Healthy Habits in a New Environment
Throughout high school, I was a very active member of my school dance team, eventually becoming team captain. I found my footing there after I had to stop track due to a knee injury, didn’t get along well with cross country skiing, and realized how much I missed dance after binging every season of Dance Moms.
Our dance team was a year-round sport, performing at every varsity football and basketball game. We would learn a new dance for each performance, trying not to reuse very many dances. We practiced Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for 2 to 3 hours after school.
Even when COVID shut everything down, we were still approved to practice together as long as we were outside and not doing any partner tricks, so I was still maintaining my normal amount of physical activity each week throughout all of high school.
Exercise on the Back Burner
It took me a while to really realize how drastically my exercise habits changed after coming to college. I basically went cold turkey on any intentional physical activity. Even the jobs I was working didn’t come close to matching the amount of physical activity I got at my job back home, running around a fast food restaurant. It wasn’t until a couple of months in that I started to notice that my exercise habits were not keeping up with all of the ice cream I was eating from the dining hall.
If I’m completely honest, noticing my body change was definitely hard for me. It still is. But the most difficult and important thing that changed was how my body wasn’t able to do the things it was able to do when I was in high school. I didn’t feel as strong, I didn’t feel as flexible, and I didn’t feel as energized. I could easily attribute all of these things to being more focused on school and sitting more for class and studying, but there is no doubt that my lack of exercise did not help. I think this is part of the reason it took me so long to realize the drastic change in my physical activity and how its absence made me feel.
An Exercise Reboot
Once I realized the root of the problem, I began searching for ways to fix it. I needed to do something. One of my friends had been lifting weights way before they came to college. This was something so important to them that even moving to a new environment didn’t stop their habit. So, I tried it. I liked parts of it and I even continued it over the summer when I was home, but it wasn’t sustainable for me. I found it hard to find the time to change, go to the gym, work out, come back to my room, and get started with schoolwork again. What I wanted to dedicate one hour a day to became two hours that were very hard to fit in. So, on to the next thing.
I looked into the programming offered by Campus Recreation and found two very interesting opportunities. First was Zumba, which I tried only once before deciding it wasn’t for me. I still have many friends that go every week.
But then I tried yoga. This is really where I found my footing. Yoga was the perfect balance to relax after a long day of school and also get some strength training and deep stretching in. I found that practicing yoga was exactly what I needed to start feeling confident in what my body was capable of again. I also appreciated that there are tons of YouTube videos with yoga practices of all lengths that I could do right in the privacy of my dorm room. I even went out and bought my own yoga mat.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, I encourage you to be open-minded and try new things. Not everything will be your cup of tea, but something is better than nothing. Eventually you will find some type of physical activity that your body needs and your heart enjoys.