Running While Traveling (Tips for Running While on Vacation…or Not)

Running While Traveling (Tips for Running While on Vacation…or Not)

Lisa Jhung
Writer and Author of Running That Doesn't Suck: How To Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)
June 11, 2024

For many, summer months mean traveling. Trips to the beach, to visit family or friends, to explore and adventure, or to relax. Wherever you may be in your running journey, you may debate sticking to your training plan while traveling or putting it on hold until you return to your familiar routes and more predictable days. There’s no right decision; either choice is perfectly fine.

Factors that may come into play in deciding to continue running while traveling or not may include asking yourself both what your running goals are and how feasible it will be to get your running in while on your trip.

If you’re training to improve your health and running seems like it will be hard to squeeze in while traveling, putting your regimented training plan on hold is fine, especially if you plan on being active in other ways (like snorkeling, hiking, cycling, etc.).

If you’re training to run your first 5K that takes place two weeks after you return from a trip, you may want to continue your training plan while traveling.

If you do choose to halt your training, give yourself a little grace when you return home and back up your training plan an equal amount of weeks you were gone, or more, if you weren’t all that active while traveling.

And if you want to continue to train while traveling, here are a few tips:

1. Pick and pack your shoes wisely.

Consider where you’re traveling to and bring a pair of running shoes that works for the type of surface you’re most likely to run. Traveling to a beach and have trail shoes and road shoes? Go with the road shoes, as you don’t need the traction or extra weight of most trail shoes for beach running. Traveling somewhere you plan on doing a little exploration to find running routes?

A “hybrid” pair of shoes, or, lightweight, flexible trail running shoes with enough cushioning to support your body on roads is ideal. Traveling somewhere hot and humid? Pack shoes with meshy uppers that allow your feet to breathe. If you have just one pair of running shoes, then that’s the perfect pair.

And since running shoes tend to get dirty, especially if you’re the exploring type, it’s nice to have a small bag dedicated to just your shoes within your larger travel bag. That way, the mud you splash through or the sticky city street doesn’t transfer from the soles of your running shoes to the rest of your clothes in your bag. Having a small bag for your shoes and another for your running clothes can actually help motivate while traveling—those bags can serve as reminders for you to use what’s in them.

2. Pack a yoga mat.

Yoga mats meant to be foldable and travel-friendly can serve as portable gyms, wherever you are. Roll it out in a hotel room or outdoor area, like a porch or deck, and you instantly have a clean, soft workout space to do body weight exercises like squats, lunges, planks, crunches, pushups, etc.

I’m also a fan of yoga or other workout apps that allow you to select the length and type of online or downloadable class of any sort.

I like CorePower’s On Demand. Once I select a class, I don’t have to think. I just unroll my mat, hit play, and follow directions.

3. Work out early but be flexible.

Traveling with friends or family means you need to be flexible with plans, but getting up before everyone wakes up ensures you have time to get your workout in before the day unfolds. If you’re like me and hate getting up early, then keeping an eye out for windows later in the day where you can sneak away for even just 30 minutes is the way to go. And if getting in a run or workout of any sort isn’t in the cards for the day—maybe it’s a long day of travel—give yourself some grace and get it in the next day.

If you’re traveling to a beach, check the tide charts and time your run on the sand at low tide. Many beaches have hardpacked sand next to the water’s edge at low tide that can be flat and springy like a treadmill belt but with much better scenery. (And I highly recommend jumping in the ocean after your run.)

4. Have a sense of adventure but stay safe.

Tapping into apps like AllTrails and Strava can help you find running routes in most parts of the country and some parts of the world. But setting out to explore a new place can be a fantastic way to get a lay of the land, find a great-looking coffee shop or gallery you may want to visit later in the day, or a trail you never knew existed in your hometown. To stay safe, it’s best to tell someone what direction you’re heading and how long you plan on being gone, bring a phone, and use GPS mapping. (However, back before smartphones existed, plenty of people went on runs in new towns and got by just fine.)

Bringing some local currency and pay extra attention to your surroundings. The latter can help keep you from getting lost and the former can both get you back on public transportation, if needed.

5. Recruit travel-mates.

There is safety in numbers. There is also joy in running with family members or friends. I’ve had some fantastic conversations running with my sister-in-law on family trips; talks we likely wouldn’t have had around the rest of the family.

And since the N2R training plans alternate running and walking, they’re friendly to beginners - you may need to adjust your own running expectations when recruiting others, but getting out at any pace and distance is better than not getting out at all…that is, if you choose to run while you travel.

6. Listen to your body, mind, and spirit.

If, while you’re traveling, squeezing in your running starts to a) hurt; b) stress you out; c) annoy you; or d) any combination of, or all, of the above, then highly consider halting your running until you return home.

I’m a firm believer that running is fun, it makes us feel good, and it’s a lifelong activity.

You don’t want to either become angry with running for ruining your trip or angry at yourself for not sticking to your plan. If running feels good in mind, body, and spirit on your trip, fit it in. If not, it’ll be there when you get back, just like that pile of mail.

Lisa’s books, “Running That Doesn’t Suck: How to Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)” (Running Press, 2019) and “Trailhead: The Dirt on All Things Trail Running” (VeloPress, 2015) can be found at most major booksellers. 

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