Running with the herd

Staying focused once school starts

Well, it’s that time of year again! The summer has come and gone in a flash, and the dreaded first week of school is upon us.

While it’s really easy to get absorbed in your schoolwork in an attempt to stay on top of things, your exercise levels have a tendency to crash and burn. Believe it or not, there is such a thing as “the freshman 15,” and I am here to help you avoid it with a few quick tips to keep your fitness level in peak condition.

Write down your goals
First things first, you need to establish fitness goals for the year. By doing so, you will keep yourself motivated, and determined to achieve what you set out to do. A valuable tool to use would be the S.M.A.R.T. principle, which ensures that your goals are manageable, and specific enough to achieve.
It is important to make sure that you don’t set too lofty of a goal. For one thing, you will still be quite busy with school, and if your goal is too challenging, it may end up taking more time in your life than your education. It’s also discouraging if you don’t ultimately achieve your end goal, so make sure to set something realistic, whatever that may be for you individually. Everyone’s health and fitness levels will vary, so keep that in mind as well.

Develop a program, stay consistent
Once you have established a clear fitness goal, the next step is to plan out a program. It is critical that you map out assigned times during the day in which you will engage in physical activity, in order to keep your schedule the same. The first thing you should do is evaluate what your current schedule looks like, and figure out when you have time during the day to get in a workout.
My advice would be to pencil in a workout four times a week. That will give you enough time to train, but not so much that you are hurting your body. Take one day in between your training sessions to recover. I also suggest establishing your workouts at some point after your classes, or after study sessions. This will give you an outlet to release the stress you may have built up, and will also help to clear your mind.

Keep a log of your progress, and evaluate every month
After you have determined when the most effective times to engage in training will be, you should make sure to track your progression. This will give you a form of encouragement as the months go along. I would suggest logging everything in a journal so that it is easy to keep track of.
It is important to keep in mind that not every month will have a significant gain in fitness level. Note when your exams are, and when there are major tests or assignments coming up. During those times it is okay to push things back a little bit, as long as you still engage in smaller forms of physical activity during the week to keep your mind fresh.
Write down how every individual workout went, that way you can develop a baseline as a reference down the line. Also include your nutrition for each day, and if that may have had an effect on the way your workout went.

Stay positive
Most importantly, stay positive! Even though you are going to be pushing your body, and it may be hard to enjoy yourself sometimes, keep in mind that there is a greater goal that you are aiming for, and as long as you stay focused, you can—and will—get there!