How I Learned to Balance the Gym and Student Life

Until last year, I hated the gym. I grew up running long-distance track and cross country, so all I knew was how to run. I did the occasional yoga class, but not much more than that.

Over my freshman year, I faced a lot of uncertainty. I completely changed my life plan, and I didn’t know what I would major in, what field I wanted to work in, or how I defined myself.

I began lifting with my boyfriend, who taught me the bare basics of lifting. However, I set the practice of working out by myself mostly on my own. I learned through blogs, Instagrams, bodybuilding.com, YouTube and books. It took a lot for my anxious self to start lifting next to football players. When I began, I rarely saw another girl lifting and certainly none of my friends lifted. I did only the very basic lifts - light squats, overhead presses, and a few other dumbbell moves. However, I quickly began to enjoy coming to the gym instead of dreading it. I started researching how to count macros, how to eat enough protein and which pre-workout to use. 

I liked lifting because it made me feel strong, not weaker like cardio did. I began to see little changes after a few months, like curves along my quads, being able to lift heavier and heavier, squatting over 200 lbs for the first time, and doing my first ever pull up. 

There were a few weeks where I got very stressed and busy and missed. However, I realized that I needed to go to the gym just as much as I needed to sleep and brush’s my teeth. Not only did I feel better when I worked out consistently, but I slept better, got better grades, had better skin, and felt better about myself. 

I found a few things that helped me stay consistent. First, I planned my workout and what lifts I was going to do before I got to the gym. I found that having a game plan took the guesswork out of going to the gym, and also made my workouts more efficient and less boring. Taking the time to research lifts beforehand made me feel more comfortable and less uncertain as well. I also planned out when I was going to work out during the week and put those times in my Google Calendar. I also found out that if I was stressed or busy, going for just 20 minutes made me feel much better than not going at all and helped me solidly my gym habit. 

I also found that if I was feeling tired or slow, taking a scoop of pre-workout about 30 minutes before I lifted helped immensely. It meant that I could have enough energy to get in a workout, even if it was late at night or early in the morning. 

I also started timing my sets, making sure that I was limiting my rest times so that I wasn’t wasting time I didn’t have. I learned to get in and get out as quickly as I could, especially if I was in the middle of exams. 

Seeing working out as a form of self-care that I needed to do to take care of myself helped as well. I stopped seeing the gym as an option and started seeing it as a daily ritual that I needed to do. Changing how I thought of the gym helped immensely. I try not to associate it with negativity, rather an outlet. 

 

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