In the midst of Spring Break, and with Summer just around the corner, many of you may have the opportunity to travel. Which is so exciting....right? New food, new people to meet, new sites and time away from a routine.
However, for others, trips often bring about a level of increased anxiousness. This past August was my first time traveling outside of the country (I'm 31 years old). When this came up in conversation, many were shocked, and even offended that I hadn't experienced other countries, often exclaiming: "I can't believe you haven't been out of the country? Why haven't you? There's so much more out there!"
I wasn't about to open up about my insecurities about my body and myself. So I would respond with: "I don't know. I was just busy focusing on work".
My conversations sounded less like: “I can’t wait to try all the new food and be completely off of my routine!”, rather it sounded more like:
“I can’t eat that”
“How many calories are in that?”
“How do I plug this into my food log?”
“Do I allow myself to eat?”
“How do I still burn calories if there’s no gym?”
“I need my routine!”
I've even turned down trips because of the stress and anxiety of not having control over my routine. I opted out on trips to South Africa, Japan, and Mexico. I had the mindset of...
"I'll travel once I lose those 10 lbs"
So, I waited hopeful that I would one day wake up lighter and happier. I failed to realize that I wasn't yet comfortable in who I was and also hadn't developed strategies to help navigate unknown territory. So I resorted to sticking to what I knew: my routine, my safety net.
What's fascinating is that in many cases, before the trip even started, I begin rehearsing the worst case scenarios in my head of how I was going to fall off track, ruin my progress or spiral out of control, only to come back realizing it wasn't all that bad. I recall, wishing I hadn't wasted all that energy playing out those scenarios over and over again.
In this blog I hope to reassure you that while traveling is exciting it can actually be mutually stressful. Below are a few key strategies I'd suggest for you to reflect on for any upcoming trips:
1. What are the intentions of your travel?
Play, recharging, work, connecting with family/friends, explore new cultures etc. If you’re able to take some time to identify what the intentions of your travel are and keep that in perspective, you'll be more successful in assuring your trip will be enjoyed and "successful". Think of it this way. If your trip was for play and to disconnect, yet are not intentional about leaving your phone at the hotel, or putting an away message on your email, you may come back feeling as though you didn’t really take a trip. And no one wants to feel like they’ve actually worked the entire time they were supposed to be sunbathing on the beach right? Right. Therefore, once you identify the intentions of your travel, reflect on possible ways you'll keep that in mind. For the example above, you may want to put an away message on the computer, leave your phone on silent for most of the day, and maybe even ask for accountability when it comes to helping you work towards disconnecting.
To help guide the intention of your travels, reflect on the following:
What made me say YES to this trip?
How would I like to FEEL at the end of the trip?
What type of MEMORIES would I like to create?
What are the GOALS of the trip ASIDE from my body?
When booking a trip we tend to research for the best airfare, best hotels/lodging, and best attractions. We prepare by packing a suitcase, fine tuning our schedule and letting work know we’ll be out of town. Now, if you’re someone who knows you struggle with being out of routine, the best thing you can do is prepare as much as you can for your trip. Meaning:
If you know you feel best when you move a bit, be sure to pack clothes that will allow you the opportunity to move if/when time allows.
If you know that eating off plan is something that causes more anxiety or GI discomfort, you may want to experiment with digestive enzymes or probiotics to help with some newer foods that may be introduced into your diet while you’re away.
If you know that you need sleep in order to manage your energy, be sure to communicate that to your fellow travelees that you may say “no” to excursions and nap instead. Give yourself the permission to say “no” and do what’s best for you.
If you know that it’s stressful to be in unfamiliar territory research the area you’re traveling to ahead of time, learn the culture as much as you can, create a Pinterest board, print out maps or download maps to your phone just in case you don’t have internet, learn a few phrases in the native language that’ll help you communicate key things (ex. Do you speak English? Thank you, hello etc).
Research what type of physical “shape” you’ll need to work towards to better enjoy your trip. I don't mean body shape. Rather, I'd like for you to explore what type of athleticism you'll need to be in. For instance, Will you be walking a lot or more than your usual day to day steps? Will you be hiking? Will you be laying on the beach and relaxing? If you know what type of endurance you’ll need, you can begin to tailor your workouts towards what is needed (Ex. Gradually increasing your step count and mobility to accomodate for the increased load on the lower limb joints).
Preparation is a key contributor to a trip being successful. The more you can both mentally and physically prepare yourself for a new experience the less you’ll be confronted with situations that are induce stress.
3. The Gym Will Still Be There
I often say this to clients when they express some worries over progress and more specifically losing the progress that they’ve made. From the 11+ years I’ve been a coach and trainer, breaks from your routine, time away from the gym actually does the body good. You give your body the time to explore what are bodies are built for: walking, moving, living life (not necessarily completing PR’s or swinging kettlebell, although nothing against that type of progress). You also give your body the time to recover. Sometimes we don’t realize how much allostatic load our bodies are under until we have no option, but to take a break from our usual gym routine. We sleep in, take naps, spend time away from our computer. And each day that is spent away from lifting weights, you may start noticing an actual improvement in energy, elevated mood and hey, you may even miss the gym (rather than feeling like you’re going through the motions).
When I traveled this past August with my cousin Bree, I scaled back on weight training and increased the amount of steps I took (knowing we’d be exploring a lot of Italy and Paris by foot). I kept in mind that the intention of the trip was to explore another country and create new memories with her. That often meant pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And yes, Gelato EVERYDAY. And you know what? I came back more refreshed, more ready and mentally clear to start tackling some business projects. I was in a much better mood, more optimistic and yes, I even missed lifting a weight or two. And for those of you who worry about weight gain on trips, in most scenarios, our time is spent exploring (ex. walking) verses sitting behind a computer that our expenditure increases and as a result we either lose or maintain our weight even with the pizza, pasta and gelato diet.
(Swipe right for a snippet of our travels together)
Learning to be more comfortable outside of our routine is an experiment. Allow yourself the space to learn more about what you need, what you don’t need and how you travel best. Remember that the routine you worked so hard on creating, will still be there once you set foot back in your everyday life.
And I'd also like to mention that the process of body acceptance is a journey of learning and unlearning. Opportunities may come up that we don't quite feel ready enough for, or that we may not "look" the way we'd hope to by this point. It's okay to feel that, just remember that the potential to feel differently is also there, within your reach.
I just want to serve as your reminder that even though it took me years feel more confident in who I was and in my body there is another way to live life than being consumed by body conscious thoughts. In some cases, opting to take a trip we normally wouldn't, could be the first step towards self acceptance.
Give yourself permission to explore...