I’m a firm believer that training can and should be balanced with the business of actually having pursuits outside of our fitness goals. For many of the age group athletes that I know, this really isn’t a problem, but when you start to climb into the upper echelons of endurance sport, it gets harder and harder to manage work, leisure, and sport. In fact, the line between work and leisure can really start to get blurry.
As I write this, I am exactly four weeks out from the Calgary Marathon. I’ve done Ironman before, but this will be my first full marathon and I’ve set some lofty expectations for myself. I’m also sitting on a train taking me from Rome to Naples, Italy. I knew when I booked this 2 week vacation that it would be in a pretty critical part of my marathon training cycle but I wasn’t about to let the challenges presented by training on the road get in the way of a good seat sale and a long awaited trip to the land of pasta and wine.
So whether you’re a triathlete or a runner, here are a few pointers on getting those miles in when you’re on the go.
This can be easier said than done. Packing to get out for a run while you’re on vacation seems easy enough, simply throw some shoes in the bag, and a run outfit. But if you’ve got to get a 30km long slow distance run in the books, suddenly logistics starts to play a role.
For this trip to Italy I had to get my 30km training run done in Florence Italy, and a couple 14km runs done in Venice. To figure out the route I first hit Google for some suggested run routes. The challenge with running in Europe, and a lot of major urban centres, is the density of the cities. Even a 5km recovery run can turn into an adventure if you’re dodging tourists and stopping at intersections.
Some cities have big beautiful parks in them, even in places like Los Angeles and New York. But that isn’t necessarily the case in much older cities in Asia or Europe. However, you’ll find that basically any city or town with a waterfront or a river will have a good run route to follow along. Think about it, Paris has the Seine, Rome has the Tiber, London has the Thames. Even smaller cities like Calgary and Denver build their vast pathway networks around the rivers that pass through their cores. So always look for bodies of water. They make it easy to run long distances without having to deal with stop lights, you’ll always have a good idea of where you are, and local runners tend to gravitate towards those routes as well.
You can also use apps like Strava and MapMyRun to figure out where others have put their tracks down.
Now, a word for the wise when it comes to running in Europe. Many of the roads and routes here are made of stone and cobbles, which means consistently inconsistent surfaces that also happen to be very hard for running. On stone, you don’t pound the pavement, the pavement pounds you.
If you’re running less than 40 or 50k for the duration of you’re run, I’d say you’re safe to bring an older pair of shoes. Personally on vacation I don’t like to bring my newest pair of kicks incase I need to ditch them or they get lost or dirty. But if you’re a high mileage runner in Europe, you may stand to benefit from bringing a newer pair with intact cushioning. Your feet will definitely thank you.
Another tip, if you’re doing lots of walking around, don’t feel terrible about skipping the recovery or easy runs. Focus on getting your key workouts in like your tempo and long slow distance runs. It’s not uncommon for many people to walk 10-15km per a day in Europe. That’s going to take its toll on your key workouts in and of itself and you don’t need to add easy miles on top of long days of walking and sightseeing.
You may also have to do multiple loops of the same course to keep in familiar territory. Always be aware that you’re in a foreign city, and don’t assume that everywhere will be as safe or friendly as you’re used to at home.
Finally, be sure to head out early for your runs to avoid the crowds and give yourself a full day of sightseeing.
Both biking and running happen to be great ways of seeing a side of cities and landscapes that most tourists don’t get to see.
There are a lot of beautiful places that make for great bike focused vacations. Places like southern France make for great days of riding and delicious evenings of dining, and I’ve got some friends in Maui right now chasing down Strava segments while they train for Ironman Calgary. But sometimes all you want is to get a ride a week in during your vacation and can’t be bothered to bring your own bike.
You’ll be happy to know that more and more bike rental shops are popping up around the world thanks for the growing popularity of cycling as a leisure activity. From steel cruisers to carbon road bikes, there are some great options for athletes looking to get in the saddle and spend a day on the road.
Before you head out on your vacation, do a quick Google search of the local shops and find out which ones rent bikes. Many shops will give you the option of bringing your own shoes, pedals, and helmet, and you can find out in advance what models are available to ride.
Cyclists are cyclists wherever you go so feel free to get in touch with the local shops ahead of your ride and ask them what routes they’d suggest riding.
Also, if you’re a roadie or triathlete looking to try mountain, or a mountain biker looking to get out on the road, this is a great chance to do just that.
Next on my list, I’ve got mountain biking in Redrock outside of Las Vegas, and chasing Ryder Hesjedal’s time up Maui’s Mount Haleakala.
This can be really easy, or really hard depending on where you’re going.
I don’t really need to explain that if you’re be an ocean or lake you’ve got some good options for open water swims. Just be sure to check the water temperatures and tide conditions before you get your heart set on the swim.
If you’re in a major urban centre you may be able to find a public swimming pool or even a hotel with a pool, but as a warning, these are a lot less common in the touristy areas of older cities.
In other words, when it comes to swimming, it’s the pool or the open water (canals and rivers don’t count). Without those then you may be out of luck.
This is another area that can get tricky. In North America we’ve got a lot of different options from a wide array of sporting goods stores that can accommodate your nutritional needs. Even big box sporting goods retailers carry gels, drinks, and powders.
Nutrition outside of North America will be a little trickier unless you go well off the beaten path. But that doesn’t mean you can be a little more basic with your approach to fuelling.
Always carry a little bit of cash or pocket change on your run or ride. You never know when you’ll come across a fruit stand, or snack kiosk along your route, these can be a life saver when it comes to getting calories back in you.
If you’re unsure of whether you’ll have access to calories or nutrition along the route, back off of the pace a little on your runs. Bring yourself to a pace where you know you can run comfortably for that time/distance without refuelling. The last thing you want is to bonk 15km from your hotel, even if it is in the middle of the beautiful Italian countryside.
Otherwise, if you’re set on sticking to your own nutrition plan, you’d best be served by bringing your gels or powder from home.
Running and riding are a great way to see a different side of the world and they’re a great way to shake up the training regime. The logistics may sound complicated but often its well worth the effort and you’ll find that training abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences when you’re travelling. Here’s a Strava link to one of my fave runs ever that I managed to get in on the Island of Capri…