How To Exercise While Commuting

Two colleagues walking to the office

I have a long commute. It is 45 miles from my front door to the office, of which I spend an hour and fifteen minutes on a train and the other 30 minutes walking at either end. After a full day at work, there’s little time for anything else, especially exercise.

The physical benefits of exercise are well known, but it’s important to remember the positive effects exercise can have on your mood, sleeping, and in alleviating stress and anxiety. If, like me, you spend much of your day commuting and working, with little time for anything else, here are some ideas for exercising while commuting.

What Do You Hope To Gain?

Before you start doing stomach crunches in your car seat or star jumps while waiting for the bus, first consider what you hope to gain by exercising during your commute.

In my opinion, exercising in your car or while on the bus or train, is not a substitute for a proper workout. While it might get your blood pumping, it’s not going to get you hot and sweaty in the same way that aerobic exercise does.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. It just means it can’t replace going for a good run. If you can, find ways to incorporate physical activity into your commute or your working day.

When I first started my long commute, I would drive to the train station, saving myself a 20-minute walk every morning and evening. Disembarking from the train after a long day, it was lovely knowing I could just jump in the car and be home is 5 minutes, rather than contending with another 20-minute walk.

But the satisfaction I gain from walking far outweighs the guilty pleasure of hopping in the car. My walk home is an opportunity to clear my head, get my heart pumping and my muscles moving. It’s a similar feeling in the morning. Starting the day off with a brisk walk does wonders of my mental state. I choose the walk over driving every time, even though it adds 30 minutes on to my journey time.

During the summer months, I go one better. On my train journey home, I’ll get off a few stops early and jog the rest of the way. I get changed into my running gear before leaving the office, and I’m ready to run. Even if you drive to work, rather than using mass transit, try parking 15 minutes farther away from the office each day and walk the rest of the journey. Every little helps.

If everything I've mentioned above is just not possible, then there are alternative exercises that you can do either in your car or on public transport. While they might not be enough to help you lose weight, I consider these exercises to have similar benefits to yoga or meditation. They’re good for your mind, body, and soul.

Isometrics.

Isometric exercises require clenching, contracting and squeezing muscles with little or no movement of the joint or limb, so they’re perfect for the car, bus or train. The Plank is a good example of an isometric exercise. The exertion of holding your body off the ground while resting on your forearms strengthens the core muscles in the back, stomach, and upper body, without requiring any physical movement. Isometrics won’t improve your aerobic performance, but they are good for strengthening and stability. Isometric exercises usually require holding a pose (like the plank) for a period of time and repeating.

10 Exercises To Get You Started.

Just to be clear, although these exercises aren't particularly strenuous, I’m not a personal trainer or a doctor so you might wish to seek professional advice before trying these. As with any exercise, it is important to maintain correct posture and continue breathing throughout. For all the exercises listed below, you should be sitting with your back straight, shoulders pushed back and relaxed, without using the seat back for support.

Also, it’s unlikely you will have warmed-up before doing these exercises, so make your movements slow and avoid wrenching.

And, it goes without saying, you should not carry out any of these exercises while you are driving. If the congestion in your town is anything like mine, you’ll have plenty of time to have a go while the car is stationary.

