Disrupting the habit loop
Have you ever realized that some daily activities seem to be effortless and automated while others seem to be a struggle? Kind of like how we could brush our teeth in our sleep, but driving somewhere new takes concentration. So, why is this? It’s because of the handy dandy habits we’ve developed over time!
Basically our brains form habits so we free up mental energy. When was the last time you really put thought towards tying your shoes, brushing your teeth, or how to get to work? I’m guessing that unless you started your job last week that it’s been awhile since you really had to think about these things.
But now, think wayyyy back to the days when tying your shoes wasn’t easy. I can remember sitting on my deck somewhere around the age of four trying to tie my shoes for hours. It was the hardest thing for me to get, but eventually it clicked and now tying my shoes is the last thing on my mind.
The same thing goes for our fitness habits. If you’ve started a new fitness routine recently I’m guessing you may have hit a few bumps; we all do! I struggle with new fitness routines like no other. If I decide to switch days or times, or even deviate to a different form of exercise I struggle.
Half of the time it doesn’t happen, or I end up exercising at a different time than first intended….alarm goes off at 6:00 am, time to run, hit snooze, end up running at 6:00 pm instead. However, overtime that 6:00 am wakeup call gets easier and easier. Before you know it you’re waking up on your own and heading out for a run without a second thought.
So how does a seasoned fitness junkie get sucked into infrequent exercising and gaining 20 pounds in Thailand? Figuring out this answer took me some time, but I came up with:
- Disruption of the habit loop
- Best intention workouts
- Vacay eating mode
We’ll get more into number two and three in the next two weeks, but for now we’re going to get deeper into the disruption of our habit loop while on vacation.
The Habit loop
One reason why some actions become habits is because of the habit loop.
Whether we realize it or not, our habit loop drives many of our automated actions, and the disruption of our habit loop while on vacation can wreck havoc on our fitness and nutrition routines even if we have the best intentions to workout per the usual and eat healthy.
Our habit loop works like this:
- cue, routine, reward.
Our routine at home may look like this:
- Cue: alarm goes off; routine: put on workout clothes and head to the gym; reward: feel energized and ready for the day.
While on vacation the routine may look like this instead:
- Cue: non existent because alarms are banned while on vacation; routine: let’s go to breakfast instead; reward: feeling pretty content with that delicious pile of pancakes and bacon, let’s get a drink by the pool.
So, as we can see, the habits we’ve formed pretty much don’t exist while on vacation which means that even with our best intentions workouts may not happen.
While the disruption of our habit loop can throw us for a loop…no pun intended, we are not helpless when it comes to staying fit while traveling!
- Creating a new routine
- Finding an accountability partner
Create a New Routine
If you’re traveling for a longer period of time try creating a new routine. This can be done by figuring out what time works best for you to workout, and can even be the same time you’re use to working out at home. Set your schedule and stick to it! You may have a few slip ups in the beginning, but after a few days your new schedule will feel much more natural!
Find an Accountability Partner
If you feel like there’s a good chance that your workouts will get skipped then find an accountability partner.
Your accountability partner should be:
- Someone who is reliable
- Someone with similar fitness goals so they understand the importance of staying on track
- Ideally, someone who is traveling with you
- Someone who can easily get in touch with you if they aren’t traveling with you
- Someone who isn’t afraid of keeping you on track
Once you figure out who your accountability partner is, come up with a plan. The more details you can figure out in advance the more likely you are to stick to the plan.
For example, maybe your plan looks like this:
- While traveling I’m going to workout on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:00 am
- I’m going to use the free weights in the hotel gym to do 20 minute metabolic circuits
- (If your partner isn’t traveling with you) My accountability partner is going to follow up with me via text at 9:00 am on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to see how my workout went
- (If your partner is traveling with you) My accountability partner and I are going to meet in the hotel lobby at 2:00 pm for sprints and a run on Tuesday and Thursday
Having an accountability partner may sound over the top, but it really works! Being accountable to someone else besides yourself gives you more reason to make it to your workout. This way you’re making a date with more than just yourself!
The moral of the story is….don’t feel hopeless because your normal routine is thrown off while traveling. With a little bit of effort we can overcome the disruption of our habit loop by being consistent and finding an accountability partner.
Until next time,
P.S. Grab your FREE copy of my Ultimate Travel Fitness Guide!
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