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Training and Travel

In my previous post I discussed the lifestyle of a runner.  But what happens when you have established a lifestyle or a routine and then you have to leave the comfort of that routine?  For example, what do
you do when you leave town for business or pleasure and how do you maintain the lifestyle while still doing whatever it is that you need to do?

Trail runners are, by nature, adventurers, so this shouldn’t present too great a challenge.  However, with luggage limitations and other transportation and schedule constraints is it possible to bring all the training gear (shoes, socks, shorts/tights, shirt, jacket) you’ll need along with the other appropriate wardrobe (dress or casual shoes, socks, pants, shirts, tie, etc.) and technology needs (laptop, charger, phone, camera, etc.) within the designated parameters?

It is one thing when you travel specifically to run a race or discover new trails, but it is another thing entirely if you are simply visiting family or on a work-related trip.  The purpose of the trip is not to run, but if you are like me (and chances are if you are reading this you are) it is pretty hard to get to the point of the trip if you
can’t fit your training in.

So what can you do when the schedule is out of your control and you are out of your element?

While driving to our destination last week in Guatemala,
we  drove by a  volcano with a lagoon at the top,
so we figured we might as well check it out.
I couldn't resist running to the top.
Be flexible: While it may not be possible to run on the same exact surface or at the same time as you are accustomed, I find that there is almost always a window of time in which you can still fit an hour or two of running or some other form of aerobic exercise.  

Be adventurous: Rather than view the fact that you are out of your element as an encumbrance, view it as a challenge or adventure. Prepare for your trip by looking for places to run.  If you want trails, look for trails on Google Earth or trail specific resources. You can usually find out about the best local trails by visiting the local mountain bike shop or running shoe store.  If you can’t find trails, consider exploring the city streets, cross train on an elliptical, spin bike, or pool, or run on a treadmill.  Most places have at least one of these options.

Laguna de Ipala atop Volcan de Ipala, Guatemala
Be realistic: Though you may not be able to maintain your workout routine in its entirety, it is possible to not fall off the horse and maintain your fitness for the time in which you are away.  You may not have access to a track, but you can still usually find hills or simply do a fartlek of some sort from stoplight to stoplight or around a park or school grounds.

Go early: I find that if I am worried about fitting in a run during the day that the best way of doing it is getting it out of the way before the day’s events begin.  While this is not always ideal, it at least assures that you get something in and you won’t have it hanging over your head the rest of the day.  Then when something comes up later in the day you will know that you at least did the minimum.  If nothing comes up or you are still feeling the need to burn some of the calories you’ve consumed with your family or colleagues, you can opt
for a second workout later in the day.

Hydrate: Sometimes you will have options with regard to your diet while on the road, but oftentimes you are limited to what is served. Do your best to consume lots of water and fresh fruits and vegetables. This not only keeps you awake, alert, and on your toes (en route the restroom every hour), but will also help flush out some of the heavier stuff you may consume between runs.

I’ve practiced these simple steps since even before I considered myself a runner.  Each Thanksgiving when we traveled from our small farm town to the suburbs of Portland, Oregon to visit my extended family, my sweet mother, in desperation, would assign my brothers and I to run a few laps around the block near my grandparents' home to use some of the energy we had built up during the three hour drive.  In time, this tradition felt less like punishment and more like an adventure.  Each year we’d find new places and eventually happened upon the Nike World Headquarters.  From that point on, we never felt confined when traveling to the Big City.  In fact, we looked forward to the opportunity to run around the trails and occasionally cross paths with some of the best in the sport.

The practice continued as I grew older.  When I was a sophomore in high school my dad brought me along on a business trip to Washington D.C.  We ate dinner at Union Station the first night.  As we walked through the station taking in the sites, the doors were locked down and swarms of police engulfed the station.  There had been a shooting in the movie theatre and I was right there as they pulled the victim out on a stretcher.  That image scarred and frightened me and motivated me to run on the treadmill the next morning before embarking on the week long tour of the capital.  However, I soon learned that the treadmill and I didn’t get along too well and that there were plenty of cinder paths I could run on without much concern for my safety.  I
saw many more sites than I would have otherwise seen had I stayed in the hotel (out of fear) and I felt much better prepared for track season when it came around.

While I now live and train in the same small town in Oregon, I have had the opportunity of exploring new lands each time I have traveled or moved to new places throughout the world.  Getting to know the area on foot has greatly enriched my experiences from coast to coast, in urban and rural areas throughout North and Central America, the Pacific, and Europe.