  • 1
    Bum clenches are an easy way to start. Simply pull your tummy in and squeeze the muscles in your bum together. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat for 10 repetitions.
  • 2
    Knee lifts. While lightly holding on to something for balance, raise your legs slightly up from the seat. Keep your knee together. You only have to lift a centimeter or two before you start feeling the contraction in your lower stomach muscles and hips. Try to hold the pose and repeat 10 times. This is a tougher exercise, so remember to breathe and don’t over exert yourself. Do one leg at a time if you find both legs too difficult. Your neck and shoulders should remain relatively relaxed.
  • 3
    Crunches. By moving slightly forward in your chair, slowly lean back without resting on the seat back, and pull yourself forward. Keep your back straight. The further you lean back the more you should feel your abdominal muscles. Slowly is the key here. The longer each repetition takes, the better it will be for you.
  • 4
    Palm pushes and pulls. With your shoulders back and elbows at ninety degrees, clasp the palms of your hands together at chest height and push them into one other. You should start to feel the exercise in your back. Hold and repeat for ten repetitions. When finished, stay in the same pose but instead of pushing your palms together, lock your fingers together and try pulling them apart. You should feel this in your triceps and back.
  • 5
    Ankle lifts. Like bum clenches, these are very straightforward and mimic the action of your feet when driving. Either with the heels of your shoes on the ground or slightly raised in the air, move the ball of your foot up and down as far as possible. You should notice the stretch in your calves. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
  • 6
    Waist rotations. With a straight back and your shoulders pushed back, rotate your upper chest 45 degrees to your side. You should feel your abdominal and back muscles as you twist. Don’t be tempted to pull your arm around as your twist, your shoulders should remain in line with your chest. Hold the position when you can’t twist any further and alternative the rotation in the opposite direction.
  • 7
    Chin pulldowns. This exercise is good for stretching the back muscles and spine. From a position of looking directly forwards pull your chin down towards your chest to a point where you can feel the pull in your back. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Don’t be tempted to tilt your neck to the sides or twist. My college rowing instructor once warned against twisting my head and neck, while doing this exercise.
  • 8
    Shoulder raises are another good exercise for the back and Latissimus dorsi muscles (lats). With your arms by your side, pull your shoulders up towards your ears and hold the pose. As with all the exercises try 10/10 – hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
  • 9
    Breathing. Exercise can take many forms and often simple breathing exercises, or meditation can be as effective for your mental wellbeing as going for a run or a gym session. It comes back to recognizing what you want to achieve. Try focusing on your breathing for 5 minutes. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold your breath for another five and then breathe out for five seconds. Finish your exercise session with this breathing strategy, and you’ll arrive at your destination feeling relaxed and revitalized.
  • 10
    Brain training. One muscle that always seems to get neglected is the brain. As with breathing, exercising the brain can have long-term benefits for your mental health. Commuting is an ideal time to exercise your brain because you can shut out all other distractions. Doing math in your head or learning a language are two ways of giving your brain a good workout. Alternatively, spend some time with your thoughts. Consciously be aware of the thoughts that float into your mind over the course of your journey.

Staying Motivated.

Health and fitness is a long game. Recognizing the benefits can be difficult if all you are doing is a few exercises during your commute to work each day. It needs to be a strategy that you incorporate into your whole way of life, in everything that you do. Decide to eat well and cut out the things that you know are bad for you. Whenever you have the option to take the stairs, take the stairs. And, if you can walk somewhere rather than get a cab or a bus, take the opportunity to walk.

Staying motivated can be difficult, so use technology to realize your achievements. Invest in a health tracker that you can wear on your wrist that will measure how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed, and how far you’ve walked. Most trackers will also include software that will motivate you to improve day on day and chart your progress. You’ll be amazed how much you can achieve, even if you have very little spare time.

How To Be Productive While Commuting

How To Be More Productive While Commuting

Commuting can be stressful, tiring and gradually wear you down. Being productive is about challenging yourself to make the most of your time. It’s far easier to sit in your car and complain about the traffic or sit on public transport scrolling monotonously through your Facebook feed. Being productive on your commute will give your journey a sense of purpose, and your achievements will give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Whether you drive or use public transport, to be more productive while commuting, decide in advance what you want to accomplish. Sleep well, so you wake up feeling fresh and motivated. Remove any distractions and focus on the task you’ve set yourself. Embrace technology and make use of apps that will help you get more done.

Before we look at the ways you can make your commute more productive, let’s look at why it’s important.

Why it’s important to be productive on your Commute

Commuting can dictate your mood for the day. If your journey makes you feel grumpy and miserable, it will impact on your whole day. You know commuting is a pain. Yes, it’s likely to be busy, and I guarantee you there’ll be congestion. These are things you can’t change, so focus on what you can improve. Start your day with a list of things you want to accomplish during your journey to work. Even if you only manage one task on your list, you’ll arrive at your destination having one less thing to do. You’ll also a have a sense of achievement at having already kicked a goal.

