Training while travelling

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After my trip to Spain, some folks asked me how I manage to find places to train while I’m travelling.  Given how often I travel (for work or holiday), it’s pretty important to be able to stay on top of my training even while on the road (no, not the cycling road, the travelling road).

There’s a bunch of tricks to training while I travel, which I’ll dive into later, but the biggest issues is always the question of ‘Where?’.  As in – Where can I swim?  Where can I run?

So here’s how I find places to complete each of the three sports:

Swim:

Surprisingly enough, finding a place to swim is actually the easiest of the three sports.  Now… I didn’t say the cheapest.  Nor did I say the easiest to actually complete.  I just said finding a place is the easiest.  I use Swimmersguide.com to locate a pool.  It has a gazillion pools in it’s database.  Below is just a snapshot of the town near where I stayed in Spain for example.  You can then click on links of each pool to find additional information.  With a little upfront legwork you can easily find a pool.  But…

…sometimes it’ll cost ya.  For example, the YMCA’s located all around the US are incredibly expensive for a single-use pass.  Your general best best is scoping out a hotel with a 25y/m pool ahead of time.  I find this helps me to squish in swims at odd hours (like 11PM), especially on those business trips where time is tight.

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Bike:

So cycling while on the road is tough.  At least with a real bike anyway… However, let’s assume you have a bike or can rent one (many bike shops will rent road bikes btw).  I use Motionbased.com to find routes near the cities I’m going to.

Motionbased.com is part of Garmin’s portfolio of online sites where anybody using a GPS watch can upload their workouts to it.  Therefore, it has a TON of peoples workout data (like hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of activities).

This is great because it allows me to find ‘safe’ routes that cyclists use.  You just search on a city and then sift through the results.  I used this method last year when trying to see if there were routes to bike when I was down in Ixtapa, Mexico.

If you don’t have a bike or can’t beg/borrow/steal one (no, don’t steal one…) – then a spin bike may be the way to go.  You can use good ol’ Google to find rec centers in the city you are going to (I just search for the city name + rec center).  However, virtually every hotel on earth has at least one stationary bike- and I find that well worth the time savings.

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Run:

Out of all of the sports, this is the easiest to accomplish.  You just run.  If it’s a city/town with a little more ‘sketch’ to it, I might check out Motionbased.com first to find some good local running routes (again, locals are likely uploading their workout data constantly, so I guarantee you’ll find a running route in there).  And if it’s a bit of a ‘friendlier’ city, then I’ll just run wherever.  When I was in Dubai and Egypt I used satellite maps to find out where I could run in conjunction with Motionbased.

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(My run on the Egyptian coast)

One other thing I’ve done is occasionally search for various running groups in the location I’m going to.  This has two benefits.  First, you can find people to run with at usually pre-established times each week.  Secondly, most of these running groups have sites which in turn have maps of their weekly runs.  Generally these runs are good…cause if they sucked, they likely wouldn’t run them over and over and over and over again.  Just sayin’…

Bunch of random tips:

Here’s a bunch of random things that comes to mind when I think about training while travelling:

  1. You have to make it a part of your schedule.  If you go into the trip saying “I’ll find time somewhere”, then it probably won’t get done.  I actually schedule time in my calendar for my workouts when I’m travelling – including driving to/from wherever I’m working out (i.e. the pool).  My life revolves around my Outlook calendar.  If it’s not in Outlook, it’s not happening.Here’s a recent trip to Seattle, with workouts in purple, and transit times in gray:
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  2. Try to keep your workouts within your home time zone.  This will help you when you return, and help keep your workouts at a higher quality.  Meaning, if you’re travelling to the West Coast from the East Coast – try to avoid a 7PM track workout – it’s like trying to do it at 10PM.  Especially after an already long day.
  3. If you’re travelling from East to West, take advantage of being up earlier because of the time zones, and knock out workouts early in the morning.  If you’re travelling from West to East…sorry.
  4. By training early in the morning, you can avoid issues such as impromptu/unplanned business/work dinners hosing up your evening training plans.
  5. Keep an eye on your stress level and resting heart rate.  Sometimes it is better to skip a workout – especially towards the end of a long travel week.  This is especially true when travelling internationally.  I skipped my last workout in Spain (a tempo run) in an attempt to reduce the stress of the trip.
  6. Finding a track is also pretty easy – just lookup the local high schools using “City name + school district”, and then go from there.  I’ll usually give a quick call to the school to validate nothings going on before I head to the track.  Note however that if you’re in Dallas, kids apparently practice football at 5AM.  But in Vegas, it’s only open for a few hours.  Go figure.
  7. If you can, plan your monthly training schedule around your trips.  For example, I have a crazy-busy spring coming up with respect to travel.  The domestic stuff I have dates on, so the coach is already aware and he can incorporate it into build/recovery weeks.  But I have some stuff with unknown dates that makes life a bit more difficult…so like Forest Gump says…stuff happens.  Or something like that…

Hope this helps some folks get those workouts in.  Have a good week, especially if you’re travelling!

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9 Comments

  1. Do you phone ahead to your hotels to find out about their pools? I find hotel websites often lie about their pools - calling a 10-yard pool an "Olympic", etc.

    Oh, and I thought about you when I got my peanuts and batteries out of my National Half schwag bag! Thank you for volunteering!

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  2. Thanks for the Swimmersguide link, I hadn't seen that before!

    NB I would say that the number-one trick for staying on one's training schedule during work travels is avoiding excessive alcohol consumption at dinner...

    (I have also found it useful to sign up for a low-stakes 10K-type race in the couple weeks following a trip so that I have a good incentive to stay on the ball.)

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  3. My traveling once or twice a month days are over but it's still fun to read the hints and tips. I'd never heard of the swimmersguide either - thanks!

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  4. Unrelated - what calendar system are you using? It looks a bit like iCal, but I know you're not an apple person. I like it.

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  5. wow, really great post - super informative. I don't travel ALL that much, but it's still great to know about those sites...

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  6. Great great stuff! Never seen Motionbased before so that was really helpful. I don't travel nearly as much anymore but I think everything you said is so true.

    Although being on the West coast and having traveled East several times...all I can say is UGH! You can't really get your 'early' workout in because usually there's a meeting at 8 or 9 a.m. EST and that's ALREADY telling your body to be up and at 'em at 5 or 6 a.m. PST. Lame. :P That's really where I got messed up a lot of times...sigh.

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  7. Wow! I just came across this post and it's great! Thanks for all the tips! :-)

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  8. Funny to read this while I sit in my San Fran hotel room...at 4:00 in the morning, three hrs behind my home on the east coast. I'm just waiting for a bit of daylight before heading out.

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  9. Renting bikes has been the biggest problem for me when traveling as places seldom have any extra small ones (which is why I invested in a travel bike I can take with me wherever I go). I seldom run by myself in unfamiliar areas, though. But I do make good use of hotel fitness rooms and nearby gyms/pools. I once paid $20 to use gym with a pool and was there for over 3 hours :-)

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