By Gabby Roe
Getting to the gym is tough work.
Much of our day is taken up by things that we “have to do” and obligations that we must meet.
Most college students tend to see going to the the gym as a “chore” to check off this to-do list. However, what if we saw it as an opportunity to give back to ourselves?
It takes a mindset switch — from seeing the gym as a taxing activity that eats up time and money to viewing it as simple as a 20 to 30 minute routine that helps you invest in your well-being.
I see it as a mind trick. The gym can become a space that can help you become a better-version-of-yourself each time you go.
This concept of using time to give back to yourself can be categorized into “self-care,” but can also be very rewarding. It is a time to focus solely on yourself.
We are not encouraged to act selfish in other aspects of life. But, in the gym, sometimes you have to put yourself first — the only person who you should be concerned about is you.
As a student athlete who is constantly trying to manage academics, an on-campus job, training schedules, and a social life (oh and did I mention occasional “me time”…yes that is a thing that I also pencil into my schedule) fitting in time for the gym on top of all these tasks can seem like an impossible goal.
However, I am here to tell you that it is possible if you make the time and dedicate yourself to a fitness schedule.
Speaking from personal experience, I am not someone who grew up lifting weights, learning how to use ellipticals, and counting calories.
Throughout high school, basketball and softball were my outlets for everyday stresses I faced in life.
Very similarly to how I managed stress in high school, in college the gym has become my outlet to release that same stress and kick in those endorphins.
I believe that daily exercise is essential for everyone to find what works best for you and to motivate and elevate yourself on both a physical and emotional level. I try to go six days a week to the gym or try to fit some form of activity into my day.
On your busiest days, the impact of 20 minute of workout can be unbelievable because it not only leaves you with a better sense of self, but also brings awareness to the fact that you can make a difference on your body by holding yourself accountable.
On days when I feel less motivated and less inclined to make the trip to the gym, I remind myself of the feeling of accomplishment. If I had just given up or made excuses, I would have been ignoring my physical and mental needs.
When I can’t make it to the gym, I try to make my habits into a workout, rather than do nothing at all. For example, maybe I’ll take the stairs instead of the elevator. Regardless, it is important to take breaks every now and then.
Life is stressful, work can pile up, and it is important to know yourself well enough to know what you need on certain days.
Try to find other ways to give back to yourself. This can be taking a nap, having a night in, meditating, journaling, or even as simple as going to bed early.
In a society and culture where images, photos, looks, sizes, and posts determine our worth, the true value is how you feel on the inside versus on the outside.
Many fitness experts and personal trainers go wrong is making you think that you have to have an elaborate workout regimen aligned with an intense diet plan.
This mentality is all wrong and creates a limited mindset that isolates people from pursuing their exercise goals, making them feel intimidated by the “male dominant atmosphere” present at the gym.
Though this idea is often not spoken about, I have experienced it personally as a young woman. It can negatively affect your perspective because you feel as if everyone is judging you.
I encourage those who do feel this intimidation to refocus back to why you are in the gym in the first place — to better yourself and nobody else. You are in control of how you perceive the situation and how you react.
To the young women who are trying to fit workouts into their demanding schedules, do not be intimidated by those around you — keep the focus on you.
This is essential in acknowledging that we all have different bodies, different needs, goals, and are all at different points in our lives.
For me, mixing up workouts adds a good balance to my workout routine. It also keeps my routine more fun and less likely to become boring or repetitive.
I keep a workout journal which I show in the video to help me keep track of what exercises I do and how many reps and weights I lift on that day of the week. I also take advantage of fitness classes that are cardio-based or yoga.
Treadmill Workout From My Workout Journal
Another helpful tip for amateur gym-goers or those who feel intimidated with the overall gym environment is to not be afraid to explore and try something new.
Whether it is meeting one on one with a personal trainer or having a friend (gym buddies always make the experience better), they can help you build confidence in the gym.
I start off every workout with dynamic stretches to help wake-up my body and end with a cool-down walk on the treadmill.
This start and finishing technique serves as my “reward” for getting through the workout and making it to the gym in the first place. It is important to establish little goals and rewards to help you get to those bigger goals you are hoping to accomplish in the long run.
For example, by the end of this spring semester, I want to sign up for a 5k run I have been training for since January. Although a 5k is not a marathon, it is a stepping stone to something greater that can build to a half-marathon and then a marathon.
Keeping a bigger goal in mind helps you on track to achieving that one goal you have been eyeing all along.
To summarize, here’s how to own the gym and take charge of your mental and physical health:
- Trick your mind into seeing the gym as an opportunity for growth and giving back to yourself
- Make the time and dedicate yourself to a fitness schedule
- Keep a fitness journal of your workouts and plan ahead for what workouts you will do on each day of the week
- If you skip a gym day, try to find other ways to make up for it
- Find exercises that works for you and explore new ways to workout through taking fitness classes
- Set a long term goal (5k run or muscle toning) and multiple short term goals that can help you get there step by step
- Fight intimidation with preparation and confidence
- Make a “reward” for yourself at the end of your workouts
- Remember, this is all about YOU; you fitness journey does not concern anyone else
- Remember, true beauty has more to do with how you feel on the inside than how you look on the outside.
- Get In-Get Out: Make your workout time productive by having a plan and sticking to it!
And here’s a quick 20 min Running Workout that I like to do when I am in a time crunch at the gym:
20 Minute Running Workout; Walk-Jog-Run, repeat:
- Start with Dynamic Stretching for 1-2 min
- Begin with a steady walk (at approximately 3.5 mph on the treadmill setting)
- Build up to a comfortable jog and keep a steady pace
- Once you feel confident and warmed up, being to run at your own pace and try to keep that pace
- If you feel like you can keep going at that pace, by all means stay with it. If not, it is also a good idea to walk for 5 min for every 1 mi that you run.
- Continue either keeping your pace for whatever distance that you are aiming for (for me 20 min is the equivalent of a 2 mi run)
Reach the writer on Instagram