The infamous freshman 15. We've all heard of it, and a large majority of us fear it or simply stay resigned to its inevitability. It was in a group chat that I realized, while many college students want to follow a healthier and fitter lifestyle upon leaving high school, not many know how to. After giving advice to my fellow students and friends, I realized others could benefit as well. So, without further ado, here are 10 tips I have for you to stay and get fit while in college.
1. Do it for yourself.
You are beautiful. You are handsome. You are enough as you are. Many people start working out because they don't believe these words (even though they're true). One major piece of advice I always give my friends who want to start going to the gym on the regular is that you should workout to be healthy, not sexy. If you're healthy and happy, the sexy bit comes naturally. If you want to start getting fit, go in with the mindset that you're doing it for yourself, not for society or anybody else. That conviction will help you stick to your guns and continue persevering through the challenges that you'll experience, and it will build your confidence as well.
2. Find your level.
Baby steps. If you've never run before, you're not gonna start working out by hitting the treadmill or track at a flat out sprint. Pace yourself and start off small. While it's OK to push yourself, over-stressing your body will hurt you, not help you. So find yourself, set small goals and GRADUALLY increase the difficulty as your body becomes accustomed to the changes. You can't run 10 miles without running a single mile and surviving it first. And please, I beg of you, warm your body up and stretch before you start doing anything really strenuous, and remember to stretch after. I cannot tell you how many pulled muscles and sore bodies I've had to massage out for my friends who thought stretching wasn't important.
3. Have workout buddies.
Sometimes you just need that extra push to get yourself out of bed in the morning or to the gym instead of staying a blanket burrito. That's what friends, roommates and workout buddies are for since personal trainers are money, money, money. Facebook and other social media sites are a great way to reach out to your peers and meet new people. My class has already created a group specifically for hikers and we have already set up multiple hikes for orientation week and during our first few weeks at school. Getting involved in such groups or sticking with a single person provides you with a great amount of support, advice and encouragement.
4. Diet + exercise = healthy body.
Work that mini fridge and snack like a boss! Just ... be healthy about it. Instead of snacking on cookies, sweets or vending machine goodies (as I tend to do), prepare yourself a trail mix to-go bag filled with your favorite nuts and dried fruits. Buy some healthy nutrient bars and stick to one or two a day. If you can, find your nearest Trader Joe's, Mother's, Sprouts or similar store and marry it. Their healthy yet delicious options will become your new besties, so be sure to stock your fridge. You also have to carry smart dieting decisions into the cafeteria, but be aware that there is more than one type of diet. If you're not a vegetable person, like myself, try eating more fruits and following a meat based diet, otherwise known as a Paleo Diet. Whatever you do, always go for the healthier option if you can and be sure to have a balanced diet containing all of the food groups, and if any concerns arise, consult your physician.
The best way to start working out is by creating a schedule. Either make your workout schedule around your college classes or schedule your college classes around your workout schedule. You have to make the timing work and you need to make it a regular thing. Work with your body's natural rhythm and "settings," if you will, while keeping what you want out of your lifestyle and workout in mind. If you want to wake up early, again, take baby steps and condition yourself slowly. You just have to keep up with it, follow a healthy diet and sleep enough hours. Simple enough, right?
6. Walk, Walk, Fashion Baby
If there is one thing you learn at Berkeley, it's that while walking may be a tedious pain, it makes your calves and butt look GOOD. If you're able to, WALK EVERYWHERE AND ANYWHERE! Walking is a great workout and a great way to create a change in your life, especially if you're unable to hit the gym every day or on a regular basis. It builds up your muscles, improves your cardio, forces your body to stay in motion instead of sitting and pushing a pedal plus and it's better for the environment. If you can't walk, try cycling. That's even better, especially if your campus has hills!
If you can't always go to and from your dorm room to change or you can't carry an extra bag for the gym, rock the athleisure fad. Aside from wearing comfy clothes that makes lazy sexy, you'll always be ready for a workout, whether that be a hike, a short run or a full gym session. Leggings and sports bras are a personal favorite of mine, but I've also found wearing athletic shorts as a part of your outfit works as well. Versatility and preparation is an essential part of your workout in a multitude of ways. It also makes the perfect outfit for an after-workout nap, which leads into the next subject.
I know this may be nearly impossible, but sleep is paramount to your overall health. If your brain is drained, the whole system will come crashing down eventually. Getting the full seven to eight hours we are suggested to may not be feasible over a single night so do as I do — nap like a pro. Power naps and cat naps are food for the soul, as I like to say. I have a few hour to two-hour openings in my schedule between classes and that is either spent studying, doing homework, eating or napping. Take advantage of your free time. A short little 30-minute pick-me-up to a one hour and a half recharge session throughout the day will change your world.
9. Stick with it.
The key to doing almost anything successfully is to set a goal and stick to it until completion before setting a new goal. Don't get into the mindset that it's too much and don't let yourself feel defeated. If you ever do feel that way, take a day off and treat yourself. Take a break and relax for a moment, but don't forget to get back on that horse and keep going. Being healthy and staying fit is a continuous process that should be continued throughout your entire life. You can't just workout for a single month and then be done; you have to keep going every day into every year if you truly want to follow and adopt a fit lifestyle. Don't give up, and take strength from those around you to keep going if you must. It may be hard in the beginning, but I promise you it's more than worth it.
10. Hold yourself accountable.
The only way you can make this work is if you hold yourself accountable and have a system of checks and balances, if you will. If you skip a scheduled workout session, have a punishment in place like no dessert, not being able to watch the new episode of your favorite television show for a week, no Netflix, etc; whatever punishment will keep you in line, follow through with it. If you know you don't have the willpower to stick it through, get yourself an accountabilibuddy who will make sure your punishment is followed through. You can even have your friends or accountabilibuddy choose a punishment for you. Whatever you do, have a system that holds you accountable for slacking off or having a cheat day when you weren't supposed to.
No one said being healthy or fit was going to be easy, but hopefully these steps will help you get on your way. I can't tell you how to work your body or what workout would be best for your body type or goals, but I can assure you these tips work when applied properly and consistently. You have to start somewhere and there is no better time than now. So get out there and try, and don't stop trying!
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