The Basics: Running during your vacation

Posted by Dave on August 9, 2011 | 10 Comments

I apologize for the lack of posting this past week, but I have an excuse: I’ve been doing the “research” for this post! I’m in the middle of a two-week vacation in Hawaii, but I’ve also been trying to keep up with my marathon training schedule, which had me slated to do 49 miles last week and 63 this week.

Don't feel too sorry for me

I think I’ve now done enough running in unfamiliar places that I can offer some tips for others who have the same problem: How do you stick to a training regimen while you’re away from home? If you have any additional tips, I encourage you to add them in the comments section below. I’ll try to respond to your comments, but since I’m, you know, on vacation, it might take me a while to get to it.

I’ve found that I can get some excellent runs in while traveling, but it does require a little planning, patience, and flexibility. Here’s how I do it:

  • Take extra gear. You never know when you’ll have access to laundry facilities, so it’s better to be overprepared. Fortunately, most running gear is pretty light, so it doesn’t take a lot of room in your suitcase.
  • If you’re traveling with a group, figure out a time to run that won’t interfere with your group’s plans. I have found that most vacationers don’t like to get up very early, so I set an alarm and finish my run before everyone else’s day has started. If you’re traveling with small children, you could run during their afternoon nap or in the evening after they’ve gone to bed.
  • Don’t worry if you miss a day or two of running. Remember, this is a vacation! If you have to miss a day, try to skip an “easy” day and keep up with your more challenging long/fast runs.
  • Don’t party too hard. This doesn’t mean not drinking at all, but you might consider filling every other glass with water instead of an alcoholic beverage. Or do your late-night carousing the evenings before easier runs.
  • Spend a few minutes before your run to plan out your route. I’ve found the WalkRunJog iPhone app can be helpful for this; it allows you to input your location and planned distance, then gives you nearby routes other runners have used. One problem with the app, however, is that it seems to be used primarily by other travelers who are as clueless as you are about the local running conditions. In a trip to San Francisco last year, for example, many routes went straight up or down extremely steep hills, or along streets with tons of stoplights. (I’ve added some more tips about planning your route to the end of the article.)
  • For longer runs, consider a route that takes you back to your home base once or more: You’re less likely to get lost in an unfamiliar place, and you can restock with fuel or water. You’ll also know what to expect during the second or third loop and will be able to pace yourself better.
  • Don’t forget to use sunscreen. Just because you never get burnt during your shady morning run back home doesn’t mean you won’t get scorched on a 12-miler on the beach at noon.
  • Adjust your expectations. You may be running at a higher elevation, in warmer temperatures, or on hillier or rougher terrain than you’re used to. Start slowly and build your pace as you become accustomed to the new conditions. Similarly, you might want to do a shorter run the first day in a new location and build to longer runs. For example, this week I moved my 18-miler up a day, so that I could do it on my last day in now-familiar Kauai instead of a new vacation rental on the island of Hawaii. I’ll start slowly again in this new spot.
  • Stay alert. I always leave my iPod at home when I go on vacation; this helps me pay more attention to my surroundings, both for safety and to more fully experience the wonderful location where I’m running.
  • Consider carrying a phone and a credit card so you can call a cab if you get lost.
  • Have fun! It’s a vacation, remember?

Here are some more tips for planning a good route while on vacation:

  • Pay attention to the surroundings of your lodging when you arrive. Where are the sidewalks? What roads have nice, wide shoulders? Where are other people running?
  • Consider asking about good running routes in your hotel or at a local running store.
  • If you have internet access, try using Gmaps Pedometer or MapMyRun to plot out your run before you head out.
  • Make sure your route is simple enough that you’ll actually be able to remember it while you’re out on the road. You might sketch out a map on a slip of paper or write down the names of the roads you’ll be turning on.
  • Don’t forget to take advantage of the local scenery, even if it means your route isn’t ideal. In San Francisco, I made a point of running to the top of some of the city’s famous hills, even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain my pace as I climbed the long staircases it took to get there.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a detour. On my 18-mile run in Kauai, I noticed a road heading off towards an old sugar mill, and decided to head down it to get a closer look. It was fascinating seeing this bit of Hawaii history (there are no more active sugar plantations in Hawaii), and I was able to adjust my route later to account for the extra mileage.


10 Responses to “The Basics: Running during your vacation”

  1. Anne F.
    August 9th, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    (I must be becoming a runner…)

    This is a great post. I had 2 amazing runs in Uruguay and stumbled upon a lot of your advice (and wished that I had thought of some of what you did.

    The first day, I took a wrong turn IMMEDIATELY out of hotel and my planned 3-miler turned into 5 b/c I couldn’t find the River… but I saw some great neighborhoods & it turned out to be a prettier & more interesting run.

    I also let myself stop and take pictures along the way which was fun and led to some cool shots.

  2. Marc Hirschfield
    August 9th, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

    I always try to take my running shoes in my carry on bag. If my luggage gets lost, i can always replace the running clothes (even for the short term), but the shoes and arch supports are a whole different ball game. I can be up and running (pun intended) within hours

  3. Matt
    August 9th, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

    So I have a non-related training question. You mentioned you’re going from a 49-mile week to a 63-mile week. Did you mean to type “53” or are you breaking the 10% rule? I’m not judging you or anything :) I’m just curious about when it’s OK to break that rule. I’m also training right now, and I’m pushing a little above 10% just to get myself inline with a schedule that’s closer to my goal.

  4. Dave
    August 9th, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

    Matt, the 10 percent rule is a handy rule of thumb backed by many coaches’ intuition, but there isn’t a lot of science backing it up. In the absence of any real evidence, it’s a good way to make sure you’re not overtraining, though I think even 10 percent is probably too much in many cases, especially if you bump training up by ten percent for weeks on end.

    In my case, the reason I could safely jump from 49 to 63 is that I’ve been running 60+ mile weeks already during this round of training. The 49-mike week was a planned “easy week” to give my body a little rest before getting back to harder training.

  5. Sean
    August 9th, 2011 @ 5:42 pm

    Another tip is to check out the local running groups. :) Most of them love showing new people some awesome running sights.

  6. Rose
    August 9th, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

    I went to Hawaii on vacation last year. I was in the middle of marathon training, and I was there for two weeks.

    Thankfully, I had a running friend there, so I hopped in with him on a long group run. It was an AWESOME way to explore more of the island.

  7. David
    August 10th, 2011 @ 2:15 am

    i try to keep one or more hard boundaries when running in a new place (river, highway, train track.) Once in Germany i thought i was headed for the hotel when i came upon the rail line I had not crossed. I knew to go back the other way.

  8. Bill
    August 10th, 2011 @ 5:28 am

    On a business trip to Finland last year I wanted to continue my HM training; I used Garmin Connect to check out other people’s running routes in the area, and then I used Google Street View to get a look at the routes in advance.

  9. Derrick
    August 11th, 2011 @ 3:44 am

    I got a travel running tip: If you see another runner, follow where they go. I stumbled upon a great running trail in Baltimore by noticing a runner taking an abrupt turn. Curious, I found a great hidden running trail that many of the locals knew about.

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