Transitioning to college doesn’t have to mean leaving behind your sweat-breaking passions. But with your class schedule, social life and endless roster of to-dos, finding time to work out can be a serious challenge.
The key to staying active, and looking fine, is finding a fitness regimen that motivates you and requires a commitment. Think it’s easier said than done? Try stepping into one of these novel activities, and you won’t miss a beat:
Get Into Intramurals
If you played an organized sport throughout high school, don’t think twice about joining an intramural league in college, says Shari Kantor, founder and owner of Integrated Personal Training in Voorhees, N.J. Committing to play on an intramural team encourages you to stay in the game while feeding your nostalgic craving for team activity.
Whether your university is famous for its D1 sports or falls in the athletically challenged category, almost every school offers a selection of intramurals for guys, girls and even coed teams, just do your homework to find out. Expect traditional sports, such as baseball, softball, football, soccer, field hockey, wrestling, swimming, and even bowling or golf, but don’t shy away from sports your high school didn’t offer. Some schools host leagues for broomball, dodgeball, horseshoes, whiffleball, pickleball and inner tube water polo.
Just like organized sports in high school, playing intramurals on campus can help you let loose, be social and stay fit. “In high school, I was the girl who played softball, field hockey and squash,” says Elisabeth Brubaker, rising senior at Southern Methodist University. “When I got to college, I immediately signed up for intramural softball to keep me active and in shape. It was probably one of the best decisions I made in the past three years.”
Stay-fit tip: When you arrive on campus, ask an older student or guidance counselor where you can sign up for an intramural sport. Chances are they will point you to the student center, where you can get the details and fill out any paperwork. Or if you want to get a head start, check your school’s Web site to find out what is offered for fall and spring semesters.
Not Your High School Gym Class
There’s nothing more fun than rocking out late at night with your friends, and shaking it on the dance floor is great exercise. Take your Saturday-night moves to the campus gym by signing up for weekly classes, which are often free or super-cheap for students. Dance instruction in hip-hop or salsa is more comfortable in gym clothes and will totally take your moves to the next level. Not the dancing type? Classes like yoga, Pilates, kickboxing and spinning are also pretty common.
“It can be hard trying to make it to the gym now because there is so much going on at once,” says rising senior Naomi Ratner of Syracuse University. “Having a couple scheduled classes every week makes me feel like I have a commitment, a place to be.”
Just hit the campus gym to pick up a class schedule. If you’d feel more motivated and disciplined by going with a friend, figure out times that work for both of you. Not only will you burn those extra calories, but going to the gym together can be a bonding experience.
Stay-fit tip: If you’re having trouble making friends, signing up for a gym class is a fabulous way to meet other students with similar interests. It’s definitely more intimate than a classroom setting, and there’s nothing like a good laugh over those funky dance steps you can’t quite land.
For Members Only
If you like to work out but your school's gym is gross, or its social scene is turning you off, join one of the many reputable private gyms, with more satisfactory facilities, especially common near metropolitan areas. As long as you can afford membership costs, these gyms often provide personal training sessions and access to a great variety of classes for your erratic schedule. Extra class options, a more inviting atmosphere and a financial commitment may just be the motivation you need to get your butt in gear.
Kantor, a 10-year vet in the fitness industry, says to stay in shape, students going to the gym should do cardio (swimming, treadmill, spinning) at least three to five times a week for 30 to 45 minutes per session. She says strength training is also critical and points out that younger people often overlook this important element of working out. For best results, Kantor suggests lifting weights two to three times weekly.
But Kantor’s best advice is to be leery of lifestyle shifts: “When kids get to college, especially those who were incredibly active in high school, they change their eating and drinking habits immediately. Not only does their endurance and stamina suffer, but the body is not prepared to keep up with the activity level it was once able to comfortably achieve. No one wants to hear it, but staying away from drinking and eating late at night is the key to staying healthy and in shape when going to school.”
Stay-fit tip: Strapped for cash? Join a YMCA (they’re located nationwide) for a very reasonable price. Even if treadmills and ellipticals aren’t your thing, you can take advantage of open basketball courts and swimming pools for a quality workout, and avoid falling into a fitness rut when you ship off to school.
Also read: How to Avoid the Freshman 15