer to your fitness goals and perhaps saved time and money in the process.

Photo: Simon Cousins/Flickr