If you finally managed to quit smoking after many years of trying, would you pick up the habit again while on vacation?
Of course not. And this analogy helps me explain why I recommend to some of my clients to keep up their workout routine even when traveling for leisure.
If you've finally gotten in the groove of a new habit, the last thing you want is for a temporary break to derail you permanently. I've seen how a day or a week off of working out can turn into months or years as the inertia builds. When a new habit is fresh, early in its development, we need to nurture it and protect it. So if a client is still in that phase of needing to talk herself into each workout ("I'm just going to change my clothes, and then I'll decide if I'm actually going to do it" ..."I'm just going to press play and do the first 5 minutes, and then I'll decide if I'm going to finish") then it's not a true habit yet. She may need to be more rigid and less flexible until it becomes a true habit that she does without thinking about it. The amount of time that takes is different for every person; the general rule of thumb is about a month, but it can be longer depending on the person and the type of behavior involved.
The reasons I personally continue my workouts while traveling (most of the time) are different. Sometimes I'm in the middle of a structured 60- or 90-day program and I don't want to jeopardize my results. For maximum strengthening and toning, following the program to the letter is recommended ;) In other cases, I may not be on such a strict program, but I still prefer to get a workout in simply because it makes me feel better! When traveling, I'm often not eating as well as I do at home, and exercise helps temper the effects. In addition, I use exercise to help temper the social anxiety that comes along with meeting new people and making small talk at weddings and other gatherings.
Now, there is something to be said for resting sometimes—and at least a couple times a year, I take a full week off with no exercise beyond walking, household chores, and other everyday activities. So if you want to veg on your beach chair and not worry about a workout during your Caribbean vacation, be my guest! I wholeheartedly support you in that. But if you are looking to keep up your workout routine while traveling, here are my best tips to help...
Make a plan. If you just take a few minutes to think through what you'll do once you get there, you'll avoid a lot of the pitfalls that can keep you from getting those workouts in. Write out which workout you'll do each day, or program it into your schedule so you know exactly what time you'll be doing it each day (you can always change it later once you learn more about the schedule in your destination). Save the video links, download the videos, or pack your DVDs—or if your workout isn't on video, write out what you plan to do. Make sure you pack any equipment you'll need, such as resistance bands or a yoga mat. Don't forget proper clothing and footwear!
Find a portable and convenient workout option. I love Beachbody on Demand for the quality and the variety of the programs it contains. It's such an amazing value—and I can even offer your first 30 days for free if you haven't tried it before! You can play these workouts on any computer or mobile device, from the iPhone/iPad app or a Web browser. Many of them are 30 minutes are less. The service contains more than a year's worth of workouts, without ever having to repeat a session, and they cater to all different levels of ability and intensity. To me, this service is a no-brainer... but there certainly are other options out there, including running or lifting in the hotel gym. Whatever you choose, make sure it's something you enjoy and already know how to do. Trying to start a new type of workout when away from home just adds to the tricks your mind can play on you. You'll have enough reasons to talk yourself out of it; don't add "I'm not sure how this works" to the list.
Do your research. If you're planning to run, research suitable routes near your hotel. If you're planning to use the hotel gym, call ahead to find out what type of equipment it has and what hours it's open, and to make sure it won't be closed for renovations while you're there. If you're planning to work out in your room, you might even call ahead to ask about room sizes and make sure you're booked for one that has adequate space. You don't need a ton of space, but I've definitely been in some hotel rooms that were too small to allow for it. The most important thing is that you know where you'll be exercising, since you might choose different clothing for working out in your room versus running outside.
Tell a friend. I always let my husband know which days I'm planning to work out during our trips. This helps him plan for activities he may want to do on his own, or a time to get his own exercise in—or at least that he shouldn't make promises for us to meet friends or do another activity during these times without asking me. So, telling your traveling companion can help head off any tension that could result from insisting on doing your workouts while on vacation—but it also allows your companion to support you. Let them know in advance that if you're tempted to skip a session, you'd like them to remind you why you decided to stick to your schedule (whether it's to lose weight, manage pre-diabetes, keep high blood pressure in check, look your best in the dress you'll be wearing to the wedding, etc. etc.) If you're traveling solo, tell someone back home and ask them to text you workout reminders. Or work with a coach like me ;)
Prioritize and problem-solve. My most basic piece of advice is also the most important: make your workouts a priority. If something unavoidable (such as delayed transportation) interferes with your exercise session, see what you can move around in your schedule to make room to get it done at a different time. Maybe stay up a bit later or get up a bit earlier. If you really want to get it done, find a way. This is a mental habit that I've observed makes a big difference in whether my clients drop out of a program or persist to the end. When the going gets rough, some people seem to be looking for any excuse why it won't work and they can't succeed. Others may fall down, but they get back up—and they apply their creativity (and are open to suggestions from their coach) for how they can find a solution and make it work. Train yourself to be part of the second group instead of the first. It's a decision; action follows.
Like what you've read here and want the support of a coach in creating and cementing healthy habits? Check out my upcoming group programs and send me an email at the address below to get started!