Traveling to a new city can be fun and exciting. It can also trip up runners participating in a destination race.
Runners traveling to an event have to adjust to climate, altitude and time zone changes or deal with lack of sleep and limited access to certain foods.
Getting from one place to another while preserving your legs takes forethought. Whether you're traveling by road or plane, you must plan for the time spent sitting as well as for the days leading up to the race.
Long stretches of idle time—a common experience for the traveler—can cause even the most confident athlete to obsess about the upcoming race. It's important to manage those thoughts and prevent yourself from "thinking too much."
Here's 10 tips to make your travel to your next race smooth.
Pack the Essentials
Pack everything you need for the race first. Never take the chance of checking any of these items at the airport; there are too many runners who have lost bags. Make sure you have your racing shoes, clothes, and entry information all in your carry-on luggage. Some runners even wear their running shoes on the plane because that's the only way to know for sure that they're with him or her.
If you're changing time zones, do your best to get on the current time right away. That may mean avoiding a nap to ensure you'll be tired enough to fall asleep later. You can also lose sleep from pre-race nerves. While you should try to manage your nerves and aim to get a restful night's sleep the night before, don't freak out if you're restless that night. It's the sleep you've been getting two to three nights prior that matters most. Be sure to make those nights really count.
If it's going to be much hotter or cooler on race day than where you've been training, try to find ways to diminish its effects if you haven't had time to acclimatize. That may mean adding extra layers to stay warm or reassessing your fluid and fueling strategy. If you're traveling to a higher altitude, plan your arrival either at least a week before the race or the night before (or even the morning of) the race start. Anytime in between and you'll likely feel worse as your body adjusts to the altitude.
If traveling by air, make sure to move through the aisle as much as you can, even if just to stand up to get out of the seated position. If driving, plan to get out of the car every hour or so. Although the last thing you may feel like doing is running after a long day of travel, a short shake-out jog can help you feel fresh for race day.
Stretching and TLC
It's important to give your legs extra TLC in the form of stretching and massage in the days leading up to your big race. Pack some tools to help you take care of your legs during travel, like stretching bands, foam roller and other runner-specific recovery tools.
Sergio Gonzalez, a professional runner for PUMA, uses the SKLZ AccuPoint to help release his hips as well as knots in his shoulders.
"Having something with me at all times prevents me from making excuses or putting this off, which can make a big difference when it comes to having a great race," Gonzalez says.
Gonzalez keeps the massage tool with him in his travel bag or front seat of his car to ensure he's able to properly manage those tight spots.