Traveling This Season? Here are 4 Ways to Keep Running on Vacation
Between 2018 and 2019, I ran for 477 consecutive days. I had started a running streak and, until I got injured, I managed an average of six miles per day. I also traveled internationally five times and took a 10-day road trip through England.
It’s hard to imagine such things during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now that travel restrictions have eased up, holidays are right around the corner and races are back on the calendar, it’s time to unpack a few tips to keep running while traveling.
Whether you’re facing a busy travel schedule or unfamiliar neighborhoods, here are four things you can do to stay on schedule.
Obstacle 1: Busy itineraries
Solution: Block off time, just like you would at home, and communicate
Unless it’s a racecation (the portmanteau meaning a vacation around a destination race) or a running camp, running is likely not an item on your itinerary. This is especially true if you’re the only runner in your group (wait, not everyone runs?). However, if you know you want to get a few runs in while you’re traveling, it’s important to put those runs on the itinerary, inform your travel companions or hosts, keep the discipline to stick to the plan and maintain the flexibility to readjust priorities.
I’ve found that the easiest way to get in the run is to plan it for early in the mornings while everyone is still asleep. In fact, it’s those early morning jaunts I like the best. They give you a chance to see the locals out and about in their daily routines, to see the sights without being blocked by tourists and their selfie sticks, and to get to know the streets and surrounding area. Also, you get back just in time for breakfast with the others. The one drawback is you can end up sacrificing sleep this way, especially if the group stayed up late the night before. It’s important at this point to also recognize that this is your time off, and it’s OK to not run all the time.
Still, running while traveling not only provides the same benefits as it does during your normal routine (a rush of endorphins, stress-relief and a bit of “me” time), it also helps you work up an appetite for all the local specialties on vacation or your family’s cooking during the holidays. It’s good to try and keep up the running as you planned. If you can communicate this to your companions (and if they know you well-enough, they probably already know), they may be helpful in looking for ways to block off that time.
If there’s no practical way to schedule a run, you can still find creative ways to squeeze them in. I’ve taken a quick jog around the compound while people were settling in and unpacking or run up and down the street while the car was being filled up with gas. I’ve even used the waiting time at airports or train stations to get a quick run in (another reason traveling with the sneakers on the feet pays off).
Activities of the group, such as hikes, walks, or bike rides, can also double as runs for you. When on an hour-long tour, no one usually minds if you skip ahead for a bit and come back.
Obstacle 2: Limited luggage
Solution: Wear what you can, pack multi-use pieces, and hand-wash
While your fellow travelers may be worried about day-wear and evening-wear, your challenge is to balance street clothes and running clothes, as well as gear or nutrition. Packing an extra pair of shoes may not be an option, especially if all you’re taking is a backpack. Save space by wearing your running shoes on your feet. Not only do the clunkiest shoes end up out of the packing equation, but you’ll be able to sprint better to catch those connecting flights.
Next, think about how often you’re going to run. If it’s every other day or less, one set of running clothes may suffice. This means you can rinse out or clean your clothes after your run and they’ll dry by the time you run again. If the destination is hot enough, it may even dry within the hour, and the quick-dry technology of most running outfits means that they often dry within 24 hours. This would be useful if you did want to run every day, otherwise you may need at least two pairs of everything.
You may even think of substituting your running clothes for pajamas. This may be less practical if you’re planning on running in the same clothes two days in a row, but it can be a useful way to reduce the amount you have to pack.
Make sure to look up the weather of your destination(s) beforehand. As long as it’s summer, you can expect temperatures to be above freezing wherever you go and will get by in shorts and t-shirts; these are usually light and easy to squish into small crevices when packing. However, sometimes you’re traveling to a cold or wet climate, and you need the bulkier jacket, gloves, or cap. In this case, look for a long-sleeved running top or raincoat that can double as streetwear. They can also be used as an extra pillow or blanket on those long-haul flights.
Obstacle 3: Unfamiliar surroundings
Solution: Find other runners, map out routes and/or check Strava segments
What stops a lot of people from planning to run while traveling is not knowing the area. Some regions are downright dangerous to run in, especially as a single woman. However, most big cities and places used to tourism will have seen runners before, and may even have a running community—if not several.
The traditional advice is to find a local running store (like Fleet Feet!) and ask the enthusiastic personnel about routes and group runs. Meetup.com is also a great site to find local run groups of people who speak your language. When I was living in Berlin, I joined the Berlin Runners meetup, and I still go for a run with them every time I visit.
If you’re more interested in a solo run, you can look up routes of fellow runners on Strava or Runmyroute and see the segments that have been marked near the place you’re staying. When in doubt, look for a park or similar location designated for athletic activity. You’ll find you’re not the only one there running.
Also, if you’re lucky, you’re in an area with a track that is open to the public, so find out where the nearest track is and do a few laps.
If anything, many hotels offer gym areas with at least one treadmill. In regions where air quality may be poor, this would be the way to go.
Obstacle 4: Jet lag
Solution: Compression socks, hydration, and a run!
It is known that flying across multiple time zones can disrupt circadian rhythms and affect performance. In an oft-cited 1987 hamster experiment, scientists came to the conclusion that one of the quickest ways to adjust to time difference is to engage in some physical activity. The trick is not to overdo it, though. Note that your immune system may be compromised after flying.
Another common concern for runners in regard to long-distance travel are long periods of sitting and changes in air pressure, which may affect blood flow in the legs. Some people mitigate this with compression socks. However, also note the importance of drinking water. The air in the cabin can be dry, and hydrating can help prevent some of the feelings of fatigue that come from jetlag while also keepingrisk of blood clots at bay and your athletic performance high.
While most people can’t wait to take a break from their jobs, their home responsibilities or maybe even their kids, few of us actually want to take a break from running while on vacation. In fact, one of the things we often look forward to is more time to run! So don’t let any obstacle get in your way.