How to Stay Running Fit on a Super Long Road Trip.

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#vanlife yoga anyone?

We’ve driven over 1,564km from the beautiful Queensland coastline to the burnt orange soil of Northern Territory outback. Six days on the Overlander’s Way from Townsville to Tennant Creek. Six days sitting on our backsides in a van dreaming of prancing over rugged single trails.

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Whether travelling for business, pleasure or world domination, at some point, we all leave the running trails we know and love. Sure, there will be new, maybe more exciting, gnarly trails waiting on the other side – but unless you’re using your legs to get there (The Flintstones don’t look so stupid now, do they!) we usually have to sit on our arses for a while first.

During our yearlong Aussie road trip, Mat and I decided early on to keep moving as much as we could while on the road. Of course, we had the added motivation of a few ultra-running events to keep us honest. There’s nothing like the thought of lugging your wobbly bits over the Blue Mountains for 100km to get you off your backside!

Here are 6 ways to keep fit on the road:

1. Find the hills
Make it your mission to find the lookout points in every town and use them for hill training. This is easier along the coastline or in New Zealand, where there are more peaks than people, but the Australian outback isn’t exactly known for its mountains. We did manage to sniff out some bloody big hills, though. Our favourite was in the Dinosaur mecca of Hughenden where we shed tears of unadulterated joy at the sight of Mount Walker, a steep hill rising up from a vast flat. Not only was the 2km-long hill perfect for our morning hill sprints, it made an incredible spot for a sunset picnic too. #Winning

2. Get out and sprint
Who said rest stops are for resting? After a couple of hours on the road, we pull up in a tiny rest stop at the side of the road, lace up our runners and start sprint reps back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Grey nomads huddle over mugs of steaming coffee, bemused as we sprint past their gargantuan RVs. Our “Half Hour of Power” is filled with sprints, kangaroo jumps and skips – Mat assures me these are proven plyometric techniques, but I just think he was entertaining the other travellers!

Short on time? S P R I N T.

3. Stretch
It doesn’t matter whether you’re tearing up the road in a ’73 Kombi or a fancy pants 4WD, driving for hours will jiggle and jolt every muscle and joint out of place. Before long, you’ll be that person at the petrol station doing lunges with the pump, just to squeeze in a quick stretch before the next leg.

Don’t be that person. Instead, stow a stretching mat in your car ready for those so-good-it-makes-me-cry-unicorn-tears stretches. Once used for camping, our Thermorest is now a dedicated stretching mat, always within easy reach in the Kombi. We use it at rest stops, after runs and at the end of every day to stretch out all the kinks from the road.

4. Sniff out the trails
Being trail runners on a road trip is all kinds of torture. Everywhere we look there is space. But when it comes to awesome single trails that will carry us through magical forests and over bubbling creeks… bupkis. Then, one fine day in the dustball town they call Cloncurry, a friendly local spotted the bikes rusting on the back of the Kombi and revealed the location of some secret mountain bike trails just 2km out of town (True story: Cloncurry is known as “Friendly Heart of the Great North West”. Now we know why).

Mat and I looked at each other with an understanding that only three months living together in six square metres can give you: we wouldn’t be riding these trails, we’d be running them. Ten minutes later, we parked at Chinaman Creek Dam with 30km of rolling trails laid out in front of us. Bliss.

Trails! Everywhere.

5. Throw a Frisbee
If there’s one thing the outback isn’t short of, it’s space. So every now and again, we pull out the Frisbee and spend half an hour throwing it around. There’s only one rule in our game: you must sprint and jump to catch it. No excuses. When we climb back into the Kombi, we’re always sweaty but smiling!

6. Create your own gym
We’re not gym junkies. The thought of working out in a confined space gives me chills. But we do enjoy an outdoor strength workout every now and again. Create your own gym using, well, anything you can find! Lift rocks. Pull up on benches. Swing from the monkey bars in the kids’ park (just be sure there are no littlies around when you start swearing like a trooper!).

How do you keep fit while travelling? Tell us your tips!

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Nicki Letts
Nicki Letts and her partner Mat are trail runners and vanlifers, travelling around in their VW Kombi "The Old Girl" and hitting the trails at every opportunity. They ran their first 100km race back in 2011 and have been enjoying the view from the middle of the pack ever since.
Nicki Letts

About Nicki Letts

Nicki Letts and her partner Mat are trail runners and vanlifers, travelling around in their VW Kombi "The Old Girl" and hitting the trails at every opportunity. They ran their first 100km race back in 2011 and have been enjoying the view from the middle of the pack ever since.