Being healthy is hard in college. There, I said it. No one really talks about exercise during college; when people talk about being healthy, they usually mean how not to gain weight, and for that they recommend not drinking too much and not eating too many oreos. But being healthy is more than that. It’s about exercising, working hard, and being mentally healthy too. For many college kids, the problem lies in finding the time to go to class, do work, go to an internship, have a social life, and exercise, and trust me, the balance is not easy. But I think I have found a method that helps even the busiest of students stay on track and continue a healthy lifestyle. During my freshman year, I dreaded going to the gym, because it seemed like a punishment for all the garbage I had been eating over the last week. But changing your mindset, and therefore your attitude, towards working out can change your entire workout routine altogether. Everyone comes back from summer vacation looking fit and tan, but once the tan fades we all seem to forget the healthy regimens we were so good at maintaining during the summer. So I thought I would focus on exercise tips today, and share some fitness ideas that make being healthy in college exceptionally less challenging.
Set realistic goals // Start by thinking about how you want working out to change your life. Do you want to gain muscle, lose weight, or just be healthy and happy? Exercising can do so much for so many people, so decide what you want it to do for you. If you have been working out over the summer, and you felt fit and fantastic, maybe setting some goals will just help you maintain what you accomplished over the summer. But what I always remind anyone who wants to go to the gym is that it’s a journey; think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. I can guarantee that you will not see extreme results in one week or even one month. It has taken a lot of time for me to notice serious changes, both in my body and my health. So set goals that reflect the notion that this will take time; for me, I wanted to look and feel a certain way, but I never really cared about the number on the scale. Think about how you want to feel, or how much weight you want to lift. Do you want to be able to run a seven minute mile, or deadlift 150 pounds? Think about what goals you can set that can be clear and simple. Planning to lose fifteen pounds can seem clear and simple, but in reality it is so difficult, and not reaching your goal weight is more discouraging than encouraging; in the end, you’ll just feel deflated. Your goals should motivate you, so set them with you and your body in mind.
Make a plan, make a schedule // Once you’ve set a few goals for yourself, you need to decide exactly how you want make this happen. Exercising consistently starts with making a schedule. Sit down on a Sunday night, and make a plan of action for the week. How many days do you want to work out? How much time do you have to spend in the gym? Is there an area of your body that you want to dedicate your workouts to? Do you want to do cardio, strength training, or a combination? Answering these questions will help you narrow down your plans, and will help you customize a workout that is right for you. That way, when you go looking online for workout tips and ideas for exercises, you can focus on finding exercises that fit your needs.
Next, make a schedule. This is really what changed working out for me, because it made me commit time out of my day to working out. I no longer had the classic excuse “I’ll go tomorrow,” because it was on my calendar that I had set time aside for a workout, and therefore I needed to go today. But like I said about goals, be realistic. If you have a full schedule and little time to dedicate to going to the gym, start your week with one 30-minute workout on Monday, and one 30-minute workout on Saturday. Keep adding as needed, but always make sure that you are being realistic about how much you can actually do. It’s okay if you can’t go to the gym every single day, but it hurts you more if you write down that you will go every day, and then you never do. If you commit to two or three days a week, it’s harder to wriggle your way out of it! Making a plan gives you a good routine, and when working out becomes a healthy habit, you tend to like it more!
Stay motivated // Once you have set goals and made a plan, think about how you will motivate yourself to continue to workout and stay fit, even when schoolwork gets heavy or you get tired. Finding time to fit in a workout is especially difficult if you have no motivation to go in the first place! I have a few ways that I like to stay motivated, and all of them are pretty simple. I make a workout playlist with music to get me pumped, buy that new sports bra I’ve been eyeing, or promise myself a chai latte the next morning. I also go to the gym with a friend a lot, and it works well for a few reasons. One, if you plan to go to the gym with a friend, you are held accountable for going. Two, you and your friend can teach each other new exercises, or race each other on the bikes. And three, working out with a friend is way more fun that exercising by yourself. You can sing along to the same songs or help each other lift weights. So next time you want to go to the gym, plan to go with a friend! Make plans that will keep you exercising and enjoying the workouts. Whatever it is that keeps you going, do it! Staying motivated is the key to exercise.
Treat yourself // An important part of working out is rewarding yourself for the good work that you do! Just because you have started working out does not mean that you should starve yourself of the things you enjoy, or punish yourself for not doing it all perfectly. If it’s the weekend, and I’m at dinner with friends, and they are all getting a dessert, I’ll get a dessert! An important part of having a workout routine is finding balance, so remember that you are allowed to have a treat every once in awhile. Once every week or two I give myself a bit of a cheat day, which means I either don’t go to the gym or I have something cheeky to eat. Either way, I let myself have one day to enjoy something nice for myself. I’m not just rewarding all my hard work at the gym, but all my hard work throughout the week too!
Don’t be hard on yourself // When you have a strict workout schedule like I do, it’s hard not to be mad at yourself when you are too tired to workout, or you can’t find the time to go to the gym. But please, don’t punish yourself for not doing everything or not doing it all perfectly. This tiny mistake is just a miniscule part of your fitness journey. Harping on eating that second doughnut does you no good, but going to the gym and getting a good workout in will. And if you need a break, take one. Listen to your body and take note. What is more important than exercise is being okay mentally. Getting sleep is scientifically proven to be better for your body than spending an hour at the gym, so if you can get some extra z’s before your next class, do it. Always remember that you are enough, and you are doing the best you can.
Here are some other easy tips to get some exercise into your busy schedule:
• Skip the elevator, take the stairs!
• Wait a few extra minutes before leaving for class, and speed walk across campus! Speed walking is proven to be much better for you than just regular walking.
• Don’t take public transportation, and walk to work instead. Or, if you don’t have time to walk, grab a rental bike and ride to work!
• Offer to hang out with your friends and go for a hike or a run. That way you can see your friends and work out at the same time!
Having an exercise routine as a college student is just plain hard. It sometimes seems impossible, and other times just seems completely unnecessary. But exercise is about so much more than just knocking off those few extra pounds or getting a little more definition in your arms. It’s about having a better night’s sleep, having a stronger immune system, feeling less tired, feeling healthier and feeling stronger and feeling so much better. It’s about knowing that you can set your sights on something and reach your goals. So treat your body right and get your workout on! You can go to the gym, but you can also go for a run outside, go on a hike with your friends, or lift some weights at home. Whatever works for you is what will help you be in the most successful. And always know that, when it comes to working out, not matter how tough or intimidating it seems, you really can do it.
Have you found a workout routine that works for you?