We’re halfway through Summer vacation and it’s time to get out of town if you haven’t already. But depending on your race schedule, you are probably somewhere in the midst of training for a late Summer or Fall race, and traveling and running don’t always mix. But that family vacation or dream trip to Paris doesn’t have to kill your hopes of a PR.
Some of us travel all the time and a little running away from home doesn’t even cause a ripple in the training plan, but most people only manage to get away for a week or two a year. (This blog is for you!) There are the tried and true methods: get up before your family, plan every run ahead of time, set reminders, and make the running your constant. That is easier on a business trip, but on vacation, there will be days you wake up and the call of the beach will be stronger than that of the trail.
For me, the willingness to adapt is key, but more important is the knowledge that your race will not suffer after one vacation.
- See the Gym Before you Book – Everyone will tell you to find a treadmill. I take that one step further and say: try to find a hotel that has photos of their treadmill or with reviews of their gym. More than once I have checked into a hotel advertising “state-of-the-art” equipment to find a beaten up, barely moving treadmill shoved into a dusty corner of a hot room. I will now pay extra for the perfect fitness center, preferably one that overlooks the city or ocean.
Plan ahead so you can stray – Plan your routes ahead, as you don’t need that extra excuse to skip a run and you have an idea of where you are if you stray off the path. Don’t forget to look for routes with bathrooms, water fountains, and lights, because you should always plan for the unexpected! I like to look for lake loops or boardwalk runs that offer both scenery and facilities. But this is a great opportunity to get to know a new location. When I was in Norway, I looked at enough routes beforehand that I could go for a run that sent me past major architectural highlights of Oslo without a plan; my three mile run turned to five as I explored. All that planning ahead should be a guideline and will keep you going in the right direction when your GPS fails, but don’t be afraid to stray either. If your out in a new place for hours, use the time as part of your site seeing. Try to do at least one run in each city even if that is all the running you fit in your entire trip. I fully plan to run by the Eiffel Tour at sunrise at least once.
- Schedule your training realistically – If you have an 18 miler scheduled on the day of your best friend’s wedding, it probably won’t happen. It probably also won’t happen the day before or the day after. Be realistic and adjust your schedule around your plans. Do that 18-miler the week before or the week after, and instead run an easy 12. If you’re spending two weeks touring Italy’s wine country, expect to drink wine. I know there are people out there who would forego to get proper training in, but I am not one to spend the time or money on a vacation that I’m not truly getting to experience. So plan your training around your trip not the other way around. This is a great time to schedule in some really good rest and recovery.
- Think short but intense – When traveling you want to maximize your workout time and leave yourself some energy for the day ahead. If your Yasso 800s normally leave you sore, chose something easier. You don’t want to spend a day recovering when you could be siteseeing. Speedwork that kicks it up a notch for your lungs is a better choice than one that tires your legs. I like treadmill inclines and speedwork while traveling so that I don’t have to venture far from the room and can get an intense workout without killing my legs.
Expect to miss at least one run – Whether you are stuck in the airport for six extra hours or getting to Pipa Beach took longer than expected, life happens. Life happens even more when you are not in your controlled daily environment. Right off the bat, just expect to run one less day at least each week you are traveling (plan your schedule that way). Then expect to miss a run you had planned. With that said, I no longer bring extra running clothes as they just take up suitcase space and I never find time for an “extra” run! Missing one workout doesn’t make or break your training. If your training before and after your trip is consistent, you will be fine. Your overall fitness is not about one individual workout. Use all your high expectations for a time without the stress or lack of sleep travel causes (or without the wine or that amazing free dinner with your co-workers or your family fighting over who gets the floatie). Life happens, let it happen, and enjoy it. Don’t let your training stress compound on your travel stress, or your future training and races will be affected way more than missing a workout. You need balance and can never let the thoughts in your head tear down the confidence in your ability.
- Something is better than Nothing – Normally, I would never give this advice. I think if you are having a terrible horrible run–your tempo is off, your gait is wonky, or your wheezing like a songbird–then it is a sign that you need to rest. Go home, foam roll, and relax. I am a firm believer that overtraining is worse than anything else you can do to prepare for a race. But when traveling the “something is better than nothing” approach works well. Can’t squeeze in even an hour for a run for the five days of your family vacation, then spend 10 minutes crosstraining. I like to work on strengthening my weak hips and ankles. I also employ the balance while I brush my teeth exercises while on vacation (have to multi-task to allow for maximum fun time). Can’t find a treadmill or track for your 400 meter repeats, then find a hill for sprints, or one one block at a time for impromptu intervals. Walk instead of taking the metro to the museum, and then try to keep a decent pace. I aim for a 12-13 minute overall pace including waiting to cross streets and window shopping for a three to four mile walk; I leisurely stroll the rest of the day.
There is also my favorite method of maintaining training while traveling: register for a race. I fully admit that I always look for a 10k or half marathon on every trip that doesn’t already involve traveling to a race. This is probably more important if you are traveling as frequently as I have been the last few years, but it is a major motivator for staying on track.