The Story Of You: Writing Your Fitness Journey

Exercise is essential to the maintenance of many areas of your life - physical health is the given, but also your cognitive performance, stress relief, relationship maintenance, and mental health too. Despite all of these reasons to exercise, I will be the first to admit that being a busy college student often stands in the way of doing so. It is hard to find time to exercise when there seems to already be so little time as it is. However, let me let you in on a little secret I’ve learned throughout my own college experience: It’s not about figuring out how to design exercise around your life, it’s about figuring out how to design your life around exercise. My own realization of this has helped me become the strongest version of me that I ever have been, both physically and mentally. Today, I would like to share the insight that I’ve learned throughout my journey so far. Change is not easy, but change is possible... and it is so worth it.

Below are a few of my own personal insights that have helped me, and I hope can help you too:

The First Sentence of Your Story

You must start by acknowledging that your body needs exercise, and deserves it. Our bodies do a lot for us, and it is important that we do our part to take care of them. This means filling them with proper fuel, but also using it in the ways that they were intended to be used. Set yourself an intention, and write it down. On paper, on your phone, or in your head. Write down your reasons and goals for wanting to be more active. Is it to lose weight? To build muscle and tone up? To be happier (just google exercise and endorphin release)? To give yourself a mental break in your week? To make significant gains? Directly acknowledge your desire to start this journey, and this will be your fuel for the fire.

Exercise First, Your Life Next

This is where we tackle the real deal. By putting exercise before all of your other life demands, you are choosing to prioritize yourself - your body, and your health - before anything or anyone else. Once you admit to your intention for exercise, you need to be able to take it seriously enough to acknowledge that everything else in your life must fall under it… and this is where a little bit of work comes in. This won’t happen overnight. Putting together the pieces of both your fitness and other life goals is an artful craft, and will require a good amount of trial and error. You may even find yourself having put the pieces together well, only to have them fall apart after a while, requiring you to rework your approach.

For example, my initial intent a year ago had been to exercise in the morning by waking up earlier. This meant, teaching my body to go to bed early, and as a junior in college, teaching my mind to work at its peak during the day instead of in the evening. This worked particularly well for me. However, once I started my senior year of college this year, I realized that my work load demanded more late nights, making it harder to wake up early to exercise. This meant, that I had to move my exercise routine from the morning to the midday after my classes let out. The key here is that I didn’t neglect and lose that puzzle piece. No matter how much studying I have to do, a few days a week, I stop by the gym to get even the quickest workout in before going home.

Thus, really take a look at your life. Determine a good place to start, start there, and troubleshoot as you face challenges. But don’t give up.  When you don’t reach your goal and miss a day, just make a new goal not to miss that next. Your exercise regimen needs to be one of the most personalized things in your life. You can figure it out, and you will.

Figure Out A Way to Love It

This is the most important thing you can do on your fitness journey. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. It is more flexible than you may think. Not only are there various ways to exercise, but numerous way to tailor it to your personal preferences. Figure out if you like group activities (invite a friend with you to the gym, join a sports team on campus, do a few group Zumba classes at your gym or community center, etc.), or if your more of a solo bird like me (in which case, look at your workout sessions as more of a get-away time from the world). Try different methods of exercise - run, dance, walk, jump rope, play racquetball, etc. Make it fun… listen to your favorite music, explore inspiring TED Talk lectures, or catch up on your favorite shows.

Realize that you don’t need a gym membership

Take this from a person who has made significant progress in this realm, without much use of a gym. Last year, my personal intent for exercise had been to lose weight and feel more confident. Since then, I have been able to lose 25 lbs by doing things like switching my desk job for a job that I’m on my feet fall day, going on runs outside, and making more physically active plans when meeting up with friends (like grabbing a coffee and walking around a nearby park instead of sitting in the shop). So, take more walks around your campus or neighborhood, if you like running, go for a jog after class to relieve stress. Any change to your current routine will show.

A Little Effort Will Make A Big Difference

Our bodies are designed to be able to move all day. Being a college student hinders this - hours of sitting down and studying takes a really hard toll on the body. Take mini “walking/movement breaks” when you are studying or sitting in a long class. Set yourself a 30 minute timer and get up and stretch, walk around the room, go grab a drink of water or a snack. Usually long classes have break designated in the middle - instead of sitting on your phone, get up and go walk a few laps up and down the hallway while you check your notifications. If you drive, intentionally park your car in the back of the parking lot, further away from the front doors. Take the stairs to that class on the 3rd floor instead of taking the elevator. However you do it, just keep the blood flowing throughout your body. These little things will add up to one big, great thing, I promise.

Get a Fitbit

… or other fitness watch/step tracker. This relates to the point above. This is the easiest way to figure out and assess your current movement trends. If you don’t already have one, ask for one this holiday season or on your birthday (or spend a little bit less on your daily coffee runs and save up the money for yourself!) If you can’t get a fitness watch, there are also various step-tracker apps out on the mobile app market, so start there! It will become addicting, and this is a good type of addiction. You will find yourself setting up mini challenges to beat and maintain your daily step counts.

The journey to an active lifestyle is easier said than done, I know. I’ve had my share of ups and downs. The fact is that it truly is a lifelong process that gets easier the longer you stick to it - and the most important step of this journey is starting. If you simply start paying attention to your body, things will happen. Your fitness journey is your very own, unique story, and no one but you gets to hold the pen. It’s a lifelong, ongoing narrative, and there will be many suspenseful twists and turns. The best stories often start at the worse places, so don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to start writing.