For many college students, staying focused on wellness during the summer is way easier than the back-to-school season. During summer, the sun is out and you’re poolside with your friends, but suddenly, fall starts — classes and homework take up time, and back-to-school stress can make it tricky to prioritize wellness. Despite the challenge, there are ways to stay on track this semester and start a routine that works for you — so, I spoke with experts and college students to find out how. Here are six wellness motivation tips to help you feel great throughout the school year.
Start by getting inspired
One of the best ways to stay motivated during the year is to first figure out what inspires you. Kaitlin McCabe, a student at Hamilton College, shares that she started following Tumblr pages with photos, quotes, and articles to help her stay motivated during college. She tells Her Campus, “Every morning, I would check out ‘fitspo’ like recipes, workout tips, and motivational images. It was a great way to remind me of my goals, and I now have my own ‘Fitblr’ to help others with their [wellness] journeys.”
Whether you subscribe to a monthly wellness-focused magazine or visit a blog for fitness and lifestyle tips, there are many ways to get inspired throughout the year. You can even make a vision board for your dorm room, or curate a Pinterest board to help you get excited. Remember, though, the focus should be on feeling good in your body and being proud of your abilities, not trying to reach a certain body standard or ideal! Unfortunately, it’s common to come across websites that perpetuate diet culture and unrealistic expectations, which can get dangerous quickly. Stick to things that genuinely make you feel confident and empowered.
Make a wellness schedule
When classes get busy and college stress sets in, it’s easy to let your wellness routine fall to the wayside. But much like brushing your teeth is an essential daily habit, so is dedicating time to your well-being. For instance, Hillary Coombs, a student at Bryant University, makes it a priority to fit movement into her college schedule. She tells Her Campus, “Every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 a.m., I go to yoga class. I have it literally built into my schedule as a necessity.”
Shelley Armstrong, PhD, the academic program director for College of Health Professions undergraduate programs at Walden University, says that planning your schedule in advance can help you integrate wellness into your busy college lifestyle. She tells Her Campus, “Every Sunday, review your schedule for the coming week and plan out your exercise. Mark ‘exercise time’ on your calendar just like you would with a class or study group.” Dr. Armstrong also recommends structuring your wellness routine around points of the day where your energy is particularly high or low. “Manage your energy rather than your time,” she says. “Identify low periods of energy throughout the day and set aside 15 minutes during those times to take a walk, go outside, stretch or meditate.”
Carving out time in your schedule for movement is a great way to stay on track, even when the semester feels overwhelming. Pick a time of day that works for you, and see if you can stick to a regular schedule. Whether it’s starting a trial week at a local yoga studio, signing up for a community 5k, or registering for group exercise classes at your college gym, there are many ways to make time for movement that you actually enjoy.
Try different activities
Eloise Skinner, a yoga, pilates, and fitness instructor, author, and founder of The Purpose Workshop and One Typical Day, recommends sampling a variety of movement activities this semester and seeing what resonates most with you. “Try lots of different types of fitness!” she tells Her Campus. “Group fitness, sports, yoga…[college] is a great time to experiment and find something you love. If you don’t like a certain type of exercise, swap it out for something else! There’s usually something out there that feels genuinely enjoyable.”
Track your wellness goals
One tangible way to stay motivated throughout the school year is to document your progress. While you shouldn’t feel pressured to track every little thing you do (note: this tactic doesn’t feel good for everyone, so find something that aligns with you), it can help hold you accountable and feel proud of yourself. Free apps like Nike Training Club and Nike Run Club are easy to use for different types of movement and wellness, and apps like Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace can help you try meditation, mindfulness, and find practices for sleep and relaxation.
Dr. Armstrong, who is also a Master Certified Health Education specialist and running coach, agrees that keeping track of your tangible goals can be a great way to stay motivated throughout the semester. “Goals help us make a commitment and establish new habits,” she says, and shares that her goal is to “run at least 30 minutes for three days per week, do one hour of strength training, and one hour of yoga.” For you, it might be taking a stretch break during long study sessions or taking a longer route to walk to class. Whatever it is, Dr. Armstrong recommends tailoring your practice to your lifestyle. “Identify fitness opportunities that are low-cost, convenient and easy to schedule,” she says.
Find a movement buddy
It can be hard to muster motivation on your own, so this semester, call a friend who shares your passion for starting a steady wellness practice. When you have a partner-in-crime to participate with you, you can encourage each other, have fun, and stay accountable in a healthy way. “Find others who have similar goals,” Dr. Armstrong recommends. “Find walking groups or form them with people in your neighborhood, find a Zumba class on campus or in your nearby community, or start a fitness challenge with friends or classmates.”
For Patricia Loo, a recent grad of the University of Western Ontario, having “workout buddies” and some healthy competition has helped her stay on track toward her wellness goals. She tells Her Campus how a friendly bet with a friend to work on core strength inspired her to move more: “The bet was that if I won, [my friend] would treat me to a nice dinner, but if I didn’t, I owed him a nice dinner. I didn’t end up winning the bet in the end, but it did motivate me to go to the gym more often!”
The same goes for Hillary, who leans on her roommates to help her stay encouraged. “My housemates and I all dive in together at the beginning of the school year,” she tells Her Campus. “We leave notes for each other on mirrors and take turns cooking meals together.” Whatever it is, be sure to find friends and peers who uplift you, that you can have fun with, and whose company you genuinely enjoy! Having a wellness practice should be about enjoyment and community, not perfection.
Write about it
A lot of us know the benefits of having a wellness practice, but sometimes, it can help to write down why! If you’re tempted to skip yoga or a run in favor of a nap or Netflix, definitely listen to your body, but know that looking at an actual list of “benefits” can sometimes help remind you of why you started, and what you’ll gain from your wellness practice.
“If you make a list of all the great things staying healthy does for you, like your mental health, it makes [a healthier lifestyle] a lot easier to stick with,” Hillary tells Her Campus. “Working out helps me relieve stress, so it’s a must for me.”
Remember those moments in the past where you didn’t want to go to the gym, but you felt amazing afterward? The next time you feel great, try to record that positive feeling on paper or as a note in your phone so you can remember what it’s like. Whenever you feel you’re lacking motivation this semester, remind yourself of how your post-workout endorphins made you feel. You may find that there are more benefits to your wellness practice than you originally realized; like how it helps reduce stress, boosts your confidence, or gives you more energy to get through classes.
No matter what movement or wellness routine you end up committing to, remember to take time to rest as well. Skinner, who juggles dance, movement, and the performing arts with teaching, modeling, and entrepreneurship, tells Her Campus, “College can be very full-on, so make sure you take the time to wind down. You could try a gentle stretching class at the end of a long day, or try out a meditation practice!” This is a helpful reminder that you don’t always have to “do” something for your wellness — rest and sleep absolutely count.
It can be hard to go from feeling super motivated during the summer to suddenly exhausted once the school year starts. However, with these tips, hopefully things will get a little easier! Remember not to be too hard on yourself, especially on top of everything you’re already balancing this school year. Wellness is about finding what works for you, and aiming for what feels good in your body, not aiming for a standard of perfection.
Kaitlin McCabe, Hamilton College
Hillary Coombs, Bryant University
Patricia Loo, University of Western Ontario