Tips for chasing fitness goals while adjusting to college life
It’s Thursday morning. You’re nodding off at your 9 a.m. lecture because you only slept four hours the night before. The carne asada tacos from Roberto’s aren’t sitting as well as they did when you ate them six hours ago, and the only thing keeping you awake is the extra strong coffee and the doughnut you paid $6.50 for. You meant to hit the gym after class—you even brought your workout clothes—but you know it deep down: you’re going back to that dorm to sleep.
Such is the dilemma of many new University of Nevada, Reno students who, as deadlines get shorter, nights get longer and food gets more expensive, start sacrificing their healthy lifestyle choices. Or vice versa, a student planning to use their newfound freedom to get in shape might not know where to begin when it comes to navigating UNR’s dining options, or might be intimidated being in a gym setting for the first time.
Whether it’s getting stronger, managing weight or simply learning about science-based nutrition, UNR has resources for helping students meet their fitness goals, and many of them can be found at the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center. The Fitness Center opened its doors in 2017, so most of the equipment is state-of-the-art for people who are already familiar with squat racks, bench presses and treadmills. But for beginners or students who want to try something new, the Fitness Center also hosts over 150 group fitness classes per week, led by certified trainers in a variety of disciplines.
“I feel like if you have a hard time getting involved in the gym or if you feel intimidated to come to the gym—that’s a big problem for a lot of people—a group fitness class is a good way to get started,” said Edmond Jbeily, a UNR kinesiology student and trainer at the Weigand Fitness Center. “Whether it be yoga, whether it be pilates, they offer all those classes, and it’s part of the tuition, so it’s free. You don’t have to pay any extra.”
Jbeily is originally from Sacramento and played football all through high school. When he started at UNR, his fitness goals evolved, and he began taking advantage of the diverse training options offered at the Wiegand and on the rest of campus. He teaches a 6 a.m. TRX-band workout as part of his future career ambitions as a personal trainer.
“I knew I wanted to expand, whether it be athletic training in terms of, not just lifting, but workouts that would require me to, you know, work up a sweat and breathe, you know, [work out my respiratory system],” Jbeily said. “And then, you know, I’m going to be a trainer. You want to have a body that people are like, ’Whoa, his workout routine works.’”
Jbeily said that instructors will accommodate new students while challenging advanced ones, so any skill level is welcome in most classes. Classes are offered from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and the center itself is open from 6 a.m. to midnight during the week. Jbeily said that, since students organize their days around their class schedules, deciding whether to work out in the morning or evening can make your workouts more consistent.
“It’s funny because I used to be a night guy,” Jbeily said. “[The gym] is a little bit more empty, you know. But as I went on and on, I’ve become a morning [person]. … I just feel like you also kick start your day. You’re up, you can be a little bit more productive after that, as opposed to, you know, waking up a little later, sleeping in.”
The Wiegand Fitness Center can get crowded, however, with peak hours usually falling between noon to 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. If your interests lie outside of the gym altogether, students can join an intramural basketball, soccer, volleyball or flag football team (see www.unr.edu/fitness/intramural-sports for registration deadlines) as well as take their workouts to the John Sala Intramural Fields southeast of the Mackay football stadium, which is open to all students except during designated practice times.
“It’s a nice resource,” Jbeily said. “On nice days like it is now in summer, you can go out there and do some workouts. I’ve seen people do workouts with bars and maybe lunges and stuff. … You could do sprints. All that is open field. It’s open so there’s nothing. It’s not congested.”
UNR also hosts a little-known 25-yard lap pool and dive tank in the Lombardi Recreation Center, formerly the school’s default recreation center, that is also free for student use—except during practice hours for the UNR swim team. Even with all these resources, however, Jbeily said that the first step for any student working toward a new fitness goal is just to show up—and sometimes that comes down to mindset.
“I don’t know a lot of people do this, but … every day I like to read or listen to one motivational slash inspirational, like, whether it be a quote or a video,” Jbeily said. “It helps me, like, be more positive, I guess, in the day. And then there’s those times where you are thinking like, ’Oh, I don’t want to go to the gym.’ But … half the battle is showing up. You show up, you’re going to work out. I’ll tell you this, you never regret going to the gym.”
However, while UNR offers plenty of opportunities for exercise—including simply walking from one end of the notoriously steep campus to the other—part of maintaining your overall health as a college student means finding a balance between healthy habits and a hectic schedule.
Lauren Gray, who graduated in May with an undergraduate degree in English, spent the spring of 2016 competing in the Miss Battle Born competition while also pursuing a full course schedule. The swimsuit portion of the competition meant Gray needed to work hard to get the lean, muscular physique expected by the judges.
“It’s not everyone’s experience, but to get in that kind of shape, school took the back seat,” Gray said. “My grades were not good, and I would not recommend that’s how anyone prioritize their life.”
Gray had a background in fitness already and found working out to be a cathartic way to deal with the stresses of life and school. However, the effort it takes to maintain an Instagram-ready six-pack in college is more demanding than many people realize.
“I was going through a lot at the time, so I think, for me, part of working out was like therapy,” Gray said. “But in that kind of phase I was in the gym for at least two hours a day, six days a week. I was eating probably 1200 to 1400 calories a day, kind of depending on the day. And it was literally chicken, broccoli, brown rice, egg whites, broccoli, brown rice, every single meal. And it was three hours of meal prep on Sundays. And I did that for like five months. That’s how you look like that.”
Gray said that she could see an ultra-motivated student maintaining that kind of schedule, but with her addition of a part time job, she decided that paying her own way and keeping her grades up was more important to her than haunting the gym. Striving for balance, she said, helped her reprioritize her schedule with more realistic goals for her situation.
“[I was] shifting my habits to where I’m like, ’This is OK for me right now and I can still get done what I need to get done,’” Gray said. “And so just putting school first and … understanding, like, lean is not healthy, healthy is healthy.”
In the absence of her competition-level workout routine, Gray said she found other ways to manage her weight and physique goals, including visiting the Student Health Center.
“You can go to the health center and get your body fat tested. You can get a diet plan—there’s a nutritionist,” Gray said. “They can create a diet plan for you based on your goal. I would assume that even if you were just gonna do like a, ’Hey, I want to eat healthier,’ they could make a diet plan for that too.”
Managing her nutrition, grades and schedule became as much of a priority to Gray as working out, and to students whose fitness journey might start at the same time as their college career, Gray says: don’t sweat it.
“If your goals or if your schedule only allows for like three days at the gym, that’s all you can do consistently, because you know you’re going to be super packed the rest of the week, then that’s OK. Do that,” said Gray.