Vacation Fitness Training 101

John Faith has been with Metro Run & Walk since 2004

by John Faith

By the time most of you get this, I’ll be with my family on our annual pilgrimage to Emerald Isle, NC. This is an annual time for renewal for my family, earlier than normal this year as we have other plans for the late fall.  We were a little concerned about the fallout from the oil spill in the Gulf making its way up the East Coast coastal waters but that doesn’t appear to be a problem.  I do hope you’ll join me in sending prayers and thoughts to the residents of the Gulf coast, and to those folks working so hard to mitigate this tragic disaster.

Staying In Shape Away From The Routine

I find myself this year, as I have often in the past, facing a week away from the “routine,” but with an event coming up right after vacation – in this case, an Olympic distance triathlon the weekend after we get back.  The question becomes – how to maintain focus and fitness during what would otherwise be a very laid-back, non-athletic week?  In this case, specifically, how to get in the last few swimming, biking, and running workouts I feel I need to do while away from my local pool, bike trainer, and running routes?  This article will focus on getting triathlon workouts in while on vacation, but the general principles will apply to all of you interested in continuing some level of fitness routine while away from home.

Personal Safety While Exercising Away From Home

Being away from the routines of home presents a host of challenges.  I’ll get to the logistical issues in a moment, but I want you to consider what I think is the most important – your personal safety while away from home.  Unless you return to the same vacation home every year, which some folks do, you’ll find yourself in a “strange” neighborhood, where the surroundings, the  rhythms, the “feel” is completely different.  For more on running safety, you can read our article on “8 Really Sensible, but frequently ignored safety tips for Runners and Walkers.” You can also check out this article from Run The Planet.

Keep your wits about you, carry ID, and consider carrying a cell phone and pepper spray.  Again, don’t become paralyzed with concern, but venture forth in a confident, yet mindful, prudent manner.

Step #1: Find a Swimming Pool

One of the more challenging things to find while away from home is a good place to swim.  An excellent resource I’ve used for years is the On-Line Swimmer’s Guide.  When I was training for my first Ironman distance race in 1997, and found myself on business in Seattle, WA, during one of the most critical two week periods of my training plan, I consulted the OLSG and found a local pool in which to continue training for my weakest sport.  It was a Godsend!  I’ve also found over the years that with a little friendly chatter or perhaps a “small fee” (i.e. bribe), I’ve been able to swim at local hotel or motel pools, local municipal or county recreation centers, and occasionally a local college pool.  I’d be able to swim in the ocean at Emerald Isle, but will most likely seek out a local pool.

Step #2: Bring Your Bike

Biking usually isn’t that much of an issue, because we take our racing bikes to the beach with us. If you’re driving to your vacation spot, a good sturdy bike rack that fits on the back of your vehicle is all it takes. Just make sure you install the rack properly, and secure your bike(s) extremely well.  (I could tell you a horror story here!)

When it simply wasn’t practical to take my own bike, I have done bike training on beach cruisers. I’ve also done training on the exercise bikes in hotel fitness centers.  These last two aren’t nearly as good as having my own bike, but sometimes you have to work with what you find yourself, not what would be optimal.  If you choose to use a roof bike rack, please remember it and the bikes on it.  I have several friends who’ve ruined very expensive bikes and racks while pulling into parking garages – forgetting the bikes on top of the car. I simply don’t like bench-pressing bikes to the top of my van anymore, and use a rear mounted rack.

Don’t forget your helmet!

Our friends at The Bike Lane can outfit you with the appropriate rack for your car and bikes and may even be able to refer you to a local bike shop in the vicinity of your vacation.

Step #3: Bring Your Running Equipment (easy)

Running is the least onerous of them all.  A good pair of running shoes (expertly fitted at Metro Run & Walk, of course), a technical shirt and shorts, good wicking socks, and sunscreen are all the basics you need.  Consider a hat. There’s no water readily available where we run at Emerald Isle, but I’ve found local homeowners and vacationers more than happy to let me drink from their hoses or spigots.  Obviously, you can also carry your own water, using a hydration belt or hand-held bottle from your running store.

Fitness Facilities: When #1, #2, and #3 Aren’t An Option

For those of you needing a fitness facility with, perhaps, an elliptical machine, treadmill, stairmaster, or weights, the technique I’ve used to find a pool works well.  Many hotel and motel chains have fitness facilities and are willing, either as a good will gesture, or for free, to let you use them.  Most municipal or county recreation centers have guest passes, and many will let vacationers in at the “local” rate.  Colleges and universities similarly will often let you use the facilities.  A few phone calls and a few friendly questions can usually uncover a convenient facility at minimal cost.

Have a wonderful, safe, healthy summer.

An appeal for ideas for these monthly missives:

I honestly don’t know how syndicated columnists do it! I find myself stretching for ideas.  If there’s anything you’d like to see in these pages, be it the “101” series, the “Ask the Trainer” series, or anything else, please let us know.

You can call: (703) 913-0313 or (703) 913-0313

You can also email, or just visit us in the store.

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