- Stock up on a pair of brand new running shoes right before you move, because it’ll be two years before you’ll next be at a running shoe store of the quality shoe you prefer and your shoes will be well worn in the red dirt of Africa.
- Humbly accept when your guard offers to clean (scrub) your tennis shoes with washing soap, a sponge, and a bucket of water. They will look brand new. (They aren’t)
- Don’t be afraid to ask a friend traveling back in country for some coveted luggage space. It’s give-and-take, and to each his own: they brought back a blender with the correct plug for you, you bring back their new shoes. Note: Be prepared for an answer when your soon-to-be-visiting mother-in-law calls you confused by the men’s running shoes that have arrived on her doorstep in the U.S. She’s know her son’s shoe size since he was 16, did you know you ordered a Wide shoe this time? Tell her how much you love your new blender.
- Most of your running won’t be in shorts. Be grateful that your city is modern enough to where you can wear leggings, and not a running skirt. Cause those exist. Cotton t-shirts will feel too hot to run in. It’s totally acceptable to run in the same outfit every time. There are no athlesiure fashion trends.
- Invest in some airpods. After many years of only jogging with a stroller and using the cupholder to place my phone on speaker, the headphone cords dangling from ear to phone-in-hand are super distracting. On a serious note, the cords tend to shout at your flashy, expensive smart phone.
- Also, invest in a waistband pouch or fanny pack to put said smart phone. The arm band is a no-go. It’s best to conceal carry.
- Good news: you’ll never have to check your weather app again. But you definitely want to go in the mornings. Evenings are fine too, but you’re not going to want to drive anywhere (because traffic) so most days you’ll want to start and finish your jog from home. But you may not be able to go in the evenings, actually (because traffic).
- Speaking of running start and finish from your home, you’ll never have to worry about carrying a key because you have a gate guard to welcome you home.
- If it’s pouring, you obviously can’t go. Hello, mud. But if its just drizzling or just wet outside after a rain, enjoy it. It will be a nice change of pace from jogging in the heat of the sun.
- You’re going to have to get really creative on when and where you can jog. You might jog right after school drop-off because there are safe (aka less traffic) roads near the school. Or you might need to hire your nanny to come earlier in the morning. Or you might need to commission your house helper to watch the kids during their last hour of work, when it’s not so hot and it’s before you need to start cooking (that’ll be 4-5pm). Yes, you will have at least needed to chop the veggies earlier in the day.
- Strollers are not an option, ever. You will always need some form of childcare (nanny, school, husband) to be able to go. I know, it’s hard to accept.
- It’s okay to walk the hills. Since you don’t really have a choice for an entire run to solely be on flat road, be gracious with yourself (and not surprised) when you’re often out-of-breath.
- On Saturday mornings, order donuts for your family and meet a friend for a jog. You’ll get some good fellowship in as you pant up the hills together, and your husband will be rewarded for his sacrifice to your workout regimen with donuts. The donuts will arrive the same time you return home from the jog. Win-win.
- Join a running club with other women whose husbands work at the same company as your husband. Roughly 8 minutes after the men return home from work, meet the ladies for a quick 20 minute jog around the neighborhood. You’ll get back just in time to eat dinner. Bonus points for using a crockpot this day. Fingers crossed the power didn’t go out at any point of those eight hours cooking.
- Get really creative and go to pool at a club or resort for the day on a Saturday. There will be a hefty day use fee (or membership fee), but maximize your family pool day by bringing your running shoes and a change of clothes. After you have spent time at the pool, utilize the exercise room facilities by jogging on the treadmill or using other equipment. Shower and change, then switch with your husband for childcare duty so he gets a turn too. Then order a poolside lunch or latte. Obviously you can’t do this all the time, but you do pay for that little gym with pool!
- Go to the same resort and jog around the grounds (parking lot and pathways between all the buildings). Enjoy the change of pace to running on pavement. This will also be where you take your kids for them to learn to ride a bike.
- Jog around the grounds at the international school campus, on weekends and after school hours. Get comfortable with doing loops around the campus property. Encourage your husband to play basketball with other men on Sunday afternoons while you’re at the playground with the kids. When he’s done, switch and take a few laps around the campus. Then go home for a Sunday smoothie dinner.
- Sunglasses might help, but you’re just going to have to be okay with all the stares at the white woman exercising. The staring will be especially bad if you have a large, pregnant belly.
- Laps within your compound. For us, 31 laps equalled a 5K.
- With the equatorial sun, the rise is around 6:45am and the setting is around 6:45pm. You must work around these times, as there are no public street lights. Suggestion: bring a reflector vest.
- When you do venture out on public roads (verses those laps inside a campus), make it exciting! How close to a boda boda (motorcycle) guy can you get? 6 inches? What about a huge truck? Only 1 foot? Don’t get lazy about watching your feet. New potholes appear after heavy rains (and wash the faux filler of regular dirt away) and you never seem to remember if the speed bump succession is 4 tiny bumps or 5. Why not bring back your middle school long jumper self?
- Register for that 5K race that is along the Nile. Consider doing the 10K, then remember that you haven’t been running very often and you know yourself well enough to know that you can muster up a 5K any day. Even if you’ll be incredibly sore afterwards.
- Be flexible when land owners change their property at random, i.e. build a fence. It was a great route for a while, but now that the cut-through option is gone, you’ll have to find a different route.
- Bring a 2000 Ugandan shillings note in your phone case. In case you get too tired on your jog and need to snag a boda (motorcycle taxi) back home. No one will know.
Be gracious with yourself, especially if you don’t get to jog as often or as long as you’re used to jogging. This might mean seeing your Africa season as one where you get to try new-to-you things like kickboxing or tennis on a clay court for pennies compared to the price in America. Don’t get bogged down when the power goes out and you can’t stream that YouTube yoga video at home because no wifi and your computer is almost dead. Try again tomorrow. It’ll be a different rhythm of exercise, whatever you decide to tackle, but I cannot stress enough how important exercise is for your health, emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical. One last pro tip: FUNZ Video has workout videos. If you know, you know.
One thought on “24 Tips for Running Overseas (specifically in my int’l city in Africa)”
I JUST saw this very enlightening blog. Sorry I hadn’t read it sooner- it was great.