I’ve just returned from an eight day trip from South America enjoying time in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay; and Santiago, Chile. While one of my favorite ways to see a city is by running through it, it can be tough to run on vacation. Most of my recent trips abroad have been for marathons. I’ve only needed to do some light running around leading up to race day, race, and then enjoy the rest of the trip while recovering. This time was different. I’m right in the middle of a build-up to get in the best shape I can for a half marathon in mid-January to give one last attempt at an OTQ. Improvement in running is all about consistency. There is no gain (for me, anyway, or for anyone with high goals) in interrupting a training cycle or losing fitness while away. Soon I’ll be traveling for the holidays and I’m glad to have the experience of this trip to help prepare my mind for another week of training while traveling.
There are lots of great things about getting away and lots of challenges. Just because I like to keep a positive attitude, I’ll start with the Pro’s:
Change. Traveling gives a chance to break away from a running routine and routes that can quickly become repetitive and mundane. Run new routes. See new scenery, new people.
Experience. If you’re training for a race, you’ll most likely be running that race on unfamiliar roads in a somewhat unfamiliar climate. Increasing your fitness is all about your body’s ability to adapt to different stressors. Running for a week while traveling can give you experience running in an unfamiliar environment with many different elements at play.
Travel. Running isn't the only thing in life. Traveling brings us great experiences and knowledge of the world and its cultures. It’s fun and exciting and adventurous. Regardless of what running is like while you’re away, you are blessed to have the opportunity to travel.
I wouldn’t call the opposing side “Con’s”, just things to look out for and not to let get you down. They’re just extra Challenges:
Time. If you do vacation like I do, you pack your days full of sightseeing to get the most of your time while you’re there, especially if you’re visiting a cool new city for the first time. This doesn’t always leave lots of time to run. Solution: Commit to running in the morning. Most of us are used to waking up extra early for work to run in the morning, anyway. Most days you won’t be waking up half as early as you usually do still, but you’ll get your run out of the way and won’t think about it the rest of the day.
Quality. I rarely do really tough tempo or speed workouts alone and when I do I know not to expect the same results. Tempo efforts are especially tough for me. While on vacation you’ll be running solo, tired, in an unfamiliar climate and on unfamiliar routes. I don’t see these as reasons not to do workouts all together. Solution: Keep an open mind. Run intervals and tempo efforts based on time and feel rather than distance and pace. Do speed work on a nearby track if possible to provide familiarity.
Quantity. This past trip, I expected my weekly miles to suffer as well. Fortunately, I was able to sneak in two double-run days and still run just over 100 miles. But not every trip will you have the opportunity to run as much as you do in your normal routine. Solution: Stay as consistent as possible. Be sure to start off on the right foot and run the first chance you get. When you have time, don’t cut your runs short. Since your quality of runs will most likely suffer, put effort into maintaining quantity so that the week after your vacation doesn’t have to suffer too!
For me, keeping mileage and intensity up while traveling is important. I don’t want to lose fitness and I need to continue to put in effort throughout my time traveling. Overall, I had a pretty crappy week of tired runs with unimpressive tempo and interval workouts. BUT the day I got back I had an excellent long run and later that week I had great interval and tempo workouts. I’m positive the effort I put in the week before helped create that great week of running. For you, things may be different and that’s OK. If you have goals, don’t let them be hindered by travel. Likewise, don’t let your goals hinder you from traveling. If you like to just run, then running is a great way to explore a new place. Find what works for you, make a plan if you need to, and enjoy your time away.