Should you bring your runners on holiday?

Mary Jennings: Fit running into your holiday if it excites you but don’t ruin your break by forcing it

When I picture a holiday runner, I envisage someone in shorts, T-shirt and a smile on their face gliding effortlessly along a scenic coastal promenade. This runner looks relaxed, comfortable and strong. They take in the views and the silence before the heat and the tourists surface for the day. I have been that runner, and yes, it feels wonderful. But I have also been on holiday watching that runner enviously frustrated with myself for not getting out for a run while I had the chance.

Can’t wait to explore?

If you are lucky enough to be packing your bags this summer to go somewhere different and you are already excited about running on holiday, go ahead, pack your gear and enjoy your miles on new paths and trails. Have fun and run safely. Choose to enjoy the runs, the surroundings and take in the sights, smells and scenery. But don’t put too much pressure on yourself to match the quality of your training sessions at home. Ignore pace and distance if the temperatures, air quality and hilly terrain are very different. The heat zaps your energy and your motivation leaving you heavy legged and weary. If you are feeling the effects slow down or walk. It is a holiday after all.

But I feel I should run...

If you know that you are packing your runners because you feel you “should” run on holiday, be honest with yourself. Decide before you travel what will be realistic for you. If running on holiday sounds like a chore and you know that you will spend more time making excuses or getting annoyed trying to find time to escape, don’t set yourself up for failure. You won’t be able to truly relax and be content with a lazy morning if you feel bad that you didn’t run first. Every runner you see will remind you that you are not running. Feeling guilty for not taking your runners out of your suitcase is no holiday. You can do that at home. Why not leave the running gear at home, lighten your load and enjoy the freedom instead?

Ditch the guilt

A holiday should give your body and mind a break, not add additional pressure and expectations to your days. Just because you might decide not to run doesn’t mean you are lying on a sun lounger all day (although there is nothing wrong with that). If you are open-minded to trying new activities and exploring new places you will be moving in different ways. Even stepping away from 8 hours in front of a desk and many more looking at a phone will be a good change for your body. Changing how you move for a few weeks with different movement patterns can be a great idea, particularly if you are carrying any niggles or running injuries that could do with a rest.

What else can I do?

From hiking to swimming, beach yoga to watersports, there will be plenty of options available that you might not have considered before. Whether you are at home or abroad, even just lying down and actually doing nothing could be just what your body needs. If you have recently finished training for a particular event, or had a particularly stressful time at home, never discount the power of rest and recovery ahead of always being active. This can actually be a bigger challenge for many of us who feel we need to be doing something all the time. Maybe read a running book or listen to a few running podcasts if you are having withdrawal symptoms from your usual routine.

Moving in other ways

If rest is what you need, things might not go to plan if you are bringing kids on holiday. You will be moving whether you like it or not, but you can use this to your advantage. Keeping up with kids energy and their movement patterns is a workout in itself. Get down on the ground and build the sandcastles, join in on the chasing games and even try to mimic how they move when they crawl, sit on the ground or even chase a ball. When in playgrounds don’t head straight for the bench to sit down. Use the equipment and the time to stretch, hang and do all those moves that you never have time to do at home. Leave your phone in your pocket. All movement is good, even if it's not something you can track on your running watch.

Lighten the load

While there is uncertainty in every holiday destination in terms of the weather, environment and indeed our travel companions, we do have control over the stories that we tell ourselves. You have the choice to make a commitment now about how you will approach your running (and all sorts of movement) on holiday. Decide how you want to feel when you return from holiday. Lighten the load in your mind by making a plan before you travel on what is going to work for you and accept that things wont always go as expected.

Return refreshed

When I look back over previous holidays some of my favourite memories are solo morning runs along cobbled streets, finishing at a bakery, and feeling energised for the day. I never regret this time for myself and those holiday breakfasts taste even better. But I have had plenty of mornings where running was neither possible nor practical. Having a complete break from running actually made me more motivated to run when I got home. I couldn’t wait to run on a cool, misty Dublin morning.

Pack your bags

So before you pack your bags, set your intentions. Decide to fit running into your holiday if it excites you this summer but don’t ruin your holiday stressing about having to run. Think about what will make you enjoy your holiday more. What will help you return feeling motivated, energised and ready for the weeks and months ahead? It might be rest, it might be running, it might be something totally different. Only you know the answer to that.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times’ Get Running programmes (it is free!) First, pick the eight-week programme that suits you.

  • Beginner Course: A course to take you from inactivity to running for 30 minutes.
  • Stay On Track: For those who can squeeze in a run a few times a week.
  • 10km Course: Designed for those who want to move up to the 10km mark. Best of luck!

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie