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Running and Visiting Churches - Clothing Preparation

Hi all,
I'm going to be spending some time in Paris, Barcelona, and Madrid this summer, and I'm planning to devote a day or two in each city to sighteeing while running. I'll plan out a route, jog through the city, take in the architecture and the scenery, stop to snack or stretch, and keep jogging. I figure this would be a great opportunity to step into some cathedrals and look around, but I'll be wearing brightly colored running shoes, shorts, and a sleeveless shirt. If I'm running for several hours I'd prefer not to carry a bunch of stuff in a backpack, so I'm trying to get creative with ways to cover up. Anyone have any suggestions for fanny packs or running packs that aren't unwieldy, and/or suggestions for a lightweight dress I could wear to fit into a small bag? I know that people in Europe don't usually wear neon running shoes for day-to-day nonathletic activities, so I was wondering if my shoes might be inappropriate for church visiting as well.
Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by
6945 posts

Generally colors are not an issue, but knees, shoulders and other bendy parts are. I would focus on lightweight coverings, maybe nylon or microfiber running pants (black) and a similar jacket. Both should easily fit in even the smallest fanny pack or a crossbody bag, you can slip on even in public, or off and be on your way.

Posted by
22986 posts

Doesn't have to be fashionable. Just get your shoulders and knees covered before you go in. Remember your goal is to be respectful since many churches are fully functioning religious centers and you need to respect that. You are not running thought Disneyland.

Posted by
1194 posts

I'm going to echo Franks thought. Many people view churches as tourist sites. They can be, but it's not their primary purpose. It's better to think of them as Holy sites. That prepares the mind set for proper dress and behavior.
Your shoes won't be an issue but the shorts and sleeveless shirt are deal breakers.
The lightest thing I can think of is two large light scarves. Wrap one around your lower half as a skirt. Wear the other as a shawl. Or consider a knee length thin cotton dress.
Be sure to please - cover shoulders to knees.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks all for your replies! All valuable suggestions. I should note that for my specific purposes I've actually spent a lot of time in medieval cathedrals (I'm a historian!) but running is something that's newer for me. Here in the US where I live I generally just run in worn out undershirts and second-hand stuff, don't bother to buy all the fancy gear that wicks and checks your heart rate and whatnot. Now that I'm planning this trip, though, I'm finding myself in the market for specific items people might recommend that combine the needs of a traveler and a long distance runner.

Posted by
11503 posts

Many running shops sell wicking lightweight jogging shirts.. wear one of those.. then its just your bottom half you have to worry about..

Are you a man or woman..

If a woman its easy to find a lightweight skirt to throw on over your shorts. Golf skirts can be very lightweight, and while they don't cover your knees, this will not be an issue for France.. and most likely not in Spain either.. I have only had issues in Italy.

If a man..longer shorts . They don't have to cover your knees .. but just be a Bermuda type. and they make those now in lightweight materials..

I would wear a waist pack.. I would wear it at back when running , and since you are only going to have to carry one item of clothing.. it will roll up and fit easily in most . You have lots of time before you go to find the perfect bottom item.

Keep in mind if in a church and there are crowds around you , if carrying money etc.. to be careful with pack.. wear it in front in crowds and try not to let anyone get within arms reach of your stuff.

Ps.. you do realize the places you have mentioned can be VERY hot in the summer.. running all day in that sort of heat my be quite exhausting.. even with a few breaks.

You should go to a running shop and see what sort of water system you can bring.. you must stay hydrated in the heat , especially since you will be stressing out your body.

Good luck and have fun.. and you may also find if very hot its best to plan a running route with an early morning start.. then by 11 or so.. change and sight see like the rest of us.. not resuming your running till after 4 or so.. but you know your body best.. running all day in 100 degree heat sounds very hard core to me.

Posted by
183 posts

I'm trying to imagine how you will manage to actually run in the crowded centers of these cities during peak tourist season. I just think it will be difficult in many of the tourist areas to move faster than a walk.

But if you figure that out, yeah, some kind of a one piece dress you can unroll and slip over top of your running outfit.

Something like this:

Don't worry abt the shoes.

Posted by
15311 posts

You should go to a running shop and see what sort of water system you
can bring.. you must stay hydrated in the heat , especially since you
will be stressing out your body.

