I have played tennis since the racquet I was holding was bigger than me. Tennis has gotten me through tough times, given me amazing memories and friends, and helped me achieve my lifelong dream of being a student athlete for a school I truly love. But during all of that I’ve also had my battles with playing and working out, as well as burning out and spreading myself too thin. As a college athlete I’ve had to juggle school, tennis, a new city and a whole new group of friends. So, I thought I would share what I’ve learned about the importance of working out as well as what to avoid:
Workout endorphins are a real thing
I never really understood this concept in high school because for as long as I could remember working out and playing a sport was just another regularly scheduled part of my day. Whether I was excited to practice or not, I went to hit at least five days a week. Now since being in college with required days off and the added stress of tough classes, I’ve been able to appreciate the boost of confidence and motivation I feel after a workout. Being able to sweat and be active has really helped calm my nerves and also been a good break from the monotony of school and studying. Sometimes just going for a fifteen minute jog can help amp up my heart rate and encourage the same amount of effort and energy to be put into the rest of my day.
Being fit doesn’t mean having a ‘perfect’ body
I can’t stand when people express that the only reason they’re eating right or working out is to ‘have abs’ or ‘post a good picture’. Being surrounded by so many different athletic teams has emphasized just how different each person’s body shape is. Every team has a specific goal on how to be fit. Some teams bulk up, others improve fast twitch muscles, and some focus on only certain muscle groups and exercises. There is no right or wrong body shape to draw inspiration from. It’s important to have goals and an idea of where your training might be headed, but there’s certainly no ‘cookie cutter’ mold for what an active person should look like, it’s more about how you feel and carry yourself throughout the day.
Your PR is not the same as everyone else’s PR
The standard for fit goes hand in hand with the next topic. I learned that no two people are going to have the same goals for their workouts or PRs. It’s easy to have a workout buddy or someone to push you to meet your goals, but no one should compare themselves or the hard work they put in to the people they surround themselves with. You’re simply trying to be better than the version of yourself from the day before, not your teammate, friend or idol you look up to. It’s you trying to achieve your own personal goals, no matter how small, that’s why they’re called PRs…
Sleep, sleep, sleep!!!
I am guilty of learning about the importance of sleep the hard way. When juggling many things in life (school, a job, athletics, personal relationships, etc) it may feel as though there are too many things to do and not enough hours in the day to get them all done. And in no way are all those goals going to be met when you’re behind on sleep, sluggish and ultimately unmotivated because all you’re looking forward to is sleep. Going to bed at a decent time is sometimes more valuable than that last half hour of studying, or that early morning yoga class. I also highly recommend naps throughout the day; they don’t have to eat into the entirety of your afternoon, but they do provide even a short break or decompression from stress. And when really focusing on working out, the body can’t heal and develop as intended when it’s sleep deprived and constantly exhausted.
You should be proud of the now as much as the future goal
Everyone that sets out to be a student athlete, a gym junkie or simply someone wanting to be active has big goals far down the line. But it’s more the act of doing than where it will lead you that should have the full value. If you’re not enjoying the time and effort you put into working out everyday then the end result is not going to be nearly as fulfilling. There is no perfect weight, or speed, or result that can help you achieve ultimate happiness. It’s more about the process you go through, and the progress you make within yourself that matters more than the final destination. So enjoy it. Being active isn’t something to be taken for granted, and working out should feel like a mental and physical release, not a burden.