College Fitness: Don’t Become Victim to the Freshman 15

by Matt Weik

College is a time where you get to put on your big boy (or girl) pants and leave home to further your education. However, this new-found freedom often comes with a price—an increased waistline. We all heard of the “freshman 15” and all the guilt that comes along with it when you go home over break to find your summer bathing suit no longer fits. Well, it’s a simple concept—you became lazy and complacent at college and created poor lifestyle choices. You have no one to blame, but yourself. This article will help prevent those who are on their way to college from becoming part of the statistic. Below you will find tips and tricks to keep your health and fitness on track while you’re on your own living in prison—I mean a dorm room.

1. Make sure you have healthy food in your mini-fridge and freezer

With your new freedom, many people will think they can get away with loading up their fridge with all the junk they always wanted to eat at home but your parents would never let you eat. Not only that, but more than likely you won’t have access to a kitchen, so you’ll need food that you can quickly throw in the microwave. Foods such as mini pizzas, hot pockets, tv dinners, and tons of quick party snacks like wings, mozzarella sticks, and similar. Skip it.

Instead of all the junk, stock up on fruits and veggies. These are quick and healthy snacks that you can eat any time of day. With items like apples and celery you can cut them up and dip them in natural peanut butter for a healthy pre-study snack. You can also stock up on Greek yogurt and things like string cheese.

2. You need sleep

Listen, this isn’t Animal House, college isn’t one big party where you party all night long. Students seem to have the mentality that they can sleep when they’re dead. Well, if you don’t get enough rest, you’ll be shuffling around campus like the walking dead. Sleep plays a key part in your overall health, weight, and hormone levels. In order to keep all of these in check, you need to be getting a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night.

Some tips to increase your quality of sleep: turn off your electronics so they are not distracting at night and don’t wake you up in the middle of the night (yes, that means your cell phone—drunk friends like to text at 2am). Also, invest in some heavy curtains to keep the sunlight out when you’re trying to sleep in the morning. Nothing says hello like sun gleaming on your face at 5am while you’re trying to get another couple hours of sleep. Another thing to consider would be a fan of some sort. Temperatures vary across the nation, but one thing is for sure, it’s bound to get hot at some point and if you’re hot, you’re going to be uncomfortable and won’t be able to get some good quality sleep. Keep your room temperature comfortable through the help of a fan. Not every college has air conditioners, so a fan is a must to make it through hot nights.

3. Make fitness a priority

Sure, walking around campus is cardio, but you could always use more cardio along with some resistance training. Look at your schedule and figure out a time before, between, or after classes that you can fit in a workout. Colleges these days have been improving their on-campus gyms and let’s face it, you pay enough in tuition that you deserve a good gym to hit a workout each day. Make time. Fitting in a workout to kick start your day or finish one is a great way to combat stress and improve your mood and cognition. Oh yea, and that calorie burn thing. That’s always good too.

What should you do at the campus gym? Start off with a warm-up of around 5-10 minutes. From there, decide if you want to do a full body workout or if you want to dedicate the day to certain body parts. From there, get to it. When you’re done with your resistance training, hop on a piece of cardio equipment and finish your workout with 15-30 minutes of cardio.

4. Keep junk food out of your dorm

The struggle is real. You’re stressed out over an upcoming exam or a deadline on a paper you haven’t even started yet, and all you want to do is binge on food you’ll regret later. If you have a bag of chips or candy in your dorm, the chances of you eating it at some point are extremely high. And if you’re telling yourself you’re not going to eat it, then why buy it in the first place? Make smart decisions and plan accordingly.

Now if you have a roommate that likes to snack on junk, you’re going to need some self-control. If you find yourself partaking in some of your roommate’s snacks with him or her on occasion, don’t get all bent out of shape and go on a binge eating everything in sight because you think you’ve already killed your diet so what’s a day full of poor food going to change—actually, it will change a lot. When you realize you went overboard, take a step back and readjust. Get yourself back on track and don’t beat yourself up over it. It will happen on occasion, you just need to refocus and return to your normal healthy eating habits.

5. Wear your workout clothes to class

If you have time between classes to walk as a form of cardio for the day, then wear your workout clothes to class. Look, unless you’re on an Ivy League campus, no one is going to care if you walk around in workout apparel. In fact, the person next to you in class in their pajamas, they aren’t judging you. So, throw on your shorts, top, and running shoes and head out the door. Fit in your workouts where you can, and if that means cardio between classes, then that’s a viable option.

6. Dorm workouts are acceptable

If you’re extremely busy with classes, studying, and anything else going on around campus and can’t find time to make it to the gym before it closes, feel free to hit a workout right in your dorm. You can fit in a great bodyweight workout even when rolling out of bed in the morning. Assuming you have enough free space in your dorm, you can easily do burpees, pushups, crunches, squats, and several other exercises without even leaving your room. You could even hit a dorm workout with your roommate and turn it into a competition. You’re not always going to have the perfect scenario to hit the gym, so utilizing a dorm workout whether you’re too busy or if the weather is bad can be a lifesaver.

7. Dining hall does not equate to full on buffet

Use some self-control if your meal plan pretty much gives you unlimited access to as much food as you wish to consume. Have some restraint so your buddies aren’t rolling you out the door after over-stuffing your face. It should go without saying, but choose healthy food choices. Hit the salad bar to fill up on some green leafy vegetables. Skip the fattening dressings for a lighter option. Pick lean protein sources and pair them with healthy carbohydrates like vegetables or whole grain rice. Make sure you’re taking in some healthy fats in your diet as well such as utilizing nuts, yogurt, or even combining macros through the use of fish to get in your protein and fats all in one shot. And just because your dining hall has desserts already prepared 24-7 doesn’t mean you need to eat them. If you’d like to treat yourself every once in a while, then so be it, but having a dessert at every meal will have you packing on the pounds in no time at all.

8. Parties – remember your age

You’re away from home. Mommy and daddy aren’t there to watch over you to make sure you make wise decisions. College opens up the door for poor choices, and drinking when you’re not 21 can land you in some big trouble. I’m not naïve to think underage drinking doesn’t happen on campus, I too was in college back in the stone age, but you need some restraint. Just because your buddies are drinking doesn’t give you the green light to partake. The risk/reward does not balance out. Not only could you get an underage on your record if caught, but partying hard every weekend and drinking alcohol can have your weight steadily creeping up on you without you even realizing it—and at that point, it’s too late. Either party with a non-alcoholic beverage that is preferably low in calories or zero calories, or skip the party all together. Or better yet, start your own party with likeminded individuals where no alcohol is present. If you need alcohol to have a good time at college, you must have a pretty lame personality.

Now, if you are 21 (let’s assume after high school you didn’t go straight to college, but decided to go later in life), you can decide for yourself if you’d like to drink or not. If you do, a couple drinks won’t hurt you, but binge drinking or drinking to get drunk can lead to consequences. Light beer would be your best bet from a calorie standpoint and if you can, drink from cans or bottles so you know exactly how much you are consuming so you can keep tabs.