I'll echo this. You need to have a Camelbak or similar hydration system for water.[0].key=activity&filters[0].value=5ca3712fb79c4f4eba88332cc74c8507&sortValue=588d93330b6a4e62809a9f112d7a5177

Because of the heat and general high-season congestion, you might want to think about doing runs early in the morning and interior sightseeing later in the day after you've showered and cleaned up?

I would leave the sleeveless shirt at the hotel. A better choice would be a lightweight short sleeved shirt in a darker, conservative color to be less conspicuous. (The church won't care what color your shirt is. However, I think downplaying your athletic clothes will make you less conspicuous in general.). An example would be shirts made by Reel Legends. You can even find short- sleeved athletic shirts in the men's section at Wal-mart. Get colors like gray with a little blue trim, black, dark blue, etc.. Wear a loose fitting top. For pants - wear longer, slightly loose black athletic pants with a draw string or elastic. Something like Columbia pants. Form-fitting spandex type pants can be pushing it. Think modest. Then, you don't have to carry clothes. There are some very small hydration backpacks just for runners and cyclists. Check out

Posted by
41 posts

I'm not sure others would enjoy being in confined spaces with a sweat-drenched jogger. I would freshen up after an early morning run and then see the sights.

Posted by
16893 posts

In the cities you mentioned, only Barcelona's Cathedral and Sagrada Familia require knees and shoulders covered. It's not a rule across Europe, but primarily in Italy. In several short visits to Madrid, I never went into a church (and places that don't get many visitors don't need to have rules). Sagrada Familia requires an entry ticket, recommended to reserve ahead, as does the deconsecrated Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Posted by
10 posts

I'd hardly call gothic cathedrals confined spaces. I'll be there in early May actually, not mid summer, so I shouldn't be too vile in my stench and appearance. I'm not a speed runner, and I expect I'll want to stop to do some walking along the way to cool down. I'll be following others' suggestions to avoid running in the middle of the day. And since I'm a woman who will be traveling alone, I'd prefer not to be going out in the evenings. I have a more standard trip planned for most of the time I'm there when I'll be with friends, but will be on my own with my running shoes for the first and last couple days of the trip.

In any case, I'd imagine a little grit and B.O. would only add to the historic cathedral experience, since the late medieval and early modern masses were certainly much less clean than your average modern jogger. What do you think the incense is for?

Thanks to those who suggested getting some sort of a water pack. Anyone have experience with these "fit belts" and the water bottles that come with them? I'd prefer to wear something along my waist to on my back.

Posted by
9138 posts

In any case, I'd imagine a little grit and B.O. would only add to the historic cathedral experience, since the late medieval and early modern masses were certainly much less clean than your average modern jogger.

This is, of course, as far as it goes, true. It does not, however, reflect a great deal of respect for your fellow man, who has perhaps not entered the church looking precisely for a "historic cathedral experience," nor for the eau de gym.

Neither will you be the only stinky person around, however.

I do hope you'll report back on the Forum after your jogging sightseeing. I'm certainly going to keep my eyes open for you around here in early May!

Posted by
8 posts

In addition to Columbia, try Athleta or Prana for workout-appropriate materials in a more sightseeing-appropriate style. Others may have additional ideas. Coolibar has great lightweight items (meant for sun protection or swimming more than jogging, but worth checking out).

If you can't find a church-appropriate dress or pants that you're comfortable running in, my thought would be either a super-lightweight dress to toss on over your workout clothes when stepping into a church, or compression shorts under a skirt (which skirt you wear while running) plus a super lightweight scarf for the shoulders/arms. Athleta has a lot of skorts, but most (including all that I have, or have tried on) do not cover the knees.

Have fun!

Under-Armor carries nice, modest running wear. In place of carrying water - you can carry cash and just buy bottled water wherever you are; drink and toss out the container. Or, find a public water fountain and drink from the spigot. That will eliminate a lot of bulk for you. If you drink once an hour - chances are good that you won't crash. If you choose a small pack - you can carry a microfiber towel that you can buy at the dollar store or auto parts store and some wet wipes to "freshen up." God loves joggers. I would not worry much about the " sweat matter." My husband works at a church and has seen some truly interesting people like a drunk fellow in a duck - yes, a duck! - costume walk up the main aisle just before a mass. A visiting jogger will not be noticed anymore than anyone else.

