Running to work

Ironman and triathlete champion Hywel Davies explains how to turn the daily rat race into a fun run

A month in and things are already starting to slip. That resolution made just weeks ago with so much promise and optimism to get fitter has been swamped by the demands of everyday life – from work, family and a burgeoning social diary. At least one of those commitments – work – can actually be turned into a fitness positive according to Hywel Davies. And as a multi-world record holding ironman and triathlete, Hywel knows what he’s talking about! “Commuting to work by running is a fantastic way to build fitness and to have a positive start to the day,” he says. “If it’s the most difficult thing you have to do each day, then it is an early win to set you up for a winning day. Imagine arriving at work energised, stress free, refreshed and ready to tackle the day, knowing that you have already completed the hardest challenge.” A 30-minute slot is all that’s needed and you can use the time to listen to music, audiobooks, language courses or podcasts. Or prepare and practice a presentation, think through a problem, or just take in the environment around you. Here are Hywel’s key points to make that commute as hassle-free as possible:


Trainers – The best advice anyone can give about running shoes is to get the ones that fit. You can only do this by going into a specialist running shop, getting your gait analysed and choosing a pair that will suit your running style. Avoid running in gym shoes, football shoes or cross-training shoes as they are unlikely to support your feet enough. Clothing – Always dress for the middle of your run, not the start. While it’s better to have too much clothing than not enough, you do not want to overheat. Choose a base layer that’s lightweight and made of synthetic fibres, not cotton, a mid layer of merino wool, lightweight fleece or long sleeve running top and an outer layer that’s a windproof jacket, cycling jacket or running gilet. If choosing leggings there are lots of variations with different degrees of compression – just make sure they are not too thick or baggy. Running rucksacks – Like trainers, they need to be tried for size first. A chest and waist strap is essential to stop the bag bouncing around and external pockets are useful for quick access to keys, phone and money and also look for somewhere to attach a flashing light. A 30-litre pack should be enough for a full change of clothes and shoes.


A quick change of clothes can be left at the workplace, but you still need to get rid of the sweat and smell. Use a workplace shower. You may not even know they have one! If there isn’t one, it might be time to discuss with management about getting one installed. Worst case scenario, have some baby wipes handy for a quick freshen up.


Taking ‘stuff’ into work is what puts a lot of people off a self-powered commute. Carrying a laptop or tablet, getting documents crumpled and wet and being able to carry a change of clothes are standard excuses. Try to leave as much as you can at work. If you need data, copy onto a memory stick or look into remote access. Find out whether digital copies of documents can be e-mailed or transferred so you don’t have to carry big files. If running to work three times a week, try to use the Monday and Friday as equipment days.


Most run commutes are less than an hour and you can get by without anything in the way of nutrition or hydration. Once at work, get Immediate energy replacement in the form of fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, porridge or oat bars – all better than diving straight into the coffee, biscuits and cooked breakfast! (For the sake of your tummy… avoid eating at least 30 minutes before setting off on your run.)


Visit a mapping site such as and either drive or cycle your route first. If you can run 5km in 30 minutes, assume the run will take around 45 minutes or at least 50 per cent longer due to stops and starts, running with extra kit and the fact that it’s not a race.


Not being fit enough should never be the excuse, as once started getting fitter will happen very quickly. Before starting any physical activity you should consult your doctor for advice and a check up to get the all clear to go. As these are actually training sessions, you should take time to stretch before and after the run. The key is to progress slowly by only increasing one thing a week such as the distance, the pace and the number of runs.


Once up to speed you might want to take running to the next level. Try entering an event such as the local park run. It’s free but will be a link to local running groups and clubs, other events and challenges. Who knows, today’s commute to work could lead to your first half or full marathon in a few months!

Hywel Davies is a multi-world record holder, multiple European and British age group triathlon champion, UK Double Ironman record holder and five-time UK Ultrafit champion. For a full training plan contact him at twitter @tribe_coaching