However lightly you pack, there is always room for a pair of running trainers.
Why on earth, many people might ask, would you want to take running shoes on holiday with you? By its very definition, this is time off the rigours of daily exercise.
I take my trainers with me wherever I travel to, from a weekend away at a friend’s house in Wales to a fortnight in Australia.
There will always be a point during my stay when I lace up my trainers, put on my running kit and head out into the new surroundings, whatever the weather may be (whether it’s driving ice rain in Reykjavik or the relentless, energy-sapping sunshine of Seville) for a 45-minute run.
And here are the reasons why:
You see parts of the city you wouldn’t otherwise see
You’re on a long-weekend in Copenhagen. Time is limited, so you have to prioritise certain sights. Which means, unfortunately, you have had to cut a visit to the Little Mermaid off the list. But not if you put your trainers on and run to see it.
Read more: Get lost in the world’s most walkable cities
With your smartphone in hand for directions, you can jog your way along the famous Kobenhavns Havn, maybe even skirting the edge of Christianshavn, before arriving at the famous bronze statue with your own soundtrack playing in your ears (which surely has to be Under The Sea).
If you set off early enough you will arrive before the hordes, giving you time on your own with a world-famous landmark, before heading back to your hotel for a well-earned Danish pastry.
You’ll gain social-media kudos
Wherever you run to, at whatever time of the day, if you’re in a new city there will be multiple opportunities for photo stops (in fact, you might even find you’re stopping more than running). It may be to snap a mesmerising piece of street art, or a view that astounds you enough to literally stop you in your tracks.
Whatever it is, it’s going straight on to Instagram and is guaranteed to gain you plenty of love.
It might end up becoming an unplanned adventure
“There is real adventure in leaving your hotel in the early evening and heading out into terra incognita,” says Welsh comedian and fan-of-running-on-holiday Griff Rhys Jones.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you will get lost. And that’s where the real step into the unknown begins.
It’s happened to me on many occasions. And these times have often ended up being some of the best runs I’ve ever experienced.
On one run in Innsbruck, Austria, I headed into the mountains as soon as I’d dropped my bag at the hotel. I wanted to revive myself after the journey, and what better way than by pounding some of Austria’s finest, snow-covered trails?
As I ascended narrow footpaths through dense pine forests my phone’s battery died. I briefly considered turning back, but the footpaths were clearly marked, so I pushed on, aiming myself in the vague direction that felt ‘right’.
As it happened, the views as I climbed were beyond anything I could have imagined, and still stay with me to this day. If I’d given up, I would have missed out on one of the most memorable runs of my life.
It can help shake off jet-lag
You’ve arrived at your destination after travelling for 20 hours. You maybe got two hours of sleep on the plane, and now you have no idea what the local time is or what meal you’re due to tuck into next.
The best remedy? Head out on a run as soon as you can. The sunlight (or darkness) will help your body adjust to its new circadian rhythms, and the exercise will assist your body in getting more oxygen into it, because, as this study shows, flying depletes your oxygen saturation levels, which leaves you feeling fatigued after air travel.
It’s a chance to meet new people
Many cities offer organised group running sessions as a way to see the place while hanging out with other tourists and enjoying a beer at the end of it. They usually cater for runners of all levels, and the pace is relaxed-jog level, with plenty of stops to take in, and learn about, the surroundings.
Go! Running Tours for example, offers group excursions in more than 50 cities across the world, including a 10km ancient Athens tour and a Lion’s Head trail run in Cape Town.
You’ll feel at one with nature
There’s something about running in the Great Outdoors that calms your mind unlike anything else. And running in a forest, in particular, is something that Japanese studies have revealed lowers the stress hormone cortisol.
Read more: Unwind and recharge with a green therapy hit
They call it ‘shinrin-yoku’, or ‘forest bathing’, and the idea behind it is that runs or walks in forests can reconnect you with nature and elevate your mood.
Your dinner will be that much more enjoyable
And you can have an extra glass of wine. You deserve it.
3 great places to come running around the world
Hoi An, Vietnam
The lantern-lined streets of Hoi An are a perfect zone for pounding the pavements: just make sure you head out early to beat the midday humidity. Street markets and the charming riverside offer up plenty of scenic routes, but the town is small enough that the whole thing feels manageable (and far less hectic, traffic-wise, than Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh). For an extra challenge, head out across the rice fields to the nearby An Bang beach.
Rio de Janeiro
Join the throng of beautiful people who cluster the jogging trail along Avenida Atlântica in Brazil’s most famous city, and know what it is to feel alive. This spectacular circuit will take you past some of Rio’s most iconic treasures, including the legendary Copacabana and Ipanema beaches (with all the joie de vivre you’d expect). Remember to look up occasionally to catch glimpses of Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue lingering on the horizon.
When it comes to evocative cityscapes, you can’t do much better than buzzing Hong Kong. Much like New York, this is a metropolis that never sleeps, so even if you head out in the late evening, you’ll still get a real sense of city life (plus it’ll be cooler). Cut through the neon blur of skyscrapers and past bustling dai pai dongs, or head up to Victoria Peak – Hong Kong’s crowning viewpoint – for an incredible window on the city.
Images: Howard Calvert, Flash Pack, Shutterstock