There’s so much to worry about as a college freshman that fitness often becomes an afterthought, or rather, a thought that only occurs to you after you head home for Christmas break and discover that you’re the “one who got fat.” Keeping yourself in shape in college can be hard. And unlike in your classes, you can’t just bitch to the dean until the professor raises your grade. In college, you’re no longer going to have the mandatory training of high school sports. You’re no longer going to have that shitty manual labor job to make up for skipped work outs. You're no longer going to have mom’s home-cooked meals and the vegetables she forces in on the side.
The odds are stacked against you. The Freshman 15 is not a myth. It is all too real. Last year's homecoming king quickly becomes this year's cautionary tale. But, there are some simple steps you can take to make sure that you stay on top of your fitness game as you attempt to conquer the first year of the rest of your life. If you follow our tips, you’ll be trim and lean while your chubby friends are weeping into their chili-cheese fries after their girlfriend dumps them over Thanksgiving break. Here is Sneaker Report’s Official College Freshman Fitness Tip Sheet.
Plan Out and Write Down Your Routine
This might seem obvious, but you’ll see many of your peers wandering the weight room, passing from machine to machine: lost souls unsure of what the Hell they’re doing. These are the people that come to gym, do as many curls as they can and leave. Don’t be one of those people. The rest of us want to do curls too.
Websites like Mens’ Fitness and Bobybuilding.com offer a variety of plans catering to all levels of experience. Also, high school gym teachers and coaches love nothing more than hearing from graduates asking for workout plans. You may have to endure rambling emails and photos of their children/dog, but it will be worth the sacrifice. It's not so important where you get your plan. What is important is that you have one. You can’t get fit without a plan.
Even if your workout plan consists only of a few notes in your iPhone you'll be glad you took the time. With all of the other uncertainties that will crop up in your life during freshman year, at least you’ll have your workout under control.
Find A Workout Buddy
There are many things about college that you will miss once you grab that diploma and make your way into the “real world.” We won’t run them down here, as your dad has probably thrown out too many to remember in recent weeks; we feel your pain if he has used your packing for school to fuel his nostalgia for his days of naked beer bonging. Allow us this one "real world" reference: it is never easier to find a workout buddy than it is in college. Once you get into your mid-twenties, your friends will have wildly differing schedules. They will also get busy, lazy, and used to parking their asses on the couch after work. If you’re living in the dorms this year, you may be sharing one building with hundreds of other guys. Surely someone among them is willing to give you a spot. Working out with a friend increases accountability, effort, and creativity in your workout. Lifting with someone else also makes the experience more cathartic. You can bitch about professors, girls, and anything else that is fucking up your day in the safe haven of the weight room.
And checking out girls feels a lot less creepy when you have the company of a wingman.
Spend Money On Good Gear
In college, you are going to be poor. You’ll find that those modest stipends your parents send along with care packages and the revenue from your part-part-time work study job aren't going to stretch as far as you thought. You’re going to have to make sacrifices. And though it is understandable if red solo cups and condoms are your top financial priority, you shouldn't cut corners when it comes to workout gear. Don’t kill your feet in two year-old kicks. Don’t wear cargo shorts to the gym because you’re one pair of gym shorts are still wet from that impromptu pool party last night. And for the love of god, don't be the guy who wears his going out clothes to the gym on Friday night because you want to look extra buff for the ladies. Invest a little money so you can feel good and workout safely. It will be well worth cutting out a 3am pizza once in a while in order to do it.
Expand Your Horizons
Odds are that you are planning on doing a lot of experimenting in college. The experimenting that immediately comes to mind probably doesn’t involve your workout routine (unless you're into some really kinky shit, and if so, good for you). It is easy to fall out of your workout routine when you find yourself in a new environment. You’ve spent the last eighteen years finding the track you like to run on, "your bench" in the school weight room, and the best gym buddies to spot you while you lift. All of that is gone now, and the sooner you accept that, the happier you’ll be.
Don’t go into school thinking you’ll be able to maintain exactly the same workout routine you had back home. Maybe your urban campus doesn’t offer a great cross-country course. Maybe the benches are always crowded during rush hour. Maybe mandatory night classes will cut out your usual exercise time. Don't waste time focusing on all of the things you don't have. You likely didn’t have an Olympic size pool, a room full of punching bags, or racquetball courts in your high school gym. When you're 23 and working out at a shitty Planet Fitness in Brooklyn, the only pool you'll see is the one the semi-homeless guy made for himself to bathe in on the locker room floor (Okay, that's the last "real world" reference, I promise).
Easy On the Carbs
Sooner or later, your metabolism will slow down. Some experience this sad day junior or senior year of undergrad when they look in the mirror and realize that they came into college looking like Tom Brady and are leaving looking like Ben Roethlisberger. Some lucky souls make it to their late twenties before all of those trips to Buffalo Wild Wings catch up with them. No matter how the genetic lottery has treated you, there is no better time to start eating right than right now. You are going to experience a lot of carb based peer pressure over the next four years. People who claim to be your friends are going to try to sell you on the unholy trinity that comprises the collegiate food pyramid: ramen, pizza, and beer. You won't be able to eliminate these college staples, but you can stop yourself from turning your body into a carbohydrate processing plant.
