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Cooler commutes

Matthew Chittock

Commuting doesn’t have to be completely painful – as these three people show

If you’re reading this on your phone while wedged between two irritable fellow passengers on a slow (and probably delayed) train home then you know how stressful commuting can be.

In fact, it’s not surprising that, according to a recent study for the Office of National, commuters are generally a miserable lot. Researchers found that they’re more likely to be anxious, dissatisfied and feel that their lives are meaningless than non-commuters – with each extra minute of daily travel adding to greater general stress and unease.

Of course, a daily commute in exchange for a better wage and a bigger house is a price many people are willing to pay. But what if there is a better, healthier way to get to work than the bus or train?

Here’s three people who’ve decided to do things differently…

The skateboarder

When video game journalist and consultant Will Freeman wanted to spice up his commute, the answer was a no-brainer: get on the skateboard.
“I used to skate for 40 minutes a day getting from Victoria Park in London to Hackney Downs station and then from Hertford East to the other side of town,” he says.

“Outside of all my other skateboarding I was clocking up around 720 miles a year on my board.” Now Freeman works freelance from a home office the commute is a little more moot. However, he still reckons that his trusty skateboard is his primary mode of work transport. “I’m typically at a few press events a week, and conferences too,” he says.

“So I’m still always travelling across London (and across the event itself) on my skateboard. And at conferences across the world, I use my board to get between meetings and through the venue – especially when it’s a 25,000 person beast spread across several places.”

Freeman’s job doesn’t have anything directly to do with skateboarding – but the mode of transport has become his personal trademark and what he calls “an identifying and defining part of my career”.

“People always mention it when I have it, and when I don’t they get really bewildered!” he says. “I turned up in my suit to the game industry BAFTA’s this year and did the red carpet carrying my skateboard – despite offering to put it away. People from the industry insisted I had it with me. So, while it was never intended this way, it’s become how people identify me, remember me, and engage with me.”

The runner

Running part of the way to work is one way to squeeze some exercise into a demanding day. Sales manager Dominic Roberjot runs either to, or from, the station on his 40 minute commute from East Sussex into Brighton. 

“After a day of meetings, office routine and the ‘joy’ of a train journey, the run from the station to home allows me to run off the stresses of the day,” he says.  “And if I’ve had a tough day the run gets a little quicker or longer to help me unwind. By the time I get home I’m then fully relaxed and able to give my kids the attention they deserve – rather than worrying about office politics or to-do lists.”

A recent office move to a building with built-in showers means a morning run is now an option too. “This means I can now squeeze in five or six miles before I start my working day,” he says. “Far from leaving me tired I find myself more energised and more creative on days where I’ve run to work.“

The walker

An eleven mile commute sounds more like a mini-marathon than a morning stroll, but that’s the ground Hema Kasi Patel covered on foot in a single day during Walk to Work Week .

Usually Patel walks a good three miles between her daily commute by train from Sandwell into Birmingham City Centre. But she decided to do the epic one-off to help raise awareness of Living Streets’ (the charity she works for) mission to promote the social, mental and physical benefits of regular walking.  “I did it to show it could be done!” she says. “The hardest bit was getting up so early in the morning – but I got to work feeling really good,” she says. “I used the canal routes around Birmingham, and it was really relaxing to just listen to the radio and watch the ducks and geese do the funny things they do.”

At two and a half hours, and plenty of puff, it’s not something that she plans to even attempt every day. But for Patel, it underlines why even a little walking in the morning makes sense. “Before I joined Living Streets I really wasn’t much of a walker,” she says. “But now I feel less stressed because I’m not stuck in the confines of a car. When you’re walking to work you can think clearly about the day ahead and just feel more free.” 

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