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Running at the Beach: A Survival Guide

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It's hard to find the time and motivation to run on vacation, but it can be done. Here's how the author gets his runs in at the Jersey Shore.

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This week, my girlfriend and I are on vacation with my family. We have rented a beach house in Ocean City, New Jersey and, like most vacationing families, have a packed agenda of miniature golf, breakfasts at diners, and long days in the sun and heat. On top of that, these family vacations are often a chance to see people you haven't seen since last summer's vacation.

With all those familial obligations, it can be difficult to find time to get out on your own and maintain your weekly mileage. Fortunately, it can be done, if you follow these simple steps.

1. Get out in the morning, before everyone wakes up

This is by far the most important piece of advice. The morning is the only sure-fire time to avoid the fitness-avoiding peer-pressure of family get-togethers. Once everyone else wakes up, you'll get stuck debating who is going to make the coffee, who gets the sports section of the newspaper, or which mini-golf course is best. You must avoid this at all costs. The ultimate goal is to not see anyone you know until after you have finished your run. Additionally ,if you wait until the evening, you will have lost all energy and motivation. The beer in the fridge will pull you toward it; you'll want a nap from a day in the sun; pizza is very good. All these things will get in the way of your evening run. Running in the evening is just not a sustainable model. Just get out of bed and out the door.

2. Rope someone in to joining you

This year, I am lucky to have my girlfriend--also a runner--with me on vacation. Even though we don't always run together, we make sure we both get out the door in the morning. This is clutch after late nights of cards and/or puzzle-assembly with the family. Moral support definitely got me out the door in the morning on more than one occasion.

3. Avoid the heat

This comes along with going in the morning, but if you can't go in the morning, make sure to go in the late evening. There isn't a lot of shade at the shore and no trails on which you can fake a mid-afternoon run and get away with it. The sun is death, avoid it as much as possible.

4. Whatever you do, do not run on the beach

No doubt, your family, upon hearing that you intend to run while on vacation, will suggest that you run on the sand. Sylvester Stallone did it in Rocky in preparation for his fight against Clubber Lang, after all. That has to be a good place to run at the beach. Do not do this. First, you have to fight through the loose, unpacked sand to get to the run-able sand. By the time you get to the water-side sand, you will have so much sand in your shoe that you can be sure you will get a blister. It might sound fun, and it does look cool in the movies, but the boardwalk or sidewalks will treat you better.

5. If you must run on the beach, wear shoes

You don't have to talk to many people who have run barefoot on the beach to hear a story about someone tearing his or her foot up on a shell and being knocked out of commission for an extended amount of time. If there is any situation where Vibram's are acceptable, this is it. If you feel compelled to run barefoot on the beach, buy some Vibrams. Just be sure to not wear them in any other setting.

6. Hydrate

At the beach, unless you are blog on the internet, you will be outside in the sun for the majority of the day. Even though you already ran in the morning and, unless you're in the throws of an intense training cycle, you are done with running for the day, your hydration today will affect how you feel tomorrow. Imagine the following scenario: you don't drink water on the beach, drink beer/wine/what-have-you while assembling a puzzle in the evening and go to sleep late. The next morning, you're going to need water before you run. While you're drinking said water, another relative wakes up, enlists you in coffee duty, and next thing you know, everyone is up and you're sitting at a diner with a big stack of pancakes. No running for you today. Drink water.

Just follow those 6 simple steps, and running at the beach should be a breeze. Many of these (running in the morning, hydrating, recruiting others) apply to any vacation. An added benefit is that your family won't hate you because you won't be messing up the dinner schedule or skipping out on an evening of boardwalk-strolling.

What are your strategies for getting daily runs in while on vacation?