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I started playing competitive squash when I was 8 or 9 years old. I trained almost every day on the court, and did fitness sessions in the gym two to three times a week. As I got older, schedule became even more challenging and time-consuming. My senior year of high school, I decided to go to a squash academy in Mexico City, where I would play squash for up to six hours a day, five days a week. On weekends, I travelled to different states in Mexico to give exhibition matches and play national tournaments. Squash was my everything, and it helped me stay grounded mentally and physically. 

 I was on Columbia’s Varsity squash team until this fall, when I realized that I wanted to spend more time dedicating myself to hobbies I never had time to explore. Right after I stopped playing squash, I had trouble managing my free time, resulting in me spending way too much time socializing, and not enough time studying. I tried working out at Dodge once or twice, but did not like it. I was overwhelmed by too many familiar faces, and could never find open machines that I wanted at the times I was available. Being on the squash team helped me be productive, and when I lost the structure, I no longer knew how to spend the hours of my day that were normally filled with practice. 

This semester, I learned to use my time more productively and now spend my time writing, studying, taking interesting classes, and going to the gym. At the beginning of second semester, I joined the Equinox on 92nd street. My first few times going to the gym felt weird to me. Instead of training for a squash tournament coming up, I was training alone, for myself. If I wasn’t going to push myself, there was no one in the gym that would do it for me. I needed to be hungry to get fit and work hard, even when I didn’t have a big tournament or match coming up. 

Through something small like joining a new gym, I switched my mentality from going to the gym to prepare for something squash related to being active and having a healthy exercise routine for myself and myself alone. While this sounds straightforward and easy, I had a hard time breaking out of a mindset and routine that I was used to for a decade of my life. By joining Equinox, I realized how important working out is for my mental and physical health, even when I don’t have an athletic event coming up. Working out in the morning helps wake me up, get a good start to my day, and helps me sleep better at night. Walking to 92nd street from campus allows me to get off campus, and clear my mind of stress from school.  

Since joining the gym, I have enjoyed my time at Barnard much more. Academically, I am more focused in class because I get all of my energy out in the morning. I am no longer jittery in class. Socially, I am able to better balance my time with friends. Physically, I feel stronger and healthier again. I now realize that just because I am not a top athlete anymore, I don’t need to give up on working out entirely. 

I highly recommend starting a gym routine to give yourself time to clear your mind, while still doing something healthy and productive. Getting out of the library is always refreshing and helps you de-stress from long days of class, and extracurriculars. Equinox has allowed me to reinvent myself as an athlete and to finally feel good after quitting a sport that helped defined me for so long.

Gabriela Martin is a Sophomore at Barnard College of Columbia University. She is majoring in Sociology and is very interested in Education Policy. She currently interns at a jewelry company called Roxanne Assoulin.
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