Fitness enthusiast and trainer Jessica Vaszily, is a notable, first-year Queen’s University student who balances the erraticness of school with very intense training. Her fitness journey began in her hometown of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, as she was a provincial soccer player until she tore her ACL in 2014. Unfortunately, she was unable to get surgery and could not exercise for 15 months. Upon her recovery, after several months of physiotherapy, Jessica took a new profound path towards physical fitness. She began to become an active gym member, working immensely hard to regain her strength (and clearly, she has excelled tremendously). Two years later, Jessica became a bikini competitor, competing in her first show “The East Coast Classic 2017” and placing fifth at the age of 17. Her passions for health and wellness have spread within her community as she became a member on the Board of Directors at the YMCA, an employee at a local gym, and is now a certified personal fitness trainer.
Here are some valuable tips from Jessica that we, as students, can use throughout our university experience so that we can maintain a healthy and active lifestyle:
1. Keep Consistent Meal Times
Sticking to consistent meal times will keep your appetite in control and reduce the amount you snack or binge (although healthy snacks are good too – Jess’s favourite snacks are assorted nuts and rice cakes with peanut or almond butter). Although a routine is hard to implement in university, try to meal prep for at least three days so that you can sustain this habit. But ultimately, always, always, always prioritize breakfast! It’s the most important meal of the day, as it gives you the energy to achieve high academic performance and to improve your overall personal health.
2. Eat Meals in Moderation
As university students, we are susceptible to the classic “freshman 15” and consequently, carrying out these eating habits throughout the rest of our university experience. We are prone to a diet of mainly carbohydrates which ultimately leads to weight gain, unregulated blood sugar levels, and other digestive problems. So, when you’re in the caf or grocery shopping, think twice about having breads and pastas for your three meals a day. Jess isn’t saying to cut these out completely (because restrictions eventually lead to binging), but to moderate them in a healthy way. It’s simple. Eat the burger without the bun, substitute your pita for a yummy salad, and leave your carb load for the night before a heavy workout or even during a night out.
DRINK WATER! It’s ironic how university students tend to forget this basic necessity once they start their schooling. Always have a water bottle with you and fill it several times throughout the day (try to drink two to three litres). Water is essential for your digestion, metabolism, recovery, immune system, and so many other fundamental things.
In university, the night-life never seems to end, whether it be studying, partying, or just procrastinating on all the things we should be doing. Despite our work and desire to go out, we must prioritize our sleep. Sleep is so important, especially if you’re training consistently at the gym. The recommended amount of sleep for people ages 18+ is seven to nine hours, with consistent bed and wake-up times. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice getting stuff done (or not done) for sleep. Ensuring the quality of your sleep will make you a more active and productive individual.
5. Remember: Food is Fuel
We all get that post-exam bug. Our stress levels go down and therefore our immune system does as well. How can you fight this off? Instead of eating unhealthy comfort food (such as mac ‘n’ cheese) and lying in bed all day, make this a time to experiment creating new healthy (and delicious) foods. When creating your meals, stay away from packaged foods as they are never as good as food cooked from its raw state. As well, keep this in mind: a colourful plate is a healthier plate!
6. Don’t be Intimidated
If you’ve been juggling the idea of going to the gym and you’re feeling rather intimidated, there are many ways to overcome this nervousness. If you’re a female and feel this way, try the all-women’s gym at Queen’s, and if you’re not a Queen’s student, there are also many GoodLife gyms that are for women too. Also, bring a workout buddy! It’s more than likely that you have at least one friend who feels the same way too. Going together will make your workouts fun and less stressful and eventually you will both feel comfortable going on your own. Ultimately, remember this: no one is at the gym to judge you. We are a community of active gym members who aim to help and encourage you to reach your goals. Welcome to the community!
7. Customize Your Workouts to be Suitable for You
You walk into the gym for the first time and you don’t know where to start. You look up an online workout and use this as your workout. Often, these workouts are quite intense and can result in pain and discouragement. Make sure you do what your body is capable of doing. Start at an easier level and work your way up (if you’re interested in some customized and affordable workout plans, you can contact and collaborate with Jess via email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
8. Manage your Time
As students, we are constantly busy with our studies and other extracurriculars, but it is so important to make time for exercise. Jess suggests making a day planner, listing your top priorities and dedicating a specific amount of time to each one. If working out is on your priority list, then it must be important to you, and if something is important to you, you’ll make time for it. Turn off the Netflix and stop procrastinating. No excuses!
9. Hold Yourself Accountable
Holding yourself accountable will make you driven to commit to exercising. Get a notebook and write down your goals. Or, make a post on social media stating your goals to your friends/followers (you will be supported!). This way, if you do not reach your goal, you will feel accountable as you have let yourself and audience down. These self- and peer check-ins will help you remain committed and determined to obtain your best self!
10. “You get to work on you, for you, with you.”
I asked Jessica why she believes fitness is so important, and she responded, “I believe fitness is important for so many reasons. For me, it’s not just the physical aspect, but it also has a huge emotional impact on me. It helps me destress, meet new people, create new workouts, and most of all, focus on me. Everyone is so focused on the people around them these days and what the new trend is or how much you want to be like your friend. But in the gym, you get to work on you, for you, with you. And that’s one of the greatest gifts that fitness has given me, other than the fact that I have always loved helping people and fitness is a way that I can help others with something I love.”
Check Jessica out on her instagram page @jessicavaszilyfit for more awesome workout tips!