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Living a Healthy Lifestyle on a Busy Class Schedule

In a world of “could have, would have and should have’s”, where can we find balance in our health, especially when life is just starting to get good? Opportunities are right at our fingertips with internships, research projects and connections that will help us in the long run, so it’s more than common to have days where you are “run-down”. Being run-down is the worst thing in the world because it is so easy to control. Think about it, it’s a miscommunication between your body and mind. Your mind drives you to perform work but your body is fully unaware that your depleting necessary energy in the process. I’ve learned the hard way on how to catch myself before becoming run down. It was a lot of trial and error. One thing that stayed constant was staying active. This ultimately allowed me to become consciously aware of my body.

But before I send people into a spiral, just because I go to the gym doesn’t necessarily mean that I have my life together. I certainly don’t have my life together (Trust me you should ask my friends how I function in the morning AFTER I go to the gym.) I am practically lugging around my gym bag AND my backpack all day. It’s considered a great day when I can easily rummage through one bag to get to my keys.

For that reason, I’m not going to tell you what you should/shouldn’t do. My purpose for writing this is to educate and explain mechanisms on how to go about living a healthy lifestyle while juggling a busy schedule. To be honest with you, I am still learning myself how to adapt to being a full-time student, managing co-curriculars and making time for myself all in one. It’s especially hard when you have never ending classes, deadlines, tests, crits, etc.

So if you are lost on how to go about transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, let’s help each other figure it out and get you on track!

To start off, something that I can attest to is that actions can turn into habits, which can ultimately turn into a routine. I’m not gonna lie, the first week sticking to a workout regimen is HARD. Most of my workouts are done in the mornings. I am a morning person when I choose to be, meaning most of the time I dread getting out of my bed to go the gym on the other side of campus. To make matters a little challenging, I am a night owl when it comes to doing my work/studying so I function on a low amount of sleep since I wake up so early. Being an earlier bird and a night owl is never a good combination. Don’t be fooled though, coffee is the only reason why I am still functioning at this point in my life. So yes, I could easily stay in my nice and warm bed on these horrid winter mornings, but I miserably drag myself out of bed. What’s the motivation for dragging myself out of my bed you ask? No ounce of guilt, it’s all willpower and choice. I love working out and staying healthy so I tell myself that this is my ME time and I only get it in the mornings before taking on a busy day. Which follows my next point, going to the gym is NEVER an obligation - it’s a CHOICE. You are choosing to workout, don’t tell yourself “because you have to”. I believe that actually causes people to break their gym streak. After telling yourself that “you have to” usually ends with the “screw it” mentality. It’s a vicious cycle and we’ve all been through it in any situation. My suggestion is to make a schedule for yourself, whether it’s just for the gym or even your full day. Starting your day with a game plan helps you get a grasp of what’s going on in your life. This can also be a mental checkpoint for yourself. You are able to check in with how your feeling on a mental and physical level. For example, my Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are extremely busy with classes and having a work-study job so trying to figure out when to go to the gym at the beginning of the spring semester was hard. I decided that going to the gym in the morning works best for me and my schedule. For me, I am able to get myself up early enough to start my day at the gym and get out any jitters or feelings of angst about my day out of my system. Like I said earlier it is a major struggle getting out of bed but for me, it’s well worth it! If mornings aren’t your friend, I wouldn’t suggest forcing yourself into this - pick a time that fits into YOUR schedule! It’ll make it a lot easier to stick to a plan if you have a designated time. Pick a time that you won’t dread having to go to or do, your prone to blowing it off if you pick a time that stresses you out.

I can’t stress this enough though, if you do end up making a schedule, don’t let dictation and over-compensation take over. This can also tie into what I mentioned earlier, actions are done by choices, not by force. With that being said, choose workouts you ACTUALLY LIKE. I promise you dreading a workout gets you nowhere, you’re more susceptible to not doing it or not putting your all into it.

