Runner in Flight: Tips for the fidgety runners in travel

Stick a runner in a car, airplane, or tight spot and you feel caged. I’m sitting in an airplane, my knees are wiggling, my toes are jittering and my left butt cheek hurts. Okay, it’s actually my upper left hamstring, right where it inserts near my glutes that is tight and hurts like a DEMON when I’m sitting…but that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily.

tornado runners

At least flying by way of tornado would be much more exciting! :P


Runners tend to make for pretty annoying travel companions; as soon as those airport rapscallions take away our water bottles we’re on the hunt to buy a new one. Constantly sipping away, it’s only a matter of time before we have the hit the bathroom.

A typical trip to the airport for this runnerchick:

  • Packing disaster: I HATE packing, I’m a chronic over-packer so by the time I get there I’ve got about three suitcases, each that weight the size of a small person. I awkwardly bumble through the line, run over some toes, get some snotty looks, the whole nine yards. Here’s this tiny runner with a load clearly meant for an elephant.
  • Water loaded: I anticipate being cut off from my IV-ed in water supply so the last thing I do before going through security is chug down my last bottle. Usually to the amusal of the security guard; if I were chugging beer instead of water I’d be queen of the chug, keg stand, you name it.
  • Bathroom: Invariably I need the bathroom off the bat, I then have to buy a new water bottle, naturally. Where else is it legal to charge $5 for a bottle of water that I can drink in under 30 seconds?
  • Cinnabon calling: I can’t be the only person who associates airports with Cinnobon. The smell wafts by and you sort of wish you’d run a 26.2’er just to offset the 3 trillion calories…but they taste so darn good!
  •  Antsy: Here on out, if I’m sitting I’ve got my legs shaking or bouncing around. I’m just a fidgeter. I’m then shifting from left to right cheek because of that darn hamstring.
  • running in candyland

    You want Cinnabon, be a runner and earn it, then DESTROY it! ;)

I truly am a joy. Actually, there are loads of ways to make your long travels and airplane rides runner-friendly:

  • Carry-on: Wear your running shoes or at least have them and the essentials in your carry-on. I’ve been with runners who have had their spikes, singlet and shoes lost from check-in and at that point you’re pretty much scre##d if you’re racing.
  • Hydrate: Just being in an airplane dehydrates you. So here is where paying the robbery of $5 per bottle is worth it. Then be sure to drink more fluids (those with electrolytes too!) after your flight.
  • Fidget: Bear with me, but sitting in a single spot for long periods of time isn’t all that great for the legs. You don’t have to be a leg bouncer like me, but getting up to stretch the legs or use the bathroom during flight is smart, especially if you’re on a really long flight.
  • Compression: Wearing compression garments, especially the socks, is a great little bit of travel advice. Sitting stationary in a car and especially on a plane for hours can inhibit blow flow, so compression garments can counteract that and help off-set that leg funk you get later.
  • Foodage: Cinnabon rocks and runners can get away with caloric bombs more than regular folks, but when I travel I do make sure to pack some good fare. Here are some tips for eating at restaurants and also for gluten-free runners packing food can be darn near a travel essential.
  • Stretch: Before getting on the flight you can use that annoying pre-boarding time to stretch. Confession, I’ve even done some core exercises ‘hidden’ in the corner.

Maybe the biggest tip for traveling is to just NOT be me. Juuust kidding. On that note, please excuse me if I wind up rolling my 300 lb wheelie suitcase over your toe. I just hope you aren’t a runner planning to use that toe.