There is conflicting literature on the Paleo, Atkins, and other lo-no carb diets, but every dietician agrees that filling your weekends with ‘za and Miller Lite will eventually take its toll. Just because the dining hall has unlimited breadsticks on Tuesdays doesn’t mean you shouldn't limit your Tuesday afternoon breadstick intake.
Not All Booze Is Created Equal
Let’s not pretend like you aren’t going to drink in college. Save those lies for your eternally worried mother. Though you’ll have some teetotaler friends who attend Christian ping-pong tournaments on Friday nights, it is a safe bet that you’ll know more people who never attend class than never hit the bottle. Though all booze will get your drunk sooner or later, not all alcoholic beverages are created equal.
The first step is for you to man (or woman) up and cut your liquor with less mixer. If every rum and coke you drink requires a whole can of Coke to help you mask the taste, then you are going to have to do many walks of shame to shed of those calories. Obviously, drinking your liquor straight is a good way to cut down on the calories. If you must mix your drinks, the vodka-soda and the gin and tonic might be a better move than cutting your hootch with Coke or whatever the Hell it is they put in jungle juice.
And now a note for the beer lovers in the audience. Yes, “lite” beers have fewer calories. However, lite beer often has a lower ABV than their heavier counterparts. Many microbreweries make beers with a much higher ABV but with similar calorie counts to mainstream beers (Budweiser, Coors, PBR etc.). If you are trying to drink with some regard for your health, don’t think that drinking a case of Miller Lite over the weekend is going to keep you slim. Life is already too short to drink garbage lite beers; don’t delude yourself into thinking that you are reaping nutritional benefits.
Embrace “Girly Workouts”
One essential part of the high school experience is being mocked for doing anything differently than whatever the crowd deems to be normal. College will take away much of the shaming that prevented you from trying things in high school. In college you can actually tell people you like to read without getting beaten up. You're also free to try new foods, activities and workouts without enduring close-minded ridicule. Of course, this isn't true if you go somewhere like Liberty or Bob Jones University. If you are going to such a school, we recommend dropping out immediately. [Ed. Note: This opinion in no way reflects the views of Sneaker Report].
Spin, yoga, pilates, even the elliptical machine: college is a good time to take a walk on the feminine side. Too many men have one of two schools of thought when it comes to cardio: either they run or they don’t do it at all. Though running is a tried and true cardio method, it affects your body in the same way over and over again. Not only are you putting the same strain on your body every time you put on your running shoes, but you are leaving out the muscles that are less involved in the running motion. Mixing in different types of cardio that may have been considered lady-like by your douche-bro buds may make a difference in your physique. Watch a yoga DVD sometime: the dudes in those videos are ripped.
Also, if you venture into the land of the yoga mats, you may actually meet girls. The only people you meet in the weight room are meathead bros who call you "chief" and constantly ask you how many sets you have left. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a college student is thinking that the only way to meet women is in a frat house basement. If you spin or take a yoga class once a week, you are going to put yourself in the same room with dozens of fit women on a regular basis. If you see one of these girls in class or at a party, the line “Don’t I know you somewhere?” will actually be truthful rather than some pathetic attempt at forcing conversation.
Be Suspicious of Supplements
Every house or apartment full of college dudes seems to have a gargantuan tub of mass-builder perched on top of the refrigerator. While protein shakes aren’t a problem, many young men who have protein in their kitchen often store much more dubious supplements in their bedroom and bathroom. The supplement game is woefully underregulated, and sadly a lot of what GNC and similar stores are selling is just bro-branded snake oil. Before you consider purchasing a supplement that offers anything more than additional doses of protein or Vitamin C, watch this video courtesy of John Oliver on the supplement industry. A lot of guys are going to bulk up in their first semester. The one’s who will sustain it over the coming years are going to be the ones who didn’t take any ill-advised shortcuts. Do your research before you put anything other than food, booze, or the female anatomy in your mouth.
Don’t Skip Leg Day
Despite being told this by every gym teacher, every coach, and every gym employee since the dawn of recorded history, people are still out here skipping out on their squats. The post-adolescent male body isn’t always a beautiful one. When I graduated from high school I was convinced that my arms were twigs and my legs felt like tree trunks. It seems like a waste of time to hit the squat rack when you could be busy punishing your biceps into submission. Remember that your body is a machine, and a machine only works as well as the sum of its parts. Squats, leg presses, and dead lifts are going to strengthen other parts of your body, and make the rest of your workout more effective. Also, it is really nice to have a girl compliment your ass for once rather than the other way around. So stop bitching, suck it up, and do your leg routine. And when you catch a girl checking you out when you walk by, you can thank me @muddycreekU on Twitter; just don't be weird about it.
Stress Is An Excuse to Workout More, Not Less
Nothing is easier than finding an excuse not to go to the gym. Finals are coming up. You really should finish this chapter tonight. You’re hungover. Your college schedule is probably going to be much more dynamic than it was in high school. With each new experience, each assignment, each challenge, you’ll have a new excuse. Get yourself in the mindset that working out is a constant, a way that you relieve stress and maintain some control over your life. When everything else seems out of control and you feel pulled in so many different directions, you always have your workout. Adapting this attitude doesn’t take much effort at all. All that you need to do is make the decision that working out is priority and stick to it. Everyone misses a day at the gym from time to time. But, that should be the exception and not the rule. If buying a costume for another shitty theme party is enough to get you off your game, it is time to revisit your fitness goals.
Good luck this semester, and remember, if you fail out, at least you'll look good doing it.