Nick Wallace ’14
The first of a series of letters “Dear 2017” letters from Friarside writers to the incoming Freshman.
Dear Class of 2017,
College is full of new experiences. New friends. New classes. A new home. And while college may act as the best time of our lives, there are some negative externalities to the environment we call home during our four-year tenure. Dining halls are filled with ridiculous amounts of food- a daily, endless buffet. And while it is certainly possible to eat healthy in any college dining hall, the temptation of soft drinks, French fries, and chocolate chip cookies often trumps fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Combine that with the increased influx of alcohol, and we have a recipe for disaster. As a Certified Personal Trainer, and a self-proclaimed fitness guru, I figured my Friarside Open Letter could finally address the thing I am most passionate about. So Class of 2017, especially those who now call Providence College their home, here are a few tips to avoid the infamous Freshman Fifteen.
1.Treat the Weekends as a Reward, Not a Lifestyle
Listen people, I get it. I understand that you just left Mom and Dad and are living “on your own.” I understand that the consumption of alcohol makes it a lot easier to approach new people and “get yourself out there.” And from a fitness point of view, the fact of the matter is that a few drinks and a cheat meal on the weekends are not going to kill you.
However, getting blackout drunk five times a week will surely have negative consequences on your weight (not to mention your overall health, and probably your grades). No surprise here, alcohol is high in calories. Few people like to drink liquor straight out of the bottle, so most mix it with sugary goodness to make the taste somewhat bearable. And beer? It’s straight carbohydrates, which are stored as fat when the body consumes more than is needed. Throw in the fact that most people are drinking at the end of the night before falling asleep, not before running a marathon. These calories are not being utilized through energy expenditure, and therefore are a surefire way to increase your waistline. Moreover, we all are more inclined to make bad eating decisions while under the influence. You are certainly more likely to order Dominos or go to the Yuk Truck after a trip to Clubbies (it will never actually become Ava’s Wrath).
My point is that you deserve to have fun and let loose… just work hard during the week. Breaking even during the week won’t do anything to counterbalance a weekend binge. If you really want to indulge via alcohol or junk food, make sure to be at a slight calorie deficit during the week via diet and exercise. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Make Exercising a Routine
My first semester of college was my worst academically. It wasn’t because I was doing too much partying, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t trying hard. It was simply because I was adjusting to the new system. My writing style was poor, and I disliked my daily Western Civ clicker quizzes; it was a terrible match. And I can promise you that you, new freshmen, will initially have similar troubles adjusting. With five academic classes to deal with, along with finding times to socialize with friends, it can be tough to get to the gym. But, I’m a firm believer that if it is important to you, you’ll find a way to make it happen. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse. Get in the habit of going to the gym and eating right during the week so you do not have to feel bad about letting loose on the weekends. Or, get in a great workout before going out. It will allow you to consume a few extra calories, and also energize you for the rest of the night.
3. … But Don’t Overdo it
Ever walk into a gym in January? If you have, you know that it’s filled with “Resolutioners,” those people who promise themselves they are going to make a positive wellness change in their lives. Let me let you in on a little secret: most “Resolutioners” fail. Now, I do not mean to poke fun at newcomers, for I was not always the crazed fitness freak I am today. But the reason why most newcomers drop off the wagon is because they go too hard, too quickly. How sustainable is it for someone living a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle to start going to the gym five times a week and counting calories? It isn’t. If you are looking to make a change, take small steps. Switch to whole grain bread and pasta and skim milk. Go to the gym twice a week for a month. After the month is over, increase it to three times a week. The slower the process, the more likely you are to continually see the results without dropping out.
4. When you do go to the gym, make it count
I’m a certified personal trainer, and I can’t help walking around the gym critiquing people’s form and gym etiquette. And trust me, there are times where I think I am going to lose it. (Hey guys, do your biceps curls somewhere other than the squat racks, please.) It isn’t my place to go up to somebody and correct his or her form, and unless somebody asks me directly, I try not to give fitness advice. But I can’t help but notice how inefficient most people, especially students, are in the gym. Typical PC girls flock to ellipticals and treadmills and workout at a moderate intensity for 45 minutes, followed by about 15 minutes of abs. Guys workout out chest and arms, and compromise their form in order to brag to their friends about how much they can lift. Seriously, if somebody asks me “How much do you bench” one more time, I may just snap. In all honesty, muscle strength is only one of the five components fitness. Not many guys in the gym walk around asking how fast you can run a mile, or how many pull-ups you can do. So here are a few tips on making your actual gym time more efficient.
Girls: Lifting weights doesn’t make you bulky; eating too many unhealthy foods does. Try and incorporate resistance training into your routine. You don’t have to be squatting 300 lbs, just shock your body into trying something new. Do some leg extensions and do 20 bodyweight squats in between sets. Try the row machine or the shoulder press, and stick in the 10-15 rep range. But most importantly, don’t pick a cardio machine and stay on the same resistance for 45 minutes. Interval training is more time efficient, burns more calories, and will boost your metabolism for the rest of the day. Try something like this:
5 minute warm up, 1 minute hard / 1 minute easy (x8), 5 minute cool down
26 total minutes, and as long as you are true to yourself during the “hard intervals,” you will burn more fat than a traditional long distance low intensity cardio session.
Guys: Only advanced lifters should have an entire day devoted for arms. Stay away from the split routines and isolation exercises. Instead, try three full body workouts a week, composed of mainly compound lifts. A workout made up of squats, bench presses, deadlifts, pushups, and pullups will suffice. Try and increase the amount of weight you use each time you hit the gym. Do some type of cardio workout either after resistance training (when your glycogen levels are already low) or on a separate day from lifting. And doing crunches won’t give you abs, losing fat will; the interval training routine outlined above works perfectly for both sexes.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Most schools have faculty and staff designed to help students reach their fitness goals. Hire a personal trainer (yours truly would love to help), or take a group exercise class. In fact, I will be teaching a water Boot Camp class on Thursday nights at 8 PM. It promises to be a fun and unique way to burn calories and learn about fitness. If the water isn’t for you, opt for a Spin class or BodyPump. Whatever you do, just get moving! And if you ever have any questions, feel free to ask.
I’ll leave you with one final thought, 2017. Its not about having time, it’s about making time. You can do it. Stay well.
All the best,