You don’t have to abandon your workouts after you board the plane or hop in your car for a getaway. It just takes a bit of extra planning and creativity to maintain your training schedule while on the road, whether you’re preparing for your hometown 10K, a marathon, or an Ironman event. Here are some tips for training while traveling, and remaining safe and healthy as you go.
TWEAK YOUR SCHEDULE
“If I can switch a travel week here or there to avoid having a long run coincide with a trip, I’ll do that,” says Wendy Haase of Long Beach, Calif., who has run 16 marathons in cities from Boston to Santa Barbara, Calif. “Twice, I have chosen to fly in early so I could get in an 18- and a 20-mile run prior to a conference starting.”
Kathleen Wanat, a USA Triathlon Level 1 certified coach and co-owner of Worcester-based Precision Endurance Coaching, recommends that you determine your key workouts, what access you’ll have to exercise equipment, and your available training time, and then build a schedule around those factors.
“If you know you’re going to be traveling Monday to Thursday, you could go front-heavy and get your big workouts in before you leave or fit them in when you get back,” she says. “Then plan easier workouts or rest days for when you’re away.”
RESEARCH ROUTES AND EVENTS ONLINE
Use MapMyFitness.com to find maps, recommended routes, or events at your destination or to connect with others. This useful site offers information on biking, running, walking, and hiking routes. Download the app onto your smartphone to access your selected routes, or download routes onto your Garmin, Polar, or other GPS-enabled device.
Spice up your training by participating in a local event at your destination, whether it’s an easy 5K, an Olympic-distance triathlon, or a 112-story stair climb up Toronto’s CN Tower. Sites like CoolRunning.com let you search for local road and trail races, while Active.com helps you track down biking, running, triathlon, and other events by destination.
VISIT AN AIRPORT GYM
Many airport terminals and hotels have fitness centers available to visitors for a day rate, often $10 to $20. Airports with good fitness centers include Detroit, Miami, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Columbus, Ohio. If you get stuck waiting for an outbound flight in Boston, the Hilton Health Club and Spa at Logan International Airport welcomes visitors for $10 per day, offering full gym facilities, a pool, and a free disposable bathing suit.
Check out AirportGyms.com to see what gyms, health clubs, or fitness centers are available in the United States and Canada.
RESEARCH HOTEL LOCATION AND SERVICES
Choose a hotel that has access to car-free paths or scenic routes. It’s much more fun to run or bike along the ocean or through parks than to do circles around strip malls or cruise through industrial zones.
Concierges typically have maps and info on shorter routes, but call ahead and ask if there are runners or cyclists on staff, if you need ideas for longer routes. Some hotels, like The Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, British Columbia, offer guided runs. Ian Pullan, The Fairmont’s general manager and a marathoner, takes guests on scheduled runs every Tuesday and Thursday morning, rain or shine, along the seawall in nearby Stanley Park.
HOTEL FACILITIES AND AMENITIES
When choosing a hotel, find out what type of fitness equipment is available, so you can gauge
whether or not it meets your needs. Some hotels even offer in-room fitness videos and equipment. Stay at TRYP By Wyndham Times Square South in Manhattan, for instance, and choose a guest room that comes with a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine.
“If I can’t find anywhere to go, I’ve even found myself in a hotel stairwell,” says Chrisann Dalton of Bedford, N.H., who will compete with Hines Ward, the former Pittsburgh Steelers receiver, at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in October. “I’ll skip two steps at a time and then do a lunge. You can make anything work. I’ve literally just run for an hour in a parking lot.”
An increasing number of hotels have gear-lending programs, so you don’t have to bring all of your workout clothes. All Westin properties worldwide, for instance, provide running shoes with disposable insoles, tank tops, pants, and a pair of new socks (you get to keep the socks) for $5.
LOCATE THE LOCAL ‘Y’ OR GYM
Most YMCAs and YWCAs offer a reasonable rate for nonmembers, and many gyms have an open-door policy.
