In the past 9 months, I've traveled from my home in Colorado to India, Australia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Austria, and South Africa, all while training for the New York City Marathon. Jet lag became my new best friend. I've learned quite a lot about how to stay on track with training while traveling around the world the past few months. Have a big trip coming up? I’ve pulled together six tips on how to stay on track with your training while traveling abroad.
The Flight (And What to Pack)
Before heading off on your adventure, make a list of what you need to bring to be successful while training. Be sure to bring your shoes with you in your carry-on bag along with your favorite pair of Balega running socks, shorts, and running shirt, just in case your checked luggage gets lost or delayed. Hydration is also key before and during your flight. Be well hydrated and try to stay away from alcohol for at least 24 hours before flying - your body will thank you. Also, have a game plan for whether you plan to sleep or not while flying so that your body is aligned with the new time zone when you land.
While in the air, aside from sleeping, try to get up a few times to stretch your legs. Walking down the aisle and doing some stretching will help keep the blood flow from settling in your feet.
Screeeeech - the wheels of the plane just touched down and you're slowly headed towards the gate. You’ve been in transit for close to 30 hours. It has been a heck of a day. Were you supposed to run 7 miles today? Or with the time change should this be a rest day? Go back to your plan that you settled on and start moving! If it’s 11am local time, don't be tempted to take a nap. Go for a short run and start to gain an understanding of what is near your hotel or Airbnb. Try to stay awake until it’s actually time for bed so that you get on the local timetable as quickly as possible.
Lean on Your Community
You probably already know this, but our running, biking, swimming, 'insert sport here' community is amazing. It's an extremely supportive bunch - so lean on them! When you're traveling to a new area, be sure to reach out to your local run clubs, Facebook groups, Meetup groups, etc. to see if any of your fellow athletes have traveled to where you'll be going. They will be able to provide you with their own tips and tricks so you can have a less stressful experience abroad (believe me, locals ALWAYS know better than whatever you might find on the internet).
When I traveled to South Africa, I relied heavily on the Balega community. As a Balega Impi ambassador, I notified the Facebook group that I was planning a trip to Cape Town. I was put in touch with a Balega team member in Cape Town who then added me to a WhatsApp group where I was able to schedule a sunrise trail run up Table Mountain with her! It was one of the most memorable experiences of my whole trip!
Where in the world am I!? Hopefully you know which city you're in, although jet lag will definitely make your brain turn to mush. Will you be turning on data while you're abroad? Be sure to contact your cell phone company ahead of time so that you're able to have data if you need it.
In my case, I never had my data turned on abroad. Instead, I downloaded offline maps before I left the U.S. so I always knew where I was running. You're also able to pin different locations on the map. I always save the hotel I'm staying at and then also save various important historical sites or restaurants which helps get your bearings while running in a foreign country.
Food, Hydration, and Gear
Food, oh glorious, food. This is one of the top reasons to travel internationally, right!? The different tastes and smells put you in euphoric bliss. You think to yourself, "Why in the world do I eat such bland foods at home?" However, your stomach might be in shock for some of the foods you eat, so always travel with Imodium and Pepto-Bismol. Also, contact your doctor ahead of the trip so that you can get the stronger antibiotics if you end up getting sick overseas. Introducing new foods to your body can definitely be a gamble!
Depending on the region you travel to, tap water may or may not be safe. As mentioned earlier regarding jet lag, hydration is key to preventing you from feeling burned out, however, be sure that you do your research ahead of time on whether tap water is safe in the area you're traveling. You want to be environmentally conscious, so please bring a Nalgene or other water bottle with you to fill with tap water. I'd suggest also bringing some flavored hydration tablets with you in case the tap water has a bit of a metallic taste.
If tap water isn't safe, then I frequently bought the largest 3-gallon containers of water and then filled my Nalgene so I could have it while sightseeing. Ultimately, the goal is to drink lots of water - just like you would back home! There are also travel-friendly water purifiers and filters you can buy and bring with you (check out REI’s article on this topic to learn more).
Each piece of gear that I bring with me while traveling is thoughtfully planned out. I prefer to pack minimally and travel light, so what I do pack needs to be able to be worn multiple days. Synthetic shirts, underwear, shorts, and Balega socks are key to being able to wash your clothes in your hotel room and have them dry within 24 hours so you can use them again the next day. As I wrote earlier, I'll also always pack one pair of shorts, t-shirt, and Balega socks in my carry-on bag (in case my checked luggage gets lost or delayed) so that I can run the same day I land and stay on my training schedule.
Safety is paramount, no matter if you're running in your neighborhood or abroad. Although I run at night in my own neighborhood, I never run at night while abroad. It's much easier to get lost and make a wrong turn in a foreign place. In a few countries I visited, being out at night in general was not advised. Talk to the locals and get their opinions to help evaluate each country your in. Pay attention to your government's warnings and suggestions, Travel Advisories by the US Department of State is a great starting place.
While traveling alone, I would always text my wife to let her know where I was running, the distance, and time I expected to check back in touch with her. If I'm traveling with a coworker, I'll also let them know my plans. A quick screenshot of your running route works very well to easily give someone an overview of where you’ll be running, and will make you feel more relaxed while you’re out on your run.
I occasionally run with headphones back home, but when I’m running abroad I never run with them. Why? Primarily, you want to take in everything you can while you make your way through a new city. I relish in hearing people speak different languages while jogging past them and other sounds of the new city. Safety is another key factor. People might be driving or biking on the opposite side of the road than you’re used to, so you want to be aware of your surroundings.
Ultimately, any opportunity to travel in a foreign country is worth it. Don't let your training schedule dictate your time abroad - you'll be able to get the best of both worlds if you plan ahead!
Have a question or comment for TJay? Comment below or check out his travels on Instagram, @teejadventures.