Running and exploring new places can be fun, memorable, and can breathe life into training. On the flip side, busy schedules, poor sleep, travel day, and unfamiliarity with the routes in the area are obstacles. In marathon training, I have found these obstacles to be significant hurdles in accomplishing quality runs as well as getting the mileage in.
My job requires a lot of travel. Honestly, I love this as it has allowed me to meet people from all over and see new places. But in 2017, I ran my first marathon and did most of the training for it on the road. During and since that time, I’ve learned a lot, and if there is a nugget of my experience that will help you, it’s worth the trial and error.
That’s why I want to share the biggest obstacles you might experience and some ways to overcome them.
Obstacle: Travel Day
Schedule an easy run on travel day.
Take it from me. I’ve learned the hard way! In fact, I faltered recently on this objective. This month, I ran a long run in an extreme heat advisory in Texas after a long day of travel. Tight travel-day legs are definitely no fun, but it was the heat that put me over the edge.
You may be thinking, “Come on, Andi! Obvious stuff here!” In my defense, I often overcome unpleasant circumstances (as I am sure many of you do, too) and was possibly leaning too hard on my stubborn will rather than any common sense. This disaster could’ve been avoided with better planning.
Wear clothes you can stretch in.
The cool thing with fashion nowadays (especially for women) is that you can find flexible and comfortable professional wear for travel. If you don’t mind a few weird glances, waiting for boarding is a great time to do some stretching.
I personally only do standing stretches. Maybe I’ll get bold enough one day to spraul on the ground. I do attempt to keep some postural dignity in case I run into clients, co-workers, and executives in my line of work.
(Zach here! I’m much more likely to do the full gamut of awkward runner things regardless of onlooker proximity and contact surface cleanliness. That includes on the plane. No one’s said anything yet…)
Drink lots of water.
Rather than paying for that $3 airport water bottle, bring your own. Chug that H20 as much as you’re able! I don’t know what it is about planes and airports, but I feel like a dry raisin after concluding a travel day if I am not intentional about filling up my water bottle.
Obstacle: Unfamiliar Routes
There are cool things about taking your run to new streets. The disadvantage is the obvious lack of familiarity.
The most obvious solution for finding a good running spot is doing some homework. However, it’s not as simple as one might think. Here are some tips:
- Ask the concierge and/or other hotel staff.
- Visit or call a local running store. They are bound to have some local tips!
- Map bike paths, although not every trailhead or entrance can be located via GPS. This is an issue. Sometimes you can get lucky and the pinned GPS point will be near you.
- My brother-in-law looks on Strava for popular segments in the area. He can often find good running locations this way.
Often on my first day in a new city (travel day, so it’s an easy run), I run around near the hotel and discover what is in the area. Not only have I found cool trails, bridges, and other unique sites, but also restaurants and activities I want to try later. I try to keep in mind where I am in relation to the hotel as sometimes GPS gets wonky in downtown areas.
Side note: I also bring a running backpack and end my run at a Walgreens or CVS for my snacks (and sometimes grab dinner on the way back to the hotel).
(If I sound lame, I am. Ha! Just wanted to clear that up.)
Schedule and location permitting, a visit to an area state or national park for a moderate to long run is worth it. Sometimes I have even taken an Uber, but this running adventure often becomes the highlight of my trip. Most parks have trails, so with a little research, you will find one with an opportunity for runners.
A few suggestions:
- Make sure your watch and phone are with you and fully charged.
- Bring a credit card as a backup plan. If technology is not working, you would still have means to pay for a cab.
- A bear whistle, fuel, and water would all be wise items no matter your run distance. The bear whistle is not just for bears but also for if you were to somehow get lost or need assistance.
Obstacle: Keeping Loose
The combination of a travel day, sleeping in a different bed, and distance running is a recipe for tight and sore muscles.
Do something every morning.
Regardless of whether you actually have time for a run, using the hotel foam roller (many hotel gyms have them) is a great way to start your busy work day. Even better, a short run or exercise bike ride get the blood flowing for a good stretch if you have about an hour.
(Don’t forget the importance of routine, though.)
Buy the things you need.
How much is your training and health worth? Before you neglect yourself because you think you can suffer a couple days, consider that you may get injured or forfeit your training cycle by not taking care of yourself on the road.
- On one of my work trips recently, I was very tight. I went to a dollar store and picked up a toy ball to sit on to help with my tight piriformis. Before heading home, I left the ball in the hotel room because I didn’t have room in my luggage. Totally fine. I was only out a dollar.
- I’ve also forgotten running shoes. I bought a pair online and had them overnighted to the hotel. It may be annoying but it is not a waste of money. Certainly you will need a new pair at some point, right? The extra price for shipping is worth several days of training (in my opinion).
- If you didn’t pack something for recovery, make an effort to go buy something high in both protein and carbs to fuel after long and hard efforts.
Stretch every night.
If you do this when you’re home, continue your routine. If you do not, it is even more important to wind down and practice some opening and elongating for your hips, back, and other muscles.
Sleeping in a different bed can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Helping your body to relax will help your quality of sleep.
Stretching will also help your body bounce back more quickly the next day. I have also taken the opportunity to stretch on beach fronts, at hotel courtyards, parks, and other scenic places to take in a pleasant view and spend a little extra time outdoors.
We often have high hopes for our training when we travel to new places. Planning for success begins with recognizing the obstacles. There is a big, revitalizing, and fascinating world out there. Go run in it!
Any suggestions from my traveling runners out there? Please comment below! We would love to hear from you.