To run or not to run on holiday

This year, for the whole first week it just wasn’t a runner. So I tried a new tactic

A 5k run with the toddler in tow took almost two hours but it did include a stop at the playground, the beach, the food market and of course the boulangerie for breakfast supplies.

A 5k run with the toddler in tow took almost two hours but it did include a stop at the playground, the beach, the food market and of course the boulangerie for breakfast supplies.

 

Each summer in this column I encourage you to pack your running shoes when heading on holiday. I have written on the perks of the peace and solitude during early morning runs and the joy of exploring the sights before the tourists surface. With the cooler temperatures and quieter paths, you see the area in a new light and you return to your hotel fresh, energised and ready for a day of holiday fun.

With such enthusiasm, you would think I would hop right out of bed for a run on the first morning of my long-overdue holiday. Well, I have to admit, that didn’t happen this year. In fact, it took me all the way to day eight before I managed to pop the runners on and I could very easily have come home having never taken the running gear out of the suitcase at all.

We travelled to Île de Ré, a beautiful island off the west coast of France, earlier this month. It is an island for those who love the great outdoors, with miles of beaches and endless cycle paths and trails for running. In my defence, we were active and outdoors every day but running just never seemed to make it up my priority list. I was enjoying the good food, the leisurely walks, the markets and generally trying to keep up with an energetic toddler.

Each evening, I vaguely promised myself I would run the following morning. It was tempting for sure. The island is completely flat and we were five minutes from a glorious beach and trail. However, when the time came each morning, I convinced myself I should spend the time with my family and not disappear off for an hour. In hindsight, I’m not sure they would have missed me if I did go but my excuse helped justify my decision to skip running for the first week.

Bring the family

By day eight, I realised I was never going to go for a run unless I tried a different tactic. So I decided to bring the family with me. In an island where most of the traffic is on two bicycle wheels, we were a little different. We attracted quite a few glances from the passing leisure cyclists and occasional greetings of “bravo” as they watched me push the buggy and my husband push alongside in his wheelchair. We may not have been at the pace of the cyclists but we were getting to travel off the beaten track with them and the freedom of it felt wonderful.

We had just three more days left here. I had broken the back in the running streak and now I was more motivated than ever to keep it up for the final few days of our trip.

The next day was easier now I knew what awaited me outside. This time, my husband got a break from us and I headed out with the toddler on what became more of a running tour than a run. Our 5k took almost two hours but it did include a stop at the playground, the beach, the food market and of course the boulangerie for breakfast supplies. Back home by 10am and once again the day ahead of us and a great combination of running endorphins and the smell of French pastries filling the house.

The following day was our final day on the island. By now, I was actually looking forward to going for a run, this time alone. I set an alarm and went out while the others slept. Down to the beach and I followed the golden stretch for as long as the eye could see. It was easy to pass 5k running and then cool down as I walked the long way home via the town for our breakfast treats.

I don’t tell you this story to convince you that you should run on holiday. I tell is because it is important to accept that as life changes and priorities shift, running won’t always be top of the list. There are times when running takes a back seat and we shouldn’t get too frustrated about that. Motivation can vary too over time and we need to work out whether our running excuses are genuine or not. Sometimes a run is exactly the thing we need, we just don’t know it. Whether at home or away, the kick out the door is often what we need. I know If I didn’t bring my family with me on that first run there wouldn’t have been any running at all on holiday. That first run made me realise that taking the little time out in the morning stood to me later in the day. My energy, mood and attitude of gratitude were all positively impacted by a leisurely morning run.

Need a break

Give a little thought to your holiday plans and how running might fit into them. You might decide in advance that you need a break from running when away. That works for a lot of people who give the legs a rest and return fresh and motivated. If you do plan on running on holiday be practical and manage your expectations. Consider family commitments, weather and location safety. Avoid speed work and long-distance runs if the weather is warmer than you are accustomed to. The heat zaps your energy and your motivation, leaving you heavy-legged and weary.

It is your holiday after all and you should aim to enjoy your running or break from running. My 5k running tour with stop-offs won’t break any speed records but it was one of the most enjoyable memories of our trip away. Let your running fit into your holiday if it allows this summer but don’t ruin your holiday stressing about having to run.

You will have plenty of time to worry about that when you get home.

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach at ForgetTheGym.ie

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!

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