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How To Make This Your Fittest Semester Yet!

A blooming social life, half a dozen club meetings and a full schedule of classes can keep a girl pretty busy. However, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself and fit (at least) a bit of exercise into your schedule. You’ll be able to clear your head, release a little stress and keep yourself in shape (not to mention avoid the Freshman 15)  if you create a fitness plan. Whether you don’t think you’ve got the time or you just can’t get out of bed, you won’t have any excuses after Her Campus helps you out. Here’s to getting off on the right foot NOW with your exercise plan this semester, so that finals week isn’t the first time you venture to the gym.

Step 1: Tour the gym
It’s easy to be intimidated by those mammoth senior guys weightlifting in the gym. But the more you get to know your school gym, the more you’ll go. If the gym has an open house during the first few weeks of school, grab some hallmates and go. This will be your chance to tour the locker rooms, try out a yoga or Zumba class, and locate the row of trusty ellipticals. Once you know where the gym is, when it’s open, and how to navigate inside it, going will feel that much less intimidating.
Step 2: Make a plan
Katie Teal, a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill, says you need to write down your plan or else you’ll skimp on visits to the gym. “Don’t just say ‘Oh, I’ll get to the gym two or three times a week,’” says Katie. Instead think of your exercise regime as a contract to yourself and write your plan out. This summer, Katie has stuck to a routine of three cardio sessions and two days of weights. She says she’ll make a new plan for the fall semester as soon as she finalizes her class schedule. Once your class schedule is in place, look to see when you’re free each day, and add “Gym” into your Google calendar so that there’s no getting around it! Set the event up as a recurring one until the end of the semester, with a reminder message 15 minutes before. Need more inspiration? Carlene Helble, a senior at James Madison University and a Her Campus writer, says last semester she would go to microbiology, run back to her apartment to exercise for 45 minutes and then shower and run back to another class. “When I followed through I felt better, and I also felt like I accomplished more that day,” says Carlene. You too can fit exercise in even the tightest schedule.
Step 3: Be realistic
Being motivated about working out is great but just don’t try to cram in too much in too soon: Dave Spindel, a trainer who has helped athletes around the world, says people who try to work out seven days a week will probably quit. Spindel has a sign in his office that says ‘If it does not fit into the context of your life, you will not stick with it.’ Unless your fitness plan is considerate of your schedule, it probably won’t last. Aim for three or four days and add in trips when your schedule allows.
Step 4: Bring a buddy
It’s hard enough to get up early in the semester for your 8 a.m. class, let alone for the gym. Meeting a friend at the gym will motivate you to roll out of bed and will keep you on track during your workouts (it will also hold you accountable!). Trade class schedules with each other and decide on a time that works for both of you. Whether it is spotting each other or holding down feet during sit-ups, a workout partner can push you harder. Email out over your sorority list-serv or just out to a group of friends letting them know that you’re planning on going to the gym every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 10AM (for example) and ask if anyone would like to go with! You’ll feel worse canceling on a friend than you will on yourself (even though that shouldn’t be the case).

Step 5: Switch it up

After a month of going to the gym three times a week, your gym routine can feel a little, well, routine. One fun option is to join an intramural team. The season is short, the commitment is small and you’ll expand your social circle all while sticking to a fitness plan. Best of all, knowing you’ve got a game on Thursday and a whole team depending on you will keep you going. Katie played soccer in high school and jumped at the chance to play on an intramural team in college. “I wanted to stay in soccer shape and keep my skills sharp. It was fun because my team became really good,” says Katie. Look out for intramural team sign-ups at the beginning of the semester!
Step 6: Don’t make excuses
Carlene says once school starts, her energy level shoots down. She says she uses going to the gym and exercising to help her get back energy. “One thing I hear so often is ‘I can’t exercise, I’m tired,’ but in reality exercise gives you energy,” Carlene says. Just imagine how good you’ll feel as you walk home covered in sweat, energized and ready to start some homework. Spindel says you should go to the gym even for a short period of time if you’re feeling tired. “Within a few minutes, you’ll feel better just because you’re there. You won’t feel bad later about not going to the gym and you can come back on a day you feel more rested,” says Spindel.
Find that you don’t feel like bringing your gym clothes with you to class? Look into getting a locker at the gym, which is often free, or just wear your gym clothes to class in the first place! Too much reading to do to go to the gym? Plop on the stationary bike and multi-task with a textbook.

Step 7: Find a 5K
Another great way to stick to exercise is to train for a 5K on campus. Check out our advice or Runner’s World for training regimens and find a race a few weeks from now. Having a definite goal at the start of school will force you to lace up those tennis shoes. Not a runner? No problem. There are plenty of people who bring their dogs to walk at the rear of the pack.
Step 8: Keep track
Log your workouts in a notebook or with an online tool like MyPyramid Tracker  or RunningAHEAD. Keeping track of how often you work out and getting to check something off after you do it can be a huge motivator. Studies have found that the dieters who are most successful at maintaining their weight are those who keep a food diary, and it makes sense that the same would be true for keeping up with a fitness regimen.
Step 9: Reward yourself
Remember when your mom used to promise you ice cream in exchange for a tidy room so you cleaned up in a flash? Sometimes the best motivation is a small treat. Maybe you’ve been dying to buy that latest bestseller or sign up for a Netflix account. Don’t do it until you’ve stuck to your exercise plan for a month. Keep a photo of your reward on your bulletin board so the next time you reach for the remote and bag of chips, you’ll remember you should probably hit the gym instead.
Katie Teal, UNC-Chapel Hill, Senior
Carlene Helble, James Madison University, Senior
Dave Spindel, Nutritionist and Trainer, http://essentialfitness.com/

Jessica Stringer is a senior journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is originally from Woodbridge, VA. At UNC, she is the editorial director for Rival Magazine, a joint publication between UNC and Duke. She has previously written for the Daily Tar Heel, interned at DC Magazine and CNBC, and is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Jessica fell in love with London during her semester abroad and dreams of moving across the pond. Some of her favorite things include coconut cupcakes, Carolina basketball, old Hollywood movies, and her Havanese puppy Max.
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