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Getting on the run while on the road

I was in Philadelphia last week for the first time and was able to get in both a workout and a long run on the Schuylkill River Trail. I love traveling and exploring new places, and often my best memories of those places come while out on the run. But, I do recognize that it takes some strategic thinking to fit runs in without compromising other parts of the trip, and I realized that I had unconsciously been using a decision making framework a la Emily Oster. So, if a good framework is your jam, read on for the one I use when planning travel runs. 

1. Think through your goals

The first thing I’ll consider are the goals I have for both the trip and for my running during that time frame. I ask myself questions like: 

  • What is the purpose of this trip? What do I want to accomplish? Who else is involved with the trip? 

  • Where am I currently in my training cycle? What kind of runs are on my schedule (easy runs, workouts, long runs)? 

As I think through the answers to these questions, I can get a sense of how important it is to fit in runs compared to the other things I need to do on the trip.  In the case of my Philadelphia trip, I was there for a key meeting late Thursday morning. As long as I had the time to prepare for the meeting and be energetic during it, running would fit. I was traveling with others but had plenty of time on my own. I also knew that I was about three weeks out from a 10k and that I had missed a run the week before, so getting in my runs felt important. I also knew that I’d get home really late Friday night, which would make my normal Saturday run hard. So, I decided it would be feasible to run both mornings I was there.

2. Explore your options

If my goals show running in the trip forecast, I next think about how I’m going to accomplish them. As a female runner, I think a lot about safety, particularly in a new place, so I need to consider where and when I can safely run. You may have a treadmill available, or be able to find safe outside spaces. I’ll often use Strava heatmaps to identify where people are running in the area, betting that they will be more populated. For this trip, I also asked the Ali on the Run Facebook group if the area I was considering would be safe for a solo woman runner at 7am. And, I do carry a Birdie safety alarm when I’m out and about early / in new spots. 

A woman in running clothes smiles and stands in front of a classical building
Running past the Rocky steps in Philly

3. Decide on your plan…but maintain a flexible attitude

Once you’ve evaluated your goals and options, you can decide on your plan. In the case of my Philadelphia trip, this meant moving my Friday and Saturday runs up a day from the original schedule and planning to do them outside on the river trail, with the hotel treadmill as a bad weather back up (requiring different clothing options!). However, we all know that travel logistics can easily go awry, that meeting plans can change, etc. etc. etc. So, I always try to keep in mind that things could very easily not go to plan. I usually have a couple back up plans - converting workouts to easy runs, running shorter than planned, and so on - in case variables change. I always try to recognize that travel is a big disruption to my day to day life and that sometimes running just has to be the thing that gives.  

Besides this framework for thinking through my running options while traveling, I’ve also figured out a few strategies that make it easier for me to run while on the road. 

  • Plan your lodging strategically. If weather or safety are concerns, look for a hotel with a fitness room. There are often pictures of the facilities available on the hotel website, or you can call ahead and ask about them. If there are great outdoor options, pick a hotel or AirBnb within running distance.

  • I haven’t yet found the right fit in terms of time and location, but I have also seen folks join group runs in cities they’re visiting, either for camaraderie or safety reasons. It’s definitely something I’d like to try sometime!

  • At home I don’t typically run with my phone. But, for both safety and sightseeing purposes, I’ll bring my Oiselle Flyout Bra to carry it with me. I have a pretty bulky phone and case, and they both fit easily and jostle-free in this bra. 

  • Wear running clothes as your traveling clothes on the way there. One less outfit to carry home! I also have a few Oiselle shirts that I’ll wear as daily clothing ahead of wearing them for running. 

  • For longer trips, I’ll also plan to do laundry or bring some sink detergent so I can re-wear items.

  • Contain the stink of dirty running clothes with packing cubes. I like this one from Eagle Creek. 

  • Use your runs as additional sightseeing time. When I’m on vacation, I like to see points of interest early in the morning, before most people are out and about. It gives them a whole new feel, and it’s a great way to see more on a short trip. 

  • Pack a lacrosse ball for rolling out stiff or sore muscles. They’re super small for packing and for digging into any trouble spots. 

  • Shoes…I’m a bit of a fanatic about only wearing running shoes for running. But, if the suitcase is getting full, I will very occasionally take a pair of shoes near the end of their usable running lifespan and use them for both running and everyday use. Otherwise, I’ll pack running shoes and just one other pair for everything else on the trip.  

Do you run while traveling? What are your best tips for getting on the run while on the road?

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