In a commencement speech at the University of Texas, Admiral William H. McRaven talked about how, during Navy SEALs training, the recruits first task each day was to make their beds. He explained how the task seemed ridiculous, but how symbolic it was in shaping their day. Having made their beds, their first task of the day was completed before they’d even had breakfast.

Successful people are task oriented. They plan out their day and tick off their achievements. Set yourself a goal for your commute and get to the office having already accomplished something.

Commuting is a rare opportunity to lock yourself away without disturbance. It’s all too easy to be distracted at work. With open plan offices, incessant email alerts, your phone ringing and colleagues chatting, it’s a wonder anyone is able to get anything done. Use your commute to shut everything out and focus on tasks that need your undivided attention.

Working during your commute demonstrates dedication and commitment. It also shows your employer you are capable of working remotely. Use this as leverage to discuss flexible work arrangements, such as work from home more frequently.

Using your time more wisely will help to stop procrastination and get stuff done. Hopefully, this will help you to finish your working day on time and get home sooner.

Commuting is also an opportunity to improve yourself or develop a new skill. Use the time to practice a speech, listen to audiobooks on your chosen field, or learn a language. Acquiring new skills will benefit you and your career.

How to be More Productivity While Driving

Being productive while maintaining focus on the road is difficult but not impossible. Planning ahead is key. Make planning for the next day one of the jobs for your journey home.

Categorize your work into the jobs that require you to be in the office and those that don’t. With the help of apps tasks such as returning phone calls and going through emails, can all be achieved during your commute.

Actively arrange telephone meetings with colleagues or clients for when you’re on the road. Start with one on one conversations and once you’re comfortable, try dialing
into group meetings. Set up your car to allow you to make and receive calls. Test your Bluetooth connection for quality. You may find the microphone on your headphones do a better job of cutting out background noise than your car’s Bluetooth.

Ask your company to give you access to work remotely. At a minimum, most companies allow their employees to access their emails from their cell phone.

Reading your emails while driving is not a good idea. Make use of apps like Speak Email, which integrates with your inbox and reads your emails aloud to you. Speak Email uses swiping left or right to mark emails for follow-up or delete ones that are irrelevant.

Natural Reader, like Speak Email, is an app that will read Word documents, PDFs and books aloud to you while you drive.

Once you’ve caught up on your emails, you can dictate your responses or make notes using Dragon Anywhere. Dragon Anywhere will convert your voice to text.

If you need a break from work, Audible has a collection of audio books and courses in a variety of subjects that can help develop your skill set and career.

Finally, why not try learning a language while listening to music. EarworksLeanring takes the theory behind how we subconsciously learn the lyrics to a song from listening to the song repeatedly and applies this idea to language. By combining foreign phrases with catchy music, you learn as you listen.

Being Productive on Public Transportation

Unlike driving, commuting by public transit makes it easy to be productive (assuming you can get a seat!). However, as with driving, preparation is essential – learn to be task oriented. Write down what you want to achieve each day and highlight those tasks that can be done during your journey.

Make a habit of pulling out your laptop as soon as you are settled on your train or bus. Having a routine will help in your quest to be productive for the long-term and, by answering emails, your boss will come to recognize when you’re online and (hopefully!) appreciate the extra time you’re putting in.

Embrace technology. You want to cut yourself off from the world and focus your mind, so get yourself a small, portable laptop and a good set of noise-canceling
headphones. You won’t have a lot of room in which to work, so try to become paperless and have everything you need in an electronic format on your laptop.
Ask your employer to allow you access to work files and email from your laptop.

Use your morning commute to do what you would otherwise do when you arrive at the office. If your morning ritual is to sit at your desk, have a coffee, read the news and check your email. Use your commute to do these things so you can hit the ground running when you arrive at work.

Use the time for personal development. Try learning to speed read. I once worked for a judge who could speed read. He could read a standard size novel in a little over two hours. He had one of the original Kindles with the buttons on the side to change the page. He described how the constant clicking of the button as he turned the pages every few seconds would drive his wife crazy. He was taught to speed read by a college professor who recognized its importance to learning. Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter were both speed readers and they felt so passionately about it, they arranged courses for their staff while they were in office.

