In my opinion, wellness and fitness in college is hard and it has been hard to maintain throughout my four years. You need to do the work for your classes and juggle internships, extra curriculars, part-time jobs, social life, and more. PLUS, you need to find time to exercise, have room for wellness, consider your spirituality and mental health, and take care of yourself and your personal needs.
But, once I established that my wellness is a non-negotiable because it is essential to my happiness, I was able to adjust and force fit it in.
That being said, staying in shape, working out, and eating healthy has been incredibly challenging in college–especially if you’re not a student-athlete. My freshman year was spent as a weird transition period between once being a student-athlete who would workout for 5hrs a day to nothing. I gained weight, was uninspired and aimless whenever I did go to the gym, consumed calorie heavy beverages, ate pizza on a daily basis, and ate multiple and huge portions at the caf. Since then, I struggled to figure out a regimen and tried a bunch of different things.
I picked up running and joined NYRR and started running a ton of races including my first 13.1s, 18miles, and finally the 2016 NY Marathon. It felt amazing to have an end goal, a schedule to keep me on track, and a desperate need for accountability because if I skipped a run, I would end up really regretting it. Only once I was training for something with an end goal, did I feel motivated and strong. Plus, it was amazing to finally see it come to fruition with successful completion of my first marathon in NYC of all places.
In between my running stints, I would try to invent new and exciting workouts at the gym for myself focusing on different body parts which was helped by the plethora of online resources available.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to stress is that wellness in college is important, especially well-rounded wellness that includes everything from sleep, food, portions, moderation, challenges, mental health, therapy, and more.
It’s do-able and the following are some tips on how to.
My non-negotiables in college has been 8 hours of sleep no matter what, my mental health over everything, me-time, and daily exercise and if the gym wasn’t possible there is a need for some amount of movement. Therefore, figuring out your priorities and non-negotiables is essential to developing your wellness plan in college.
In high school I rarely got 8 hours of sleep. If I was lucky it was 7 but it was usually around 5-6. I would go to school everyday exhausted, unhappy, physically exhausted due to practice, and prone to crying over anything. I would try top cope and make it into a joke. “I have no mentally sanity!” I would the gleefully laugh and everyone would join me because it was so glaringly obvious and so sad.
I now correlate a lack of sleep to a immediate plummet in my mental health. Therefore, when I went to college, that was the first thing I attempted to change. Since then, I consistently get 8hrs of sleep and I haven’t had to pull an all-nighter once. I budgeted my time and even if I had an assignment to do, I would make sure that I would get it done early or would be able to justify pausing and going to sleep.
Sleep is important–I don’t need to tell you that. The research is overwhelming and Arianna Huffington preaches it. Prioritize your sleep.
This ended up being something that I didn’t anticipate needing. My freshman year, I was constantly surrounded by people. In my dorm, in my room, and in my classes. Sometimes, I felt as if I had no space to be alone and to be myself.
Once I figured that out (which at the time, I considered to be such an adult and wise decision), I made a point of getting breakfast alone and going on random adventures downtown alone. It was essential to help my transition into college. Since then, I now have my own bedroom and have picked up nesting in my room, with my candles on, no laptop/phone, and with the book I’m currently reading. I never realized how much I enjoyed having being cozy, alone, without tech, and happy.
Taking care of my mental health means that I am journaling, sleeping enough, taking advantage of counseling services at my university, and confronting my anxiety. If I am overwhelmed or stressed, I pause and try to evaluate where I need to be.
The happiest version of myself is someone who is transparent and upfront about what my mental health needs to thrive and I am that much better for it.
Again, I don’t need to tell you that exercise is important. That even one workout can improve your happiness, your heart, longevity, and more. For me, exercise is my favorite form of self-love/self-care. It is selfish, inexpensive, and wholesome me time. It allows me to express myself through physical means, to explore new areas in the Bronx through long runs, to lean into discomfort by pushing myself to physically excel, to make new friends, and to have goals to reach for.