Posted by
173 posts

"don't bother to buy all the fancy gear that wicks"

Perhaps now is the time to buy running clothes that wick away the sweat and keep you cooler. Running capris and short sleeved shirts would be appropriate. They don't have to be expensive. I took 2 Target brand "active" tee shirts to Europe, purple and aqua, for comfort, not running. Also, don't be afraid to miss a day or two of running since sightseeing in most European cities involves lots of walking. I frequently treated a trip as a break from running and didn't even pack my running shoes. Enjoy your time!

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks to all for your clothing suggestions. I've never purchased special running gear because it's never been necessary for my less-than-glamorous local runs, but I am certainly going to check some out now. Always good to have brand suggestions in various price points as I'm seeing here. I've just purchased a "flip belt" with a zipper compartment and small water bottle that can act as a money belt/tiny fanny pack and therefore will be useful for general traveling as well as running. Next I'll be looking for some thin, breathable capri running pants and will comb through my scarf collection for something very lightweight to cover my shoulders, or possibly a longer sleeved athletic shirt that can be tied around my waist.

Posted by
779 posts

One of my pleasures while traveling in Europe for a number of years has been the opportunity to go running. Except I (a female) prefer to run in the morning, usually before 7 am, when the temperature is lower and the crowds are much less, pretty much just the regular early morning folks. It can be magical. Then, if I time it right, I stop at a bakery or patisserie on the way back to my hotel to pick up something special with breakfast. Consider whether running without crowds might be more pleasant - I honestly would find it annoying trying to dodge between people. And being sweaty while trying to view churches, etc. would be, to me, also annoying.

I have used the waist packs with the little water bottles, though not while in Europe; they work just fine and I don't find they bounce around too much.

Because running is less common (though becoming more common), and because the high-tech running gear seems to be less common, generally, in Europe, I try to be inconspicuous. I wear longer running shorts - the kind some triathletes wear, and a longer cotton t-shirt (though cotton has problems with drying). My shorts have pockets, so I have room for my hotel room key and a little cash, and nowadays, my phone as well.

I remember one time running from our hotel in the 6th, across the Seine on the pont neuf, and circling Notre Dame in the company only of a crew sweeping the pavement. I see parents walking their children to school; people opening up their shops. On our most recent trip to Paris, last Spring, there was some art sculpture installation on the bridge I took across the Seine; I stopped to read about each one. In Barcelona, running down Las Ramblas all the way to the statue of Christopher Columbus in the early morning light. I often find places or stores or cafes that I can take my family to later in the day.


Posted by
9874 posts

A person from Vienna mentioned running in the morning and then going sightseeing afterwards due to the congestion on the sidewalks.

I think it would be even more difficult to run on the sidewalks of Paris, which are very congested--except in the outer arrondissements--13th, 14th, 15th, 16th. The banks of the Seine are cobblestones. Having lived or visited Paris for the last 40 years, I don't recall ever seeing people run on the sidewalks, but they do run in the parks and other areas early in the morning. There just isn't room to maneuver around people and objects. You also don't see skateboards or bicycles on the sidewalks as in other cities. You'll see how it works when you get to Paris and if your running past and around people turns out to be disconcerting and rude for pedestrians or if it works well. If it's rude, you can go to plan B, run with the other runners early and then sight-see. I'd be more concerned about your affect on others using the sidewalk than the clothing.

Posted by
401 posts

What about a running skirt and a short sleeve top? If you had a small pack you could stash a pair of thin leggings to wear under your skirt. For running capris, I like Oiselle and Lululemon (not cheap but mine have lasted for years). I've found some great affordable workout clothing at TJ Maxx and Marshall's. Good luck on your trip and with your running tours! Sounds like a great way to see the city.

Posted by
5 posts

A bag with a portable water jug and a towel will be enough. for your clothes i suggest to wear drifit and a jogging pants to show respect to those cathedrals you'll visit.

Posted by
8779 posts

Not sure who told you that Europeans don't wear neon colored shoes. They do, and they won't care what kind of shoes you have on in church.

Wear a shirt with sleeves. It can be a light, button down shirt instead of a t-shirt. They are cooler and look nicer and you can certainly run in them.

Posted by
22986 posts

Am I beginning to smell a troll? This seems a little odd.

Posted by
11503 posts

Tandems those running dresses are cute , but they do not cover upper arms so they would not be acceptable in a few places , easy solution is a super lightweight gauzy ( think as thin as cheesecloth) scarf . They can be scrunched up into a tiny ball when you don't need it and worn around shoulders when needed