Staying with an exercise plan while traveling for work or vacation can be challenging. It is easy to simply put the routine aside, and sometimes that is the only reasonable option. But, so far, I have managed to stay on my marathon training schedule while traveling from time to time over the last few years. Here are some examples of how I worked it in.

Several years ago, Candice and I took an ocean cruise in the Caribbean for 10 days. Anyone who has had that experience can attest that 1) cruises are one of the most enjoyable ways to have a vacation, and 2) with fantastic food available nearly around the clock, and being generally confined to a ship, it is a terrible environment for staying in shape. But, I was training for a running event, and managed to log all my training miles, tucking the opportunities in where I could. I did these runs either on a short outdoor track on the ship, or on a treadmill in their fitness center. That fitness center was indoors, but on a high deck, and right at the front of the ship—so I was looking at the ocean and sky while running. Remember the “I’m the king of the world” scene? Without the subsequent freezing to death. These running experiences are some of my most enjoyable from that cruise. And, in spite of going for it on the food (some things just have to be done), I continued to improve my running endurance, and gained no weight during the cruise.

A few years later, we took a guided tour to England and France, with a large group of high school Seniors (super good kids) and many of their parents. It was a 10-day trip, on a tight pre-planned schedule. But, I was also in the peak weeks of training for a marathon. I knew from the schedule what time we’d be loading the bus each morning. On most weekdays, I was doing 10 or 12 miles, and I had one weekend run of 18. I simply got up early enough to get my miles in without missing the bus (I did have to do some grab-and-go breakfasts).

I admit there were mornings on that trip that getting up starting was hard (just like some days at home), but these runs created experiences I still cherish. I ran along the side of the Thames in London, the Seine, in Paris, and the streets of Caen and near Normandy. I will never forget regularly rounding a bend and suddenly seeing a castle or Gothic cathedral, and breaking into tears. With a smart phone in hand, and a little research, I was never lost (long), and always felt safe. At first, I was a bit puzzled that other runners were not out, as I knew they existed in these countries. I soon observed that the local runners tended to go out in the afternoon or evening, because the temperatures are still pleasant (not as common in Arizona). Like with the ocean cruise, if I had decided not to bother with running on this tour, I would have missed some of my favorite moments.

However, I don’t do much world traveling. Most of my trips are to visit my 5 adult kids, who have managed to spread out almost as far as you can in the U.S. (New York to Alaska; no one in Arizona; I’m sure someone will get to Hawaii). Those trips present the same challenges to exercise consistency, and I’ve taken the same approach. I just take my running gear and find a way to get it done. And, again, that persistence has rewarded me with some of my most memorable running settings— New York Central Park, Lake Sammamish in Washington, Duke Campus in Durham, Jordan River in Utah, the mountains of Park City, various runs on the coast of California, and, this upcoming June, the Midnight Sun Marathon in Alaska—all while visiting, or visiting with, my kids.

In addition to keeping our physical conditioning on track, another advantage to regular exercise while on vacation or traveling is that it does compensate a bit for the increased volume and “variety” of food that tends to happen on such trips.

Staying on track with a fitness plan while on vacation or traveling is mainly a matter of deciding to make it work. Once you decide, it is not hard to do, and may provide some of your favorite experiences of the trip.

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