Between social engagements, shopping and cooking – in addition to year-round daily activities – runners and other athletes have to work hard during the holidays to keep exercise from falling off the calendar. Add holiday travel to the list and many runners miss their workouts. As a life-long runner who has visited dozens of foreign destinations, I’ve learned how to keep running on the go. Here are my five tips to help you do the same:
1. Use long layovers wisely.
Any time I have more than three hours between long flights, I try to plan a workout during the layover. You can do this by researching fitness centers near the airport with day use drop-in fees. Before you hit the road, do a quick Internet search for “gyms near” the airport and call or email them to see if you can pay a fee to exercise at their facility. While few airports have gyms on-site, many airport hotels do. For example, the Hilton Chicago O’Hare offers a drop-in fee at its gym, which is a short covered walk from most of the terminals. Just make sure you pack a workout outfit, shoes, a lock and a towel in your carry-on bag. In addition to making the layover feel shorter, working out will energize you more than lazing around during extra in-transit hours.
2. Bring an apparel variety pack.
It sure is a hassle when you have a specific workout planned only to find out that the gym at your hotel doesn’t have the piece of equipment you need, the pool is closed for repairs or wild animals prevent you from running outside. The latter happened to me in Thailand, where a tiger had been spotted roaming the jungle near my hotel. The staff suggested I forgo my run. (Advice accepted!) The key to staying active is to be flexible and bring what you need for different types of workouts. You might want to pack a swimsuit and goggles, for example, in case your only option is a pool. I try to bring cycle shorts when I travel in case all of the treadmills are busy and I need to hop on a bike instead.
3. Exercise now, eat later.
I am always concerned about eating when I’m on the road. As a traveler, I often want to eat when I have access to food, like when I’m waiting out a layover. But once you’ve eaten, it can be hard to exercise. My rule is to make exercise a first priority and then eat afterward. If I need to, I take food with me onto the plane or the next mode of transportation. My travel bag is typically stocked with a wide variety of pre- and post-workout-friendly foods, such as protein bars or nuts, just in case I use up my limited time exercising rather than finding food.
4. Remember that something is better than nothing.
On very busy travel days, it may be hard to find much time to get in a run. However, if you can squeeze in just a few minutes, you’ll feel better about yourself all day. When I’m going to be in a car or airplane for hours and hours, I usually go for a short run – perhaps just 15 or 20 minutes – before starting my journey. Getting your workout out of the way before you begin your trip ensures it happens. If doing so means getting up an hour earlier, so be it: You can always nap on the plane.
5. Use exercise to combat jet lag.
Jet lag is the fatigue we feel from the interruption in our sleep cycle and lack of sleep caused by traveling across time zones. Jet lag can be a huge challenge, leaving you zonked out for days. While there are many strategies to help lessen jet lag, travelers report good success with exercising once they arrive in their destination to help reset their clocks and get onto local time. When I travel to Asia, the first thing I do is a light workout. This raises my energy level and keeps me from wanting to lie down and fall fast asleep in the middle of the day. It may be hard to imagine running after getting off a long flight, but you’ll feel better for doing it.
Try out some of these tips during your holiday travels this season. I hope they help your body feel better and maybe reduce the number of workouts you miss. Happy holidays and keep on running!
First published at US News: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2015/11/25/running-through-holiday-travel