One of life’s greatest joys is experiencing and exploring new things. We live in such a great big world that we have a seemingly unlimited number of opportunities to try new things, take risks, and get outside of our comfort zone, and it’s through these experiences that we often learn a lot about ourselves.
So it is with running, too, really: for a lot of people, running is beyond their comfort zone. They don’t think they can handle the distance or the speed, the intensity, or the idea that someone might see them working hard. The more you think about it, the more travelling and running share a lot in common.
When you’re travelling and are far from home, it’s obviously necessary that you be a bit creative and flexible, since you likely won’t have all your “creature comforts” to which you’re accustomed. You’ll likely be consuming different food and drinks; you may have to be more financially frugal than you’d be at home; or you may find that you have more (or fewer) opportunities to socialise than you do at home, where you’d likely be holding down a full-time job. It can be tempting to want to skimp on your health while travelling—choosing less nutritious foods more often than not and forgoing exercise altogether—but as experience will teach you, taking care of your health while you’re travelling is more important than ever before while you’re on the road. If nothing else, it’ll allow you to enjoy your experiences that much more profoundly.
If you’re a runner and are fretting about how you’re going to fit in running while you’re travelling, worry not, my friend. Again: with the proper amount of creativity and flexibility, it is totally possible to fit in running while travelling. How you do it may not be what you’re used to, but as long as you do what you can when you can, you’ll be content. Something is much, much more than nothing.
My tips describe some suggestions that will help you still get your running fix on your travels:
Complete your pre-travel homework
There’s something to be said for simply stepping out your front door when you’re travelling and just seeing where the path takes you, but for safety reasons, it’ll also behoove you to do at least a little bit of research first. Find out which places are safest to run (and when); ask the locals (or the hotel concierge) where they go when they want to go for a run; and above all else, exercise good common sense. Listen to your gut. If something doesn’t feel right—if you feel like an area is too sketchy to run through—heed your own advice.
In general, I’d encourage you to run in a new place during the daytime first, instead of at night, just so you can more easily get your bearings and get a better sense of the environment and how inviting it is to runners, particularly out-of-towners.
Sign up for a race if one’s available
Even if you don’t think you’re in “racing shape,” if you can afford it, consider throwing your name into the ring and running a local race. It’ll give you an even more intimate feel for your new destination, and it’ll also give you many opportunities to further interface with the locals (and ask for more running destination suggestions in your new locale). It may boil down to which season you’re visiting in, but if there are some opportunities available to you, definitely partake! You may be the fastest, or you may be the slowest, but I can all but guarantee that you’ll have an enjoyable experience and get an even deeper appreciation of your new destination.
Let your feet do the walking (after a while)
Once you’ve become more familiar with your new locale, and you’re feeling like you’ve got a good sense of which areas are safest for you to venture through, if you have some time one day, let your feet guide the exploring. See how much of the area you can cover on foot; you could even make an all-day affair out of it (just be sure to come prepared with money and provisions). Again, exploring a new place on foot will allow you to gain a deeper appreciation for it, and it’ll also likely help to better orient you, too.
Go on a group fun run with the locals
As you’re doing your research about the new place you’ll be visiting, see if there are any running groups that meet up regularly for fun runs. Most of the time, fun runs are typically pretty laid back and very social—and often wind up at bars for happy hour-like festivities post-run—and it can be a fantastic way to meet people, especially if you’re new to an area. It may be helpful to see first if there are any running stores where you’ll be visiting, since they often sponsor free-of-cost community fun runs throughout the week that are open to everyone.
Finally, sometimes you may be travelling to an area that isn’t necessarily conducive or safe for the type of run you want to do. Instead of running 20 long, slow miles, for example, you may need to mix things up a bit and go for something shorter and more intense. Similarly, you may have to relegate yourself to the treadmill if you fear for your safety or simply don’t feel comfortable venturing around the world on foot by yourself. It’s ok. Roll with the punches, do what you can, and you’ll have nothing to lose sleep over. Even a short run can be satisfying and gratifying.
Running while traveling isn’t an impossible pursuit, but it definitely is one that necessitates some creativity and flexibility. You may be forced to do something that you usually wouldn’t do—out of safety or practicality concerns—but remember that you’re travelling. You’re purposely going out of your way to do things that lie beyond your comfort zone. Running in a new place can be an adventure unto itself, so it’s perhaps without surprise, then, that running and travelling can be so complementary.