Finding routine in chaos

When your job involves travel and a disrupted lifestyle, it can be tough to maintain a sense of routine and keep on track with positive nutrition habits. Like many of the people I work with, I am often on the road with little time ‘home’. Here is how I find routine in chaos to stay on track.

Last year I pretty much lived out of a suitcase. Flying between 7 countries with over 20 flights it sometimes felt as though I spent more time in airports than I did in my actual home. And I moved 4 times within that period, so I wasn’t even sure where home was most of the time. In fact the longest time I spent in one house without travelling was 6 weeks.

Amongst that level of chaos it’s so easy to slip and lose track of good habits, drop the ball a bit and be hindered from achieving our health, fitness or nutrition goals.

Now with the Corona Virus lockdown in place in Spain, we are all having to find new routines or create our own routine when working from home. Here’s some of the ways that I use (and am currently reminding myself about) to find and maintain routine amongst chaos.

Decide what is non-negotiable

Over time I’ve learnt which things help to keep me sane and feel a sense of stability amongst a disrupted lifestyle. For me, that includes starting my day with a bit of reading, writing and reflecting and getting outside ASAP when the sun’s up. It’s non-negotiable. I HAVE to get outside every day during sunny daylight hours. If I don’t I’ll inevitably end up feeling stressed, anxious and unsettled which means I get less done than I want to.

It’ll be different for everyone. For you it could be some form of exercise, yoga meditation, a cup of coffee to start the day. Something that gives you a bit of control and stability and helps you feel like yourself regardless of whatever chaos is going on.

Of course there’s going to be times when it’s not possible to do some of these things. Right now our ability to go outside is limited with the lockdown, but I can instead sit on the balcony and get some fresh outside air. I can go and play some music and sing to calm down any nerves before they get the better of me, or take 5 minutes to lie down, breathe and meditate.

The key thing is to be consistent with these habits until they become so automatic you get back into your best routine as quickly as possible.

Spend five minutes planning your day

While in an ideal scenario I might be able to structure a week or month out in advance, my plans can change in the blink of an eye.

Next month I was supposed to be working with Svein Tuft and his gravel training camps. But now with the Corona quarantine this has all been postponed until later in the year so my schedule has changed.

Having a timetable for how I use my time during the week gets me started with routine when I’m working at home and in a different location to normal. For example I typically work in the mornings and evenings then train and socialise in the afternoons.

But this pattern rarely works well when I’m travelling.

When I’m on the go, I’ll spend a couple minutes each evening figuring out my plans for the next day and what I want or need to achieve. This can help keep me on track so that I’m productive with my time regardless of the location.

What ONE THING do you need to do?

Amongst the chaos of moving and travelling or unexpected change it can be easy to let things slide and before you know it a week or two has gone by and you’ve not had a chance to do something you really need to do until the deadline is right on top of you.

Figure out the ONE THING that you can do right now that will help you take baby steps towards a bigger goal or behaviour change that you are working on.

Work on building it into a daily habit, chipping away slowly towards a longer goal. Start small. Smaller than you think is going to make a difference. Because then it’s much easier to stick to and build it into your normal routine.

Right now I am smack bang in the middle of data collection, analysis and write up for my PhD research. Which, by the way you can take part in if you are a cyclist, triathlete or runner. It’s all too easy to let days and weeks go by without writing or reading anything in relation to my PhD if I don’t keep it front of mind. Instead I try and do at least 15 minutes a day of some sort of writing related to my research to keep me thinking about it and on track.

Remember everything takes more time than you think it will

Especially when travelling! It’s easy to forget the time it takes to get to the bus stop, or the train station while in transit. Travel itself can be physically and mentally tiring – even if all you do is sit on your butt all day!

I’ve found that it helps to try keep travelling days to a minimum if possible. And saying NO to opportunities that sound awesome but in reality probably will drain my energy and put me off track for a few weeks.

Saying yes to opportunities is a great way to get ahead in life and to push yourself out of your comfort zone. But it’s always worth thinking first about what the cost will be. Will saying yes to that job mean that you have to sleep less, or not spend as much time with your family?

We overestimate what we can do in a day or a week, but totally underestimate what we can do in a longer time frame like a year.

Most things will take longer than you think. That’s okay. Try and be realistic with your goals and block the time off accordingly to meet them. With a bit extra. Just in case.

Find alternative ways to be active

While I do travel a lot with my bikes, there are times that it’s unpractical to do. And right now we are all totally grounded which means indoor training using turbo trainers and Zwift is the way forward for the unforseeable future.

There are loads of online exercise classes that you can access, often for free and with no equipment required. If you save a couple into a playlist for future reference you’ll have an endless source of different indoor training sessions to keep you fit, strong and healthy.

Prepare food in advance

Convenience and takeaway often wins when on the move and food often becomes a last minute thought when life gets a bit chaotic.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a Cheeky Nando’s here or there. But eating out a little too often can subtly undermine your training efforts and be holding you back from seeing the results you want to see.

Taking a bit of extra time to shop, order food and ensure that you have plenty food in the house or ingredients to quickly throw together faster than a deliveroo delivery.

When making meals, always cook a bit more than you need and put those leftovers aside to take to work the next day or to have when you get back after a busy day at work or after a heavy training session. Little strategies like this can help keep you on track to make the best choice for you in the long term.

How do you find sticking with routine and habits amongst chaos?

Happy training!


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