Hey running adventurers! Taking running “on the road” (or off- road in most cases) is a great way to vacation and explore. Many athletes fear losing fitness and momentum on vacation. As runners and campers for 20+ years, this is a topic near and dear to us. We have discovered some useful tips throughout the years. In this article, we will share what we have learned and utilize some tips from other bloggers that you may find helpful as well.
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When traveling, it’s always recommended to search the area for great places to run. Depending on your cell service when you get to your camping destination, you may not be able to search as easily. We recommend planning some potential routes while you still have wifi. Otherwise, invest in a map or print a map of the area you are staying.
Check out Wanderlust: Amazing Places to Run and perhaps plan a trip to run one of those routes!
Plan your workouts for fun
Speaking of planning your route, we have found that we don’t want our day to be alllll about running. We found ways to integrate our runs to be fun for the whole family. I drop Zach along the route to our destination area, and he runs there. If we drive to a running destination, we make sure there’s a beach, playground, or a great place to explore. As always, snack-packing is a must for successful outings (especially with kiddos).
There are other ways to fit in fitness such as
- cycling as a family
- aqua jogging while kids swim
- …you get the picture
If we view our time adventuring as getting in the way of our running goals, let’s try to see and utilize these activities as cross training.
Conquer the trails
An appeal of camping can often be the amount of soft surfaces available for running! The last thing you want after a vacation is to come back with an injury. Are you new to trail running? Metcons and Miles wrote some tips in Transitioning to Trail Running. I especially recommend heeding the advice about rolling out the feet and calves. There are more demands on foot and ankle stability and you will likely get sore if you are in not in the routine of trail running. Also, be prepared to slow down your pace. Let go of competition and lose yourself (but not literally) in the woods.
Care for your body
What is the secret weapon for back pain while camping? A basketball! This trick is not original. We’ve taken it from Running Rewired author, Jay Dicharry. It WORKS. You use it differently than you would a roller. It’s not for fascia as much as it is to separate those sticky ribs. Have you heard of traction? You could liken it to a similar benefit of helping you mobilize and fight the effects of gravity and pounding.
- Place basketball under your back
- Find a tender spot
- Relax into it
- Take 3 or more full deep breaths
Another key area that tends to suffer while camping is my neck. Doing a neck stretch in the morning and at night is very beneficial.
- Place hand on opposite side of the head
- Pull head very gently, ear to shoulder (It likely won’t touch)
- Then place hand on the back of head
- Gently pull the head forward
- Do the opposite side
Gentle and fluid yoga is always great for runners, but especially helpful for those who are training and sleeping on the ground. It could be charming to do your yoga around the campfire before bed or on the beach as the sun rises. Make it an experience. Here are some great yoga poses for runners by The Mother Runners. We recommend keeping your practice as fluid as possible if you don’t want to initiate the stretch reflex (which often causes soreness and delays recovery). If you really need to elongate, though, hold each position for several deep breaths.
Keep up your routines
Of course, don’t forget to do your routines! We recommended an active morning and pre run routine. If you’re not sure what to do, you can choose a few from here:
- Yoga (cat cow is a great one for the morning)
- AIF (Active Isolated flexibility)
- Trunk Rotation Stretch
- Iron Cross
- Mountain Climbers
- Myrtl (hip routine)
- Jump rope
We recently did an episode dedicated to strength and mobility. Check it out!
We went straight to the expert on this one. There are only so many snacks you can eat while camping before you feel like complete garbage. Cooking over the fire doesn’t need to be intimidating. Chelsea of Maes Menu provided us with these tips:
- Plan ahead. You want to be able to relax and enjoy yourself as much as possible when out camping, not be stuck chopping a bunch of vegetables. So prep as much of your ingredients ahead of time as possible then pack your pre-prepped ingredients in plastic containers or bags to the campsite and cooking will be a breeze! You’ll probably be able to eat healthier without as much hassle, too!
Things I like to prep ahead: chopped veggies, vegetable or chicken kabobs, and meat marinades, etc.
- Cook ahead. Go a step further, and cook ahead of time! This way you won’t have to deal with any fuss at the campfire when it comes dinnertime. You can just chow down.
Some of my favorite pre-made meals: tuna pasta salad, bean salad, burritos, and peanut butter chocolate banana bread.
- Make campfire-friendly foods. We’re talking meals in foil packets, grilling directly over the fire, or using a cast-iron skillet over the flame!
- Diced potatoes seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper are so tasty grilled in a foil packet. Fish and shrimp are, too!
- Serve grilled sausages and onions on a toasted bun for a perfect campfire meal.
- Make fresh scrambled eggs or even a stir-fry on a cast-iron skillet over the flames.
Pro-tip: you can also cook the foods you prepped ahead of time over the fire! Jamaican Jerk Turkey Burgers are delicious grilled and can transport well in an airtight container on ice. Turkey Chili is also delicious warmed up in a cast-iron skillet.
If you are looking for some great foods to include in your meal prep for your trip that will benefit your running, check out Healing Food for the Hungry Runner.
It is important when sharing space with wild animals that you take precautions. You may be in a high mileage week of training and desire to keep food at arm’s length. This could be dangerous. Use dry bags (here is an affordable one) to hang in a tree away from camp, or invest in a bear canister. Or best-case scenario, you keep your food in your car.
You can always speak with a park ranger about the safety of running in the area. In some places, bears or mountain lions are more of a concern and it is recommended to make noise. You can attach bells or sound makers to your clothes. You could also try singing while you run (that’s mostly a joke, but we’ve heard of some doing it)!
If the area you are planning to camp and run has mountain lions or wolves, you must be even more careful than with bears. Running alone is not recommended when there is a prevalence of mountain lions or wolves. Safety is in numbers if you can. Refrain from using headphones if you must run alone.
Finally, it is a good idea with more remote or trail running to keep an emergency whistle on you in case something happens.
Learn new skills
As runners, many of us are creatures of habit. If we become wrapped up in the run, we may lose a chance to discover more fun. Don’t know where to begin? Our friends at Lackawander are curators of wanderlust. Check out their article, Learning a New Outdoor Skill. Their suggestion of slack-lining is one that I think would be beneficial to the runner for balance, strength, and coordination. Check out their whole list for more ideas.
Here are some great suggestions from Lackawander about slack-lining:
- Go barefoot to start (we like to really feel the line without any hinderance of shoe type/material).
- Always look down the line to the tree in front of you (not down at your feet!). It’s like looking through a turn on a race course, look where you are headed not down at where you are.
What are some of your favorite camping tips? Better yet, what are some of your favorite places for camping and running? We would love to hear, please comment below to keep the conversation going!
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