the commuters liven up their journeys

The pandemic has opened many people’s eyes to the benefits of running or cycling to work – or ‘active commuting’ – and some have kept up the habit.

Commuters are no longer satisfied with long drives or boring train rides and are looking for ways to make their trips more productive and enjoyable.

Six people talk about how they get the most out of their journey to work.

‘I never take the same route two days in a row’

William Macdonald, 51, makes a point of varying his commute. The web developer from Scotland, who has lived in Sweden for 17 years, keeps his journey to his office in Stockholm fresh by “never following the same method or route two days in a row”.

Whether it’s cycling before hopping on a boat, running or even taking a dip along the way, by changing up his journey to work, Macdonald feels like he’s making the most of his day. “In the summer I sometimes cycle there and swim in a heated pool on the way to work. I cycle all year round, as long as there are no huge snowstorms,” he says.

“I just do it for a bit of variety – sometimes it can be a bit depressing to take the same train every morning and see the same people. You can create some kind of adventure, another focus of the day… It adds something to the day. Otherwise, the commute is just a small step to a full day at the office.”

Macdonald’s job allows him to work from home some days, often mountain biking in a nearby forest. “Sometimes I do cross-country skiing during my lunch break!”

‘Inline skating is a full-body workout’

In New York, 35-year-old Miguel Ramirez, a personal trainer and inline skating instructor, has been skating to work on the city streets for 12 years.

“Inline skating is a full body workout. It also requires a lot of balance, coordination and flexibility. It’s great for short to medium distances. And hybrid commuting is very easy. You can easily jump on the train or bus,” he says.

Ramirez says skating is a more practical option than you might think. “Many places have indoor inline skating, so running errands, like grocery shopping or getting something from the deli, is much quicker.”

However, he wouldn’t recommend that everyone commute on skates. “You have to be closer to the intermediate level, because we don’t have mechanical brakes like a bicycle. But it is manageable.”

So far he has avoided collisions. “I’m pretty defensive when I skate. I always look forward. I assume everyone will run me over, so I just keep my distance.”

‘We had a sewing, knitting and embroidery trip’

Until her retirement in 2020, Angela, 58, spent her commute to her tech job working on craft projects with a colleague.

It started one day when her colleague boarded the train with a crochet project. “That stimulated commuting with sewing, knitting and embroidery,” says Angela, who lives in Belgium. They continued that for eight years, until her colleague retrained and Angela retired shortly afterwards.

“The highlight of our days was making things on the train. We used to burst out laughing – people would come up to us and have a chat. It was a really fun commute – before that I spent my commute looking at reports, which wasn’t that fun.

“I once made curtains, which I dragged piece by piece to the train to sew by hand; another time she changed into a half-finished dress in the train toilet so I could pin it to size. The whole adventure made the commute something we both looked forward to.”

Since leaving their workplace, the pair have kept in touch. “We just met on the train, but we really became friends. The highlight, the great crescendo of our creations together, was making her wedding dress together – but not on the train!”

‘I get about an hour and a half of Italian practice’

Kevin Donnelly, 40, a geneticist in Edinburgh, uses his daily walks to work on his Italian skills – and can be heard repeating key phrases from language learning audiobooks.

“It’s great,” he says. “People just assume I’m on the phone. I pretend to speak Italian as I push through the crowds. Of course, all Italians will realize that I repeatedly ask for directions to the station.

“Cycling in Edinburgh is a painful experience, sometimes literally. Walking clears my head and improves my mood.

“I have to practice for about an hour and a half, and otherwise there’s no way I could get that. In just over a month I now speak more than I do in French – which I apparently studied for four years at school.”

‘So much more efficient than a racing bike’

In 2015, Heinrich Neumann of Nordhorn, Germany, ditched his electric bicycle in favor of a velomobile (human-powered vehicle). The 63-year-old has since driven up to 38 km (24 miles) to the hospitals where he works as a doctor.

“With just your own power and this aerodynamic fairing, it is so much more efficient than a racing bike. It’s unbelievable.” Once Neumann took the car to work because he was late, but it took even longer.

What do his colleagues think of the velomobile? “It’s mixed. They’re a little jealous because they don’t get the fitness training that I do. But I have not convinced my colleagues [to do it].

“It is very nice. It provides optimal protection against the elements, as long as the roads are not completely covered with ice or snow. And even if you crash, you have a structure around you that absorbs a lot of the impact.”

‘Audiobooks soothed my stress’

Roberta Jones, 70, has found that years of listening to books makes her commute more enjoyable. She has listened to nearly 1,000 audiobooks after starting with cassette tapes and then CDs before switching to Audible in 2005.

“I’ve listened to almost a thousand books on audio that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to read,” says Jones, a self-employed consultant in Sacramento, California. “I’ve traveled to other planets, expanded my consciousness, learned a lot and explored the classics – all while driving to and from work.”

While she now works from home, she has continued her routine of listening to audiobooks. She remembers how it helped her de-stress in the car: “It’s a great way to unwind after a stressful day at work – by the time you get home you’ll be calm enough not to ruin your evening. ”

Her commute changed over the years, but always lasted more than an hour. “Originally the commute was quite brutal, with nothing to concentrate on but the traffic around you. [Audiobooks] eased my stress remarkably, and was also very entertaining and informative. It was a win-win situation.”

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