Out of all of what I mention in this article, I hope the next couple sentences I say resonates with you - Time DOES NOT DICTATE results, it’s the EFFORT you put in. Even with a busy schedule, a little break is all you need to get in a workout! Whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour, that’s all you need. You can do more in 15 minutes than you will for a whole hour (all depends on what you’re doing for that hour). Rest days are also very important as well, your body needs to recover. Again, listen to your body - if you’re not feeling well or you are hurting think about giving your body a break. Never feel guilty when your body needs a break - I promise you all the results you are working for will still be there so don’t be discouraged! There is also a difference between being sore and being in actual pain. Soreness is caused by doing strenuous activity that your body isn’t used to and it’s more than okay to continue to work out. Pain is where a red flag should go up, working out in pain can do more harm than good. If you push through you can end up hurting yourself more. Hurting yourself will actually stop you from working out for awhile. You definitely don’t want that.

Onto my next topic that is a very popular subject and something that is near and dear to my heart which is food. The infamous “Freshman 15” is a fear to many. I get it, we’re all on our own for the first time and we can eat what we want. With a meal swipe, an endless amount of food in a dining hall is at our fingertips. Don’t ever starve yourself, eat in moderation! This is said like a broken record but it’s true. You deserve to treat yourself after doing something good! You want to feel good about what your eating because you are putting it into your body. Which brings up another good point, YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE THAT KNOWS YOUR BODY. Just because an 80/20 diet and lifestyle works for someone, does not necessarily mean that it will be effective for you as well. You need to really think about the things that work for you, don’t make yourself eat something you don’t like. If you are looking for healthier options, do some research! Pinterest is my go to for recipes. For example, if you’re an avid-coffee drinker and feel that your order is “unhealthy”, try alternatives! This could be different kinds of milks, sugars, flavorings, etc.

One thing that I always do is come prepared with snacks if I ever get hungry throughout a busy day. The first thing you do when your hungry is to search for any food that you can get your hands on. A snack is always something to fall back on if you have no idea what to eat. But forewarning, I am fully aware that while you’re on the go, the snack is less appealing compared to something else that is offered. My advice on that is to find healthier snacks you actually like so it’s easier to make quick judgement calls in picking your snack over something else that is offered. Be consciously aware of your will-power and never settle. I know it can be difficult since most of us follow meal plans that our schools offer  so another thing to try is to find simple options that you enjoy and mix it with something else.

If you are thinking about changing your diet though, I would try to stay away from going cold turkey, instead try weaning. Going cold turkey is not fun at all. For example if you know chocolate makes you sick - maybe try weaning off it or eat it when you know you have time to relax after it. I am a lactose intolerant so I tend to lean more toward Vegan/Dairy-Free options because I don’t want to make myself feel sick. Especially on a busy class schedule, I can’t afford to feel like utter crap just because I ate a sprinkle of cheese. Dairy had my heart at one point in time so I’m not going to lie, it does take time to wean yourself off something. Recently places and grocery stores are more accommodating with people who have allergies and offer alternatives. It can be expensive though, so I would highly recommend doing some research for inexpensive options if you’re on a budget.

Whether it’s food or working out, you know what works best for you. Being a full-time student is tough especially with a hectic schedule that keeps you on your toes. If working out isn’t for you, don’t force yourself to do it. There are other ways to stay healthy. Going to the gym should not automatically be assumed as the only physical activity. If you really wanted to, you can make a workout out anywhere you are, for example your dorm room or your house. Walking around campus is so underrated and that’s a perfect way to exercise! Another thing is throwing a ball or frisbee around, dancing or just being silly with your friends. Being healthy is not limited to just physical activity, there are also exploring food options. Again, Pinterest is perfect for that. Also staying hydrated is KEY. Keeping hydrated keeps your metabolism up and is definitely a big headache avoider. Life hack, carry around a big water bottle and you feel obligated to drink it all since it’s right in front of you. Just try it! If not, just keep track of your water intake each time you finish a water bottle.

 In conclusion, the main thing I want to stress is to listen to your body. Keeping your mind and body in check allows you to find balance. Your health should be your main priority. In the long run, you need to be healthy to CRUSH your busy schedule. You are stuck with the body you were given for the rest of your life, so why not treat it the way it deserves?

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