COMPLETE GUIDE: How to Stay Fit in College | 14 Tips to Stay In Shape During School
I think I have made a “Tips to stay healthy in college” post at the beginning of just about every new semester, but the list just keeps building and building as I pick up more easy tips and hacks to stay fit as I go throughout my college years!
So, I give to you:
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO STAYING FIT IN COLLEGE
I am so excited about these tips because I feel like this is the most complete list yet. Fitness is made of MORE than just working out. Fitness encompasses the WHOLE body! To me, fitness has three components:
This list of tips hits on each one of these and I hope you find them helpful. Here you go, friends! Time to kick off another semester - the healthy way.
1. Bring snacks EVERYWHERE you go!
I am a firm believer in SNACKS. There is a reason this is tip #1. If you see me on campus walking around with a giant lunchbox, it’s full of snacks. Most days, I leave my apartment at 6:00am to do a few personal training sessions and then I just stay on campus for the rest of the day. I eat about every 3 hours, so I always have to pack a bag full of healthy food because I get hangry if I go for long periods of time without eating. I find that I am less likely to over eat once meal time comes around if I have been eating smaller portions throughout the day. In all of my snacks I look for three things:
1. High in protein
2. High in healthy fats
3. Low in sugar
I absolutely LOVE Quest Bars, Unico Nutrition protein powder (use the code “BOWERS20” for 20% off on www.uniconutrition.com), fresh fruits and veggies, mixed nuts, Justin’s single serving nut butter packs, Eat Fit Go meals, homemade energy bites, etc. CLICK HERE to get some of my favorite healthy snack recipes!
2. ALWAYS eat breakfast.
I am one of those people that HAS to eat right when I wake up. I do love to do fasted cardio in the morning occasionally, but for the most part I always reach for breakfast shortly after I roll out of bed. I know intermittent fasting has become super popular lately (a technique where you limit your “feeding window” to a span of 8 hours a day) but I will always be an advocate for breakfast, especially if you are a student. Giving your body the fuel it needs early in the morning will help you focus and have enough energy to go about your busy schedule! My breakfast is always the highest carb meal I eat during the day. I like to load up on complex carbohydrates early (like whole grain oats) so my body burns them as energy throughout the morning.
This tip may seem like the easiest one but with deadlines, distractions and the desire to have a social life, sleep can sometimes take the back seat. Aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night to make sure you have enough energy to take on your day when you wake up in the morning. A lack of sleep can make it hard to focus and can lead to over-eating and even irritability. I am a coffee drinker, but warm tea in the morning can also help get you up & going.
4. But… Set your alarm EARLY.
Rise & shine! Get up and get moving before the craziness of your day starts. I love working out in the morning, because not only does it wake my body up and help me feel more alert and energized, I have also found I am MUCH more productive for the rest of the day. Plus, post workout breakfast is the bomb. Like, probably one of my favorite parts of the day. Mix up a bowl of overnight oats and put them in the fridge so they are ready to eat right when you finish your workout!
5. Use the campus rec center
Most college campuses have a recreation center full of workout equipment and plenty of space to get up and get moving, so take advantage of the resources given to you! Make your gym time a social hour and take a group of your friends to work out. I spend a lot of time at Mizzou’s campus rec center working as a personal trainer and I love being around such like-minded people passionate about fitness and wellness. Mizzou has TigerX group fitness classes, personal training boot camps, team sports clubs, individual training sessions, and partner training sessions, so the opportunities are endless. Chances are, your college offers similar opportunities to help you reach your fitness goals!
6. Maximize your workout time and try a high-intensity interval workout.
There are SO many benefits to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Not only is it quick, efficient, and sure to make you sweat, it also leaves your body in a state of recovery for a longer period of time; meaning you will actually burn MORE calories over the course of the following 24 hours than if you were to do a long distance cardio workout that lasted 45 minutes. CLICK HERE to view my segment on KCTV5’s Better Kansas City about getting the most of your workout time.
