Balancing Fitness and Student Life

I started to take fitness seriously during a period when I was not taking any classes, so I had to adapt my routine quite a bit when I started taking classes again. It boils down to three things: a realistic routine, preparation and organization, and discipline.

A realistic routine is one that makes it the easiest for you to stick to it. If you are not a morning person, don’t schedule 5 a.m. workouts five days a week before class. If you rely on public transit, factor in commute time. If you know that you have a day where you have to work and go to class, maybe schedule a rest day. Within your routine, it’s important to use your time wisely. I take public transit and it’s at least an hour and a half each way to campus, so I often use that time to do my readings. I will also watch videos and lectures while I’m on the treadmill at the end of my workout.

Being organized will save you. This is not my strong suit, but I’ve developed a few tips and tricks to keep myself on track that might help you out as well. On Sunday, I sit down with my work schedule, my assignment due dates, and my workout program and I write down every one of my commitments and due dates for the week. Once I have those in my calendar, I schedule my workouts for the week around that. This ensures that I am prioritizing school while also doing the things I love. This has been a pretty fool proof system for me so far, but there are weeks where I have to more flexible and spend more time doing schoolwork than I do in the gym, which is totally okay! It’s all about finding the right balance.

While a realistic routine and some good organization can help you a lot, a schedule like this requires a lot of discipline. It’s really easy to make excuses and say that you’re too tired to workout after a busy day, but sometimes you just have to push through and do it. Every time that I consider skipping a workout and end up going, I feel so proud. Every time you push through, you’re practicing discipline and showing yourself that you are capable of doing hard things. It is important to note that there is a difference between discipline and pushing yourself past your limits. If your body isn’t properly fuelled and needs to rest, listen to it.

Dealing with Setbacks

In the last six months or so, I have really focused on consistency and discipline and I started to feel kind of invincible. It seemed like no matter how hard I pushed myself, I was making huge improvements in my performance and I was able to recover well, but last week it all caught up to me and I got injured. Luckily, the injury isn’t serious and all I need is some time away from the gym to rest and recover, but it’s frustrating nonetheless. The physical benefits are a huge part of why I take the gym so seriously but it’s also one of the main things I do to take care of my mental health, so having to take a couple weeks off has really taken a toll on me. Setbacks are inevitable, especially if your fitness journey is a lifelong one, so learning how to deal with or cope with them is going to help you out a lot in the long run.

If you’re dealing with something like an injury, of course, the first step should be to take care of yourself physically. Whether it’s resting, going to the doctor or a physiotherapist, or just adapting your training until you recover, listening to your body is the most important step. Even minor injuries need care so that they don’t turn into major injuries, so listen to the warning signs from your body and don’t push it past its limits. A few days, or even a few weeks, out of the gym to recover is not going to kill your progress, so take the time when you need it.

I find the mental impact of these types of setbacks to be harder to deal with than the actual injury itself. Filling the time that I would normally spend in the gym with other self care activities has been the most helpful thing I’ve tried so far. Personally, I love to read, write, and crochet, so I have been dedicating at least an hour a day to these things. While they are super different from working out, they help me stay grounded and keep my mind busy, which is exactly what the gym does for me. I have also been trying to stay active in other ways. The injury that I’m dealing with allows me to go for walks and stretch, so I’ve been trying to do a little bit of that every day to keep my body moving and blow off some steam.

Long story short, injuries suck and are super frustrating, but it is so important to take time to recover so that you can get back to working toward your goals.

Make Meal Prep Easier

I feel like I need to put a major disclaimer on this post. Nutrition is entirely dependent on your individual needs, what works for me may not work for you. This point is simply meant to make nutrition seem a little less daunting by giving you some of my tips and tricks that have set me up for success. Personally, I track my macros to manage my food intake, but I don’t have any qualifications to advise you on how to determine what your macros should be.

Stick to the basics

One of the mistakes that I made a lot when I first started meal prepping was trying to make these elaborate meals with a ton of components. While yes, they tasted really great, it was not sustainable because the prep took me so much time. It also didn’t allow for any flexibility, because everything was pre-made and pre-portioned.

Now, I prep ingredients rather than whole meals. Generally, I cook a couple of chicken breasts and some ground beef as my protein sources, a few different veggies, and then usually some rice or pasta as my carb sources.

Set aside time for meal prep

My schedule kind of sucks right now, and there are days where I have to leave the house before 7 am and I don’t get home until after 9 pm. On those days, having all my meals prepped and ready to go means that I get to sleep a little longer and save myself a whole lot of stress. I like to prep for a few days at a time, so I typically will set aside about 2 hours or so twice a week to plan and cook. Certain things don’t prep well so I will make them as I go, like my oatmeal and eggs in the mornings, for example.

Get some nice containers and a good lunchbox

When I buy new containers I look for ones that are compact, leak-proof, and microwave-safe. I like glass containers for storing food at home, but I prefer plastic containers for on-the-go meals because they are way easier to carry around in my backpack all day. My favourite containers are from the Rubbermaid Brilliance collection.

A good lunch box is important, especially if you carry food with you all day like I have to. Find a lunchbox that is insulated that you can add ice packs to so that your food can essentially be refrigerated on the go. Lately, I’ve been using this super compact one from Amazon.

Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

Seriously. Set yourself up for success by grocery shopping with a list, set aside some time to prep, and stick to the basics.

Tracking Progress

I track my progress in a few different ways because I have several goals that I am working towards at the same time. I am going to break down how I track my progress toward my aesthetic goals, my performance goals, and my nutrition goals. 

I did not start my fitness journey with any aesthetic goals, but as time has gone on, I have set out to lose weight to look and feel healthier and stronger. There are a few ways that I track my progress toward this goal. First, I weigh myself every morning to ensure that I am moving in the right direction. It is normal to see some fluctuation from day to day, so it is not the only way I track progress, but it is a good tool to use to identify and understand the trends in my weight loss. In addition, I take a lot of photos. It can be really hard to see any changes in the mirror because we are our own worst critics, so photos are a great way to compare the changes that have occurred over a longer period of time. I have also noticed changes in the way my clothes fit, which can be a great indicator of progress if you are not comfortable weighing yourself or taking photos. 

In the gym, my goal has always been to get stronger. I have recently started to track my progress every week by writing down the amount of weight and reps that I do for each exercise, and then I try to increase that a little bit every week. I included a screenshot of my notes app to demonstrate what this looks like. 

A screenshot of a note describing how to track weight and reps during a workout

When it comes to nutrition, I use an app to track my daily food intake to ensure that I am eating the right amount of food, as well as the right types of food. I am going to dedicate a post to nutrition in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more details about how I set and track my nutrition goals! 

Activewear: The Pieces I Love

six photos showcasing sports bras, workout shorts, and leggings.

I truly believe that if you look good, you feel good, or at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m trying to justify buying more activewear. What you like and don’t like in activewear is really going to come down to personal preference, but here are a few of my favourite activewear brands and their standout pieces!

I only recently discovered Amazon activewear, but I wish I had found it sooner. A lot of the pieces you can find on Amazon are relatively inexpensive, similar quality to the leading activewear brands, and on top of that they are super cute and trendy. I find that the key to finding good pieces on Amazon is to read the reviews. I won’t buy anything from Amazon unless the reviews are almost all positive. There are two brands from Amazon that I really love, Aurola and Yeoreo. The Aurola Dream and Yeoreo Tiedye shorts are comfortable, compressive, and squat-proof, and they come in so many cute colours.  Recently, I’ve gotten into super strappy sports bras and the Yeoreo Criss Cross Back and Aurola Venus are my favourites. 

When I feel like splurging, Gymshark is my go-to. They are definitely in the higher price range, but their quality shines through. Their items hold up well in the wash, the materials they use feel really sturdy, and their product design is super minimal, so they are great for mixing and matching. My top three favourite Gymshark items are the Bandeau Sports Bra, the Minimal Sports Bra, and the Everyday Seamless Shorts

While I find that Lululemon isn’t my favourite for weightlifting, it is my favourite brand for athleisure, and for other physical activity that I do outside of the gym. I really love the Wonder Train Tights, the Align bra, and the Align Shorts

How Do I Find a Workout Plan That Works for Me?

There is so much information available online about fitness, and it can be difficult to decide who to listen to. When it comes to picking a workout plan to follow, I would start by asking yourself a few questions:

What are my fitness goals?

Identifying specific fitness goals takes a bit more precision than finding your “why”. Do you want to improve your strength and build muscle, increase your speed and endurance, work on your mobility and agility? Are you interested in a specific activity, like bodybuilding, powerlifting or pilates, for example? 

What do I want my physical activity to look like?

Would you prefer to workout in a weight room, in a class setting, at home, or even outside? What kind of equipment do you need for the activity you want to pursue?

Do I want to workout independently or with a coach?

The answer to this question is largely dependent on how much money, if any, you are willing to invest into your workout plan. Creating and following a plan independently is the most cost-effective option. You can even make it completely free if you workout at home and create a workout plan with your own research. I would say that the next step up would be to purchase a plan, or subscribe to a fitness app. Many online personal trainers have workout plans that they have created and sell for a set price. They are meant to be used for a specified amount of time, and they take a one-size-fits-all approach. Fitness apps typically serve the same purpose, but instead of being a one-time purchase, they offer subscriptions and tend to update the content of their plans more often. Classes can be a great way to get your exercise in, as they are structured, an instructor is available to help you, and cancellation fees can serve to help you stay accountable, or at least they do for me. Many fitness classes are quite expensive though, making them somewhat less accessible. The most costly option available to you is hiring a personal trainer or coach. That being said, if you are willing to spend the money, hiring a coach takes a lot of the mental effort out of fitness. They are trained to create plans based on your unique needs and abilities, and they know how to gauge whether a plan is working or not. Finding the right plan, app, or coach is completely dependent on what you identified as your fitness goals. Social media can be a great place to start! I found my current plan by following personal trainers who specialize in weight training, and once I consumed enough content to decide who’s goals and values aligned with mine closely enough, I purchased a plan. That being said, please be careful who you buy products from. I highly recommend only buying fitness-related plans and products from certified fitness professionals. This will help to ensure that you are investing in something that is effective, and most importantly, safe. 

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