Exercise and save money with an active commute. Walk, run or cycle to work to avoid joining the “£5k commuter club”

If you’re not among the few lucky people that get to work from home on a regular basis, it means you have to spend a reasonable amount of time commuting. The average commute for a Londoner is 45 minutes to 1h one way, but there are many people (like us) who decide that their living standards are more important than the distance to the workplace and live much further away.

I spend 3 hours commuting on every day I go to London, so doing something useful with those 3 hours is pretty important. Otherwise, they just go to waste.

When we were living in London, I used to run-commute reasonably often. The whole way from home to work (11km) and sometimes back. I almost abandoned the idea of an active commute when we moved to Hertford, but I realized I can still run or cycle at least part of the way.

With our big plans of saving £25k in 18 months, we have to consider everything we can reduce and transportation is a big chunk of our monthly spending, so I started experimenting with the active commute again. BBC recently published an article about the “5k commuter club“, people who spend at least £5000 a year to get to work. I thought it’s crazy, but when I did the math, I was surprised to see our household spends £4200 a year, so not far off. That is just ridiculous. And with train fares raising next year, finding a solution to save money on transportation is one of my current priorities.

Our household spends £4200 per year on train journeys. With the fares raising next year, finding a solution to save money on transportation is one of my priorities. Click To Tweet

For myself, the distance from home to work is 45km. I already cycled the full length twice and ran part of it on another occasion. An active commute is a perfect combination of exercising, spending the commute time in a useful way and saving some money. You can walk, jog or cycle depending on your situation. If you’re thinking about giving it a shot, here’s a list of tips and things I learned in the last few years.

1. Have a ready-for-action bag

I have a small plastic backpack (the kind you receive at running events) in my wardrobe that is always ready. So whenever I’m packing for a morning run/cycle commute, I grab the bag, make sure I have towel + the three undergarments women need (socks, bra, underwear), and I add a deodorant and a change of clothes (t-shirt and leggings). If I need a jacket, I need to make space for one. If I don’t want to wear my running shoes after the run, I also pack a pair of shoes in a plastic bag. All these go into my main backpack. If the run is longer than 15km, I also add a bottle of water.

2. Charge everything the evening before

All preparation is done the evening before. If something is not ready in the morning, there’s panic, yelling and a lousy start to the day. In my case, I need to charge the phone, wireless headphones and sports watch.

3. Prepare the clothes you’re going to wear

Again – 3 undergarments, leggings, t-shirt. If there’s a chance of rain, I also have a rain running jacket. I also get my accessories ready – headband, sweatband, waist bag to hold my phone and tissues.

4. Don’t forget that you’re not running back (if that’s the case!)

You still need to pack your wallet, travel card and keys for your commute back. Maybe an umbrella? A jacket?

Tips for an active commute. Use your commute time to exercise and save money on transportation. Walk, run or cycle to work.

5. And If you’re cycling, get your bike ready the evening before

Check the tires, breaks and pack your lock if you need one. If you use a helmet, leave it next to your clothes or accessories. I also wear a pair of gloves when I cycle.

6. Don’t carry your laptop home the evening before

I ruined many run-commute plans by taking the laptop at home with me. I obviously have to take it back to work, and I can’t run carrying that thing.

7. Check the weather forecast before making plans

There’s nothing I hate more than having everything ready, but outside it’s pouring. I occasionally run even if it’s rainy, but there’s a limit.

8. Research your building or office facilities

Do you have a shower in the building? Or just a sink? Do you need to take a shower gel with you? I had a shower in all the buildings I worked before. Right now I only have a small bathroom with a sink I can use, but I can still manage. I just have to make sure I don’t leave the bathroom floor in a mess.

9. Check the off-peak hours for your train

If you’re cycling only part of the commute and need to take the bike on the train, check the hours when you’re allowed to do that. As far as I know, if you have a folding bike, you’re ok at any time of day. For non-folding bikes, 7 am to 9:30 am, and 4:30 pm to 7 pm should be avoided.

10. Plan your route

If you don’t know the route, check the map the night before and if you think you may pass through areas with no signal or you’re low on data, save the map to your phone, so you can have it available even if you’re offline.

11. If all else fails, just walk

You don’t have to be sporty to have an active commute. Just walk. The only thing you need is a pair of comfortable shoes. If your commute involves getting the bus, just ditch a few stations or the bus altogether. From the train station to my office there are 3-4 bus stops, but I always walk. I spend about 1h every day walking between the train stations and home or office. I just ignore the fact that buses exist.

Last time I left the house for a run commute, Alin looked at my backpack and said: “Wow, that looks full and heavy”. It’s something that you get used to and you learn to optimize after every single experience. And the best part? You get to work feeling refreshed and energized. Even if I get physically tired, I’m mentally calm and ready to code!

This post has been shared on the Brilliant Blog Posts Linkup

Do you run or cycle to work? Do you have any tips? How long is your commute?

Want more money saving tips? Check out my e-book, The Smart Girl’s Journey to Financial Bliss. It’s not just money talk; it’s wisdom you can apply in all areas of your life.


    1. Author

      Thanks, Petra! Appreciate it 🙂

  1. I wish a run-commute was an option for me, but I need to be in at school for 7am, and live 25 miles away (nearer 35 if running in). One day I’ll work in a job where I can run in, but until then I’ll envy all the run-commuters!

    1. Author

      That’s similar to the distance to work for me, but 7am definitely makes it hard. We don’t have a car though, so I don’t know how would that changes things in terms of money savings.

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