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Advice from an Ex-Student Athlete: How to Stay Active in College

I have been playing tennis my whole life and recently won state three years in a row in highschools. My team and I practiced year-round for an average of 12 hours a week, compelling us to become best friends. The summer after I stopped playing, during the pandemic, I went into a mentally bad place and had my personal dent on the couch. The steps below have helped make the transition into college as an ex-student athlete seamless and endorphin-filled.

Join a team again.

I’ve been told since I was five that tennis is a lifelong sport. I never realized the truth of that statement until my first day of college, two months after my last tennis practice. I could almost feel my legs tingling to run on the court or at least hit the ball around with someone, but I knew no one. Joining the club tennis team, provided me with a regular schedule to play the sport I love and new friends I could hit with throughout the week. The competition runs in our veins and throughout the stress of the college, letting loose with a team again is so important.

Go for a run.

Surprisingly, I’ve found that most athletes are not good long-distance runners. I spent my whole life on the court so I only ran sprints with a racquet in my hand. Learning how to put headphones in and run for a couple of miles in the morning or late at night has provided me with a new outlet to release tension anytime. Not only is it amazing for the body, but it also provides a type of self-care nothing else can beat.

Take up a new kind of exercise:

It may be frustrating to leave your sport, but there are so many other opportunities for exercise in college. Take advantage of your gym membership and learn how to squat, row and play squash. Once I graduated high school and didn’t play tennis as much anymore, I found that benching (disclaimer: I could only lift the bar)was one of the ways I could create competition within myself again. Although it has been hard to get to the gym in college, I always enjoy it when I’m there. 

Stretch morning and evening

Stretching is a huge part of an athlete’s warm-up and cool-down routine, so incorporating it into college life is important. A simple 5-minute full-body stretch in the morning can warm up the body before class and get your mind active. Working meditation into this stretching routine is also a proactive way to take care of your body and mental health.

Drink water

This is the most important way to stay healthy in college. I used to drink gallons of water during high school because of the amount of time I spent sweating on the court. Now that we all are sweating and moving less, water intake usually decreases as well. Keeping up the consumption of water is going to help keep your mind awake, body nourished and brain active. In all, water will keep you energized enough to help you get through the day and your workout.

It is important to hold onto the things that make you happy, such as sweating and getting out with friends to play your sport. Once an athlete, always an athlete.

Divya Gupta

Northwestern '25

Divya is a freshman from Leawood, Kansas studying Journalism and Spanish on the Pre-Med track. When she's not in class, you can find her enjoying the beach, playing tennis, watching Criminal Minds, going out with friends and playing with her two dogs.
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