Fitness + Student Leader = Optimal Performance
Okay, so you had a brainstorming session with your committee and a class this morning without coffee. Grrrr. Lunch was on the run, with a quick stop to a campus computer terminal to check your e-mail, and your next class is in fifteen minutes. Oh and how could you forget the Senate meeting tonight in between two classes, the final exam, and re-election coming up that you have to plan for? You get the picture. You’re on a constant roll with limited time on your hands compared to the average student.
As a student leader you are an ambitious, highly-driven, not to mention a highly-stressed, possibly type-A personality. Well, let’s look at your priorities. How do you rank the following in terms of importance: leadership position/job, school, family, friends, partner, fitness, and personal health? Where did fitness rank?
One important thing to realize before it is too late is that even though you are still young that doesn’t mean your body will stay that way forever. Fitness is critical in maintaining a healthy body and certainly you will benefit in the long run. The myth of an “indestructible youth” is persuasive among many youth. But your body is paying the toll, whether you notice it now or not. Each year you can expect to see increasing evidence of the price you pay for abusing your body whether it be weight gain, fatigue, loss in motivation and concentration—to name a few.
It is highly likely that your daily life does not require much physical activity. So the stress that builds up does not get a chance to be released. If you understand anything, make it this: fitness is not just being “fit” or “cut,” but it involves the feeling of being in shape physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I recommend you consider making fitness one of your top five priorities. Right now, making time in your extremely busy schedule may seem like a crazy idea. Why use extra time to exercise? Well, because exercise benefits those suffering from high stress levels. Although scientists haven’t proven why exercise is a good stress-reliever, they have come up with a few explanations. Natural hormones called “endorphins” are released into the bloodstream during exercise, resulting in a “natural high” feeling. In fact, endorphins have a very similar chemical structure as morphine. So, skip the caffeine, or whatever narcotic you are on. This one is healthier for you.
After you exercise, thanks to endorphins, your body experiences a relaxation effect. You are also more likely to fall asleep faster each night as well loose those extra few pounds with a regular exercise schedule. Your risk of high blood pressure is reduced. The “bad” form of cholesterol also is reduced in your system. Calling all the ladies: Weight lifting and land exercises have proved to strengthen bone density, therefore helping in the prevention of osteoporosis.
OK, OK, you get it. But seriously, you have no time? Hmmm…if these major health reasons are not quite convincing for you, how about consider that when you exercise it is time out to spend with yourself, for your self!
Coming to the realization that working on maintaining your youth throughout your years takes a commitment to yourself, for yourself, in fitness, proper nutrition, and having fun. Start off by incorporating fitness into your daily routine: A twenty-minute walk to campus instead of the bus, a thirty-minute jog in between your last class and dinner, or perhaps a few land exercises at night. For example, do two reps of 10 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, and 20 leg raises. If you do this routine for two weeks I guarantee you will not only see but also feel a difference.
Follow the Leader: Busta Move
Once you have decided to make exercise a part of your weekly routine, there are important steps to take:
1. Check with medical doctor. Before you start any exercise program, check with a medical doctor, especially if you have any medical conditions and/or if it has been a while since you were actively exercising.
2. Set an attainable goal for yourself. Again, consider consulting a doctor.
3. Calculate your Target Heart Rate. You can do this by visiting www.exercise.about.com/library/blank_THR.htm?once=true. For the average 20-year-old who is moderately active, 120-160 bpm (beats per minute) would be an ideal standard. You want to make sure you are hitting your THR (threshold heart rate) when you exercise, otherwise you will not be challenging your heart, lungs, and muscles to their optimal capacity.
4. Check your Body Mass Index. You can calculate your BMI at the same site mentioned above, by indicating your weight, height, and age. There is a healthy range in which ideally, you aim to maintain a certain body weight according to your height and age.
5. No Time? Make Time. Making exercise one of your top priorities now not only will help you in the long run, but also will give you more energy and spunk as a leader now. A refreshed person to work with is way better than a tired, edgy one!
The key to time-managing exercise is to incorporate it into your daily routine: For example, walking to classes, stretching in the morning and before going bed. Schedule a workout in between classes instead of a coffee, nap, or a cigarette.
One thing to remember: The body you have at 20 is mainly due to your genetic makeup; the body you have at 40 is the one you deserve.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get moving!
Antonia McGuire is a certified C.A.L.A./YMCA-YWCA Aqua Fitness Instructor and second-year M.I.T. student and Certificate of Writing candidate at The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario in Canada. McGuire promotes healthy living as a fitness professional through her active lifestyle and teaching, as well as through her publications as Health & Fitness columnist for her faculty MIT ‘zine (www.usc.uwo.ca/mit/zine). You can reach McGuire at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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