College is weird when you think about it out of context. You basically live in a small community mostly made up of 18-22 year olds. You share a room with a stranger and have to decide what to do with the rest of your life. There are people from every corner of humanity, and ideas you may have never considered are abundant. It can be overwhelming to make decisions about how to fill your day. The options are endless: join a club, go to the rec, rush a sorority or fraternity, study, work, eat, hunt down free T shirts, attend sporting events, etc. etc. With all of this it can be easy to throw a healthy lifestyle out the window. Hindsight is 20/20 and there are several things I wish people had told me going into my Freshman year of college. Everyone learns as they go, but I figured I’d share a few things that worked for me in my 3.5 years of college.
- Utilize the student recreation building: Most college rec centers are nicer than your average gym. Plus, as a student, there are so many benefits that you may not even know are there. Many colleges hire student personal trainers, and offer sessions at affordable rates. If you’re new to working out, or just need someone to hold you accountable, this can be a great route to take. Good trainers know how to help you meet your goals, and they will remove the stress of creating programming. If you don’t want to pay extra for a trainer, or prefer a group setting, check out classes like Zumba, Insanity, etc. for a full body, heart-rate raising workout. I do really wish I would’ve taken advantage of the other things, such as the rock climbing wall and opportunities to try out new sports. If you find something you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with it and make it a part of your routine. The employees are there to help, so don’t be afraid to ask and find out what all is available.
- Use physical activity to be social: The people you hang out with are usually a reflection of yourself. There are so many ways to find people with similar interests and priorities. If Greek life is something you are interested in, find out what kind of lifestyle they promote during recruitment. In my sorority, girls went to the gym together on a regular basis. There were also usually intramural sports going on.
- Be smart about food: Okay, okay I know this is stating the obvious. There are 1001 places that will tell you how to make good choices in dining halls. The other place to watch calories is alcohol. Try to avoid drinks with added sugar, and practice moderation. other word of advice is to pay the extra fee to have a mini fridge if that’s an option, and stock it with healthy snacks. This will save you from (some) midnight Whataburger runs, and hopefully also save you some money. When you move into a place with a kitchen, LEARN TO COOK. So many young people are limited to pasta because it’s all they know how to make. Basic cooking skills can be picked up by anyone, and will pay off every single day. I was lucky enough to grow up cooking, and my major was also full of culinary classes. This is not the case for everyone, and there are plenty of resources to help you learn. I’m planning some easy recipe posts but I also recommend these for inspiration:
- Budget Bytes: Beth does a fantastic job of putting together easy to follow recipes that won’t break the bank. Baked Chicken with Tomatoes and Artichokes is one of my favorite recipes of the site.
- Reddit: There are so many subreddits for different kinds of food/cooking techniques and plenty of people willing to give good advice.
- Prioritize sleep: My 7 or 8 hours were pretty non-negotiable. I always did better on tests with an extra hour of sleep over an extra hour of studying. You may be different, but find how much you need to be a functional human being and don’t budge from that.
- Find an active job: If you decide to work while going to school, your job can help you stick to a healthy lifestyle instead of making you stray. On-campus employment at the rec center or with one of the sports teams may be the right fit. Otherwise, opportunities abound off-campus as well. At the gym where I worked part-time in college, the staff would all take group fitness classes together and go out for healthy meals after our shifts. Several athletic-wear retail stores also promote wellness among their employees and require/maybe even help pay for active outlets. Shop around and find something that will be worth your while- a job should enhance your college experience, not be something to suffer through.
- Fit in what you can: The internet is a great place to find dorm-friendly workouts. Knock out a HIIT or core circuit before you shower in the morning, and reap the benefits all day. You can find ideas on YouTube, Instagram, and even cute infographic workouts on Pinterest. It’s amazing how much can be achieved with minimal space and equipment. If you prefer to work out in your room, it might be worth the investment to keep a pair of dumbbells or a set of resistance bands under your bed. More on this in posts to come!
- Don’t forget about mental health: Everyone adjusts differently. There were plenty of times I called my parents crying about a stressful class or uncertainty about my major. If you’re struggling, your campus most likely has mental health professionals available to talk to. On a daily basis, don’t forget to take time out for yourself. Indulge in that decadent meal out with friends sometimes, splurge on that Lush bath bomb, go hiking, or take a yoga class. Find the little things that you appreciate and make them a part of your routine.
- Take a health-related elective: Take advantage of learning from professionals. Make the most of your learning opportunities and take a class that sounds intriguing. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn more about nutrition, or maybe you are dying to take a bowling class. These courses may not always be the easiest options, but they will be a nice change from the occasional monotony of core classes. Flip through the course catalogue and you might be surprised by what you find.
I may have only graduated eight months ago, but man the nostalgia is real after writing this. Have a blast, enjoy the ride, and don’t be stupid. Going in with a plan and staying consistent will help you adult harder right from the starting gate. Prioritize your health and happiness, then the rest will follow. Just remember, it WILL take awhile to acclimate to college and everything that comes with it. Don’t feel like you have to be 100% consistent or #health all the time. Find what adds happiness to your life, not what adds stress.