In video games it's common for characters to run by default: it's faster, why wouldn't you? I think this is also a good approach to apply in real life, at least over short distances. It saves you time and it's a bit of exercise. Over pretty much any distance short enough that I'm not going to break a sweat I'll run.

I've done some of this most of my life (I can still hear my middle school principal shouting to stop running in the hallway—Jeeeeff-reeeey!) though over the last five years or so I've pushed myself to do it more consistently. The more I do it the easier it gets, and the shorter commutes become.

Note that this is another example of describing something I do that works for me, and that I expect would likely work for many more people than I see applying it. But probably not more than 30% of people, though?

(Prompted by a coworker talking about the inconvenience of an 8min distance between two buildings at work that I think of as a 2-3min distance.)

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Thanks jefftk for your short posts on random stuff making consistently Less Wrong more about what I wish it should be

I thought I was just an autistic weirdo for doing this, so it's nice to know I'm not the only one!

Running upstairs is also a good example (the trick is getting to the point where you can run up the stairs fast enough that you only feel you are exhausted when you are already up). Or jumping downstairs. Generally, optimizing for fun is probably the most sustainable way of doing this. I don't enjoy most sports that require endurance, but like doing things like running in short bursts, so it works pretty well for me. The biggest downside is probably strangers looking at you weird, but I mostly don't notice and certainly don't mind. Walking in a group is different, of course.

I did this a bunch in college & grad school, and I still do it to some extent. Seriously, it got to the point where it made me less tired than if I had gone up the stairs slowly! One moment you are on floor A, another moment you are on floor B feeling chipper and energized.


I agree that running has the benefits that you describe. So why don't people run everywhere?

  • Walking can be social. Most people can converse while walking significantly more easily than while running. Empathetic groups tend to travel at the pace of the slowest individual that they want to stick together with.
  • Traveling more slowly offers more time to think and to observe one's surroundings. Different people will, of course, derive different levels of benefit from a couple extra minutes of quiet reflection.
  • Many situations cause a perceived necessity of wearing clothes and shoes which are more comfortable to walk in than to run in. Many situations carry a social expectation of appearing calm and put-together upon arrival, which is often inconsistent with having recently been running. I'd speculate that this factor has a significantly greater effect on individuals in "lower-status" roles in society, whether by career, ethnicity, or gender. In other words, some people have to work harder than others to be viewed as the same degree of credible, and a habit of running from place to place impacts that credibility/respect/"normalcy" in a way that may not affect someone of your appearance and career, but does affect others. And even if one can look perfectly put together upon arrival, most people who see someone arrive on time by running would assume that that person was running late.
  • Running, especially in crowded or unfamiliar areas, seems to convey a higher risk of injury than walking. Traveling faster cuts down on the response time available to react to a potential threat, like a vehicle or a tripping hazard. Some people who see a stranger running through a crowded area will assume that that person is running away from something, possibly fleeing after committing a crime, depending on the runner's appearance and the observer's biases. If the observer is a law enforcement officer, runners on the negative side of those biases are running a health and safety risk by choosing not to walk.

Traveling more slowly offers more time to think and to observe one's surroundings. Different people will, of course, derive different levels of benefit from a couple extra minutes of quiet reflection.

That is a great point. I recall hearing about research showing that walking helps you think, similar to how showers yield shower thoughts. And anecdotally I find it to be true for myself and to a lesser extent those who I talk to.

It doesn't have to be all walking or all running though. You can mix it up, maybe walking 70% of the time and running 30% of the time. I think that's what I'll try myself.

Aaah, to be able to run for 3 minutes and not break a sweat...

But seriously, I just spend all my walking time thinking about stuff. Essentially all my best ideas and solutions to my problems come to me while walking, running doesn't quite have the same effect on me.

I do this too, and have as long as I can remember. The downside is that people are always saying they saw me running and am I late for something and what’s wrong do I need a ride etc. We need more adults “running by default” so that bystanders stop asking me those annoying questions. Thank you for your service!! :)

This one is not an obvious win.

It does help with "default" fitness levels, but it also brings a substantially greater chance of a variety of injuries that don't always fully recover. Running by default will also usually mean that you don't take the time for preparations that reduce the chance of such injuries.

I experimented with this in college but ended up not doing it much, mainly because I was always carrying a backpack full of books + laptop + random ballast. In retrospect I should maybe have optimized a bit more; perhaps there are backpacks that make running more comfortable, and I could have got a lighter laptop, a kindle instead of physical books, etc. Or I could have gotten a jogging stroller (you know, for babies) and put my stuff in it.

It's not too late, I suppose, to do this today. Any thoughts on how to make running to and from work more comfortable and less awkward while carrying two laptops & some random small objects?

I wonder if using a sternum strap would minimize the amount the backpack moves around and thereby make it much easier to run?

Yep that helps a ton! (having tested it many times)

So on one hand I didn’t keep up my running everywhere habit. But I also just… ran despite having a backpack?

I guess the two laptops sounds heavier than usual. Um, double checking assumption you need two?

Other things that help you run with a backpack:

1. use both a hip strap and a sternum strap, and tighten both (especially the sternum strap) way tighter than you normally would for walking. In my experience this eliminates most of the jostling of the backpack relative to not using straps
2. instead of carrying water bottle on the outside, put it inside for better balance and no chance of it falling out
3. use a high-quality backpack with good padding, and probably with a rigid back, e.g. ( Also helps a ton with jostling and with not getting poked/smacked by things in the backpack

Have tested all of these a bunch and they help me a ton

Less robustly useful:

1. hold onto the shoulder straps as you run (reduces jostling a bit)
2. smooth your running gait to reduce jostling

smooth your running gait to reduce jostling

I think this one is actually quite big: I have followed basically none of your suggestions above, except that my backpack effectively has a rigid back because that's where my laptop is, and my backpack doesn't bounce around when I run. But on the way home yesterday I played with my gait some, and if I ran in a way more similar to what I see some other people doing it bounced a lot. So I think probably I've learned to run more smoothly?

