How to Stay Fit on Vacation

By Maire,

  Category: Research
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Running on vacation should feel like a treat, not a chore. Stay fit while still having fun.

When it comes to vacationing runners, there are two extremes: those who struggle to muster up the will to squeeze in even a single run, and those who pack the free time with hard workouts, long outings, and double sessions, possibly irritating their travel companions in the process. As with everything in life, moderation is key. “Three moderate distance runs a week at a moderate to hard pace will help maintain your base fitness, allowing you to return home feeling rested and rejuvenated,” says Kari Smith, a Philadelphia-based running coach. Whether you’re planning a getaway with a jam-packed itinerary or a leisurely trip with no real schedule, here’s how to stay fit (and happy) while you’re away.

Do a Pretrip Push
Do an extra-long run or especially tough speedwork a day or two before you leave, says Chris Heuisler, who oversees running services for Westin Hotels guests. This will justify doing little to no running during the first couple days of your trip, when you’ll need to recover from both the workout and the travel. The hard effort may be your best workout in weeks because you’ll know that a big rest lies just ahead,” Heuisler says.

Heuisler, who has run in 36 states and nine countries, understands that “hard training and a leisure vacation can be contradictory,” but he ups his own mileage on many trips because it’s his favorite way to see new places. If you share his enthusiasm for on-the-run exploring, limit the increase to 10 percent of your at-home mileage to avoid injury, and pay extra attention to hydration, stretching, and self-massage.

Plan for Company…
There are several ways to arrange to join local runners at your destination. One is to book a guided run–similar to a sightseeing bus tour, but on foot–on a site like or Another way is to check your destination’s running-club Web sites (find them at or for details of group runs during your visit. Most welcome visiting runners.

Or you can find a race. “See if there’s a 5-K or 10-K when and where you’re going,” Heuisler suggests. (Check out our Race Finder.) “Even if you treat it as a training run, you’ll get the chance to meet local runners who can offer insider tips on where to run, where to eat, and what to do in town.”

…Or Go It Alone
If you’d rather stick to solo runs, consider plotting out routes before you leave. and our Route Finder tool each offer thousands of routes mapped by local runners with precise distances and elevation profiles. Or if you’re planning-averse, try Smith’s technique: “With no route in mind, my husband and I ran past Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and Regent’s Park on a single run, with stops to take pictures,” she says. A little guidance goes a long way, however, so if you’re staying at a hotel or resort, ask the concierge to recommend some good, safe running routes.

Adjust Your Expectations
Anyone who has traveled with small children, experienced a flight delay, or gotten lost knows that even vacations have their challenges. Says Heuisler: “Dial back on the pace and distance if you’re dealing with travel stresses or a hectic schedule, especially if running is harder than at home because it’s warmer, more humid, hillier, at altitude, or on a different surface like dirt trails or beach sand.” Smith adds: “Run early because it will be hard to fit it in later.” She sets out her running clothes and shoes in the hotel bathroom at night so she can slip out for early runs without waking her husband. She recommends doing 10 approximately 100-meter pickups midrun to preserve your speed and work on your form.

Regardless of how much you run while on vacation, says Heuisler, make sure your primary focus is fun instead of fitness. “You can run anywhere,” he says, “so why not experience new places–the sights, smells, and sounds–as only a runner can?” Get out there and try exploring a different trail or country road each day at your vacation venue. The hotel-gym treadmill? Forget it, unless conditions are dangerous or you really have no time to figure out where to run outside.

Broaden Your Horizons
If your travel itinerary is crowded, you can take a week off from running–but that doesn’t mean being a sloth. “Vacations should be a break from routine, so it’s a good time to try other activities and use different muscles,” says Smith. “Rent bikes, go on hikes, play tennis, and maybe even try waterskiing. All activity burns calories and maintains muscle, and you’ll give your mind and body a break from running.” Once you’re home, she adds, you’ll feel rejuvenated: “It shouldn’t take you more than two to three weeks to get your running shape back.”

Then again, you can take the opposite approach. “If work or other obligations have held your running back at home, a vacation can be an opportunity to jump-start it,” says Heuisler. “Just don’t get carried away.”

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