In my first year of university, I tried to commit to going to the gym a few times a week, but because of the challenges of adjusting to life away from home and the school workload, I didn’t stay as active as I should have. A couple things changed during second year; even though I was even busier with school work, I started using some strategies to ensure I fit several workouts into my schedule each week. Additionally, I made an effort to move my body in some way every day.
Moving Every Day
For most people, it’s not going to be feasible to make it to the gym every single day. However, I find that consistency is key in promoting physical activity habits. In first year, it was common for me to go to the gym for two weeks straight and love it, but then I’d get thrown off by a couple midterms, miss a few days of working out, and have trouble motivating myself to get back in the habit. Now, rather than getting into a “streak” of going to the gym every day, my goal each day is to simply do something that is physically active. I don’t always choose something extremely strenuous, but it does have to be something intentional. For example, I’ll count going for a walk as something active, but I don’t consider the goal completed if I just walk to and from class. The reason I love having a “move every day” objective is that I can still feel I’ve accomplished my goal even if I have a day where my body is tired, or I’m not in the mood to do a traditional gym workout. On days when I don’t go to the gym, I’ll often go running or walking outside, do some yoga in my living room, go for a hike, or do a quick ab circuit at home.
The following are the tips I’ve found most effective for making fitness a priority and staying active every day.
Block out time in your schedule to work out.
Treat working out, whether it is at the gym or elsewhere, as an appointment. At the beginning of the semester, I print off my timetable week by week, and then use a highlighter to plan out times for meetings, study sessions, and other commitments (I know a lot of people like online calendars, but I find a hard copy more satisfying). On Sunday, when I look ahead at my plans for the week, I put a whole week’s worth of workout sessions into my schedule in advance. If you don’t maintain your health, are the other things that you do each day really that important long term? I keep always keep that in mind when I’m considering my priorities for the week.
Sign up for an intramural team
Most campuses have an intramural program that offers a wide variety of sports. If you played a sport in high school, or if you’re looking to try something new, I highly recommend signing up. Intramurals are a great way to socialize and de-stress, in addition to getting you moving. I’ve played basketball for my whole life, so when I wasn’t playing basketball at the very start of university, I felt like something was missing. Luckily, I started playing on a team with some people in my program in second semester of first year, and I’ve been on the same team every semester since. I’ve become really good friends with many of the people on my team, and in addition to playing our intramural games, we play pick-up basketball one night a week (which puts some extra physical activity into my schedule!).
Go to the gym right after your last class
If you have a membership at the gym on your campus, hit the gym as soon as your last class of the day is over. This saves time trekking to and from the gym earlier or later in the day (particularly if you live off campus). If I pack my clothes and running shoes with me when I leave for the day, I’m less likely to skip my workout, especially since I’m already so close to the gym.
Sign up for a race
If you’re into running, look online for a race that’s taking place in the city you go to school in. Having a race to look forward to can be great motivation to train hard. Participating in a race also allows you to become engaged with the city you go to school in. Want even more motivation? Sign up and train for the race with a friend! Running with a buddy is a great way to build a strong friendship.
Try a new fitness class at your gym
Many gyms offer fitness classes included in their membership price. In addition to simply blocking workout time into your schedule, trying out a class is a more definitive way to make an “appointment” at the gym. Some of the classes I’ve tried at my gym include spin classes, yoga, boot camp, and a number of circuit classes. In addition to being a fun experience, these classes also have given me ideas for activities I can incorporate into future workouts!
Try fitness classes in the community
Many fitness studios offer promotions for students, or have a free first class opportunity – capitalize on this! In the summer, I took a free kickboxing class at a gym with some girls from my work and ended up getting a membership because I loved it so much. In September, a local hot yoga studio had a free week of classes available for university students, so I signed up for that and attended 5 classes during the week. The best thing to do is find an activity you’re interested in and research studios in your city. Then you can call them or check their website to see whether they offer any special promotions. Next on my list: I’d love to take a barre class, so I plan to do some research to see if I can find a studio that offers the first class for free.
A short workout is better than no workout
Less strenuous activities like going for a walk are a great way to stay active if you don’t feel like going to the gym for a hard workout. But if you’re short on time, there’s also the opportunity to fit in a short but intense workout to get the benefits of working out, without taking too much time out of your study schedule. High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to have a challenging workout in a short amount of time, and it’s a form of training I use frequently. There has been a lot of research in the past few years about the multitude of benefits HIIT provides – check out these articles for more info: source, source. I’ll be posting some of the HIIT workouts I do on the blog in the future, so keep an eye out!
Do you have any tips for fitting fitness into your life? What’s the best fitness class you’ve ever tried?