Isn’t it a wonderful feeling when you’ve found your health groove?

Eating well, exercising regularly, getting fresh air, sleeping more restfully, feeling more energized.

Being ‘on’ the wagon is a wonderful feeling.

But then real life happens.

A two-week business trip. An important professional deadline requiring 16-hour work days. Vacation! Or the first few weeks of adjusting to the kid’s summer vacation schedule.

And we fall ‘off’ the wagon.

Business trips used to topple me from my wagon. These days, Rj and I do extended travel for art shows, stressing me out weeks before we leave to figure out ways to stay ‘on’ my wagon while spending hours driving in a van and eating out every night.

First we stress out about how to continue our good routines during this period of disruption. Hotels, eating out, sitting in cars/airplanes, not getting home until after 10pm only to have to be up and at ’em at 6am the next morning.

But then we do something even worse.

We resign ourselves to the fact that we are ‘off’ the wagon.

I’m completely guilty of writing off weeks of good health because I was too stressed about how to keep up my routine while on the road. In fact, I realized that I used to apply this on/off thinking to something as small as my weekly routine.

During the week I would be ‘on’ (exercise, eat well, go to bed early). Then on the weekends, I would be ‘off’ (because I was so good during the week, I deserved the weekend off, right?!).

The classic pendulum swing. We are either on — or we are off. When we are on, we are ON. And when we are off, well, we are completely OFF.

I was at a coach training session last year when I was introduced to a completely new way of thinking about my wagons. Our presenter gave us an example of working with one of his clients who was preparing for a business trip. The client was stressing out about how to manage what had become a really good routine while on an extended business trip, where his schedule, access to food, and ability to exercise would be completely out of his control.
He would be ‘off’ his wagon.

Our presenter posed this idea: why do we have to be ‘on’ or ‘off’ one particular wagon?

Why can’t we just have different wagons?

WOW. Mind. Blown.

I had never considered this idea! Could it be possible to find different ways of staying healthy while in different scenarios?

I felt the stress melt away immediately. Yes! I have different wagons! And each wagon will have a slightly different approach. When I’m in control of my schedule/food sources/exercise equipment/comfortable bed, I will have one routine.

Then, when on the road in the van, I will have another routine. And on vacation, I will find another routine.

Even on weekends! I will have a weekend routine!

I will never be ‘off’ my wagon.

Each routine will incorporate as much goodness as possible. Sometimes more goodness than others, but at no point will I just throw in the towel.
I will always stay ‘on’ a wagon.

I’ll give you an example. My home wagon (previously known as ‘on’ the wagon) and my travel wagon (previously known as ‘off’ the wagon):

Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t stress out about real life interference. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying your vacation. Don’t sabotage your weekly progress on weekends.

You need never be ‘off’ your wagon again. Just hop on a different wagon, and make the most of the ride.

If you do nothing else…

Identify your wagons. Then, as each one pops up in your life, create your health plan specific to that wagon.

June 6, 2016 Gayle Hilgendorff

Originally published at on June 6, 2016.

Originally published at


  • Gayle Hilgendorff

    Executive Health and Leadership Coach, Thrive Global Facilitator, Author and Aspiring Blogger

    Gayle Hilgendorff Executive Health and Leadership Coach / Thrive Global Facilitator / Aspiring Blogger (corporate2carny) / Author of Live More, Work Better: A Practical Guide to a Balanced Life (Bascom Hill Publishing Group, 2015) Gayle Hilgendorff is a certified executive health and leadership coach who left her Managing Director of Human Resources position at Accenture in 2011 to found her own business focused on helping corporate executives achieve their best, professionally and personally, through better health. While at Accenture, Gayle was responsible for executive career coaching and leadership development programs for a global organization of 30,000 people. After a turning point in her own career, she realized that true leadership and professional success were founded on being a healthy person – mentally, physically and emotionally – not just working harder. Gayle’s health passion became a platform for her consulting work with corporate executives. Working with participants across the globe, she incorporates holistic health concepts into her leadership coaching. Gayle integrates basic knowledge about how eating better, moving more, and finding ways to manage stress are the true foundations for a successful personal and professional life. With science backed concepts, and easy to integrate actions, Gayle’s programs have received high praise and tangible results. Gayle’s background in the corporate world combined with her likable, easy style make her a believable, relatable coach/presenter/author who has proven success in helping people make big change.