Travel Training- Make the Most of Your Time on the Road
Mizuno Athlete Alissa McKaig weighs in on how to handle travel and training and keep striding strong!
Anyone who has ever traveled anywhere knows that even the best laid plans go awry. Pretty sure that is why that saying took off, because you can plan your travel day down to the minute and I promise you something will go wrong. Some days it only goes a little bad, but others the whole thing goes horribly south and you get it coming and going.
The first time I headed down to Houston to run the half marathon, I had one of those not so stellar experiences. The travel universe conspired against me. My hometown is small and the closest airport of size enough to not be exorbitantly expensive is two hours away, meaning that for a 9 am flight, I had to leave before 6 and pick up my coach on the way. So my day started early, and I did not wake up even earlier to run. I assumed that since we got in early afternoon I could run once in Houston. Mistake!
We got to the airport just fine, settled in at the gate for a brief wait before boarding, and then we heard the first delay. You know that delay, the ominous one, the one that cannot be explained by weather issues and that surely signals more delays to come? That delay announcement is never good to hear, and sure enough for us the delays kept rolling in. We sat in that airport all day. The sun had gone down again before they finally told us the flight was not making it out.
We got lost on the way to a hotel, and by the time we arrived, I was tired, cranky, and so very hungry. The last thing I wanted to do was run. But I had to and it was dark, so I reluctantly and with a bad attitude changed my clothes and hopped on the treadmill. (Thank God for that treadmill! This being Indiana in the dead of winter, it was brutally cold and dark so going outside was not an option.) I think I finally finished up my run and stretching after 9 pm. Hurriedly ate some dinner in the hotel restaurant and hopped into bed since our flight the next day was at 6 am.
I tell you all of this to illustrate the importance of flexibility and planning when it comes to running and working out on the road. After a few years as a professional runner, I have a few tips I can share with you to avoid major travel exercise pitfalls.
1. Plan ahead!
Look at your travel schedule and do everything possible to fit your run or workout or cross train in before your traveling even starts. A lot of times that will mean getting up at a completely uncivilized hour, and believe me, I hate that so very much too, but you will be so glad you did. If it is already done, then delays will not cause you to be in the hotel gym or out on a dark road at insane hours of the night when you really would rather be relaxing. A bonus is when travel goes perfectly, your workout is already done, so you can out your feet up and stuff your face as soon as you get to your destination.
2. Be flexible and reasonable.
If you do have issues in your day and you find yourself getting in late and still wanting to run, be flexible.
After a long tiring day of frustration, you might not be able to exactly what you wanted workout-wise that day, so be flexible and switch it up. That 20 mile long or short tempo run might have to be swapped for a shorter easy run or reworked into a more manageable fartlek.
You have to take into account what your body has been through that day, stress, weird eating, not enough sleep, and recognize that at times the smart thing to do is less in exchange for rest and recovery. Be flexible and look at the long run. Truth be told, there are times when scrapping that run altogether might be the best play. Eat some food, hop into bed, and tackle that workout on a rested body!
3. Be resourceful.
Ask the front desk for best places to run. They might only know of paved bike paths, so be sure to ask about soft surfaces and try to get on grass or dirt if possible. This might mean going to a park and doing loops or finding a sports complex, but soft surface is always best when possible.
If the hotel you are staying in does not have a treadmill and you need one, tweak your workout and use the bike, elliptical, or pool that they do have. One day of not running will not hurt you or set you back.
If they do not have weights, use your own body weight. Do some push-ups and dips in your room. Throw down a towel as a mat and crank out some planks and core work. Do some stretching or yoga poses in your room.
4. Stay calm.
We runners are neurotic people. If we miss a workout or run, our world comes crashing down which is a little ridiculous at times. I have ruined family vacations with my terrible attitude over running and believe me, it is not worth it. So if your day just totally goes to pot and you cannot exercise in any form at all, take a few deep breaths, remain calm, and gear up for the next day. The unexpected rest day will be more of a boon than running at 1 am anyway.
If you are headed to a race and you get very little sleep in the couple days leading up to it the way I did going to the Houston Half, my advice again is to stay calm. Provided that on a regular basis you get enough sleep, those few nights before are not in any way going to hurt you unless you let it get into your head mentally. It is the sleep you consistently get in the weeks of training that matter.
I learned from that early trip and now plan a bit better when it comes to running while traveling, although snafus still occur. I hope these tips can help you too! Happy running!!
Alissa is an accomplished long distance runner for the Mizuno Race Team. In 2008, she capped off a successful collegiate career by capturing NAIA National Championships at 5,000 and 10,000m. As a professional, Alissa has been a member of Team USA at the World Cross Country Championships and World Half Marathon Championships. Additionally, she has a marathon PR of 2:31:56 and was 8th at the 2012 US Olympic Marathon Trials. Alissa currently lives and trains in Washington DC under coach Isaya Okwiya as part of the Mizuno Hive.