Challenge yourself. Start a new initiative or work on something above and beyond your regular duties. Stand out from your peers.

Reward Yourself For Your Achievements

Regardless of how you commute to work, being productive starts with being healthy.

To wake up feeling like you’re ready to conquer the world requires eating healthily, sleeping well and plenty of exercise. If you feel good about yourself, it will be reflected in your work, and you’ll want to maintain that feeling.

In contrast, tiredness has the opposite effect. You are more likely to be irritable, feel demotivated and eat the wrong things. Reward yourself for your accomplishments by giving yourself time off, rather than just seeing that time off as a given for finishing work or because it’s the weekend.

Productivity requires effort, and anything that requires effort is challenging. But anything that is challenging will also make you feel great when you succeed. Challenging yourself provides a sense of purpose and a sense of achievement. Eventually, it becomes so addictive that, before you know it, you’re being successful and standing out from the crowd without even thinking about it.

How to Stay Awake While Driving

Sunset over a congested highway

Several times a year I’m required to drive to Canberra for work. It’s a 400-mile round trip, separated by six hours of meetings and presentation. By the time I get in the car to drive home, I’m exhausted.

Staying awake at the wheel is not just a problem for long-haul truckers.  The longer we spend driving, the greater the risk that tiredness will affect our ability to drive safely.

The best way to stay awake while driving is to set off in the morning after a good sleep. If you drive regularly, it’s worth considering a vehicle fitted with the latest Driver Assistance safety features. Otherwise, regular breaks for a nap or exercise, staying hydrated by drinking water, and plenty of cold, fresh air will also help.

What causes sleepiness?

Truckers refer to it as ‘highway hypnosis.’ The monotonous noise of the tires on the tarmac and the low hum of the engine. It does a great job of sending the kids off to sleep in the back seats. Ironically, modern vehicles may make falling sleeping easier, thanks to improved soundproofing, a smoother ride and features like climate control and heated seats.

We’re also pushing our bodies further. People like me are making the decision to live outside the city and commute to the office. We’re waking up earlier, traveling further and spending more time on the road. All the while, still putting in the same number of hours at the office.

If this is your situation, the chances are, you’re exhausted before you even start the journey home. And, whether we’re commuting for work or vacation, congestion on the roads is compelling us to avoid the worst of the traffic by driving when we’re usually asleep.

How to Recognize Signs of Tiredness?

If the description above sounds like you, what are the signs you should look out for? How can you tell if you’re about to doze off?

There are the obvious things – repetitive yawning and heavy eyelids. However, there are other, not so visible signs, such as getting lost in your thoughts and zoning out. A simple test is to try remembering the last five minutes of your journey – like road signs or vehicles you passed.

Forgetting recent events on your journey is a strong indication you could do with a break. At this stage of tiredness, your reaction times are probably way lower than normal, even though you might feel ok. If you’re drifting between lanes you shouldn’t be driving, plain and simple. If you notice this kind of behavior, you should pull over and have a nap.

Traditional Methods of Staying Awake.

One of the best solutions for staying awake is to have a buddy or family member with you, to share the drive.

I previously worked for an engineering company, who were responsible for maintaining the radio infrastructure around Australia. Australia’s a big place, and Aussie’s don’t think twice about driving 10 or 12 hours to their destination. The company I worked for would always send out two people, even if the job only required one. The sole purpose was to allow the engineers to share the drive, and I’ve no doubt the decision saved lives. Some of the stories the guys would recall about driving those long distances – it would make your hair stand on end!

Of course, unless you’re on vacation, the likelihood of having someone to share your drive are slim.

I mentioned some of the tried and tested methods of staying awake at the start of this article: Keeping cold by having either the windows down or the air conditioning set to freezing, is one method. Another is to stay hydrated by drinking water, and frequently stopping to stretch or take a nap, are also recommended.

I’ve read that some people find eating or chewing sunflower seeds also work. It’s a combination of having to remove the shells and the salt in the seeds, which apparently keep the brain alert and focused.

