Getting Physical Changed My Life – 3 Tips for Changing Yours

By: Soon Kwon, Center for Health and Wellbeing Intern

Growing up, I was never an active person. I always hated gym class in school, and I usually made up excuses to sit in the corner of the gym (or skip class altogether). I don’t know why; I just didn’t enjoy exercise in general.

In turn, I never was good at any sports and I became the kid who got picked last for every team. My inactivity led to obesity, which led to social isolation and being bullied. All this resulted in a deep self-hatred and lack of confidence.

I now workout at least four times a week. I have even taken kinesiology activity classes, including jogging, weight lifting, swimming, yoga, and martial arts – all for my own pleasure!

If I miss a workout, it bothers me because I have learned to love exercise and build it into my schedule. As a result of my interest and passion for fitness, I also started making healthier food choices. Now, in my senior year of college, I feel better, I’m living better and I look better.

You hear these kinds of “transformation stories” all the time, but how can you be the person to tell a transformation story of your own?  Here is some advice based on my personal experiences:

1. Use the resources at your disposal.

When I came to Maryland, I learned quickly that my roommate was an amateur bodybuilder. Although I wasn’t particularly interested in being a bodybuilder, I did want to learn how to stay healthy and be fit. He gave me some advice and suggestions, and he offered to be my workout buddy.

I still remember my first day at the Eppley Recreation Center. I was nervous and my thoughts were racing: What are all those machines for? Will I be able to stick with this? Aren’t I too fat or ugly to be here?

It was challenging to overcome all the self-doubt, but my roommate stuck with me, teaching me how to work out correctly and effectively. Without his help, I may never have made this health transformation.

The point is, I used my roommate as a resource for both information and support – but there are a ton of resources available on campus.

If you need support and motivation of your own, try talking to your friends who exercise regularly or like to go out and play recreational sports.

Take advantage of the diverse programs and facilities available through Campus Recreation Services (CRS), including group fitness classes, sport clubs and a climbing wall.

CRS also offers free Orientation Sessions. There are more than 400 pieces of cardio and strength training equipment in the weight/fitness facilities in the CRS facilities. Don’t waste valuable time trying to figure it all out or using them incorrectly. In 1-hour, learn how to use the cardio and variable resistance weight machines safely and effectively, so you get the most out of your workouts.

Taking kinesiology classes can also provide you with a great opportunity to try new sports or activities with professional guidance and support (while getting class credit!).

2. Set realistic goals.

With so much emphasis placed on physical appearance in our society, it’s no wonder that many people try hardcore and extreme workout routines or diet practices. Many times, it is incredibly difficult to stick with these kinds of plans because such sudden, radical and extreme changes in one’s lifestyle and behaviors are hard to sustain (not to mention they might be dangerous). That’s why setting your own realistic goals and achieving them gradually is important.

When setting your goals, be sure to address what you really want to achieve. Are you trying to make changes in your weight or muscle mass? Are you trying to be more physically active or improve your skills in a particular sport? It all depends on what you want to do for yourself.

If you haven’t been physically active before, start slow and increase your workout load depending on how you feel (i.e. increasing the frequency, duration or intensity of your workouts).

If you set unrealistic goals, you’ll only feel overwhelmed and discouraged, and may even give up.

Keep challenging yourself mentally and physically by switching to different workouts or machines – this ensures that you (and your muscles) aren’t getting bored. And don’t forget to give yourself credit for achieving progress or accomplishing small goals.

3. Be consistent.

Keeping a consistent workout routine is essential for improving your physical fitness. That’s why it’s so important to do workouts that you enjoy! If you hate spinning class, it will become extremely difficult for you to find any mental or physical motivation to go to spinning class.

Personally, I have been using an iPhone application called iFitness Pro to keep track of my own workout consistency and progress. I can log when I worked out, for how long, and what I did.  The next time I work out, I try to increase the weight/duration to challenge myself. This helps me identify how I have been performing so far and how often I have been workout out, enabling me to be consistent.

There are number of other ways that you can keep your physical activity consistent. Schedule times for physical activity into your planner or calendar.  A regular workout routine in the morning, afternoon, or early evening could help you stay on track easier than you think. For motivation, try writing out your goals and putting them somewhere visible in your room where they will always be front of mind.

Even though my transformation focused on physical fitness, working out has positively affected my personal wellbeing in many ways.

I feel more confident about my physical wellness, as well as emotional wellness. I am relieving my stress and sleeping better, allowing me to think clearly and focus when I study. The effects of regular exercise go far beyond just the physical benefits.

It’s hard to start anything new in life. The first time is almost always the hardest. Once you push through it repeatedly, it becomes a habit. Only then can you make the important changes in your life.

I am not saying that after reading this, you should become an amateur bodybuilder like my former roommate.  All I want is for you to take baby steps, one at a time, toward becoming a healthier and happier person.

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2 Responses to Getting Physical Changed My Life – 3 Tips for Changing Yours

  1. Thank you for sharing your story! I’m glad that you had a roommate who was able to motivate and encourage you. Having friends who not only don’t encourage you but actually discourage you from spending time at the gym or eating healthy is definitely an obstacle for a lot of people on campus.
    The consistency and reaching realistic goals is always tricky for me. I’ll work a lot harder on them this year! (… maybe!)

    • umwellness says:

      Starr – You’re most certainly welcome! It is challenging when you don’t have a good peer support system to workout and practice a healthy diet, but taking care of yourself is always worth it.

      Setting up a realistic goal and achieving it is challenging for anybody; I am planning on writing another blog post (an interview of a student) that focuses on that and some other things that I haven’t discussed in this blog post. It should be posted shortly, so keep your eyes out!

      -Soon

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