RUNNING IS a paradox: a sport based on the freedom of the open road, yet a routine — consistent diet, knowledge of distance traveled, exercising at the same time of day –- is more likely to encourage success. At first glance, it might seem as though running well is at odds with traveling often. With these tricks, you may not have to worry about either.
1. How to stay active on planes, trains, and automobiles
Unless you’re flying first class and can lie perfectly horizontal to sleep, almost any form of transportation is going to be a nightmare on your legs. Part of this is unavoidable; if you want to travel across the world in under a day, you’re going to have to accept this can’t be done on foot.
Nevertheless, there are ways to reduce the risk of stiff muscles. Train travel is probably the most accommodating out of travel by air, bus, and rail, due to the fact there are fewer hang-ups about standing up and stretching – even on an airline, there’s not enough space and you’ll get looks for trying. The lack of seat belts and the existence of a dining car or open-air car all suggest trains are designed for passengers to move around until they arrive.
On buses, you’re usually screwed – drivers may actively tell you to sit down while they’re in motion. On aircraft, the galley is usually the best bet for a few squats and stretches… as long as it isn’t occupied.
2. Find trails anywhere.
If you’ve arrived in a new country and aren’t familiar with the best places for a long run, there are a few places you should always look for, even when a trail isn’t identified after a Google search. Always bet on bodies of water – regardless of where you are, rivers, lakes, and oceanside areas have a high probability of a trail, even if it’s not too developed. A beach can be hit or miss, depending on the firmness of the sand and the grade down to the water. Even looking for a high school without a fenced-off campus might be an option for some time on the track.
3. Always avoid the escalator and elevator.
You know all those suckers, standing on escalators instead of walking? Breeze right by them on the steps. Naturally, there are times when this isn’t going to be the best option for runners – hauling luggage, after a workout – but if you’re in a developed country, planning a step or hill workout around your journey through an airport, train station, or subway system can quickly turn into the difference between a boring commute and a chance to stretch your legs. I recommend Itaewon Station in Seoul so you can show all the US military who pass through what runners can do.
4. Run locally.
…and I don’t mean signing up for the Color Run – though it is fun – or a high-profile marathon that’s easy to find when you’re outside of the country. Those are all well and good, but don’t you want to experience the smaller races? Often, it’s as simple as using Google Translate for “running events in (city, country)” and checking the results.
Personally, I find going to the nearest event center or government building and finding flyers for local events is the best way. When in doubt, always keep something to take notes in case you zoom past a billboard advertising a race on the highway.
5. Learn the running culture first.
This doesn’t imply you have to be fluent in the language or well versed in every aspect of the culture. Rather, just attend a race or two as a spectator. Listen to what people are shouting for encouragement, e.g. “gambatte!” or “fight!” in Japan. See what drinks and snacks are popular to give to runners, assuming there are any. How do runners like to dress where you are? How do they warm up – with Tai Chi, or stretches you know?
Having a grasp of this part of the running culture is just as prudent as doing a little research before you arrive in the country. Just as you’re trying to avoid culture shock, so too can this help make a race you run smoother.