Power napping for 10 to 15 minutes has proven to be very beneficial. Just being able to get a bit of sleep during your journey is going to help. Although, if you can doze off for 10 minutes by the side of the road, you’re clearly very tired.

What Not To Do.

Having a coffee will help in the short term but overdosing on caffeine is probably not the answer.  Similarly, energy drinks and sweets offer nothing more than a quick sugar rush followed by an inevitable slump. Any solution that is based on sugar is a bad idea, and equally bad for your health.

Having a heavy meal before setting off or during your trip will also increase tiredness. Steer clear of fast food and meals high in saturated fat. Look for ingredients high in B and C vitamins. There should be plenty of color on the plate, especially green.

 

Take Advantage of New Technology.

Car manufacturers, while finding ways to make our journey more comfortable, are also implementing technology to combat driver fatigue. Many car manufacturers now include driver assistance safety features as standard. While the names of these features differ, the underlying technology is similar, if not identical. If you’re in the market for a new car, the main features to look out for include:

  • Collision Prevention. Also known as assisted braking, the car will automatically apply the brakes if it senses a potential collision up front. The latest systems claim to be able to detect both cars and pedestrians. Some will also include similar technology for reversing, or if the vehicle begins moving forward in traffic.

 

  • Adaptive Cruise Control. Cruise control has been around for a while, but adaptive cruise control goes one better. It will automatically adjust and maintain your speed based on the speed of the vehicle in front.

 

  • Lane Assistance and Lane Departure Warning. Lane assistance and lane departure use cameras built into the car to track the lines of road. The vehicle makes automatic adjustments to stay within its lane. If the driver turns the wheel and crosses a lane, without engaging the indicator, an alarm will sound. Just bear in mind,  this technology requires good lane markings to work effectively.

 

  • Automatic High Beams. Again the car use sensors to detect tail lights or oncoming traffic and adjusts the brightness of its headlights accordingly. Where possible it will switch to full beams. It won’t help drowsiness, but it will help you spot a potential hazard.

Below are links to the safety pages of some leading car manufacturers:

 

Off the Shelf Safety Products.

If your car doesn’t have the latest safety features, there are off-the-shelf products that claim to recognize drowsiness. However, judging by some of the reviews, they can give false responses and probably shouldn’t be wholly relied upon. The two most popular devices on Amazon are the Resqme Alertme Lifesaver Alert and StopSleep.

Resqme Alertme Lifesaver Alert is a device that sits behind the ear, like a hearing aid, and sounds an alarm when it senses the driver’s head dropping forward, in the manner of someone falling asleep. The alarm is about 90 decibels or equivalent to a police whistle.

StopSleep is worn like a knuckle duster across the index and middle finger, rather than behind the ear. The explanation of how it works describes how it uses,

“cutaneous sensors which monitor your electrodermal activity. Your electrodermal activity represents your brain activity, and by measuring this activity, StopSleep drowsy driver alarm can accurately gauge your levels of awareness.”

The sensor has two levels of alerting the driver. It starts with a warning vibration but follows with a loud alarm, if it believes the driver is in danger.

 

You Can’t Beat a Good Night’s Sleep.

While researching this article, I read about several cell phone apps that claimed to recognized driver fatigue. However, many of these apps are no longer available on their respective app stores. I don’t know the reason, but it might indicate that devices and apps are not accurate enough to be used reliably.

Vehicle safety technology has come a long since the days of freezing yourself to stay awake. However, perhaps the best way to ensure not sleeping at the wheel is still to maintain a healthy lifestyle and sleep well.

You can’t compete with sleep. It’s a biological necessity, same as the need for food and water. Regardless of technology, your body will always win.

How To Survive A Long Commute

Train Passing Through The Mountains

The secret to surviving a long commute, whether for work or college, is to prepare in advance and embrace the time, rather than waste it. Commuting can be exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be stressful or bad for your health.

View your commute as an extension of managing your day. If you wake up tired from lack of sleep, or you’re unprepared and rushing out the door, your commute will only add to your woes.

However, if you can find time to exercise, have everything ready the night before, and get a good nights sleep, commuting isn’t so bad. Here’s how I have learned to survive.

