Going back to school means that there is an essential reorganization of priorities that needs to happen. Homework rises to the top, social life tends to drop a few positions, Wine Wednesday ranks higher or lower depending on the week. With this reorganization there are causalities, some of which are things that should really remain high on the priority list. Sleep is the big one, but health and fitness is another that often gets overlooked when our schedules fill up. Fitness may seem like an item that can fall off the priority list for a while, but in reality it is a major contributor to maintaining health and balance during grad school. Since grad students can generally use all the help they can get to keep things in balance, here are six tips for staying fit in grad school:
Make Healthy A Priority
The first step to staying fit in grad school is to commit. You have to not only decide that you want to stay fit (or get fit), you have to commit to sticking with it even on the days that you don’t want to. We each have our own ways of making ourselves commit, whether that be a reward system, an accountability buddy, or sheer will power. Whatever your tactic is, kick it into high gear.
Have A Schedule
Sticking with a commitment becomes easier when you build it into your schedule. Plan for when you want to workout and then put it on your schedule. Blocking off specific time helps limit the amount of things that interrupt, distract, or dissuade you from working out. If you know you are prone to finding excuses after work, set your alarm a half hour to a hour earlier and get your workout in in the morning. Getting out of bed may be tough, but once you’re up you’ll be proud you got your workout in.
Pick A Routine
Some of us are fine to make up a workout as we go, others prefer a more structured approach. If you are one of the latter, do your research and find a program that fits your pace. You can choose a paid program, which for some may provide the extra motivation to stick with it, DVDs, or go the route of one of the various online trainers who post free content and workouts. If there are several that look interesting, try them all out and find which ones you like. Regularly changing your workout keeps your body guessing and prevents plateaus. Keep this in mind as you choose or design your workout routine.
There will be days when the last thing you want to do is go for a run after work or drag yourself out of bed an hour early. When those days hit, don’t give in! Sitting on the couch or hitting snooze may feel awesome at first, but getting up and sticking to your goal will feel even better. The couch will be waiting for you when you’re done.
But Know Your Limits
Maintaining your motivation and pushing through is great, but you also need to be mindful of burn out or injuries. If you only got 5 hours of sleep the night before and are dead on your feet, skip the run and go to bed. Motivation is admirable, but pushing too hard can do more damage than good.
Get Enough Sleep
This may seem like a separate issue from staying fit, but it is actually closely linked. Sleep allows your body to heal and strengthen itself between workouts. When you don’t get enough sleep, your workouts become less effective and the risk of injury increases. Lack of sleep can also lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol, which can lead to weight gain.
Grad school is tough and it can come with some high costs, but your health and fitness do not need to be among them. Do you have any other tips for staying fit during grad school?
Commit to happy and healthy!