Lessons From The Road / Travel

7 Tips for Running While You Travel

 

If you’ve traveled much you know that one of the toughest things to maintain on the road is an exercise routine. No matter where you travel, the easiest excuse to invent is the one to skip exercise.

As it happened, I started jogging about the same time I started traveling internationally. And from the beginning, I was committed to not blowing my fitness routine just because I was on the road. So whether I’m traveling domestically or abroad, one of my priorities at each stop is planning my run.

Over the years I’ve developed a strategy for getting in a jog. With a little planning you get this:

Ignore the preparation and you get this:

So if you’re traveling and want to get some miles in try these ideas:

1. Say to yourself, “This ain’t home.”
Runners, down to the depths of their DNA, are creatures of habit. And no matter how simple and easy your regular routine is, you won’t be able to duplicate it on the road. So instead of lamenting the changes, celebrate being in a new, exciting place and take the time to notice and appreciate the differences.

2. Plan your route so you don’t get lost.
No matter how good your memory is, if you don’t plan a bit, there’s a chance of getting lost. This is where maps come in. Take your choice: old school or new school.

The old school solution is a small paper map which you carry along. Study it before hand, plot a simple route, and keep to it. Pay attention to turns, landmarks, street names, and most importantly, mark your hotel on the map. I try to minimize the number of turns, and when I turn, I pick out a landmark (e.g. right at Lenin Statue, left at McDonalds).

New school is basically a cell phone with GPS, a map app, and googling “running routes + place name.” Having a cellphone with your route plotted in real time is a distinct advantage and gives you lots of flexibility, but the downside is having to constantly look at the phone to monitor your progress.

3. Choose a hotel or apartment close to a park or green space.
If you’re like me, you want to walk out of your hotel or apartment, stretch a bit, and then jog away. So a hotel within a few blocks of a park or green space is the way to go. I’d much rather run 10 times around a small city park or soccer field than dodge cars, cross busy streets, and worry about being flattened by a bus – a very real possibility in some of the places I’ve visited.

4. Find a body of water: a lake, river, or ocean will do.
Most cities that are blessed with a natural water feature take advantage of it by adding pedestrian paths – pure jogger’s nirvana.

5. Research to find the closest ritzy neighborhood. 
People that spend a bundle on their homes want to live in quiet, clean areas. Posh neighborhoods normally mean jogging in the street, but traffic is almost always low and slow. Does this sound like a perfect place to run?

6. Think about safety.
It may sound obvious, but the first rule of security is not running in questionable areas. If you have concerns or don’t know the area, ask at the hotel desk or check tourist books and online information. In my experience, if it feels unsafe it probably is.

Unfortunately, in many places in the world women runners face safety issues that aren’t necessarily a problem for men. Laura, at This Runner’s Recipes has an informative post of Realistic Safety Tips for For Female Runners.

Always carry ID and enough local currency to grab a taxi or uber back to the hotel. I recommend carrying a laminated copy of the photo page of your passport. Also, carry a business card from your hotel with your name, and the name of your emergency contact written on the back.

7. Plan your run early in the morning.
An early start won’t necessarily make your run easier, but it will almost certainly be more pleasant. The world is quiet and just waking up; shopkeepers are arranging sidewalk fruit bins, florists are tending their flowers, and cats are slinking home from their nighttime hunt. It’s a special time and no matter what your day has in store, an upbeat start will make it better.

Every city and every jogger is different, but following these tips will remove some uncertainty and add some fun to your run no matter where you are.

Do you have a favorite tip to share? We’d love to hear it.

Happy Running Trails,
James

Photo Credits:
1) Mike Baird 2) Ernst Vikne 5) Bujar I Gashi 8) Patrick Gruban  9) Roberto Strauss 10) bigwavephoto 11) Helgi Halldórsson

29 thoughts on “7 Tips for Running While You Travel

  1. While working, I always explored new cities on runs. Once, I gave directions to a government official’s driver in Geneva. The official asked, how do you know the city so well? You’ve only been here a few days.

    • That must have been good to hear. It makes total sense to me that when runners study a map and then jog over a route they remember more than people in vehicles. It also makes sense that the slower pace makes it easier to pick out details that others miss. And the walkers out there can legitimately say the same thing. I could wax philosophic about this topic, but I have to say that some of my most vivid memories of some cities are things I saw on my morning run. ~James

  2. I’ve never been much of a runner while traveling but I usually get in lots of walking and hiking so I don’t need it. Having said that, when staying at beaches I try to run on the beach in the morning because I am usually drinking by noon!

