Sunday, 8 May 2011

Lessons learned from running and travelling

Two months ago I landed in Buenos Aires ready to begin an overland tour of Argentina, to the South, and then back up much of the West coast of South America.  Full of good intentions to run everywhere that I could, it wasn't always so easy.  Here are a few of the lessons I have learned so far, from trying to combine running with overland travel.


There was never any shortage of excuses not to run!  Patagonia was bitterly cold and windy.  Combined with plenty of camping, intermittent access to hot showers and facilities for washing running kit, it was all too easy to skip a run.

Long driving days, as much as ten hours on a truck, and of course sightseeing in all the wonderful places I visited left little spare time for running.  Irregular mealtimes, fitted around time on the road didn't help either.

Reasons to Run

But there were compelling reasons to run too.  National parks with trails that went on forever, mountains and lakes bigger than I had ever seen before.  The scenery was stunning - I could run in sight of glaciers and canyons, wind condors flying overhead and snow capped volcanoes towering above me.

Marathon training with minimal running

I have not found enough time on this trip to run so far, averaging about one run per week.  I miss marathon running and have unintentionally and unfortunately planned this trip to not coincide with any foreign marathons.  But I am still managing to include plenty of my style of marathon training, ready for my return to the UK in October.  So how do I keep up the marathon training with minimal running?

Four hour and longer hikes, especially when walking briskly, are excellent marathon training.  This really gets your body used to the extended time on your feet and does a good job of developing cardiovascular fitness.  Walking up and down mountains like the Villarrica volcano builds decent leg strength for running and carrying a rucksack on walks always improves core strength.

I also squeeze in some core and upper body strength training when I can't fit the running in.  Just ten minutes of push ups and sit ups every other day helps.  I'll be exploring marathon training with minimal running more in a future article.

Eating well on the road

Finally, its all too easy to let good nutrition slip while travelling.  With distorted meal times fitted around long days on the road its all too easy to fill up on coca cola, hot dogs and biscuits.  There isn't a lot else available at many of the bus stations in Chile.  But with a bit of pre-planning its not so hard to stock up on fruit and nuts before heading to the bus station.  Just beward crossing the border into Chile, where it is not allowed to bring in any fresh food.

Eating out in Chile and Argentina has been a great experience.  Big, quality steaks are ubiquitous and reasonably priced, although they are usually served only with potatoes, rarely with vegetables.

To sum up, while travelling take every opportunity you can to fit in a beautiful run.