Lessons I Learned: Staying Healthy in College

Let’s just say this, it is hard work to stay healthy in college. Some people (not including myself) have amazing metabolism and are continuously motivated to stay fit no matter the circumstances. I have always struggled with my weight, but the addition of exams and homework, as well as temptations to go out with friends and drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol, have proven to be stubborn obstacles in the way of me leading a healthy lifestyle. Now that I finally graduated and have time on my hands, I’m working hard to get to my goal weight and am starting to feel good about myself. For those that are just starting college or already struggling with the same things I have been struggling with, I hope you find the following list of things I learned to be helpful.

1) Do Take Advantage of Your Dining Halls

Don’t think just because you need to be healthy¬† you can’t eat the food the school provides for you. I mean I certainly did not have enough money to eat a healthy meal every single day and you can choose healthy things to eat from your dining hall. Plus, hello, it’s free. You are young and sometimes you need to take advantage of Taco Thursdays.

Don’t Overload Your Plate with Food

At the same time, don’t eat 2, 3, and especially not 4 plates of food every time you eat. Yes it’s free, and yes it’s all you can eat. But if you want pasta and pizza, try eating pasta one night and pizza another night. Chances are, you will get another chance to eat what they provide you and your stomach will thank you for not overfilling it with food you didn’t even need to eat. The best thing to do is pick your proportions wisely and make sure to eat plenty of fruits and veggies so that when it comes to carbs and deserts, you aren’t tempted to get giant helpings.

2) Do Create a Schedule for Working Out

The best advice I wish was given to me at age 18 was to create a schedule that coincides with when you have free time (and not when your favorite TV shows are on). Doing this helps you stick to your plan of working out multiple times a week and it makes life easier if you already know ahead of time when you will be working out. Make sure you give yourself enough time to do work AND have fun. The last thing you want to do is work out on a Friday night when all of your friends go out.

Don’t Stress About Having to Move Things Around

If something comes up and you can’t fit a workout in, don’t stress. At the end of the day, balance is what is important and you can always make up a missed work out another day or by making another workout longer. However, don’t make this a habit. Try to stick to a schedule for at least 3 weeks, and after that you’ll be less inclined to miss another workout and if you do you’ll be more inclined to make it up!

3) Do Find Ways to Make Workouts More Entertaining

I am a multi-tasker. I need to do 2 different things at once otherwise I get bored, and this is especially true when I’m on the treadmill or the bike for 45 minutes. Biking outside is one thing, but biking inside a building with four bland walls and maybe a few TVs is dull and makes the time pass by a lot slower. Update your workout playlists every now and then or even bring a phone or tablet to watch your favorite show. My new favorite this is listening to audio books. It keeps things interesting every time I workout, which is always a plus.

Don’t Stick to the Same Workout Routine

Another way to keeps things entertaining is to avoid doing the same routine every time you workout. It gets boring and too similar and makes it really easy for you to quit. Try out different forms of cardio every now and then and focus your strength exercises in different areas (ex: abs one day, legs the next). Not only will it keep things interesting, but it will help you see faster results.

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4) Do Convince a Friend to be a Workout Buddy

I think one of the best ways to stay motivated is to have a workout buddy that also needs help to stay motivated. For the last few years of college I had one friend who went to the gym with me almost every day and since our schedules were similar, it was easy to fit in the gym at the same time. On days where you feel lazy, they will more likely come through and motivate you to go to the gym, just like you will do the same for them. 

Don’t Rely on Friends to Keep You On Track

At the same time, don’t rely on them to help you stay motivated and eat healthy. Don’t mimic their moves and eat unhealthily just because they did. I still make this mistake and instead of sticking to my guns, I will give in and go out to eat when I could have had a healthy meal at home. At the end of the day, it is up to you to reach your goal.

5) Do Take Advantage of the School Gym

If your school offers a free gym, take advantage of the offer! A free gym membership is the absolute best thing to have. Most schools have a big enough gym to accommodate everyone that wants to use it. If it’s too busy, pay attention to the hours that most students use the gym and try to avoid those hours. If you need an alternative to your school’s gym, the cheapest option I have found is Planet Fitness but there are many ways to workout at home and outside for free.

Don’t Forget About Other Ways of Working Out

I did not take advantage of this as much as I should have in college and I wish I did. You don’t need to rely on the gym for exercise. Take a walk or go on a hike with friends! Go to an amusement park on the weekend and spend the entire day walking. There are so many ways that you can work out outside of the gym and so many activities you can do with friends (aside from partying) that can benefit your health.

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At the end of the day, it’s important to be healthy and happy but to also balance out work with fun. I am still working on all that, but I’m getting closer to my goal day by day. If you are at the point in life where you want to become healthier, it’s never too early to start!

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