    I like the tips about staying near a green space or quiet neighborhood. Going in the morning is key too, since the day will certainly get in the way if you try and go later.

    • Jeff, you’re missing a golden opportunity here. Beer has lots of carbs, and it’s the perfect chance to carb-load for your next run. 🙂 Living in hot climates engrained morning runs for me, and if I haven’t started my run by 10:00 am, I leave it for the next day. I look at these gung-ho types running at 2 PM in 95° heat and wonder how their cardio routine is going to feel after a heat stroke. ~James

  3. I used to run on all my trips but rarely do nowadays. All good recommendations here, especially the quick note about women runners. I have on a few occasions felt nervous while running by myself in a foreign country, and my sister had a very uncomfortable run in rural Cappadocia one morning when I didn’t go with her. We both leave one earphone out in strange surroundings so we are a little more observant of our surroundings than we are at home.

    • Lexie, I know that if I were a woman, I’d be concerned about running solo in lots of places. It’s an unfortunate situation that truly sucks, but there’s no denying the risks. And it takes planning (and probably a running partner or two) to minimize the dangers. And I must admit, that I’ve gotten more and more selective about where I run. Sometimes, in some places, it just isn’t worth it. ~James

  4. I don’t have an exercise routine. For me, play-ercise works best. I find that when I’m traveling I usually end up exercising more than when I’m home. Haha because I also play more. 🙂

    • Terri and I definitely walk more when we travel. We both have a routine at home, but it’s so easy to get out of regular diet and exercise habits when traveling that we make an extra effort to walk more. But it’s win-win because we get a better look at the place if we walk, and that makes it easier to rationalize special desserts. 🙂 ~James

    • Thanks for the comment Bob and for dropping by the blog. The advantage of running as an exploration tool is that you can cover more ground, which helps decide where to visit later – and get a bit of exercise. It’s win-win. ~James

  5. One of the reasons we often do active travel is to stay active. When we are on a ‘vacation’ I seem to turn into a sloth that craves ice cold beverages at all times. For those of us who have given up on the running my suggestion would be walking/power walking can work as well.

    • Sue over the years that anchor that I drag when I jog has gotten heavier and heavier, and slowed my pace to a near crawl. I’m sure those power walkers notice it when they blow by me. But no matter, as you say, the objective is to be out there. And BTW, you and Dave could be the poster children for active vacations. ~James

  6. I could have used this advice when we were traveling. I gained over 30 pounds during our travels. I have since lost the weight, but I will keep your tips in mind for the next time we venture abroad. – Mike

    • Mike, weight gain while traveling is almost inevitable, at least for me. And it’s not so much that I go overboard indulging, it’s getting into situations where it’s hard to impossible to eat the way I normally do: e.g. a big green salad in Mexico … I don’t think so. I hope that you and Florence are doing well. Still in Greenville? ~James

      • I had to look Caldwell up Mike. We’ve traveled through Idaho a couple of times and it seems like a lovely place. I’m glad you found a place that you like enough to put down roots … for a while anyway. All the best to you and Florence. ~ James

    • Thanks for the comment Caitlin and for dropping by the blog. If I’m on a short trip, I don’t bother, but if I’m going to be on the road for a while, I try to run. It just makes me feel better and gives me a look at the city that I wouldn’t normally have. ~James

  7. I wish we loved running — we need to do it just to maintain a better weight. But we don’t. Strolling works well, though, and many of your tips mean better strolls, too. And that tip about staying next to a park or place with a view — works well even with couch potatoes, if the couch is close to a window! 🙂

    • Rusha, I started jogging almost (Gulp!!) 40 years ago. Which, since I didn’t start as a child, should give you a pretty good idea of how old I am: old enough to need to start thinking about a less stressful fitness routine. I keep waiting for the clear STOP signal from my crunchy knees, but they just keep going right along – albeit lots slower. But, T and I are big into our fitness trackers and I’m doing lots more walking which is also good. It’s all about balance these days, and some of that balance involves a bit of couch nap time. 🙂 ~James

  8. The only way to make sure you day doesn’t get worse is to start it w/ a run! Truth be told, the only way I can stay in shape (and shed pounds) is by running. And with extensive business travel it’s hard to find the time and will to run. My secret trick is to always run BEFORE dinner – no matter what. There’s no way it’s happening after dinner.

    • Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. My years of business travel and living in hot climates instilled the habit of morning runs. If my runs don’t happen by 10am, they aren’t going to happen that day. But, as you know, when you’re on the road the important thing is to get out there and do it. And whatever works is the way to go. ~James

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