This is the second article of a two part series on health and fitness in college. Part one discussed healthy eating, which can be a huge challenge for most students. While I do believe you are what you eat, being healthy in mind and body involves much more than food. That's why I found it important to devote an entire article to achieving your exercise goals and managing stress.
Find Your Balance
Staying fit in college is a balancing act as you juggle the demands of schoolwork and a social life as well as the needs of your body. Master this balance and you will feel happy, energetic, and exhilarated to take on each day and accomplish your goals. However, staying balanced is extremely challenging as situations alter, workloads grow, and bad habits return. For this reason, I encourage looking a holistic approach to health.
I approach my healthy goal-setting from three perspectives: the month, the week, and the day.
- Ask yourself first: where would you like to be in a month? Maybe you’d like to lose some inches of fat from your body collectively or maintain the healthy weight your at despite stress and weekend fun.
- Next, you need to figure out what milestones you would like to accomplish each week to reach that month goal. For example, to cut down on body fat, you’d like to eat 30 fruits and vegetables a week and make it to the gym three times during the week or run seven times.
- Lastly, you figure out what you need to do each day to achieve it. A day example could be to run in the morning, drink 70 ounces of water, and get 8 hours of sleep.
While this method may seem abstract, it’s proven effective. Having a larger lofty goal helps keep you motivated, the week goals make you feel like their achievable, and the day goals keep you focused. All three combined get you into the right mindset to tackling your goals and creating balance in your life. However, since you are in college and need to focus on school, make sure your goals are do-able and fit into your college schedule.
Turning Goals Into Reality
Once you have your goals laid out and an understanding of the cumulative effort each day has towards achieving your goals, you need to do it. The best way I have found to integrate goals into my day to day life is to plan ahead. For one week, I will plan when I will wake up, do my homework, go to class, eat (and what I will eat), work out, go to sleep, hang out with friends, work, etc. I try to follow this plan as closely as possible for an entire week so I can get in the habit of doing all of these things at these times.
After a week, I don't have to do as much planning and simply mimic the previous week as closely as possible. The purpose for me of that first week is to prove that all of those things can fit into one week. Having that detailed of a plan also keeps your stress levels low and keeps you from relying too heavily on discipline to do what you need to do.
The two biggest barriers of health, besides food which I covered in a previous post, is stress and lack of exercise. Stress negates the hard work you do in the kitchen to eat healthy and the gym working out. Therefore, creating plans like these to manage your stress, work out schedule, and sleep can help maximize the benefits you get from the healthy motions you are taking.
When All Else Fails
There are bound to be times when you cannot stick to your schedule. When the the time comes during the semester where you become so busy you feel you need to drop your healthy habits, focus on the little things. You don't need to go to the gym for an hour every day to be healthy, but you can still get in exercise. Here's what to do instead:
- Do a 10-minute of intense workout or meditation and yoga.
- If you really can't fit in a workout, try simply walking to class or to your next event rather than driving or taking public transportation.
- Eat as healthy and whole as possible. Resist temptation to cave to sugary, processed nutritionally deficient snacks. Fruit and nuts make excellent, energizing snacks if you think you are too busy to sit down to a meal.
- Try your best to put yourself to sleep on time.
- Keep drinking water.
Little steps like these can take up little brain power, leaving your focus on your school work, but have a huge positive impact on how you’ll feel and your health. While your balance may be off for a short period of time, don't completely give up on your goals. It will make it easier to get back on track when you are less busy.