1) Best piece of travel advice you’ve got for long trips?
2) What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve done in an airport for the sake of running or exercise?
Probably doing my pedestal plank routine, I was traveling alone, but I’m pretty sure my family would have disowned me.
3) Travel foods, do you tend to pack some along? Or what foods do you treat yourself to in an airport?
best running shirts

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22 thoughts on “Runner in Flight: Tips for the fidgety runners in travel

  1. 1. Bring your own water bottle, and fill it after security. (Unless you’re suuuuuper picky about your water taste. Several US airports have especially icky tasting water – I avoid water at ORD and IAD. But some have fountains with spigots for water bottle filling!) Bringing my own bottle means that I can bring 32 oz of Nalgene-stored hydration on the plane, rather than the measly 12-16 oz provided by the typical water bottle. Sometimes, nice flight attendants will even give me a top-up once I’m on the plane.

    2. Don’t know about an airport, but I will shamelessly lunge, forward fold, and backbend in the aisle of the plane while waiting for the bathroom.

    3. Totally depends – I usually try to pack some sturdy fruit and maybe trail mix, but I find that anything squishy or crumbly (pretzels, nuts, bread) ends up either paper thin, or in crumbs, by the time I’m ready to eat it. So I often end up supplementing at the airport…

  2. I don’t know what a cinnabon is but I REALLY want one now. I feel your pain… travelling sucks and seriously aren’t the seats getting smaller and the people getting bigger?!?!

    I once read that to minimise jetlag to not eat a MEAL when travelling but just have a light snack and have a proper meal at each end of your journey. I have no idea what’s in that but since I get “hangry” after 2 hours without food – I will probably never find out ;)

  3. I just discovered fancy water bottle filling water fountains at the airport during my last trip. I was super excited because I actually brought an empty water bottle with me. I hate paying airport prices for anything so I bring along my own food. I used to really like beef jerky while flying for some reason. I’ve since gotten over that obsession. I also wear comfy clothes on planes. Jeans are really not comfortable to me so I like to wear soft pants instead. If I have to sit there for hours I would like to be as comfortable as possible.

  4. I’m a horrible airplane traveler – I fidget constantly and have a hard time getting comfortable in the seats! If I have something good to read it does tend to make things a little better.

  5. I love airport travel except when we fly on the Tanker. (I just dislike that because it is loud, cold and no one serves drinks – but it is FREE!!!)
    I take my Nook and either read or watch people and have a great time!!! I do also speed walk through the airport about a billion times, too.
    And the water chug – right there with you!!!

  6. I love to travel but HATE to pack too!! I am a big over packer too. I bought some space bags that allow me to pack more than usual. Maybe that will help you out! I don’t feel as guilty since it is all condensed. You just have to watch the weight of your luggage.

  7. I struggle with this hugely! When we were in Europe towards the end of last year, we got an overnight train from Spain to Portugal. I don’t think I should ever do that again because opportunities for exercise when you get an overnight train are severely limited! We arrived at about 6am and dropped bags off before going straight into sight seeing mode…by mid morning, I had to beg 10 minutes from Mr Bite to run laps of a park while he sat and waited for me! I was in jeans and everything (although thankfully sneakers, albeit not proper runners). I felt so much better afterwards but was still twitchy until I could get out for a ‘proper’ run the next morning.

    The other challenge I come up against is early morning flights. No matter how early, I want to get a run in first, especially given how horrible sitting is for hours and hours. It can make for some really early starts!

    • oh my gosh! ya, total day flights and wonky schedules really do stress me out just thinking about it…i would probably resort to running in place, no joke.

  8. I always bring my own empty water bottle and fill it after I go through security. Saves some cash! I like to pack fruit or some easy veggies (carrots or cut up peppers) to bring with me. Granola bars or nuts can be easy to pack too.

  9. We would be great travel companions Cait! My poor Mum had to put up with nervous pre-half marathon chatter the whole way to Hobart as well as leg bouncing, butt-cheek-shifting, excessive water bottle filling stops, pacing at the gate while we waited for the plane – and that was all before we left Brisbane! I love to travel, but this was my first time travelling for a race, so I made sure I packed all my race/workout gear in my carry-on, and being a gluten-free-er I packed friendly snacks to eat on the plane. My treat? A pre-flight cappuccino and the latest copy of Runner’s World magazine to read!

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