I tell my body that I love it by giving it all the exercise and love it needs. Not once, do I ever try to disturb my self-image, my body, or my mind with any negative talk about my appearance. When I feel strong, hit a new personal record, and finally ran that marathon do I feel my most alive and well.
Can you tell that I am the daughter/grand daughter of coaches and that I am a former student-athlete who pursued (in my opinion) the most challenging sports that there is to offer–swimming and water polo.
Plus, I credit exercise with saving my life and keeping my happy and healthy. Whenever I’ve been in an emotional rut or completely devastated beyond being able to properly express it, I hit the gym. I run up-hill. I swim laps and count my strokes. I pedal my feet in down dog and lean into my discomfort.
TLDR; exercise! You and your body will love you for it!!
Now, check out what I do to keep it up and keep the motivation flowing.
People I follow on Instagram
- Hannah Bronfman, Kira Strokes, Amanda Bisk, Maggie Steffens (water polo Olympian!!) , Body my Simone, PopSugar, Tanya Poppett, Bree Branks, Nicole Winhoffer, Chinae Alexander, Ally Miss Love, Karli Kloss, Christopher Kadima, and moree
I love using Instagram for fitness tips/ideas/recipes/workouts and more. I try to follow a diversity of athletes, models, fitness aficionados, and trainers who embody a healthy and wholesome love for exercise and additionally have many different types of body types/strengths. They keep me motivated and pumped and reminds me to get up and go. Plus, I can now save videos/pictures of exercises/workouts on my phone and pull them up when I’m at the gym and need some inspo.
Websites/Apps that I follow
- PopSugar Fitness (!!!)
- Well and Good
- Mind Body Green
- NYTimes Well and the newsletter
- NYTimes Running Newsletter
- NYTimes how to Meditate Guide
Before college, I couldn’t run. 3 miles was my own marathon. I knew nothing of times, intervals, splits, distances, or anything. And because of that, I knew I needed to run. It was easy and accessible and a fun new challenge. The resources for running are endless and run and there are so many different communities to try out. I did NYRR and did the 9+1 and was able to run in the 2016 New York Marathon. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done–for multiple reasons. I went from not being able to run to running my first full marathon within two years of picking up running and it was awesome!
Aside from learning how to run I learned how to rest and to treat my body respectfully. After my first major stint of being very run-happy (my 1st semester junior year) I developed a stress fracture in my ankle. I was totally bummed and had to stop running for the four months I was abroad (which ended up being a happy coincidence). Since then, I learned the importance of stretching everyday, taking rest days, and rolling. I bought inserts for my flat feet and after four months of no exercising/studying abroad I hit the pavement and got back to running.
I’d like to stress that you are capable than much more than you suppose and exercise should be fun and challenging.
- Try to drink in moderation and not to the point of getting sick. Stay safe, stick with a friend, and keep an eye on your drink.
- If you’re a person who menstruates:
- Figure out the best form of birth control for you and your lifestyle. There are more options that just the pill! There are different types of IUDs, shots, condoms, and implants (like Nexplanol!)
- Find a friend!
- They’ll keep you accountable.
- Double the fun!
- Experiment with different times to workout!
- In between classes!
- After sitting at work all day!
- Incorporate it in your morning/evening routine
- Go outside and:
- Hike !! and explore
Things I didn’t do / didn’t work for me
- Kayla Itsines Bikini Guide
- First, it was expensive, required equipment my gym didn’t have, and I was extremely disappointed by the lack of variety in the workouts and I saw no results.
- Calorie count
- Too tedious and got nothing out of it.
- Restrict what I can and cannot eat.
- I have no self-control when it comes to food. My philosophy has always been, as long as I am exercising, I can eat what I want. It’s not a fool-proof method, but it works for me.
- Major disappointment for me but the IUD ended up not being the best form of birth control to suit my lifestyle.