High School Athlete to College Gym Rat


Lacing up cross country spikes in the middle of fall, setting up hurdles to start drills at the start of spring, running down and around the pond during the hottest days of summer are things that I did as a high school track and field and cross country athlete.


But what happened to all of that when I got to college you may ask? Great question.


I ran outdoor track and field all throughout middle school and high school, which adds up to 6 years of running. During my junior year of high school, I picked up cross country, indoor track, and summer track. Basically, I did a lot of running within the span of two years.


Running in high school was a blessing and a curse. I was in shape all of the time and I was a part of a team that supported me but also pushed me to become a better athlete. Unfortunately, the latter blessing was the curse in itself.


I found myself obsessed with my PR (personal record = the best time you’ve ran for an event) and wished to outrun my teammates in practice to show coach that I was worthy of a varsity letter and a spot on the relay team to run at the coveted Penn Relays.


At the end of my senior year, I found myself to be a pretty average runner who never stepped foot onto Franklin Field and never made it to a single district meet. I was disappointed but I soon realized that I really didn’t care.


I love running and being in shape, and I don’t have to be a track and field or cross country athlete to run or live a healthy lifestyle. This mindset took me all of my freshman year in college to learn.


I gave up during many of my “fun runs” freshman year because I couldn’t run 3 miles at 7:25 pace, I stopped working out because I didn’t see the point if I wasn’t racing on the weekends. That mindset was toxic; it resulted in me pulling a hamstring trying to run at full speed on a treadmill and losing a lot of muscle from avoiding the gym.


After freshman year, I finally admitted to myself that it was time to hit the gym to strengthen my body, but also my mind.


Over the summer I spent five days a week at the gym, blasting music in my ears to avoid the crippling anxiety of being out in the open, lifting weights without a team to support me. I ran a decent amount of miles on the treadmill and tried to avoid pulling my hamstring again, after the first time prevented me from running for 6 months.



My gym habits transitioned nicely when I came to campus this fall. I’ve enjoyed my time at the gym not because I want my body to “look good” (whatever that means), but because I know what it feels like to not take care of my body. I know what it feels like to have excruciating back pain and suffering in the middle of the night because of it. I know what it’s like to nurse a pulled hamstring back to health with a heating pad.


All the pain I’ve felt has turned into the fear of ever experiencing that pain again. This fear motivates me everyday to care for my body and strengthen it, even if that means running when I don’t feel like it and going to the gym late at night. I’ve learned that making sacrifices to be physically fit is worth it to me.



Leslie Quan