My Commute

Three years ago, my wife and I bought our dream house in the Blue Mountains, which is located just outside Sydney, Australia. It ticked all the boxes. A big backyard for our two energetic dogs and space for my wife’s succulent business, which she operates from home. It’s the perfect city escape, surrounded by trees, nature and fresh air.

The downside of this move away was the significant increase in my commute. I travel 45 miles (72 kilometers) door to door. It takes an hour and 45 minutes each way. It’s a twenty-minute walk to the station, an hour and fifteen on the train, followed by another ten-minute walk to the office.

I could drive the whole way, but I prefer the train.  The ticket is also considerably cheaper than the cost of petrol and parking. All up, I spend three and a half hours a day commuting. It would be less if I drove to the station, but I enjoy the exercise I get from the walk.

Before we moved, my wife and I used to rent in Sydney. One place was only five minutes walk from my work. While at another place, I cycled the sixteen-mile round trip.

The reality, however, was that we could never afford to buy so close to work, and our priorities changed.  We opted to swap the hustle and bustle for fresh air and space. We wanted a house on a decent sized block.

The Negative Effects of Commuting

Initially, things were great. I have a scenic train route and, living so far out, I’m guaranteed a seat. But it didn’t take long for the initial excitement to wear off.

The first thing I noticed was how little time I had in the evenings. No sooner had I got home, had a shower and finished dinner, I was having to prepare for the next day.  I had no time to wind down. I also noticed the increase in my weight. I’ve always been fit and healthy but, the commute coupled with a desk job meant I was spending the whole day sat in a chair.

My social life also suffered (although that was probably a good thing). I’m no socialite, but I did enjoy a drink after work with colleagues. The later you leave a long commute, the more it feels like the final hour spent on a long-haul flight. It’s not much fun.

Within six months, the hours I spent commuting began to seriously affect my mood and my general wellbeing. I was increasingly grumpy and frustrated.  Something had to give, so I talked it through with my wife and my boss and made changes.

Three years on, I honestly don’t mind my commute. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Mindset – Preparation and Routine are Essential

You can’t control train delays or traffic jams, but you can control your ability to prepare for the events that may unfold. You want your journey to be as stress-free as possible. You want to feel fresh, relaxed, and comfortable. Safe in the knowledge that you have plenty of time. Prepare well in advance, so you’re not rushing out the door of a morning.

The secret is to develop a routine. For example, the first thing I do in the morning is to check for travel delays. It gives me time to adjust my morning routine and compensate for any disruptions. Get plenty of sleep. Alcohol and sleep don’t mix. If, like me, you enjoy a drink, try abstaining until the weekend or at least try and cut back.

I have a table in the hall where I keep the things I need to grab before walking out the door. Upon arriving home, I habitually put my keys, wallet, and phone on the table and my bag underneath.  If there something special I’ll need for the next day, I’ll set a reminder to pack it the night before.

All this may seem obvious, but small things make a big difference when you have limited time. Making the most of my time is also why I get my work clothes laundered in the city. It’s inexpensive and one less chore I need to think about at home.  It also means I get to travel in comfort rather than in a suit!

Have a Kit Bag

I have a list of essentials that stay in my backpack, such as tissues, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a small umbrella, and a pair of sunglasses. There’s nothing worse than being caught short without a tissue or a means to wipe your hands. And, the sunglasses are handy since I usually catch sunrise or sunset on my journey. I also keep an assortment of charging cables and a small portable charger. To maintain my fluids, I have a small bottle of water, and I never leave home without my thermos of fresh coffee.

It’s worth buying a good quality bag, especially if you are considering carrying a laptop, as I do.

For drivers, having a kit bag might not be as important but, I recommend having a spare set of essentials that live in the car and are within arm’s reach when needed.

Stock up on Entertainment

It’s highly likely that the time you are sacrificing on your journey, you would otherwise be enjoying, so try to make the best of it.  Arm yourself to the hilt with whatever entertainment you enjoy, whether it be books, audiobooks, podcasts, tv series or games.

