Travel News Tuesday Tools and Tips

Running While Flying

Running while Flying
Written by Charlie

Running While Flying (or maximizing layovers)

I am sure I am not the only traveler/runner that has had a travel day on a day that they really needed to get a run in. Maybe, you need to get a 6 miler in, or maybe you needed to do a particular workout, but flying is getting in your way. Your flight leaves at 6AM, you are 40 minutes from the airport, it is the busiest time of the day at the airport, so you are getting up at 3AM and your busy day will not end until 11PM that night (this is exactly what I have had happen a few times). What do you do? You do not want to just write-off the day for your running schedule but you know that getting on the hotel treadmill that night just before midnight is going to be terrible. Here are some tips that might help you with running while flying.

The Layover Is Your Friend

I can’t tell you the times that I have had layovers in excess of 4 hours or there was a mechanical delay or weather delay that caused you to have a longer layover than originally planned. While these may seem an inconvenience, there is a way to turn these inconveniences into a training opportunity. With that type of outlook, you are sure to be looking for a chance on a future trip to spend some more time in an airport (or not!).

In the Airport

Thousands of people a day are running through airports. They are racing to catch their flights, racing to make up for a late flight to meet a ride, racing for the bathroom, whatever. None of them are running for the purpose of running. Airports make for a difficult place to run well – all you have to do is watch the late traveler weave through the crowds of people only to be stopped in their tracks by a people-mover.

Running while Flying

Terminal Map for Atlanta Airport

However, there are some great places to run in airports. I have done this a few times and it can work well. The large airports, like Atlanta-Hartsfield, have walkways (not the moving walkways but the paths) connecting the terminals and concourses. These walkways are normally not that crowded since there are trains that travel along the same route and most people are not wanting to go from a terminal on one end of the airport to the other on foot. The lack of clutter makes for a wonderful area to run.

In the case of Atlanta-Hartsfield, the walkway area between concourses is 1 mile long. If you go back and forth 3 times, you can get a nice 6 miler in during a layover no problem! Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport has a 1.4 mile loop at the intersection of C and D terminal Other airports that offer walkways that will work to run on are Chicago O’Hare, Detroit, LAX, and Denver  just to name a few. Next time you are in a large airport, check between the terminals for places to get your run in.

Storing your gear and changing

Ask at your airport if there any storage lockers available. Many airports have them for a small fee. If not, you can take advantage of airport lounges. If you have lounge memberships for Delta, American Airlines, US Airways, or United, you can take advantage of a place to store your bags (most clubs have places to put your bags when you walk in) and clean up. 

Gear to have

You may not know what the distance is at the various airports and you may need to know your paces. If you do, you will need to have a foot pod to accurately give you that data. Garmin and Polar have foot pods that will sync with their watches. In addition, the Nike+ platform will also work with that. Besides getting a run in, a controlled environment like an airport might be a really nice place to work on your strides and other legwork. Something like the Polar system will be a nice tool for that.

In/Out of the Airport

Running while Flying

Fitness Center @ Pittsburgh Hyatt

Most of the large airports have airport hotels that are either located right in the airport or just outside of the airport. Many of these airports will let you use their fitness centers for a fee ranging from $5 – $30. Depending on the type of workout you are needing to have accomplished, this can be very worth the money. Some hotels may offer you complimentary usage depending on your elite status with the hotel chain. The nice part about these hotels is that they are normally built for business guests. Because of that, the equipment is normally very nice. When a hotel charges for their fitness center to non-guests, there is a certain expectation for high-level equipment so you can expect some good stuff. Here is a list of the best airport gyms from Men’s Fitness.

When you are running in airport hotel fitness centers, you get a nice place to change and freshen up, a place to store your bags securely, a variety of fitness equipment, and, in many cases, a pool to cool off in. For a list of gyms in/near airports, check out this website.


Out of the Airport

Many large airports have easy road access to the main roads near their cities. One such airport is Los Angeles International Airport. I have run from the airport before to the water with some great streets and sights along the way. Places like this give you a great way to check out the area outside of airports and let you see parts of a city that you might never see otherwise.

Another option for longer layovers is to rent a car or take a taxi to some nice roads away from the airport. I have rented cars many times to get away for a run. The nice part about that is you again get a place to store your bags and you have a way to get to some of the most scenic areas around the city. Probably the best part is being able to sample the area’s food after your hard workout :). I love In-N-Out burgers so going this route in California is always a great way to kill many birds with one stone.

Running while Flying

A view of the Los Angeles airport and the roads around



There you go! Now you can look at your next trip and long layover(s) without dread and realize you can do some running while flying!


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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • I’m still trying to squeeze in a semi-long run during a layover when i do some weekend MRs. The tough part is to shower before the next flight.

    DFW would be an ideal place to do some miles in the airport, but may look suspicious.

    • It always helps if you are wearing running gear – looks a little more normal than sometime in casual wear running laps. As far as the shower, if you do not have lounge access, the next best thing is the sponge bath in the sink. I know it is not ideal, but when I did my 5 marathons/5 continents/ 5 days, half of those I had to wash in airport/Target bathrooms. I didn’t get thrown off the plane due to smell so it must have worked!