One of the most common things I hear is that “I’ll get back on track when things settle down” or “I’m looking forward to getting back to a routine” as if having a regular routine (like when summer vacation is over and the kids go back to school, when the holidays are finally over, or when you’re back from your week-long cruise to the Caribbean) and staying on track with your health goals cannot happen at the same time.
When things get back to ‘normal’ we take a sigh of relief that we can finally get back to taking care of our bodies again and feeling good, and fitting back into our clothes.
This way of thinking poses a few problems:
- Much of our life is not If you add up vacations, holidays, hosting visitors, and pretty much any other life event, you’ll quickly realize how much of your life is off from a regular routine. And if you fight for the excuse of I’m on holidays, it’s summer, it’s Thanksgiving, the in-laws are visiting, etc. you’ll find that you only have a few months a year to make progress.
- Being out of routine is when we have the most fun and when some of the best memories are made. You probably don’t remember what you did on a Wednesday in November last year; but you do remember that camping trip, or the trip to Mexico with your family, or the ski weekend last winter. If these are some of the best times in our lives, wouldn’t you want to feel your best? And not look forward to it ever being over so you can get back to ‘routine?’
As a side note, the ‘need to be in a routine’ is also a big reason why I detest most diet plans. Plans that force you to eat at a certain time, or eat a very specific type of food, without teaching you how to eat, how to be flexible and navigate real life are, in my opinion, useless for long term success.
While it may be easier to stick to your plan when you’re in your regular routine, you can still stay on track, or make progress toward your goals over the summer, while on vacation, or any other ‘out of the ordinary’ situation. In this article, I’m going to share ways you can stick to the habits that have you looking and feeling your best, even when you’re not doing the ‘day to day’, and the few ‘routines’ you should keep no matter the season, the company, or where you are in the world.
1. Plan your day, starting with the end in mind. Planning your day is a practice that is hugely beneficial whether you’re in a routine or not. Each morning, start by asking yourself some version of the question “What do I need to do/ how do I need to show up today so that I go to bed feeling confident, proud and happy or so that I can make progress toward my goal of _____”.
By planning your day and asking yourself these questions, you will keep the goal the goal, but allow flexibility within the path. The answer will change based on our circumstance but the goal can stay the same (going to bed feeling good). For example, if you’re touring Paris, the answer may be to slow down at meal time, enjoy 2 glasses of wine, and walk at least 10,000 steps. I also encourage you to include ‘life goals’ such as, “I will really engage in playing with my daughter at the beach”. This simple practice allows you to keep the goal the goal, but be agile and flexible with the path (which is necessary for real life).
2. Set a target to be active daily (or at least 5 X per week). Enjoy a wide definition of ‘exercise’. Unless you’re training for a specific sport or event, the goal of ‘keeping fit’ can be accomplished in many different ways. Many of our clients hike more in the summer, or swap their runs for paddle boarding or cycling. In fact, switching up your activities can improve your overall fitness and prevent exercise boredom.
I do recommend keeping up with a basic strength training routine, minimum 2 x per week. Most activities are cardio based (kayaking, hiking, walking, cycling, etc.), and maintaining strength is important for overall health, especially as we get into our 40s and beyond.
3. Practice foundational habits. In my nutrition and lifestyle programs at,clients practice what we call ‘foundational habits’. Foundational habits are the habits you can absolutely practice anytime, anywhere, and no matter what you’re eating. You can practice them while having a barbecue at Cultus Lake, on a camping trip at Manning Park or on a 10-hour flight to Europe. They include slow and relaxed eating, and eating for energy (eating until you’re approximately 80% full).
4. Decide on a few basic ‘food rules’ that you can adhere to. While the circumstances could change, it’s relatively easy to stay on track with eating no matter where you are. The goal isn’t to be perfect, but simply to make better choices more often. For example, you could decide to fast until lunch a few times per week, limit your alcohol intake to 4 drinks a week, or skip the bun and pasta salad at backyard barbecues. The ‘rules’ you choose will depend on your eating style, where you’re at in your health and fitness journey, and your commitment to making progress.
I want you to go and enjoy adventures; to travel, to attend summer parties, and to spend time with family. I want you to feel your best while you’re creating memories. Enjoying ‘life’ doesn’t have to be the opposite of being healthy. By being agile with your path, and maintaining a few routines (regular activity, mindful eating, etc.) you can do just that.
If this resonates with you, I would love to hear from you. You can reach me: tanja (at) tanjashaw.com