If you’ve read my post on exercising while traveling, then you know that I usually bring my running shoes wherever I go. What better way to explore a foreign place and discover things that you may not have otherwise noticed?

Inevitably, however, I take running breaks too – whether by choice and necessity, it’s a healthy thing to do, but clawing back to where I left off after a period of “detraining” can be a challenging process. Staying active in other ways of course helps maintain my general fitness (as well as my sanity), but unfortunately does not prevent the loss of specific running fitness. “Use it, or lose it,” as the saying goes!

The percentage of fitness that you lose is of course dependent on several factors, including age, how long you have been active, how fit you were prior to your time off, and the length of your break. Good news for me I guess, as a longtime, fit and relatively young runner! But even after a short break, I find regaining fitness quite tough, especially as I try to re-establish a normal routine. Perhaps you’re in the same boat, following the extended Easter/May bank holidays! At least I’ve been through this enough times to know that with a bit of patience and perseverance, it always comes back, eventually!

So how did I fare in Vietnam, and how do I plan to claim back my pre-holiday running fitness?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I only managed to run once for 6.5M halfway through my two-week trip, mainly because the conditions (pollution, traffic, heat and lack of routes) as well as our busy schedule made running difficult. Sure, I could’ve woken up at 5am like the locals did to beat some of those obstacles, but even that is a bit much for this early morning runner! Plus, I don’t find running along a highway – even if it’s a quiet one – all that appealing.

Thankfully, seeing Vietnam the way we wanted to see it was by nature a very active experience, including hours of walking around cities to see the sights as well as a couple days of trekking in the mountains and, to a lesser extent, some cycling and swimming at the beach.

I still felt like my muscles were slowly deteriorating into the squishy pork buns that we loved to eat, but at least I wasn’t sitting on my butt all day long (not that there is anything wrong with that either!).

Sadly, hours of walking doesn’t translate into hours of running, so it should come as no surprise to me that after two weeks off, I have lost what feels like a sizeable chunk of my running fitness. And yet, I still find it strange that the morning I flew to Vietnam, I ran 10M at an average pace of 8:39 – piece of cake – and felt relatively strong during my mid-trip run, but then struggled to do 4M this past Friday, only one week later! Some lingering jet lag surely didn’t help, but even on Sunday I could only manage 7M at an average pace was 9:41, and in this morning’s strength training session, I felt like a weakling!

I’m not concerned, though – I know my legs are thanking me even if they are now punishing me! It was liberating to break free of all routine while I was away, and it left me with a strong appetite to run upon my return.

The trick is, as usual, to slowly ease back into things – soon enough everything (even going to the gym – bleh) will start to feel natural again!