When running is part of your daily or weekly routine, it is very difficult NOT to run. But what happens when you have to travel for work, especially for several days or weeks at a time? Work travel often involves quite new and demanding tasks in an unfamiliar environment as well as social/client engagements, culminating in longer days. This coupled with dietary changes as well as changes to eating and sleeping patterns can be quite stressful. This means it is even more important to incorporate something that keeps you balanced and feeling relaxed, strong and confident. For runners, I think it’s fair to say that thing is running. But how do you ensure you keep running when travelling for work? My recent trip to Ghana taught me a thing or two!
An Essential Guide To Running During Work Travel
1/ Gather Information. When I travelled to Ghana, I was very fortunate to have a friend in Accra who I could contact beforehand to enquire about the weather, terrain, landscape, running norms, appropriate wear, and of course safety when running solo. She was thorough in her response and highlighted the humidity, the need for early morning runs as well as the importance of sun screen, a cap and sunglasses; she also emphasised hydration given the muggy climate; and mentioned her preference for darker shoes as some of the roads are not tarred.
To my relief, she said safety was something I needn’t worry about. In cases where you don’t have a contact, use the internet to search for any running and travel blogs, as well as for general information on the climate, altitude and terrain of the area. Also, reach out to some running groups on social media. You may be lucky enough to find a parkrun or running club close to you!
2/ Pack Running Gear. Alongside your work attire, pack everything you need for your runs. This includes shorts, tops, cap, sunscreen, sunglasses, socks and of course shoes! For hydration on the run, I use the water bottles usually provided in the hotel room. I always travel with hydration salt packets which I found very useful in Ghana as I struggled with the humidity. I planned to do about four or five runs so I packed the same number of outfits. But if luggage space is an issue or you’re staying longer, I would advise bringing some handwashing powder so you can re-use your clothing items. Also, wearing your running shoes when travelling helps to save on luggage space.
3/ Schedule Time To Run And Plan Your Routes. From my experience, afternoon/ evening runs are very difficult. Work schedules often overrun with engagements after ‘normal’ working hours. So I would definitely recommend going for your run first thing in the morning. You get to enjoy some peace and quiet with a big endorphin hit before the long day ahead.
Now where to run? When you’re in familiar territory, it’s easier to plan your routes as you have a clear picture of the area. But planning or even visualising a route becomes a lot more difficult when you’ve never visited a place! So how does one go about it?
- Ask the hotel staff or your local colleagues about running routes. Even if they don’t run, they may still have some idea about areas you can explore as well as safety considerations.
- Use technology! When I was in Ghana, I used Google Maps to design my route from the hotel. The terrain mode was great for seeing the layout of streets but I also used satellite mode (and sometimes Street View) to get a feel of the area. As I was in quite a remote area, I found Google Maps and discussions with hotel staff particularly useful. But if you’re in less remote areas, apps like MapMyRun or Strava are incredible tools for discovering popular routes nearby. On this blog post, blogger Laura shares her favourite apps for this purpose.
- Be prepared to ask others if you’re lost. Make sure you know the address of your hotel, not just the name. For added comfort, take your mobile with you in case you need to call the hotel or a colleague for help if you end up in a quandary!
- But in general, I’d say keep it simple especially for the first run when you are still discovering the place. For my first run in Ghana, I did a nice out-and-back and became more adventurous as they days wore on. Also, always be very observant about signs, landmarks and turns.
4/ Focus On Enjoyment. My philosophy when running in new places is to shift your focus from that of performance to one of exploration and enjoyment – stop for photos, admire the buildings or murals, and just take it all in. Find out what landmarks or special places are within runnable distance to where you’re staying. This way you can ensure your running route also includes some sightseeing and scenic stretches. When my friend Gape travelled to Asmara he ran past this colossal Church of Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral. How stunning is this?
5/ Don’t Throw All Caution To The Wind. Whilst exploring all the new place has to offer, it is also important to consider safety. Are there any wild animals in the area like in Kasane? Does the place have many stray dogs and do you know what to do when you encounter one? When you chat to others, are there any areas they do not recommend you run alone? As a general rule, don’t run down alleys or in secluded areas and don’t run when it’s dark. Also, remember to run on the correct side of the road! One thing that took me aback in Ghana was that they drive on the right side of the road so of course, this meant I had to run on the side I wasn’t accustomed to. This took some serious mental adjustment. Gape had the same issue in Eritrea!
When you’re travelling for work, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress (and nervous excitement) of it all. So if you’re a runner, I would highly recommend that you find a way to get some runs in. Running is a great stress-reliever and to be able to do it in a new place, not only feels liberating, but it allows you to discover special sights, sounds and smells, that you wouldn’t otherwise in the confines of the hotel. So next time you’re travelling, pack those running shoes!
Do you travel a lot for work? Are you able to get your runs done? What’s the most exciting place you’ve run in? What extra tips would you add?