I also suspect running more smoothly is better for your body since there's less impact to absorb, but that's speculative.

You can also just speed-walk: quickly take full size strides, but always keep at least one foot on the ground - this keeps your torso at the same elevation for the whole journey, and eliminates the bouncing (and, added bonus, it doesn't look like you're running)

My backpack lamely doesn't have any of those straps. 

The best one I've found is removing the left shoulder strap and gripping the backpack in e.g. my right arm.

As a side tangent, I noticed lately that over a half of the distance I used to drive on a normal day, would take nearly the same time if I just walked, due to insane traffic. 

For example, my morning work commute takes about 25 minutes by car, about 12 minutes by bicycle, and about 30ish minutes just walking briskly.  This is because at least 60% of the "driving" is just sitting in traffic, so even though I can drive much faster than I can walk, it does not matter much. The car in traffic is not really a vehicle to move around in, but a movable couch to sit on while waiting.

This is especially true in the age of Google Maps and some such, which allows me to plot my walk/bike-ride through shortcuts that would be impossible to use if I was driving a car.

Running could probably be about 40% faster than walking in such circumstances, making driving all but pointless, unless I need to transport heavy loads or the weather is truly atrocious (but then again, atrocious weather makes driving yet harder and less efficient anyway). 

I’ve tried this. It only occurred to me after I moved to a dirty and ugly neighborhood. Before then I lived either in car centric suburbia or pleasant city neighborhoods with lots of nearby shops.

anyways it’s a good idea

I just wanted to make a comment that I deliberately choose to not run to allow my daydreaming mode (default mode network) to become active and to "recharge" my deep work system. Basically, there is evidence that walking makes you more creative, and it's a really easy way for me to get into that specific brain state. I also use it as a shorter idea-based meditation so that I can focus on a problem and try to solve it whilst walking.

I thought I was the only one! It's free cardio. My mile time is unusually fast, which I want to ascribe to this habit, but maybe the casuality goes the other way ("I like running everywhere because I was already good at running").

My asthma makes running difficult for me at speeds noticeably faster than the brisk walk I usually do (6 km/hour). But I use alternatives are probably close to in spirit: 

  • walk by default - for short distances and work talking to some of my friends.
  • cycle by default - for distances up to an hour, I use my bike, even if I could potentially save some time by using public transportation. 

I can't even run for two minutes[1], and I break a sweat even when I run for < 2 minutes.

  1. ^

    The last time I tried on the treadmill, I break my running attempts within two minutes and I've stopped trying.

Do you do this at work, indoors around other people?

Mostly outdoors, but I'll do it indoors in cases where I'm not going to collide with people. The big thing is not running around corners.

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That's pretty much what I'm doing on vacation. I always wear a pair of Xero shoes (or vibram five fingers, all shoes with extremely thin soles). They allow for the barefoot style of running that is 2-3 times faster than walking while not being that exhausting at all! I can routinely "run" from point A to point B without even being out of breath. It's just faster than walking!

Do you mean 2 - 3 times faster than walking?

Yes. Fixed it. Thank you.

I seem to recall your saying at some point (on a post about biking?) that you have knee problems. How do you handle that with this approach?

You weren’t asking me but I had knee problems while jogging that continued for years until I started jogging with a metronome (* and stepping in time with the metronome). Turns out that when you set the BPM high, your running form magically and effortlessly improves. At least for me. Tip comes from here, where he suggests 160bpm. I settled on 180bpm myself.

(Instead of a metronome app, there’s also RockMyRun, or search spotify playlists for whatever BPM you like, etc.)

When I’m just running a bit, like to the mailbox or to pick up my kid from school or whatever, as opposed to longer dedicated runs for exercise, I don’t bother putting in earbuds to get a proper metronome, because I’ve been metronoming long enough by now that I’ve kinda gotten a feel for the proper pace cadence.

Barefoot shoes had the same effect for me. They shorten the stride and that takes a lot of impact away from the knee. 

What's the mechanism here? Is it that wanting to keep time with the metronome shortens your stride?

You're deliberately stepping in time with the metronome, which involves more steps per minute than default. I don't have a deep explanation of how that translates into "gentler on your knees"; I guess something about your center of gravity going up and down less, and the way you're leaning, and how your body is configured when you step, whatever.

My guess would be that running with a metronome forces you to shorten your stride, which makes your more inclined to hitting the ground toe first instead of striking with the heel.

This is the basis of the barefoot running movement.

Anecdata indicates plausibly that more of the shock is absorbed by the calf muscles instead of the knee. Over years of this, the meniscus (which has no pain nerves) wears out, exposing sensitive bone & cartilage, explaining the pain when old enough.

Even if your foot still hits the ground the same way, there's less time between impacts. I think that means both (a) the total impact is spread over more events, which could be gentler and (b) the total impact is less, because gravitational acceleration is quadratic in time between steps.

There's some research in this direction, which I haven't looked into:

I timed myself today and apparently I run around 190

Wild, thanks!

I can run about 45min a day and 15min at a stretch without my knees bothering me, and this is less than that.

Got it. It's actually possible this is true for me as well -- I have minor knee problems and always assumed that it's the knee braces I wear while jogging that keep my knees feeling ok, but I haven't really tested this systematically, so perhaps I have more leeway to run short distances than I think!

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