Summer might now be a distant memory and your beach body efforts gone with the sun, but with Freshers’ Week over and the new academic year well under way, now is the time to get back on the fitness bandwagon. The temptation to hold out until it’s acceptable to start piling on the insulation layers (I’m talking both coats and chocolate) is real, but the benefits of health and fitness go beyond the bikini. Not only does working out get you away from your desk, it improves your energy and concentration levels along with your general wellbeing and mindset. So start strong, get back on track and hit the ground running.
Puns aside, forget getting back on track – I for one am still locating the track, or, in this case, the Sports Park. I’ve been to the gym more times since the start of this term than in the rest of my life, and that’s not some steroid-fuelled reflection of the former. A complete amateur, I invested in my first ever gym membership in Freshers’ Week. So whether you’re getting back into the routine or still finding your way, hopefully my novice-novelty will rub off and I can share what I’ve learnt so far.
My first suggestion is to go with a friend. Having a partner makes the prospect of going to the gym less intimidating and makes working out more enjoyable. You can share routines and it might give you the courage to try new equipment or, dare I say it, even the weights room… Plus, you can hold each other accountable for actually turning up!
Commit by booking classes, forcing yourself to schedule fitness into your week, or going to the gym straight from lectures. Although you’ll be that person always in sportswear, your excuse for wearing leggings 24/7 is now valid, and you’re halfway there if you’re both dressed for the gym and already on campus! Classes or workshops are a good alternative to the gym, but fitness doesn’t necessarily mean having to trek up to the Sports Park at all. Varying the ways you stay active makes it seem less of a chore and incorporates different elements into your routine. Joining an AU sports club is an obvious example of this or simply get outside, get on a bike or go for a run.
If you really want to feel the difference, we all know it doesn’t stop there and I’ll be the first to admit that this is the hard part; the student lifestyle doesn’t exactly go hand-in-hand with healthy eating. Like having a workout partner, a health kick is made a lot easier if the people around you are on board. The last few weeks have been a learning curve in my house. So far we’ve discovered just how stressful the ripening of an avocado can be, how to pronounce quinoa and that almond butter tastes like dirt.
Be it Marketplace or Saunders, temptation still exists around every corner. My advice is to set out with good intentions for your weekly food shop, planning balanced main meals in advance and not buying unhealthy snacks from the outset. This decreases the success rates of drunken fridge raiding and lowers the stakes in late night snacking.
When in doubt, there are a few good tricks for stopping snacking. Start by asking yourself if an apple would satisfy your hunger. If not, you’re likely just craving sugar. You could also try drinking a glass of water as we often we mistake thirst for hunger. As a final resort, attempt to stave off the urge to grab the biscuit tin for 15 minutes; if you can resist the initial idea you may well then find the idea less appealing. Having said this, be kind and treat yourself from time to time. Denying yourself that cajun pizza Firehouse trip will only result in a Dommies binge later.
So now I’ve found the track, the real challenge is staying on it. When the novelty of the shiny new membership wears off and freshers flu takes its toll (give it a few days), I know I’ll be re-reading this, hoping to find some inspiration in my naive enthusiasm. Whether you’re starting out like me, or a seasoned health professional and gym veteran simply picking up where you left off; don’t give up, it’s a constant (potentially uphill!) cycle for us all.