Gym Life

Easy tips on how to make the gym a major part of your time at university

One of the most common goals for people once they start living independently at university is to maintain a consistent gym routine. For some this comes naturally but for others the extent of new life challenges means that incorporating the gym into your daily life can be a struggle. It is for this reason that your once inspired push for fitness can take a back seat, particularly with the extent of nightlife that university cities has to offer.

But actually when it comes to it, balancing both your newfound university life with your fitness and training goals is actually easily done. The following six tips should help you overcome problems such as a lack of motivation, a lack of time and, of course – the pinnacle of all university problems – a lack of money.

TIP 1 – Train with Others

A lack of motivation is one of the key things that can put people off going to the gym. Whether that’s down to the travel needed to get to your workout area or simply the urge to get out of bed and away from that Netflix series, there are several reasons you’ll not want to make the effort. One of the key ways this can be overcome is to have people with the same fitness goals around you.

When meeting the new people in your life (coursemates, flatmates etc.), ask whether any enjoy going to the gym in the same way you do. This helps on a day-to-day basis; nothing will get you to the gym after a 9-5 like an overly enthusiastic flatmate at your door! For beginners at the gym, people to train with can help motivate the start of that fitness journey. For the more experienced of gym-goers, a workout buddy can help push for those PBs (Personal Bests) and fitness targets. That leads us into the next tip.

TIP 2 – Incorporate Targets into your Workouts

It’s one thing getting motivated to get to the gym in the first place, but once you’re there, a new level of motivation is needed in order for your time to be worthwhile. This where attention needs to be paid to the types of workouts you are undertaking whilst at the gym. From a personal point of view, keeping track of my PB’s whilst training has helped motivate me to train harder week on week as I have a visible goal to aim for.

For a beginner, your first few workouts should be about testing which part of your body is stronger than others. An introduction from a personal trainer who works at the gym is always a good idea as they will be able to advise you on which machines and exercises are best suited to your body type and goals. Overall, if you set yourself something to aim for within every workout, you will find yourself become more motivated, meaning incorporating uni life with gym life will become far easier.

TIP 3 – Keep the Gym Life separate from the Night Life

Alongside getting out with a degree, the nightlife associated with going to university is one of the biggest draws for young adults. Southampton’s nightlife is lauded by many as having something for all, and proves to be a selling point for many coming to study on the south coast. That being said, if your gym life is to become an integral cog of your university journey it must become separate from the trips to the night clubs at the early hours.

Now this is not to say if you go to the gym you cannot go out, in fact you can go out as often as you please (within reason!) However, if you know you are going out that night, a gym session during that day will only be good for a pre-nightout pump. In order for progress to be made at the gym your body needs to rest and recover, the polar opposite to what stumbling in at 4am holding mozzarella sticks entails. Enjoy the best of both worlds and keep your night life separate from the gym life. This is where planning your weekly workouts comes in, providing a neat transition into the next tip.

TIP 4 – Work with your timetable, not against it

Whilst your gym time (if done correctly) will mean a lot during your time at university, it shouldn’t take over your timetable or valuable study time. If you have a 9am in the morning for example, and nothing for the rest of the day until 1pm then try going to the gym during that three hour break. An unwritten rule for all gym goers is to not go around dinner time, unless you fancy a stop-start workout, because of the large numbers of people there at the same time. If you work with your timetable and go earlier in the day you’ll be able to get a more efficient workout, whilst your studies remain unaffected. Plus you’ll also have more free time for those spontaneous nights out in the evenings!

TIP 5 – Use your food budget wisely

People often neglect the fact that dieting is just as important (if not more important) to your fitness and personal training goals than the training itself. Notably getting the right diet in can be ten times harder for a university student on a food budget, but there are ways you can cut corners. For those looking to bulk and put on muscle, foods such as baked beans (high in protein, low in fat), canned tuna (normally 40g of protein per can) and of course eggs are cheap ways of getting your protein surplus requirements.

For those looking to lose weight, nuts and seeds are always low in price, whilst beans remain a key dietary addition at little expense. As far as carbohydrates go, couscous is your go too if you are looking for a cheap alternative to rice or potato. Overall, maintaining a consistent diet in connection to your gym plan is notoriously difficult, but with your intuition you can make it work, without having to miss out on those meals and nights out in the process.

TIP 6 – Make workouts Part of your Study Sessions

My final tip is possibly the most important when it comes to incorporating your gym goals and ambitions with those of your studies. During the busy assignment and exam periods many people prioritise their work over going to the gym; something which is completely understandable and in fact very wise. However it’s important to note that a good workout can drastically reduce stress and help to clear your mind during such a stressful time. There are many physical benefits to working out during an exam period, such as the release of serotonin (which can help to regulate your sleep cycles and boost your mood). Other benefits include an increased blood flow to the brain and an improvement of cognitive function (which helps your ability to focus for longer time periods). Of course studying must take priority, but don’t neglect the use of work outs during this time.

Originally written by: Adam Whyte