Tales of a Triathlete #4 – How (In)compatible Are Sports and Travel Really?

Benjamin Ooi – In all honesty, I have always enjoyed sports overseas. May it be the relief from the humidity and heat here, or simply a refreshing change of environment. But I also recognise the logistical difficulties of moving into an unfamiliar place, or that sometimes we just really desire a break from the routine while on holiday.

#Trainolidays anyone?

Over the years, I have taken my training along with me to a few continents and based on my experience. There is nothing while travelling or holidaying, that categorically rules out training. Yes, the raw unfamiliarity and local conditions may be obstacles, but insurmountable difficulties they are not.

What I am going to preach here, is that travelling is not a deal-breaker, to bring you along on the adventures and great experiences that my holiday training has allowed me.

Running brings and shows you off-the-beaten-track places

1. new perspectives

A few years ago, I was working in Dubai for a few months that extended into the scorching summer and it made training a literal living hell. The seas felt like a hot tub, and even running at night felt like facing off with a massive hair dryer. However, my time in Dubai blessed me with the opportunity to meet a group of extremely dedicated triathletes who also showed me new perspectives of training and of sheer perseverance in sport.

In the face of such harsh climate (and urban conditions), one popular endeavour every weekend was to make a 2 hour drive to the Hatta mountains at 2AM in the morning, start riding at 4am in order to be done when the sun rises at 7AM. I had no inkling how I would manage my training when I accepted the opportunity in Dubai, but when you look hard enough there is usually a way!

2. new systems

Dubai is still an extreme example though. What if we’re just enjoying a short holiday getaway for a few days? Well that presents a different set of challenges. We have less time to get familiar with the locale, the ideal routes. My perspectives remain the same. Even in places as hazardous and difficult as Bangkok, simply getting up an hour before the city wakes up earns you clear streets and peaceful surroundings to get your training done. In the most dire of circumstances, find a park, or a gym; improvise. And what then if you’re travelling with non-athletes? Well, make it work. Or sacrifice some sleep. I think that we can all understand that surely.

3. new environment

Singapore is a small place— there are only so many ideal running routes, and far less still if you’re a cyclist. One tends to get bored out of their minds. But beyond that, new environments bring new experiences that are hard to fathom beforehand.

4. new experiences

One such experience I had was while exploring Ho Chi Minh with Mok Ying Rong. We had basically decided to run from the hostel to our place of interest, the zoo. Along the way, we came across this alley which has this really traditional and residential feel. “Let’s check it out”, I said. What I couldn’t have expected then, was that a local family down the alley whom we had asked to take a photo with, would actually invite us to sit down and have a beer with them in their home!

if there is a will, there is a way

These are only limited anecdotes that I am recounting now. I’ve had many other good experiences from training while backpacking across Europe and on other travels. My point is, perceived obstacles to exercising while travelling are by no means insurmountable— in fact, more often than not, they have added value! So, pack a pair of trainers and attire for your next weekend jaunt. I’ll bet that you won’t regret it 🙂

Ben Ooi is an Ironman Triathlete and younger sibling to two national water polo sisters. He qualified to compete in the World Ironman – World Championships 2017 in Kona, Hawaii. The SMU alumnus is currently working in the private sector and would love a South American holiday, anytime.

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