Road Trip! Tips For Running While Traveling

Cruisin for a bruisin?

Whether you are a collegiate runner road tripping to a meet, a parent taking the kids on a family vacation, a thirty-something couple getting away for the weekend, or just on the road for whatever merry reason, finding time to run while traveling can be a tricky process. Not to mention, it tests your commitment to your training.

This past weekend, my boyfriend James and I traveled to Iowa for a friend’s wedding. Both of our training is pretty low key right now as he is coming back from hernia surgery and I am coming back from some foot troubles. However, we wanted to be sure that we made time for running as we are both (still) hopeful for a mid-late summer racing season.

I was looking forward to sharing my road trip running experience from this weekend until my worst nightmare happened on Day 1. We stopped two hours into the trip at a turnpike rest stop to get in an easy thirty minute run. Darkness had already fallen but the area was well lit. The temperature was perfect for a nighttime run. I was exhausted after working three straight nine hour days on less than six hours of sleep each night but by two minutes in, my legs were feeling snappy and my spirits, high. We ran one lap around the perimeter of the dog exercise area surrounded by barbed wire and cushioned with grass. We turned around to repeat and just as I had the thought, “Oh this run feels great, I’m glad I did this–“, I tripped into a small hole buried by the grass with my left foot, the one that was on its way to healing. I immediately fell and erupted into half tears with half laughs, too tired to fully cry. And too pissed to fully laugh. James didn’t know what to do. The pain from two weeks ago was back. And a lot worse this time.

My left foot swollen blues. Note the missing toenail on the "good" foot. Some feet have all the luck!

What’s the point in all of this? Well, a few things. One, I wanted to share in my foot’s quick rise and sharp fall for entertainment’s sake. Second, when traveling, the most important tip I can lend is to expect the unexpected! And then, don’t let it get you down. My fall tested my patience in a way that was almost too hard to handle, but thankfully my exhaustion kept me too tired to worry. By midnight, I just wanted to be in my America’s Best Value Inn bed in South Bend, Indiana. When I awoke the next morning, I took a hot shower and got some coffee. The sun was shining. These factors alone were enough to keep me hopeful. I was back at square one with the foot but didn’t let my mind go down a negative path because I had a vacation to enjoy.

Being here helped alleviate the pain.

Being as flexible as possible is my second tip. If you want to maintain your training, you must adjust it to fit your fun. Plan a tentative schedule of when you want to run before the day’s end. But do so in a way that isn’t overly structured because if you are on vacation, the last thing you want to do is be committed to a schedule. For example, James planned on running 30-50 minutes on Friday and we discussed when would be the best time do so (in between rest stops, while I was at the wedding rehearsal, or after dinner at night). Being as flexible as possible will help you to get what you need done while not feeling overloaded. And what better way to do that than to make an adventure out of your runs!

As such, my third tip is to go out and explore new grounds (but don’t forget your head lamp if you choose to run on the grass of the pet exercise area of the turnpike). When you do go out exploring, it helps to look at a map ahead of time. Taking your cell phone with you is also a good idea for emergencies (and for instagramming photos!). If you have family or friends traveling with you, you can recruit them to follow you. Note to self: bring a bike for unexpected events! And if you and your partner are swapping the childcare, be sure to let your partner know how long you will be gone. More importantly, don’t forget to be extra aware of your surroundings while on your daily adventures!

James exploring new roads in Illinois.

My final tip for running while traveling is to try and keep your nutrition in check. It’s so easy to get bored when traveling by car that stopping at the gas station to keep yourself entertained with sweets, treats, and awesomely bad meats always sounds like a good idea. But with my experience, these foods usually leave me high (and awake) for a few hours before making me crash. Or feel extremely bloated and greasy. Sometimes, a good run can help alleviate these symptoms but for me, I will tend to want to skip the run all together. Ideally, a 70% healthy and 30% treat yourself ratio is best. This weekend, my ratio was more like 50% healthy and 50% treat myself because I was a bit down about not being able to run. By weekend’s end though, I balanced it out by trying to eat more fruit and pretzels in place of cookies and hot dogs.

Beware of sugar crashes like this while on the road. Image courtesy of
What about you? Do you find it easier to run while traveling or do you skip training all together to just get away from it all?

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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  1. We did a 75% good job of getting the running in our 30 something weekend getaway 🙂 Canoeing took priority over running on Saturday, oh well sometimes you have to say screw the training and just have some fun 😉 Now get that foot better girl!

  2. I loved reading your log about this past weekend’s trip! Sounded like a fun time! Foot feels a lot better today and swelling is finally down. Soon enough!

  3. I wrote a post quite some time back (on a former blog) about running while traveling – more aimed at business travelers but it can apply to anyone who stays for an extended time in one location. If forgot to include advice for rest stops though. Frankly, I’m usually highly motivated to run when I travel, in fact during my “dark years” of not running, the only time I would was when I was on the road. I love exploring cities like Tokyo, Shanghai, Milan, Taipei, Portland, etc. in this manner.

    1. I agree about the exploring part! I’ll be in London next month and am looking forward to seeing where I can run there. Any suggestions? Thanks for sharing your post, Greg!