Training programs can be interrupted by travelling plans, with many runners often resigned to not training if they are away from home. Sometimes it’s the luxury of a holiday, but other times it’s an unavoidable work trip.
As someone who is regularly travelling for work, I have developed some good plans for not letting travelling disrupt my training too much. I am actually writing this as I prepare for a long-haul flight to Europe to spend a week working (I hate my job!). Here are some tips to help you maintain your training during your next trip.
- Firstly, can you schedule a recovery week around the trip? Even better, plan to do a race just before your trip, so you don’t have to feel guilty about the 30-hour transit times or that extra self-indulgence – it’s much needed recovery time! I did a 100km race two weeks before this trip, so it removes some of the pressure of trying to squeeze in long runs. However, if you are in a block of training in the lead up to a race, try make it an absorption week. Schedule a bigger week (15-20% more volume or intensity) the previous week, then allow yourself to recover while you are away. If you think that you are really going to struggle to fit in any training, extend your training program by a week (i.e start that 12-week program, 13 weeks out from the goal race).
- Train in the mornings. Running in the morning gets it out-of-the-way and prevents excuses (those networking drinks). And if you can’t fit in your long run, split it over the morning and evening.
- Base your runs on time. Rather than stressing about needing to squeeze in a run of a certain distance, run for as long as you’ve got. I work back from what time I need to leave my hotel/apartment + time to get ready. That may be 30 minutes or perhaps an hour, but something is better than nothing. This helps avoid the stress nor knowing the terrain or specific routes and then running late for your commitments.
- Focus on quality over quantity. For those days where you are short on time, focus on speed. You don’t need a measured out track, or your regular training group. Fartleks are great sessions when you are in an unfamiliar environment and suffering the effects of jet lag. Try 1 min on + 1 min float *15 and you’ve got a quality 30 minute session. Or use the environment around you; run the long edges of the park hard and the short ends easy. 20 minutes @ AT (aerobic threshold; ~10k- HMP race pace) with a warm up and cool down is another quality session that can be done if time is short.
- Be organised. Plan your routes and have your training gear ready the night before. I always pack my running vest or backpack when I travel. I’ll take my running gear to the conference and then run back to my accommodation afterwards. Also, have your nutrition on hand. While I normally advocate real food over supplements, high quality energy bars and protein shakes can be very convenient when traveling so you can fuel and recover from your training sessions adequately.
- Safety first. Find out about the area you are staying in, and places you can and shouldn’t run. If its unsafe to run on your own, the gym’s treadmill is better than nothing (or even worse). If you are constrained to using the dreadmill, make the most of its benefits. Perhaps you live in a flat area; do a hill workout to develop strength and stamina that will translate well for hilly races. Examples include run for 2 minutes at a 4 to 5 percent incline at a pace that elevates your effort to hard. Recover with a very easy jog at 0 percent incline for 3 minutes. Repeat up to 10 times and add in a warm-up and cool down.
- Cross-train. Don’t write off the benefits of doing other activities. I can’t think of a better excuse to include a winery cycling tour in your next holiday! If you are spending a week at the ski-fields (half your luck), make the most of its benefits. Skiing and snowboarding heavily targets many of the same lower body muscles used for running. Skiing naturally keeps the body in the squat position, which strengthens the quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. Snowboarding also works some of the foot and ankle muscles that become more in use for trail running. Even if you are a beginner you can get an extra training in by hiking up the slope rather than using the ski lift.
- Check out Park Run. These 5km timed events are held in hundreds of cities around the world. This is a great opportunity to see some sites, meet some people and even have a good, hard training session. If you haven’t done any speed work that week, aim to run it hard.
- Focus on core strength. If all other good intentions fail, find 10 minutes a day to do core/glut exercises. Most exercises can be done in your hotel room without any equipment. Start with glute bridges, prone holds and lunges.
- That’s what holidays are all about. Burn-off the previous night’s food and wine by exploring your destination on foot. If you have a choice in your destination, choose somewhere with great trails. Think of some of the great training towns around the world: Flagstaff (got to do Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim), Chamonix (home of UTMB), the glamourous St Moritz or one our more local trails (Cradle Mountain in Tassie or the Hilary Trail just out of Auckland).
Make the most of your travelling and enjoy!