To run on vacation or not? No one would blame you for wanting to take a complete break from your training while you’re meant to be enjoying downtime, and assuming you don’t have a marathon to run the day after you get home, it may be really good for your body to enjoy some rest days. But I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of running on my vacations. It’s a great way to take in more of the surrounding area, faster, and see places that I might not when I’m sightseeing. And I won’t lie – my vacations tend to be 80% centered around culinary experiences, so squeezing in a few runs helps me to feel healthy and work up an appetite for another big day of eating and drinking. It can also feel really luxurious to not have to squeeze a run in around work or picking the kids up from school.
Whether you just want a little alone time before entertaining the kids all day or want to maintain your fitness levels while you’re away, running on vacation can make an already-fun time even better. Because running is so low on apparatus, it’s easy to pack your shoes, running shorts and a water bottle or hydration pack even if you’re traveling light. If you’re heading somewhere sunny, you’ll probably already have a lot of the essentials like your running hat and sunscreen anyway, though you might want to bring your running sunglasses in addition to your beach shades.
But be warned: you’ll probably want to be flexible around your training schedule to avoid creating stress and drama. Follow these tips for running in vacation and you can keep both your training and holiday running smoothly.
6 Tips for running on vacation
1. Research your route
If you use a GPS watch, bring it with you on vacation and not just to log your workouts. This way, or using your phone, you can use your favorite navigation app to find out the most popular runs in the area – just like you want to eat where the locals eat, you want to run where the locals run. Make sure you take the time to properly research the route and terrain before setting off, however, especially if you’re in an area with more challenging terrain, such as high altitude and mountainous areas.
2. Start early
You might balk at the idea of setting an alarm while you’re away, but it’s better to stick with the early starts and get your run out of the way so the fun can begin, especially if you’re traveling with others who might end up waiting around for you. That can cause a little friction. When I’m visiting my dad in Spain, I’ll often take advantage of his later sleeping patterns to get in a beachside run first thing, and make sure I’m back for breakfast together on the balcony. That way I get what I need and we don’t miss out on valuable quality time.
If this doesn’t work for you, the afternoon siesta hour or time when others are just relaxing by the pool can be a good opportunity. I personally wouldn’t trade in a siesta for anything, but if you can stomach the idea, you’ll be back in time for cocktail hour.
3. Don't get hung up on surfaces
When you’re at home, you might be used to traveling to get to your favorite trail or coastal path, but because you don’t want your run to eat up half the day, it’s better to just take advantage of what’s available locally, even if the running surface isn’t your usual jam. Forget about trying to replicate your runs at home and bring your road running shoes if you're on a city break and just hit the tarmac or run stairs. Likewise, if you’re heading out somewhere rural, forget about smooth surfaces and don your trail running shoes. I often go beach running when I’m in Spain – running on sand uses my muscles in a whole different way, so I just consider it good cross training and forget about maintaining my usual pace.
4. Ditch the training plan
If you are training for a half marathon or similar event, don’t worry too much about sticking to your training plan, especially when it comes to those long runs. Skipping the long runs means you don’t have to get stressed about making it fit – or ditch your family for the day – and you won’t have to travel with as much gear such as running gels and high-capacity hydration bladders. A really helpful tactic some of my runner friends use is to bookend their vacation with two long runs, and just enjoy a few shorter running workouts like base runs, intervals and sprint sessions while they’re away. If there’s a hill nearby, you can get a lot of bang for your buck with a few hill sprints and still be back at the hotel while they’re serving breakfast.
5. Take a buddy
Now, definitely don’t drag along your partner or unsuspecting family member who isn’t into running and really just wants to hit the pool, but if you are traveling with someone who also likes to run – even at a different level from you – invite them along and run at their pace. This makes your run part of the day’s itinerary, and increases safety when you’re running in a new place and could potentially get lost. My boyfriend and I don’t train together at home, but we’ve enjoyed some lovely early morning jogs on vacation that made for really memorable sunrises.
6. Join a club
Do some research and find out whether there’s a running club in the area that you could join for a session or two. You might be able to find a group through social media or by calling nearby gyms. Even if the group is mostly populated by locals, they'll love getting to show their home town off to a guest – when I lived in Vail, we almost always had at least one visitor join our run club every week and always made a point to welcome them and get to know them. This is a good way to run safely, fund great routes and meet new people.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.