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Whether you’re popping abroad for a weekend getaway on the beach or a week-long foodie tour through China, running on vacation can make your travel experience so much richer.
You may be thinking, “Why would I sacrifice precious vacation time to exercise while traveling?”
That’s an excellent question. On the surface it may seem counterintuitive to set aside an hour or two of your hard earned holiday time for an activity that isn’t relaxing or the traditional meaning of fun. (Admittedly, there are some of us out there who view a ten mile run as an enjoyable pastime comparable to a Netflix marathon). While the struggles of exercise and running can be written off as an obligation belonging to everyday life back home, how many opportunities will you get to burn off calories while watching the sun rise along the Mediterranean Sea or run along world-famous avenues?
The benefits of running on vacation extend well beyond the obvious health improvements.
Scout Uncharted Territory
Most “things to do” and tourist hotspots in popular travel destinations are naturally clustered either around a city center or have an established route for getting there, when a site is out of the way. Rarely do travelers get the chance to wander through residential areas, side streets, or tucked away parks, because it’s not worth a visit on it’s own and the time spent to get there. Running longer routes opens up a whole new world of sightseeing opportunities, where you can appreciate the details your surroundings, like unique architecture in different parts of the city. You may even discover a host of new restaurants or hidden gems to check out later on a creative long course winding through your destination.
Running on vacation can also mean testing out completely new terrain than what you’re used to back home. Beaches, ragged mountains, cobblestone alleys, or acres of farmland present a unique challenge or fun change that will definitely make your vacation seem even further removed from reality. Rather than feeling like heart-pumping cardio, lacing up and darting outside somewhere new is a thrilling expedition into the unknown.
Cure the Blues and Dispel Travel Frustrations
Itineraries, hotel reservations, and logistics don’t always go exactly as planned. Sometimes even apathetic or tyrannical travel buddies can sour our adventurous spirits and make a much anticipated vacation head south. Heading out on a jog not only provides much needed alone time from travel companions, it holds the magical healing power of endorphins. Runner’s’ high is no myth, and even a quick loop in fresh air can clear your mind and pump some sunshine and rainbows into your system.
Peek Inside Locals’ Lives
We’re not recommending running through locals’ gardens and snooping through their windows, but taking the extra time to just enjoy the city, village, or nature around you reveals masses about the people who live there. The goal of a run is to move a certain distance, so there are no distractions of stopping to shop, taking pictures, or deciding on where to eat. The result is an uninterrupted time of observation. Even in cultures in which strangers wouldn’t dare greet each other, running has a way of bringing together people across nations. Locking eye contact and greeting the sweaty stranger coming towards you is a special characteristic of running.
Eating is Even More Pleasurable
Although it’s a well known fact that travel calories don’t count and any edible product you see on vacation is fair game, working up a sweat will make those gelato scoops and Korean BBQ so much more worth it. Running on vacation can accelerate the digestion process so that you can eat more frequently and squeeze in even more of your destination’s delicacies. The biggest barrier to fulfilling your foodie fantasies is always just limited stomach room.
All you Need are Shoes
With the variety of accommodations increasingly expanding past the traditional hotel to include more bed and breakfasts, hostels, AirBnb, and other alternatives, the chances of having a gym available are close to nil. There’s no guarantee your room will have enough room to lay out a yoga mat, or a study enough floor to sound proof bouncing around. Running is as convenient as exercise while traveling comes, with the only necessary equipment being appropriate shoes and a good dose of motivation. A comfortable pair of training shoes can also double as your designated walking or adventure shoes, so you’re technically not even hauling any extra bulk with you.
For those not too keen on doing squats or planking in public parks, running is the perfect supplement or alternative to strength training while traveling. It’s no walk in the park, but you’ll be able to explore more of your destination far outside the shady confines of a park. Whether you’re a casual jogger or marathon trainee, try packing those shoes for your next spin abroad.
Raquel Thoesen spent the last few years trekking through Peru and Argentina, farming in Japan, teaching at a summer camp in South Korea, and exploring her parents’ heritage in Mexico, Spain, and Germany. Now during her fifth time in Germany, Raquel’s teaching English through the Fulbright program before pursuing a career in international education. She’s also virtually working as a junior editor at GoAbroad hoping to spread the international love.