Running on vacation is not as daunting as you may think. Even if you are going to a place you have never been before and even if it is going to be much hotter than you are used to, you can do it! It will take a little planning and commitment but it is definitely doable and well worth the benefits and the experience! Most of my holidays have been with only my non-runner husband, which means I go running alone so I do need to take some safety precautions.
For the past 15 years, I have managed to run on every vacation I have taken. These vacations have been in very hot climates, on cruise ships, on beaches, and mostly in places I haven't been before. I will share with you strategies I have used to make this happen, but first let's consider the benefits of running on vacation. I can think of 5 specific ones...
1. Lessen the Effects of Jet Lag
Getting your body moving by running will help you feel more energized, overcome the sluggish feeling that often comes with jet lag and quickly adjust to a different time zone. I find this is also true when I return home after vacation. For this reason I try to do a run by the second full day of arriving at both the holiday destination and returning home.
2. Counteract Extra Calories
Most of us will eat more food while we are on vacation. Running on vacation will help keep our weight under control. It will also help motivate us not to overeat. Who wants to run after indulging in a meal twice the size of our normal portion?
3. Provides an Incentive to Drink Less Alcohol
When we are on vacation, we tend to drink more alcohol. After all we are celebrating a well deserved break from the usual routine. This is especially true if your holiday is an all-inclusive package. If it is your intention to go running in the morning, you will be more aware of your alcohol intake the night before and will perhaps limit it more than you would otherwise. I usually aim to run every second morning to help develop a balance between relaxation and self-discipline.
4. To Feel Better
Unless you are doing an active holiday (hiking, touring, cycling, etc.), there is usually lots of inactive time—relaxing by the pool, on the beach or in restaurants and cafes. Running on vacation will help offset this lazy mode and will keep you energized.
5. Maintain your Running Fitness
Any running that you do while on vacation while help keep you fit so that when the holiday is over, it is much easier to resume your regular running routine.
The following tips and suggestions are what I have found most helpful from my experiences while running on vacation in various places and situations.
1. Pack your Running Shoes in your Carry On
It is probably not likely, but just in case your checked luggage gets lost or delayed, you will still have your running shoes if you put them in your carry on bag. Everything else is more easily replaced.
2. Download Google Maps to your Smart Phone
It is not always possible to have mobile data or wi-fi when travelling so it is a good idea to download the map details of where you are going before you leave home. Google Maps lets you download an area on your phone that you can use even when you don't have access to the internet. It will stay on your phone until you delete it.
This feature is very useful when you want to run in an area that you are not familiar with. It is not so daunting to run in a new area if you don't have the added concern of getting lost. Make sure that you have saved the location of your hotel on the map so you can find your way back.
In recent years, as a safety measure, I have been sharing my location while out running so my husband knows where I am. This have been helpful in alleviating concerns if I am gone longer than expected. I have used Find my Friend on my iPhone but another great app for this I really like is: Life360. You will need to have mobile data on your phone to share your location but in recent years this has become less costly with the availability of international sim cards and e-sims.
3. Run Early in the Morning
If you are vacationing in a hot climate, it will be much cooler in the early morning just after the sun rises. Doing an early morning run also ensures that you get your run done! Plans have a way of changing and can often interfere with a run planned later in the day.
If you do an early morning run, it will also best suit others you are on holiday with as it will not interfere with any plans made for the day. Also, they will probably all still be in bed by the time you get back, unless they too are runners!
4. Don't Set Ambitious Goals
Remember you are on vacation and you want to enjoy it. Don't expect to achieve fast times or complete longer runs. I believe you should take the approach of being in "maintenance mode." I usually aim to run every second day and do about 8-10 km runs. I can usually achieve this without interfering too much with holiday plans.
5. Running on a Cruise Ship
I have been on two cruise ship holidays and I ran on both ships. Usually the center deck is open with a walking/running surface that goes all the way around the ship. It is usually shaded and cool from the sea breeze so it is a great running track. You will have to do numerous laps of course to get some distance, but don't try to count the laps. It will drive you crazy!
I usually set a time of about 50 minutes to run, which for me is about 8 kms. Remember if the ship is at sea and the ship is moving, your sports watch cannot accurately track your distance. If you try, you will wonder why your watch is showing so much distance as it will also try to calculate the ship's distance!
6. Running on a Beach
This is my favorite option for running on vacation—but it is not always possible. If the sand is soft and deep, it will be very difficult to run on. However, a long flat beach with firm sand provides a great running surface and I love to run on those in my bare feet. I am used to running in minimalist shoes, so it doesn't cause a problem for me.
If you don't run in minimalist shoes and you want to try running barefoot on a beach, do it in short segments. Perhaps run in your shoes for most of your run and then in bare feet for a short distance at the end of your run. Slightly increase the distance each time if there are no problems. However, if you notice any twinges, pain or discomfort, stop immediately. Barefoot running can feel great but it requires a lot of time and patience to allow your body to adapt to the new running style.
7. Road Running
The easiest run to do in an unfamiliar place is an out-and-back road run. Find a long road and run half the distance you want to achieve, turn around and run back. Loops are more interesting but will be more challenging to find your way. However, a downloaded Google map of the area will help you as mentioned in #2.
Be wary of the road rules and conditions as they vary in each country. Try to run facing traffic especially if there are no dedicated sidewalks (pavements). Any time you are unsure of right-of-way, just stop and proceed when you are sure it is safe.
8. Marinas, Parks, Canals and Rivers
Check the area for marinas, parks, canals, and rivers. These areas are usually very scenic and provide very enjoyable runs. Many cities have developed great walking/running areas along their canals and rivers.
Tourist areas are usually safe, but check with your hotel or host to get advice on places you may need to avoid, especially if you are running alone.
9. A Field or Open Green Space
This is a option I had to resort to on my trip to Boca de Tomatlan, Mexico. There were no roads that were safe to run on so the perimeter of an abandoned soccer/football was the only option available and I was delighted to have discovered it! If you find yourself in a similar situation, check a map of the area for any nearby large, open green spaces and check them out. They could provide a suitable, safe running track so you can continue running on vacation.
So no more excuses for not running on vacation. On your next holiday be sure to pack your running gear. You will be so glad you did. My holidays runs have always been an enjoyable and memorable experience.
Sometimes we need to venture beyond our cozy holiday resort. This was my most recent experience when I was running on holiday in Sharm El-Sheikh after the pandemic!
So how about you? Do you usually run on vacation? Do you have any tips or experiences to share?
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Please tell us about your running on vacation experiences. Did you do run on your own or did you register for a race? Did you find a new route or trail that you think others may enjoy? We would love to see your pictures too!
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