08 April 2011

Exercise on the Run, or Working in a Workout

If you're been reading for a while, you know I'm an amateur triathlete (right now, very amateur -- marathon training took me totally out of my swimming and cycling routines, not to mention making me surprisingly slow on my feet). My first race of the season is next week (eek!). I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't been on my bike since the fall (so I really hope it's true that you never forget how) and I've only been in the pool twice this year. Every spare moment of the last six weeks has been devoted to working in the yard, so during my recent trip to Oregon, I really wanted to squeeze in a couple of runs and maybe a swim. Working in workouts on the go is always a challenge (and especially when you're juggling three sports), so there are certain things I've learned to do to make it easier to keep up on my training while I'm away.

With checked bag fees, it's a no-brainer to bring as few pairs of shoes as possible when flying. Since my running shoes are typically the bulkiest shoes I bring on a trip, I usually wear them on the plane. But mine are no ordinary running shoes. Because transitions and costume changes are part of the overall time in a triathlon, triathletes use special stretchy shoelaces that make footwear changes extra quick:



In addition to being nice for slipping on and off before or after a run, a waltz through a museum, etc., they're fantastic for airport security lines. I can slide them off without even touching them, and they're easy to slip back on with one hand while standing at the end of the x-ray machine belt. Love that.

Because of the luggage restrictions, I think long and hard about bringing my Crocs on any trip. Although I brought my swimsuit, cap, and goggles to Oregon, I didn't bring my Crocs...and didn't make it to the pool. I'm not sure if that was because being Croc-less made that a more complicated undertaking or if I just wasn't destined to swim this time around (and was therefore right to leave the Crocs at home on a hunch that I wouldn't actually use them). But while I'm sharing exercise tips, Crocs are great for the pool because they go from the locker room to the water's edge, into the shower, and back to the car for the drive home.

(On this trip, I only brought my running shoes. I quickly realized that was probably a mistake, as it was likely to rain and a run could leave them very wet. It worked out okay, but I realized that I shouldn't count on my running shoes being my only shoes if the weather forecast looks ugly.)

Moving along...food. For a good workout, it's important to start with something in the tank (not too full, of course, but not empty), and it's even more important to replenish energy stores afterward (that all-important four-to-one ratio of carbs to protein is the key to maximizing recovery and building muscle). I think I eat more than most when I exercise (both before and after), and that can make it extra hard to manage when traveling.

At home, I like to have a glass of Carnation instant breakfast (like chocolate milk, but less sugary) in the morning before a run, and after every workout at the gym, Steve and I each grab a Kirkland (Costco) brand weight loss shake as a recovery beverage:



(We learned this trick from a world-ranked masters swimmer a few years ago. Like Slim-Fast, Costco's shakes are the optimum blend of carbs and protein, but they cost way less than exercise-specific recovery drinks. We always grab one after a workout, even if we're on our way home to eat a meal, because the first 30 minutes after exercise is the critical window to replenish what's been spent.) But with carry-on only travel (which is always our goal, unless we're flying Southwest), it's impossible to fly with these.

At home, I follow up a run or other workout with a fruit smoothie or another glass of Carnation. On the go, smoothies aren't too practical (although I did bring my blender to New Orleans so I could enjoy one after the half Ironman in 2009), so I fall back on Carnation when I travel. It comes in single-serving (or double-serving, if you're using a small glass) packets, so it's easy to transport.



If I'm staying with family/friends or in a hotel with a refrigerator, I just make sure there's milk on hand, and I'm all set. (The picture above reminds me that they've renamed it "Breakfast Essentials." Same thing.)

Then there are the snacks I like because, well, exercise makes me hungry, and I eat a lot. Clif bars and Welch's fruit snacks are super-easy to pack and provide, I think, 80 calories of carbs when you need them. I also like Kashi granola bars (dark cherry and chocolate is my favorite flavor).

Last, water. Steve and I always bring empty water bottles to the airport so we can fill them up once we get inside security. That way, we can sip on water during the flight and throughout the trip, and sometimes the bottle comes in handy for other beverages, too. (In a pinch, for instance, I might mix up my Carnation in one.)

As far as the actual exercise...well, I think Nike said it best. Just do it.

What about you? Any secrets for exercise on the go?

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