I Commute For 2 Hours a Day — These Are the 5 Things I Do to Fit In a Workout

I have a two-hour commute to work — one hour in, one hour back — and weirdly, I kind of enjoy it. It's a mix of walking and sitting on the train and the BART (San Francisco's version of the subway). I listen to music and podcasts on the walk, read or look at social media on the train, and generally zone out and have a nice time.

What I don't like is the fact that it sucks up two whole hours of my day. That's a lot of time. I could do a lot of laundry with those hours. I could make a lot of dinner. I could sleep!

Fitting in a workout around this two-hour time suck, plus cooking, chores, and sleeping time, has been an interesting challenge. It mostly comes down to making fitness a priority, not just to look good or get in shape but because I truly do feel lethargic and "off" the rest of the day if I skip my morning workout. On a practical level, I do a few things to make it happen.

How Do You Work Out With a Long Commute?

  • I work out after my morning commute, when I can. I recently started doing this and it's a game-changer. There's a gym right by my office, and commuting early and working out there, instead of at the gym near my apartment, means I have more flexibility to do my full workout and stretching routine without worrying about sprinting to the train afterwards. You could also do this mid-commute by joining a gym on the way to your train station or office, for example. Finishing the commute or cutting in half before your workout makes the morning a lot less stressful.
  • I have a flexible gym membership. This goes hand-in-hand with the tip above. I'm a member of a big gym chain, which has its downsides, but it also means I have major flexibility in terms of where I work out. There's a big gym close to my apartment that I use when I'm swimming laps and a smaller one by my work that I go to when I'm doing strength training. The multiple locations means I can get in whatever workout I need to without radically changing my schedule.
  • I have one full rest day a week. You guys, this is crucial. I worked out and commuted all five days just last week, and it burned me out; by the end of the week, I was exhausted. I usually do my rest days on "blah" days like Tuesday or Wednesday, and I'll either skip any kind of workout or just follow along to a short yoga video in my living room. Either way, it gives me at least an hour more sleep and a lot more energy (and excitement) for the rest of my workouts that week.
  • I walk a lot for my commute. This isn't doable for everyone, but walking for part of my trip to work helps me feel energized even on my rest days. It also helps me de-stress after a hectic morning of working out and chasing down public transportation. Even just parking farther away or taking the steps up or halfway up to your office can get your blood flowing and help you get moving on days when you don't work out.
  • I work out at the same time every day. For me, that means early morning, 5:45 a.m. workouts, which is very much a new thing for me and was not easy at first. I eventually realized that I loved the shot of energy that morning workouts give me first thing; I prefer to work out before eating anything; I'm less likely to talk myself out of working out if I'm doing it before a long day of work instead of after. If night workouts work better for you, that's totally fine; they're more convenient for lots of people. (Here are a some expert tips on how and when to work out at night.) Setting the schedule is difficult at first, so give yourself a few weeks to settle in. Don't forget your rest days.

It's not easy making workouts happen when you work long hours, commute long hours, and have all those other adult responsibilities to consider as well. Don't sweat it if it doesn't happen right away, or every day, or if you mess up along the way. Just this morning, I forgot to set my early alarm and took an accidental rest day. Welp, at least I got sleep! As long as I'm making the effort and getting in a little bit every day, I consider it a win.