To kick off the series, I want to share my journey to physical fitness in college.
In high school, two of my most time-consuming extracurricular activities were club swimming and orchestra. Including swim practice, rehearsals, and music lessons, both activities required more than 10 hours per week outside of class, and given that there's only 24 hours in a day, I chose to drop swimming in favor of orchestra moving into junior year.
This was a choice I came to regret; while I enjoyed the social aspects of orchestra, I was spending more time indoors and not exercising. I was also surprised to learn that the “Swimmer’s Diet,” where, as a teenager with a fast metabolism, I would eat anything in sight after swim practice, was not a sustainable lifestyle choice. The lack of exercise and poor eating habits quickly caught up with me after I stopped swimming. From junior to senior year, I gained over 40 pounds as a result of stress eating habits and sleep deprivation. Final exams and standardized testing periods led to a negative feedback loop of emotional eating and weight gain. Entering college in 2015, I was 18 years old, 5’6’’, and weighed 225 lbs.
As a first year, I grappled with body image and self-esteem issues, which led to the deterministic “Freshman 15” and many late-night delivery meals from Chinatown. By the end of first year, I was 240 pounds.
Going into my second year, I enrolled in the biology sequence Metabolism and Exercise and Metabolism and Nutrition. I was determined to make a positive change in my life. In the courses, I learned about basic physiology, metabolism, and nutritional health. In the fall, I started powerlifting at Henry Crown Field House and running 30 minutes every day. I made a promise to commit every day of the week to exercising, rain or shine. In the winter, I would head straight to Henry Crown after class to complete my squats, deadlifts, and bench press.
As part of the Metabolism and Nutrition class, I started logging a food intake journal as a weekly assignment and would go to office hours with my TA to discuss diet improvements. I was honest when evaluating with my diet and learned to supplant my diet of simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. By the end of May 2017, I was down to 180 pounds, which meant I lost a total of 60 pounds.
I felt stronger and lighter, but most importantly, I felt confident in my body. Fast forward to 2018 -- I ran my first 5K at the Chicago Turkey Trot, and I can’t wait to set more personal goals and overcome challenges in the future.
My friend and I with our medals after finishing the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day.
In 2019, I plan to run the Chicago Spring 10K in May with my friend Noah and I’m so excited for the challenge! I’m currently running three times each week and training my endurance for the upcoming race.
I’d like to believe that my second year of college was a pivotal experience in "learning to adult." The truth is, I focused on my health and well-being. My second year was about changing me. Working on my physical health was a major step in my journey to adulthood and learning about exercise and nutrition furthered my motivation to create healthy living habits and a self-care routine.
As a fourth year today, you can usually find me lifting in Henry Crown Field House or playing water polo in the Ratner Pool. Whether it's your first time in the gym or you want to learn how to play water polo, feel free to approach me and ask questions! I'm here to listen and help you get started on your personal journey to physical fitness.