Welcome Frosh 😉
Sound familiar? It’s my second year not going back to school and I am dealing with it much better than last fall. I’m happy with where I am in life plus my boyfriend didn’t go back to school without me this time around. It seems things keep getting better as time goes on so I am only excited about moving forward.
Still, I can’t help but feel the buzz in the air as students go back and summer is winding down. September will always have that way about it and seeing some fellow bloggers returning for another year inspired me to write a post on how to stay healthy and fit in university (or college).
I’ve definitely learned a lot since my first year of engineering but I was always serious about healthy eating and exercise. This post is not just about avoiding the freshman 15. It’s about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle while juggling the books, student union, parties & whatever else you might be into.
Since I spent my university days living apartment style, this post doesn’t focus much on meal hall woes but in general I think it can apply to most students.
1. Make a fitness plan for the week
Take a look at your class schedule and what projects or tests you have coming up at the beginning of each week. Try to schedule workouts before or between classes. You’ll be more likely to actually follow-through, plus you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on the rest of the day.
I made a rule that I had to get up at the same time everyday, no matter what time class started. Usually my day started at 8:30 but if class wasn’t until 9:30 or later, my gym buddy and I would head to the campus gym before class. On our early days we’d go between classes or at the end of the day before heading home for dinner. After dinner we always went back to the library to study so I avoided evening workouts.
Britt and I aimed for 5 workouts per week and we were really big on BodyRock in our last year. We also took a lot of pages from Women’s Health or Shape Magazine.
2. Plan your meals before you hit the grocery store
This is a both time and money saver. It will help you avoid making several trips to the store and having food go bad. You will always have healthy meals on the menu and the ingredients to make it happen. Once in a while its OK to throw a frozen pizza in the oven but if you make that a habit your abs won’t see Christmas.
Some of my typical meals included spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes, steam veggies, pasta bowls, quinoa, english muffin pizzas and stir fry. I also always kept cans of Amy’s soups and some frozen veggie burgers on hand for quick meals. I wasn’t vegetarian in university but I rarely cooked myself meat.
3. Take advantage of your student I.D.
This little baby will get you discounts at the grocery store, it will get you into “student nights” at various bars for free, and it will likely get you a free membership to the campus gym. Some student cards also got you cash back at local stores and restaurants if you put money on your account and used it to pay.
On Tuesdays, students with an Airmiles card and student ID got 10% off at Sobeys in Halifax. In my last year I went for groceries every Tuesdayat 7:30 am before the gym. I liked to get there before the students cleared out the produce and to have everything I needed early in the week.
4. Watch the flyer
Flyers for almost all local grocery stores are available online. Watch for deals, especially on organic produce, and stock up (see #5). You can freeze foods like berries and bread and it will stay fresh for weeks.
I used to go crazy over 3/$5 Larabars. If something is pricey, like Larabars on a regular day, make your own bars at home. It seems expensive to purchase all of the ingredients at first but it saves you money in the long run.
5. Don’t get caught up on brand names or organic food
When you’re out in the working world it’s a different story. For now, as a student, don’t get yourself down thinking it’s too expensive to eat healthy because you can’t stock up on organic or brand name food. The grocery store brand of Chickpeas will do, especially if they’re on for 99 cents! Brush up on the dirty dozen and try your best to buy those items organic but regardless, it’s better to eat non-organic apples than processed, packaged snacks.
6. Cook for two
No, not for you and your roommate. When you cook, make enough to have leftovers for the following day. I loved making a big pot of quinoa and using it for salads and sides all week. A squash usually lasted me 3 days and I always baked extra sweet potatoes.
7. Pack a lunch
If you’re on a meal plan, this one might not apply to you. I never went to school without a lunch packed. If I was really in a pinch, I would pick up a pre-made salad at the grocery store on my walk to school but I hated wasting my money on that. I packed the same kind of lunch that I take to work now. A big salad or a sandwich for my main plus fruit, veggies/hummus, trailmix, homemade bars or Larabars/Lunabars.
8. Party smart
When you’re exhausted from being out late (or having a few pops) you don’t make good decisions. You crave grease, skip the gym, and your willpower is nil. Have fun but try not to let partying get the best of you. I definitely had my share of fun in university but I often had to evaluate whether or not it was worth it. Sometimes it was and sometimes it wasn’t but I would never miss out on an engineering event 😉
Another one of my rules was no take-out after a night out. It didn’t always hold strong but for the most part I went home and made toast & pb or English muffin pizzas to get my fix. After consuming the extra calories in drinks it wasn’t worth doing double damage.
9. Find a gym buddy
If you commit to meeting someone to workout everyday, you won’t skip. Lucky for me my best girlfriend and fellow chemical engineering student was my gym partner. We walked to school everyday with our book bag, gym bag and lunch bag and rarely missed a day. We had some pretty sad Friday afternoon workouts but hey, something is better than nothing!
10. Make time for you!
If you aren’t taking a time-out now and then to reboot, you will burn yourself out. There will be days when you just need to sleep in, skip the gym, or take a break from the books. Maybe it’s as simple as taking a walk or jog in the park instead of hitting the weight room. Maybe you just need a Friday night in with a cup of tea and some girl talk. You can’t burn the candle at both ends, as my mother would say!
Most of us only get to go around once so make the most of your college experience. It’s all about balance, just like in the working world. If you are really stressed out about an exam, give yourself the day to study and make a promise to workout on the weekend. If you only get 4/5 in this week, it’s not the end of the world. As long as most days are good days you will be just fine.
I had my share of Alexandra’s poutine and Darrell fries in my Dalhousie days but still managed to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle and come out with a good GPA and a job! I didn’t have any special advantage as far as funding goes and I wasn’t someone who could just make A’s without studying. I worked by a$$ off and I’m proud to say I am now an engineer in training 🙂
Staying healthy & fit in college is 100% doable. Find your motivation. Find your gym buddy. And rock that mini skirt on Saturday night 😉
Have an awesome school year students!