How to Work Out More, Eat Healthier, Relax & Get Inspired This School Year

Heading back to college each fall means lots of exciting changes – new classes, a new dorm room, new roommates, and maybe even a new you! The best part of the start of a new year is that you have a clean slate, so you can make those changes to improve your health that you never got around to last year. Living healthier may be easier said than done, but with these tips on how to successfully stay fit, eat well, get inspired, and even relax, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will be (almost) as easy as 1-2-3(-4). So this year, don't just make resolutions and forget about them one week later—stick to them and get the results you want!

1. Create a Workout Plan

Each year, I decide that I am going to work out more frequently, and each year I end up becoming so busy that I forget about my resolution as quickly as I made it! So what’s a girl to do with a busy schedule and an aversion to the treadmill keeping her away from the gym?

Schedule It

Whip out your trusty planner on Sunday night and look at your schedule for the week. Do you have a two-hour break between classes on Wednesdays? Or a class-free afternoon on Mondays? Find pockets of time and then pencil (or pen!) in a workout. Instead of sitting in the library for two hours between classes, bring your running shoes and workout clothes in your backpack and head to the gym to kill the time. Treat your scheduled workouts like an important appointment. Planning to work out at a certain time each day will help you to keep yourself accountable and help you stay fit!

Find a Workout Buddy

Let’s face it - getting yourself to go to the gym is often the hardest part of your workout. But if you plan to work out with a friend at a certain time each week, you’ll have someone to convince you to hop off the couch even if you’re feeling lazy.

Nicole Gartside from NYU swears that her workout buddies keep her active. “I love having a workout buddy because then there is someone to hold me accountable,” she says. “Oftentimes when I make plans to go to the gym on my own, I'll blow it off or if I do go, I mess around on the machines for a little while. When you have someone to push you and to ensure you keep your plans, it's much easier to get to the gym and actually work out.”

Get Out of the Gym

If you’re not a gym lover, it can be hard to leave your dorm room even when you’ve scheduled a workout. Harper Yi from The College of William and Mary admits that she is prone to eating her feelings and hates the treadmill. However, she’s found ways to stay active and healthy that don’t include heading to the gym.

“Find things that you enjoy!” she says. “Lots of ways to exercise don't involve the gym at all. It could be walking across campus to see your friends a few times a week, or biking to the store instead of taking the bus, or playing frisbee for a half an hour. Working out doesn't have to just be going to the gym.”

There are many ways to stay fit and active without spending time indoors at the gym, so try a few before you give up on staying fit altogether. Rachel Rondeau from UNC Chapel Hill recommends making a list of easy ways to add a workout to your normal, every day routine.

“I really hope to stay in shape this year,” she says. “One of my smaller health resolutions is to take the stairs as much as possible. I'll be on the fifth floor of my dorm, so hopefully it'll add up!"

2. Eat Healthier

Each year, I also resolve to eat healthier while I’m at school, a goal that seems to be nearly impossible once I actually get back to campus and am surrounded by heaping portions in the dining hall and greasy late-night fast food.

But this year, the following small changes will make that goal easier—and can help you keep the pounds off while also becoming a master chef!

Find a Healthy Eating Buddy

Just like working out, eating healthy is much easier when you have someone else to keep you accountable. Plus, you often mimic the eating habits of the person you eat your meals with, so deciding to eat healthy with a friend could help you make some serious changes in your diet! Schedule at least a few meals per week with your healthy eating bud to keep each other accountable.

Harper also suggests keeping yourself accountable by keeping a food diary or blog to document your health and fitness goals.

“I think a lot of people do one of those ‘just this once’ splurges and slip-ups, which are fine, until you realize you have those three times a day,” she says. “Some people write down everything they eat, just so that they can look back and see how their diet has improved, and take that extra second to think ‘is this something I'm going to be okay with writing down in my food diary?’ Some people like having a more public form of accountability and document their health and fitness goals on a blog. Others still decide to blog every meal they eat, as a way of challenging them to try new things, while staying away from unattractive, greasy, fatty foods – whatever works for you!”

Get Cookin’

Eating out at restaurants, in the cafeteria, or at fast food joints leaves you little control over what products you’re ingesting. Cooking your own food, however, is a great way to change your diet because you are able to control both the ingredients and the portion sizes of your meal. Even if you only start with cooking one or two meals per week for yourself, you’ll be learning important skills that you can keep with you for the rest of your life!

Look no further than the Internet for thousands of healthy recipes, healthy food blogs, and healthy cooking tips. Elizabeth Schmitt, a Mount Holyoke College collegiette, likes using Martha Stewart’s recipe website to plan out her healthy meal choices. “She has a 'Light and Healthy' section that has comfort foods and calorie-filled dishes slimmed down so you that can enjoy them without the guilt!”

Kelsey Damassa, a Boston College collegiette, is an avid healthy eater who swears by a few websites and cookbooks for inspiration. “I absolutely love the Whole Foods blog,” she says. “They have awesome recipes for everybody - no matter what the dietary restriction. I am a vegetarian, so I struggle to find recipes that are healthy and protein-rich. I also have a favorite healthy cookbook called The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook. It has recipes for everything and I have never made something I don't like!”

Don’t have a kitchen? Try asking an older friend if you can use the kitchen in her apartment or house a couple of times each week. Or, just check out these five yummy, healthy HC-approved meals that require only a microwave to make! If you’re using the dining hall daily, make a habit of picking healthy sandwiches and salads instead of choosing greasy options.

Pack Healthy Snacks in Your Bag

If you have some healthy munchies readily on hand, it may help you resist temptation and put that bag of potato chips back on the shelf. Try packing Greek Yogurt, fresh fruit, cut up vegetables or even some popcorn in your backpack. Look for granola bars that have protein and fiber for a quick, yet filling on-the-go snack.

A handful of nuts, such as almonds or cashews, can add a satisfying punch of protein and healthy fats to help keep you awake during class. Many brands, such as Emerald Nuts and Planters, make 100-calorie packs of nuts or trail mix—perfect for a portion-controlled snack!

Whether you need a pick-me-up between classes or a late-night study snack, stocking up on nutritious eats will help you satisfy your hunger cravings so you don’t have to resort to a greasy, unhealthy snack instead.