During my racing career, I have run the streets of Paris and the forest of Noosa National Park in Australia’s Gold Coast. I have run around the walled city in China, through the Park Guell (Gaudi Sculpture Park) in Barcelona and along the most stunning trail high up in the Laveda on the island of Madeira. Often finding places I wouldn’t have seen if I had been walking around town, sometimes running with a new local friend, and many times, finding the most amazing forests and trails, running while travelling is both rewarding and soulful. Being outside, being active, experiencing my environment while taking a break from pulling out my wallet and consuming is truly peaceful for me.
Recently, travelling as close to home as Tofino, the host of the AirBnB was super excited to help as soon as she found out I was a runner, and I discovered a couple of trails that I hadn’t run before. While I have had help from countless Concierges at hotels around the world, the locals who run can be very helpful at pointing you to places you may never find on your own.
Vacations are a treat and a much needed break for most people, and time to spend alone, with friends or with family. They can also present athletes with restricted training times and an interruption in an otherwise predictable routine. Holidays can be a challenge to training if you are travelling around a lot, visiting friends or relatives, or staying in a snowy or hot climate. They can also be challenging if getting your training in is your physical and emotional regulator, so it’s worth thinking about and planning ahead. During my recent fb live event I talked about how to train while on vacation, with some tips about time management, but also some advice on how you can train your brain to relax as well, and set your expectations before you leave town.
Unless you are travelling solo, with a running group, or with a partner who is as enthusiastic about fitting in training as you, you basically have 2 choices. Choice A: is to be flexible, and work as hard as you can to fit some training in. Choice B is to decide you are on holiday; you may train or you may not, but either way is OK. (Option B is a good way to give yourself a break from having to fit in your training around the schedules of others or other disruptions due to travel.)
How to Train away from Home
Take Active Recovery
Vacations are an obvious time to take a week or two of active rest, or to take an easy recovery week. If you can, plan to have a down week for the week that you travel, and preferably the first week on a multi-week vacation. That way, the jet lag, and acclimation comes during your easy week. Plan your training ahead as much as possible taking into account that you will have to be flexible. Even if you can do little else, it is realistic to plan a week of only run or walk training. Cross training activities like cycling and swimming may be restricted. Walking and running is the easiest and most time-efficient of the three sports to fit in, with merely running shoes and the outdoors necessary.
Let everybody know that you will be training a few times, and will try to work around family and group activities.
Get it in before the day starts, as later in the day it is more likely you will be tired from body surfing, hiking, sitting in the sun or mini golf with the whole family. Before the sun comes up is perfect while in hot areas, and in the gym on a treadmill before you hit the the slopes for the day. More than likely, everybody will still be sleeping when you return, so you haven’t missed anything and you’ve gained a zen like start to your day. Another good time can be before dinner, when everybody is having their downtime after the day.
Do advance research on the location you will be visiting. Is there a gym for strength or treadmill options. What are the trails like? Is there a local store that holds free drop in runs? Even if you can’t get in your usual sessions, 20 minutes easy training and doing drills and maintaining feel is better than none.
Or read this article in Runner’s World about why you should run while travelling.
Including this awesome tip I haven’t used yet. “Look up Races to Steal Their Routes
Of course you’re not actually stealing anything, but following a race course can give you some peak views: “It’s handy to look up races in the area, because those are usually on some beautiful trails or scenic spots in a city, and they have the course maps on the race website you can use to help guide you,” says Boris.”
Take advantage of free ME time!
If you are a parent of young ones who relies on childminding or pre-schools for time to fit in your training, vacation training can be a challenge, but again, gather support and plan. Also be prepared to head out the door at the last minute, when plans change and the kids are at the pool with Uncle Fred and suddenly you have 30 minutes on your own!
Be flexible and adventurous
You might have to get up earlier, train at odd hours, or drop a training session. You might have to choose between that soon to close breakfast buffet and that 45 minute run. Chances are, if you are an active parent, you have already mastered the skills of “creative time management, training and childcare”; here’s the chance to test out what you have learned. Drop your expectations of the perfect training - just enjoy wherever you are and whatever you can do.
Have Snacks at the Ready
Bring or buy snacks to keep on hand in the hotel room. Some energy bars for calories in a pinch are always a good idea. I generally hit a store right away when I travel, and get a few days worth of real food: almonds, trail mix, bananas, apples, salty snacks like pretzels and bagels. I also buy a good bar of chocolate, and bring those Starbucks instant coffee packets so I am not hunting for a coffee shop on my first morning.
Most of all just be prepared to be flexible and easy going, possibly missing training for the chance to go zip lining or simply taking a great hike along the beach with your kids.
Stay in the moment, your regular training can resume at any time, and don’t spend time fretting about missed miles.
With some advance planning and creative time management, it is possible to have a fit holiday!
Lucy Smith is a coach, Lululemon Ambassador, mother and former elite athlete. Discovering cool places to train while travelling is one of her favourite things about running.
Promoting running and physical activity one joyful heartbeat at a time!
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