How I exercise for myself

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

Coming to college is full of challenges: being away from home, taking the hardest classes you have ever faced and trying to find time to relax throughout all of this. Something often lost in this scramble to adapt is maintaining your health as you did before college. No parents to tell you to go to soccer practice or eat your vegetables means you can do whatever you want, and this is where I have found some sense of stability throughout my years at Tech.

Starting at Tech during the height of the pandemic meant I was not afraid of the “freshman 15;” I had just spent months sitting in my house doing nothing, so I was already ahead of the weight-gain game. I felt that my control over my physical health was loose, and a few weeks into school I decided to get up and regain that authority. As someone that never really exercised independently before, I chose the most basic option I could: running around campus.

Each morning I would get up and lap around Tech, and I was amazed at what this ritual did for me. Every week I would see some progress — it would take longer for my legs to tire or I wouldn’t lose my breath as easily — and little by little, I could run farther. These daily journeys around campus also served me well during the pandemic. Getting out to see all parts of Tech was something I would have missed out on without in-person classes or events, so my workouts were the only times I really felt like I was at college.

As a new runner, I eventually gave myself shin splints and had to adapt. Although I would miss out on seeing different parts of campus every day, it was already winter so I wasn’t too disappointed not running in the cold every day. I started doing circuit training in my room and continued this throughout my freshman year, although I didn’t find this as personally gratifying as running.

Still, I felt in control of my health more than ever. Getting up to work out every day meant I was making a difference in my life, one squat at a time. Even when I had to stop exercising in one way I was able to overcome that setback and continue trying to improve myself.

I also noticed more physical results over time. My mom, always one to comment on my appearance, had only positive things to say each time she visited me at school. While I knew these changes were literally superficial, I appreciated knowing I could work to sustainably change how I looked and others could also notice these efforts.

Near the beginning of my sophomore year, my friend invited me to start going to the CRC with them. Intimidated by going to a real gym, I was nervous for our first workout. I felt out of place on the loud, sweaty floor and this seemed to be correct.

During our first visit, my friend and I stood near a bench rack waiting for its user to finish when a buff man came up to us and told us the bench line was somewhere else. 

“We look like such women at the gym,” I said to my friend at the time. 

Despite having limited knowledge of what we should really do at the CRC we kept returning and learning and eventually, I felt comfortable there.

Lifting weights gave me back the marks of progress I saw when I was running. Slowly climbing up in maxes allowed me to see my growth and turned out to be a huge point of stability during the year. Even when other things weren’t going well, focusing on my physical health allowed me to recognize the control I have over my life and improve it.

Moored on campus during the summer, I began putting more structure into my workouts and diet in a feeble attempt at hot girl summer. I set goals to achieve throughout the season and I was able to realize them all by the end and again affirmed that I can achieve what I set out to do in terms  of my health.

Throughout college, I have tried to stay active and continue to improve my health, and I believe I have been able to accomplish this sustainably throughout the years. Changing my workouts with the changes in other parts of my life has given me peace as I grow older, and with each alteration, I feel more in tune with what I can do to stay healthy.

I try to stay wary of putting too much emphasis on exercising consistently, but maintaining my physical health has been a point of stability throughout my time at Tech. Taking time to work on myself, and seeing that it produces results, reminds me each day that I can improve myself and am worth that effort, and it’s something I intend to continue throughout college.