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How to run on vacation, running on the beach

It’s summertime and, for so many families, that means vacation time. But heading out of town for some R&R doesn’t have to mean taking a vacation from your running schedule. In fact, it can be a great way to experience some new scenery in a new setting. I recently returned from a vacation with my family, the first half of which I found it easier to fit my workouts in. The second half…not so much (thank you, sickness 😷). Our trip got me thinking though. What goes into making it easier to run on vacation? Are there any basic principles we can follow to ensure we don’t miss an entire week (or more) of training?

I believe there are. Here’s what’s worked for me.

How to Run on Vacation

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Pack your gear (set yourself up for running success).

This may seem pretty obvious, but don’t doubt its effectiveness!  And when I say “gear” I’m talking about more than just your clothing and sneakers.  Make a list of all the items you’ll need to run in your vacation location, including things you’ll need for a long run.  And don’t forget recovery tools!

Pack your running gear on vacation
Aaahhh! Where do I fit my running sneakers?

Here are some ideas…

  • Tops (tanks, long sleeves, etc…whatever you’ll need for the weather)
  • Sports bras
  • Bottoms (shorts, capris, leggings, etc.)
  • Socks
  • Road sneakers
  • Trail sneakers
  • Headphones (I love these)
  • Hats/visors
  • Sunglasses
  • Running belt
  • Hydration device (hand-held, belt, vest, etc…whatever you like to use)
  • Lubricant to prevent chafing (especially for longer runs in warm weather)
  • Sunscreen
  • Pepper spray (if you plan to run alone)
  • KT tape (for potential injuries)
  • Electrolyte option
  • Fuel (gels, blocks, gummies, real food, etc.)
  • Resistance bands (to keep up with runner-specific strength exercises)
  • Foam roller and/or Massage Stick (I stuff clothes inside of my hollow foam roller)

Make a plan.

Ever heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”?  There’s so much truth in that little statement!  You don’t need to be super rigid about your training plan on vacation, but at least have some basics laid out in your mind (or, even better, on paper!).

A few things about planning to run on vacation…

Don’t leave your running journal at home!

With the extra downtime vacation sometimes offers, you can practice the habit of taking notes about your workouts.

Why is a running journal important, you say? Read more about that here.

Know how many miles you want to cover while vacationing.

Go into your vacation week (or weeks) with an idea of how many miles you either need or want to run.  If you’re in the middle of training for a race or event, that can dictate your plan.

Be willing to cut back on your weekly mileage during vacation (adjust your expectations).

Vacation is meant to be enjoyable and, for some, relaxing.  You may find that you’re busy enjoying activities with your family or friends that limit the amount of time you have to run.  That’s ok.  Be prepared to adjust your expectations and run less while on vacation.

On the other hand, you may have extra “free” time on vacation – don’t feel like you need to fill it up with more miles.  If you feel good enough for that, go for it.  But, if the miles are cramping your vacation style, be willing to take it down a notch.

If necessary, skip the speedwork.

In the same vein as above, don’t feel obligated to perform at the same level of training that you do at home.  If you’re more tired from staying up late and eating poorly on vacation (which you should do your best to avoid!), it could be a good idea to give your body a little break from the more intense workouts.

Search out places to run ahead of time.

Depending on where you’ll be vacationing, you may have more or less options of safe places to run.  If you can, rope in a family member or two to go with you.  That way, you can benefit from the “safety in numbers” principle, as well as enjoy new places together.

Got a beach vacation?  Schedule a day to run on the beach (don’t forget to check the tide charts first!).

Cabin in the mountains?  There will likely be some quiet, rural roads to get a challenging workout in on.  If you’re looking for local trails, use an app like All Trails to help you find a route that appeals to you.

Staying in the city?  Check out the free “Segments” feature on Strava to see where others are running.

Do it early.

As much of a pain it can be to set an alarm on vacation, you may find that’s the only way to force yourself to wake up early and get your run “over with.”

To run on vacation, wake up early!
Don’t hit the Snooze button!

I know I have a tendency to procrastinate.  The longer I wait, the less likely I am to actually go for my run.  On our recent vacation, I was lazy about waking up early on my long run day.  I did put my running clothes on, but I never made it out the door because I got distracted by all the other things going on.  I gave myself plenty of excuses to push the run later and later.  Well, later never happened.

Don’t make my mistake.  Run early.  Make it the first thing you do in the morning.

And the sooner you finish your run, the sooner you can get on with any fun activities you have planned for the day. 

Take care of your body.

As much as I would love for every vacation to be a relaxing one, with kids, that doesn’t always happen.  Oftentimes when we get home, we need a vacation from the vacation.  Ever been there? 🤣

So, since vacation can sometimes take a little out of you, it’s important to do what you can to take care of your body.

A few suggestions…

Get enough sleep.

Sometimes, vacation is great for making this happen.  Other times, it’s just not realistic.  But do what you can to give yourself 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.  Take a nap during the day if you need to and are able.  Sleep is a vital component of healthy running.  Check out this article to learn more about the effect that sleep has on running.

Try to eat and drink as healthy (or as close to normal) as you can.

This is another one of those things that can be quite challenging when out of town.  Even if you find yourself eating out for most meals, it is possible to make healthier choices.

A little advance planning can go a long way.  Pack some healthy snacks and scour the internet for healthy restaurants and cafes wherever you’re staying.  

I’m certainly not advocating for perfection – vacation should be fun and enjoyable. If that means having a few treats, then go for it.  But the farther you are from your usual fare, the more likely you are to feel rough when it’s time to get up for your next run.

And water is king.  Drink lots of it!  

Don’t skip mobility work if you can help it.

In my honest opinion, you’re better off skipping the speedwork than the mobility work.  You’ll feel so much better if you’re somewhat rested and restored after your trip, instead of burnt-out or injured.

Foam rolling to promote mobility for runners
Foam rolling is excellent for promoting mobility and decreasing muscle soreness.

Use whatever extra downtime you may have on vacation to focus on recovery techniques that are kind to your body and will help your running in the long run (pun intended 😜).

Allow other activities to take the place of running if needed (i.e. hiking, biking, paddling, etc.).

Cross-training is terrific for maintaining your fitness level while enjoying activities other than running.  If your vacation spot allows for hiking, biking, paddleboarding, swimming, skiing, or some other cardio pursuit – that’s fantastic!  Give yourself the option to switch out a run or two with one of these aerobic activities.

We did a lot of hiking on our recent trip.

If you’re in the middle of training for a race, do your best to keep the amount of time the same as it would be for your planned run.  For example, if you had a 5 mile easy run on your schedule and your easy pace is around 10 minutes per mile, then you would cross train for 50 minutes.  Use your planned mileage, pace, and run intensity to help you determine how long and how hard to cross train.

Enjoy yourself!

Ah, the most important principle of all when it comes to how to run on vacation.  😃  Remember, running is a gift – it doesn’t need to feel like a chore.  Doing it in a new place (and maybe with new people) can be refreshing.  So don’t forget to enjoy yourself!

Enjoy the scenery when you run in new places on vacation!

Tell me in the comments…  What upcoming vacation do you have planned?  Will you make a point to run while you’re there?

Disclaimer: You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you engage in exercise or training I recommend, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities, assume all risk of injury to yourself, and agree to release and discharge Running With Roots from any and all claims or causes of action, known or unknown, arising out of Running With Roots. Please speak with a medical professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. The views expressed are based on my own experiences, and should not be taken as medical, nutrition or training advice.

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