Moving across cities or countries is a life-changing experience that is bound to disrupt one’s regular routine for weeks, and sometimes, months. This includes your fitness schedule; from figuring out favorable routes to getting habituated to running in a strange, new place, it’ll all seem like a big challenge. At the same time, nothing helps you discover a new city better than getting familiar with its nooks and crannies, and running can help you immensely in this regard. That said, going for a run someplace completely new can be intimidating for the best of us, so we’ve put together a few handy tips to get you started.
Don’t re-create your old routine
Every new city has its own curious rhythm that’ll take you a while to get used to. Don’t try and force your old schedule here; maybe you could’ve gone for a pre-dawn run at your previous neighborhood, but weather, visibility or safety conditions won’t allow this in your new home. Instead, pretend you’re running for the first time and familiarize yourself with early morning, daytime or evening traffic and conditions. After a few weeks, you’ll know which hours work the best for you.
Map it out
GPS-enabled smartphones and various run-mapping apps can help your figure out popular running routes in most cities. Mapping your course in advance will give you more confidence in tackling new routes as it takes away the fear of being lost. It also eliminates some amount of unpredictability, and ensures that you don’t run onto private property, busy highways or dead ends. Some helpful tips are to look for big, wide streets, nature parks, jogging tracks, river or ocean-side promenades, and long stretches of roads with few turns. Apart from maps, talking to longtime residents, sports shop employees and other runners in your neighborhood can give you first-hand idea of what running in the city involves.
Join a local running group
For those used to running with a friend, a new city will mean not only discovering good routes but also finding a new buddy to conquer the miles with. Local running groups can help with both. It’ll allow you to meet others who share your interest and also provide safety in numbers. The latter is particularly important for women runners who’re scouring out routes in a new city. Finally, it’s easy to make excuses and skip runs when you’re not familiar with an area, but not many of these excuses will work when a whole bunch of people are waiting for you to show up. Even if you prefer running alone, hanging or talking with a longstanding running group for a few weeks can really open up the city and its running vibes to you.
Stay connected but unplugged
It’s not advisable to run without your phone and some spare cash while you’re still discovering a new city; you never know when you may have strayed too far and need to call a cab, or you may simply need your phone to inform others of your whereabouts. At the same time, it’s best to have your wits about and all your attention on the sights and sounds around as you run, so put the headphones away and take in your surroundings instead. Along a new route, even the simplest sights can make for an enjoyable run. Besides, keep a sharp look out for traffic, one-way streets, dodgy neighborhoods and other city peculiarities— your instincts are your first security device in a new place.
Slow is good
A new environment takes some time to get used to, so give yourself that adjustment period and take your pace down a couple of notches. Don’t beat yourself up for the catching up you have to do; just the fact that you’re out there getting your workout is a bonus in itself. There may be times when you’ve run too far and have to take transport back home, or when you’ve had to cut your run short due to circumstances beyond your control – sudden rain or a procession blocking the streets. By keeping your first few runs easy, you’ll be better able to look around and take in your new location.
While safety in of utmost importance, it’s also important to start getting familiar with the landmarks of your new city. Every once in a while plan your runs along the city’s more tourist-friendly public spaces, through its historical and cultural attractions and noteworthy neighborhoods. While you may have to deal with crowds here and there, these places are also more likely to come with security measures and public conveyances. Such routes may not be the fastest, but running through them are an excellent way to build up a mental map of your new city and get your familiarized with its best places.