Your hotel may have an arrangement with a local health club or sports facility. Find out the distance to the closest gym, health club, local pool, or public-access running track. Track down a masters swim workout through the US Masters Swimming website www.usms.org.
GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR TRAVEL GEAR
Pack resistance and stretch bands so you can do strength-training exercises in your room. If you’re training for a triathlon and won’t have access to a pool, consider bringing easy-to-pack surgical tubing to use in your hotel room to simulate swim strokes.
“Instead of bringing a foam roller, which is bulky, you could always bring a tennis or lacrosse ball to massage your calves or IT bands, and help with recovery and inflammation,” says Wanat. “If you have a small fridge in your room, freeze a water bottle and then use that to roll your feet.”
FIND LOCAL RUNNING OR BIKE CLUBS
Contact local clubs for scheduled runs or rides while you are in town. Getting out with a group can help you save time finding routes, avoid dicey areas, stay motivated, and meet other like-minded people.
“Find out if the run or ride is broken down into different speed groups, and fit yourself into a group that falls within your ability,” recommends Wanat.
If your travels take you to Canada, look up Running Room Canada (www.runningroom.com), which hosts free drop-in runs (and walks) for locals and visitors at locations nationwide every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning.
RENTING OR SHIPPING A BIKE
Rent a bike from a cycling shop, so you can get a high-end set of wheels rather than just a cruiser with three speeds and a wicker basket. If you need a bike for a longer ride or multiple days, bring your own helmet, seat, bike shoes, and pedals. Or consider getting a bike carrier and bringing your ride with you. Ship your bike by UPS or Fedex, for instance, or check it on the airplane. Airline charges for transporting bike carriers range from about $50 to $250.
If you bring it on the plane, “pack it as well as you can because TSA will open everything,” says Wanat. “Or ship it to a local bike shop and they can reassemble it for you.”
Some people prefer hard-sided travel carriers, like Trico’s Iron Case, whereas others believe a soft case is just as protective yet easier to travel with because it’s lighter, it folds up or crushes down for storing, and it may better fit into a taxi. Either way, make sure your carrier has good-quality wheels, a lock, excellent padding, and even extra space for slipping in your bike shoes, wet suit, cycling clothes, and other small gear.
When training in unfamiliar areas, it helps to keep track of your mileage and the quality of your
workouts using a device that calculates distance, time, pace, and more. If you are primarily a runner, consider the Garmin Forerunner 210, a GPS watch and heart-rate monitor that also works with a foot pod so you can use it indoors or outside. Swimmers who want to keep track of distance, elapsed time, pace, and even stroke count may want the Garmin Swim Watch, which can be customized for pools as short as 18 yards — more in line with what you may find at a hotel. And the easy-to-use Garmin Forerunner 910XT lets multi-sport athletes track comprehensive stats while running, biking, and swimming. The only downside: The pool setting can be set only as low as 22 yards.
Polar’s RCX5 comes in run, bike, and multisport versions. What sets it apart: It is slim, simple, and lightweight, and you can wear the heart-rate band in the water to track your heart rate while swimming. The only downside: You need to carry an additional GPS sensor strapped to your arm or stuffed in a pocket or bag so you can track distance, speed, and location while running or biking.
NUTRITION ON THE ROAD
It’s easy to reach for quick-fix, stomach-filler items when you’re on the move, but you can eat well without adding stress or complexity to your travels.
“You have to make sure you get all of your nutrient requirements met, including carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals,” says Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and the sports dietitian for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins, and for endurance athletes. “Carbs are the easiest to find when you’re traveling, and fruits are more readily available, but people tend to get sporadic with their protein intake. It’s not like you can pick up a chicken breast anywhere, but you can travel with a whey protein powder, which you can even mix in with oatmeal or some juice that you can find in the airport. Or bring protein bars, packets of tuna or chicken, or even beef or chicken jerky.”
“It’s as important to have a good eating plan as it is to have a good training plan,” says Bonci.Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.