I appreciate the options are limited for drivers, but audiobooks are a thoroughly enjoyable way to pass the time, even if you’re not much of a reader. Similarly, there are plenty of audio courses available, if you’d prefer to use your time to learn something new. For all these things, I subscribe to Amazon Prime.

Regardless of whether you drive or use public transit, embrace technology. Everything is far more bearable when you have access to the internet and a good set of noise-canceling headphones.

When all else fails, install a good meditation app on your phone – I use Calm, which is free. Just be wary of using it whilst driving!

Creating a Cocoon

Let’s face it, if you use public transportation, you’re going to be squashed in with others. It’s important to establish your personal space and feel some level of comfort, even if you’re forced to stand and be hemmed in like a battery chicken.  Noise-canceling headphones do a great job of blocking out everyone else and creating that feeling of being cocooned. Then it’s a matter of immersing yourself in your choice of entertainment.

In addition to the other things listed in my backpack, I also keep a light cotton/linen scarf which I spray with lavender. The faintest whiff of something unpleasant, I pull out the scarf. The lavender does an excellent job as an odor blocker, and the scarf is thin enough that it’s suitable for summer or winter.

Find Time to Exercise

Sitting down is terrible for the body. From poor posture to burning calories, it’s the opposite of what your body needs. If like me, you have a desk job, it’s doubly important to spend some time on your feet and moving around.

One of the first things I gave up when I started commuting was my gym membership. I just didn’t have the time for both. Almost immediately I noticed the adverse effects on my mind and body. I piled on the weight and sorely missed the hit of endorphins that come from a good workout session.

If there is a part of your journey you can substitute with walking or jogging, it really helps. Not just for the burnt calories but your state of mind.

I walk to and from my station rather than drive. It’s worth the sacrifice. During the summer, when the days are longer, I go one better and get off a few stops early to jog home. I get changed into my running gear before leaving the office, and I’m ready to go.

Even if you drive, parking the car a little way from the office and walking will help immeasurably. The detrimental effect of a long commute on your health cannot be understated. Exercise has made a massive difference in my ability to cope with the commute. Where I used to arrive at the office and home feeling grumpy and tense, I now feel calm and relaxed.

Aim to Thrive not just Survive

With the added demands of on your time, you’ll want to make the most of being at home with your family, which leaves even less time for yourself. Try using the journey to get mundane, administrative tasks out the way, such as paying bills or organizing appointments. If you drive maybe use the time to call friends and extended family and make plans to catch up.

I decided to start this blog. I now have two and a half hours a day on the train which I can dedicate to writing. It provides me with a sense of purpose, and it’s a fun way to pass the time.

Most people on my journey watch TV series or scan their Facebook feed, but there’s a lady that spends her time knitting. Another guy is learning a language, and there are plenty of people who log into work and catch up on emails, which brings me nicely on to work arrangements.

Ask your employer for flexibility

With more people moving further away from their workplace, it is prompting employers to consider flexible working arrangements.  The perfect option is to work from home and not have to commute at all, but even negotiating your start or finish time can be beneficial to your wellbeing and reduce your journey time.

In my experience, people are either early birds or night owls. I prefer to start early. My employer is happy with this arrangement, which means I’m out of the office at 4 pm. This small change allows me to avoid the worst of the heavy peak hour commuter traffic. Consequently, I’m less likely to be affected by delays, more likely to get a seat on the train, and I get home at a reasonable hour.

In contrast, a colleague of mine usually walks into the office at 10 am. The late start allows him to spend his mornings with his young children. He figures he typically arrives home after the kids are in bed, so by starting later he gets an hour or two with them each morning. He’s happier for it, and I’m sure it’s reflected in his work.

If you’re able to work during your commute, you can use this to sweeten the deal with your boss. Knowing that you can answer the phone or answer an email, may be enough to sway your boss’ decision.

Super Commuters

Having been a “super commuter” for three years now, I’ve found ways to make the most of the time. I’d much rather be doing something else but I love where I live, and I’m happy with the sacrifice.

The strategies laid out above really helped me get over a period where I was struggling to cope with the commute. If you are deciding on becoming a “super commuter”, or you currently are one, I’d love to hear your thoughts and any ideas you have for surviving the long commute!