7. Walk to class
If you go to a large, spread out university (*ahem* MIZZOU) and are used to hopping on a shuttle to get to class, try leaving a few minutes earlier and traveling the old fashioned way! You would be surprised at how many steps you can log just by being up and moving around campus all day long. Walking to class is a great way to work in extra cardio to your already busy schedule. From where I park to my first class of the day, it takes about a 30 minute walk. I don’t mind this, because I honestly find it relaxing and it’s built in exercise! On average, I log about 16,000 steps every day when I am walking to and from classes.
8. Become a multi-tasking QUEEN.
Grab your textbook and hit the stair climber - you would be surprised at how much reading you can get done in a little sweat sesh! I do this ALL the time. If I have an assignment that I can easily do sitting or on the stair climber, I always pick the stair climber because it is such an easy way to knock out two tasks at once.
9. Carry a bottle of water with you everywhere
Sometimes remembering to drink enough water can be the last thing on your mind! However, there are so many health benefits that come along with drinking enough water. Aiding with digestion, flushing out toxins and keeping your skin hydrated and plump are only a few notable benefits water provides your body. Carrying a water bottle with you at all times and sipping on it throughout the day is a great way to make sure you are staying up on your water intake. If you prefer something with a little more flavor, try adding some fresh or frozen fruit to your bottle to create a tasty, fruit-infused drink.
10. Track your meals and workouts with an app.
Lose It! is my personal fave - it lets me log all of my food and exercise so I have a baseline idea of where I am sitting when it comes to macros and calories for the day. If you struggle with holding yourself accountable, keeping an ACCURATE food and exercise log can make all the difference. Make a genuine effort to record your behaviors every day and you will begin to notice habits and trends that you can identify as unhealthy. From there, you know what you need to work on changing to improve your health.
11. Make smart choices at the dining hall.
Since I live off campus now, I do not eat at the campus dining halls. However, I know so many students do and struggle with knowing which foods to pick to make the healthiest choice when they are presented with an endless buffet! Most dining halls offer a salad bar, so always start your meals with a big serving of veggies to help you feel fuller before you dig in to a more calorie dense meal. When it comes to dressing selections, always choose clear used dressings over thick and creamy. Clear dressings tend to be much lower in calories and you would be surprised at how big of a difference you can make simply by making a dressing swap! When it comes to your meal, strive to eat a serving of lean protein, lots of steamed or fresh veggies (hold the sauce and butter), a healthy fat like olive oil, nuts, or avocado, and a healthy complex carb like sweet potato or whole grain oats. I will have to do a full post on healthy dining hall meals soon, because I could ramble on and on about this FOREVER!
12. Take time to meal prep
We all know the story: You hit the snooze button one too many times for that 8 a.m. class. Now you’re running late. You find yourself scrambling out the door with barely enough time to make sure you have both shoes on, let alone prepare a healthy lunch to pack with you. It happens more frequently than we like to admit, especially if you have an early morning. Taking that extra time the night before to prepare the meals you are going to eat the next day will save you the stress and inconvenience of having to do it in the morning. Since I usually leave for a full day pretty early in the morning, I like to make sure I have all of my meals and snacks packed and ready to grab when I am walking out the door.
Meal prep tips:
- Use plastic tubs with dividers to separate your foods
- Measure out your snacks to make sure you are staying on track with portion control
- Aim to include protein and a healthy fat in every meal or snack
- You can prep a day or two in advance, or even knock out a full week of meals on a Sunday evening! It is totally up to you and how you feel you can be the most proactive.
13. Find ways to relieve stress that AREN'T eating and indulging
If you are an "emotional eater," the stress of college may cause mindless eating and overindulgence when you start to feel stressed out or overwhelmed. Instead of reaching for comfort food, try finding other ways to relieve stress like a yoga class, a low intensity jog, a healthy cooking day with friends, or even a walk through the park.