At first glance, travel and running don’t seem like natural allies. Dreams of travel often come with a sense of relief at the chance to break from our workout and diet routines. We want to put on our “out of town” hats, get a little tipsy, and order extra bacon on our cheeseburgers. But maybe this is all wrong. Maybe we’re missing out on something by not incorporating exercise — running even — into our travel plans.
We wanted a real answer to what running while traveling brings to the overall experience, so we sat down for a chat with one of the discipline’s most ardent believers, Cassie De Pecol. You may remember De Pecol as being a true “mad one” — the first woman to travel to every country on the planet. De Pecol accomplished this task with the idea of promoting sustainable travel to the world and did so while keeping herself as healthy and fit as possible. Meaning she’s run in countries most people haven’t ever heard of.
Currently, De Pecol is prepping for her first full Ironman in Boulder, Colorado. While most of us would prefer to train on a home track and sleep in our own beds after intense workouts, Cassie is a world traveler and has to get after it wherever she lands. That very idea feels like a great place to start a conversation about what running while traveling can bring to the overall travel experience and how travel can elevate the running experience in return.
When did you start running on your travels? Was it just something that always felt like a necessity, or did you have an “ah ha!” moment while traveling the globe?
I was 18 when I really started running on the road. I studied abroad in Costa Rica my first year of college and found that running was the easiest way to stay active and fit while also seeing as much of the countryside as possible.
It’s super easy to make excuses for why not to exercise when travel. How do you stay motivated?
It makes things a lot easier when you have a ‘virtual race’ lined up.
So, throughout my expedition, I’d register for virtual races. That’s where you compete on your own time anywhere in the world, on a route of your design, and, yes, you even get a medal mailed to you!
When you have a goal, it’s easier to get up in the morning and knock out a mile or two. While it doesn’t have to be a priority when traveling, it doesn’t take much to get up an extra 30 minutes or an hour earlier than you’d regularly wake up in order to get a few miles in.
It sorta feels like yoga dominates the travel exercise world — at least if Instagram is to be believed. Are there other exercises that help you be a better runner?
Honestly, I’ve never found yoga to help with my fitness goals. With that said, after every training session, I find it crucial to spend 10-30 minutes stretching core muscle groups that I’ve worked that day. Flexibility is important. I’m more of a sprinter, but I am running distance in preparation for my upcoming Ironman. While it’s not my favorite, I’ve found a few techniques that have helped me become better at it.
Can you elaborate on that?
First is mindset: Thinking time instead of miles. The thought of high mileage — especially while on vacay or traveling — can be daunting. Second, I find sprints to be useful. HIIT sprint exercises (High Intensity Interval Training) over the course of an hour or an hour-and-a-half have definitely increased my VO2Max* and my endurance. I’ll incorporate jump squats, smith machine lunges, Bulgarian split squats, speed skaters, pistol squats, IT band shuffles, and, of course, core work like planks, cable crunches, and hanging leg raises.
*Oxygen intake while training.