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The Truth About Juice Cleansing

juice cleansing

This post was written by Dennis Buckley, Master of Science in Nutrition, and was originally posted on the SaladPower blog.

Cleanses of all kinds have been in vogue for as long as anyone can remember. Whether it’s a coffee enema with bold claims of irrigating your colon and detoxing your liver, a face cream echoing the anti-aging promises of the fountain of youth, or the ubiquitous juice cleanse that you can find in your favorite upscale grocery store, products in various categories have fallen prey to the cleanse and detox craze.

If you’ve had even a passive interest in social media over the past decade or browsed the gossip rags at the grocery store, you know that cleansing is the new Thing (with a capital T). Detoxing and cleanse diets have become a multi-million dollar industry with claims covering the gamut of just about every health condition there is.

So, when did the hype around cleanses begin? Are the claims around them legit? And should I encourage the juice company I work for (SaladPower) to offer “cleanses”?! By the end of this piece, you’ll have the answers to those questions, and it’s quite likely your conception of health and nutrition will have changed for the better.

Where does the idea of “detoxing” come from?

To understand modern culture’s obsession with ridding the body of toxins (the main goal of any cleanse/detox), we must first understand why humans started this practice in the first place.

Ancient cultures like the Ancient Egyptians, Hindus, Sumerians and Chinese…

They believed toxins accumulated in the body naturally and had to be expelled no matter how healthy your diet was. Contrast that with the views of today’s cleansers, who detox as a result of consuming too much alcohol, preservatives and additives in food, and/or just junk food in general. This misconception of how our organs work paved the road to modern cleansing as we know it.

A diagram from the famous “Ebers Papyrus” from Ancient Egypt, which outlined many of the herbal remedies for autointoxication.

These ancient cultures had a theory called ‘autointoxication’ which claimed that byproducts of ineffective digestion could poison the body and cause disease. Waste products in the intestinal tract were thought to be major contributors to disease and a range of therapies arose with the sole intention of cleansing the colon and flushing these “toxins” out of the body.

Fast forward to the 19th century…

When the field of medicine unanimously adopted the theory of “autointoxication”. Basically, people thought their bodies were becoming poisoned by materials already existing in the body itself. Patients’ obsessions with the health of their digestive tracts made it easy for pills, tonics, and enema devices to flood the markets, which effectively “opened men’s purses by opening their bowels.”

In the modern day…

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the medicine industry began to objectively test the legitimacy of these claims and “treatment” methods. The Journal of the American Medical Association, among other organizations, joined in the “continuous, relentless, excoriating critique of quackery” in efforts to expose the dangers and illegitimacy of colon cleansing and dispel these untested claims about colon cleansing.

While the theory that “autointoxication produced by intestinal obstruction… was… the only cause for disease,” has been debunked, the idea of purging the body of mysterious and nondescript toxins persists today. Cleansing began with cleaning out the colon, but evolved into a nebulous “catch all” practice of ridding the body of “harmful substances”.

For most people, there are a few common practices that come to mind when one utters the word “detox” or “cleanse”. Some like to roast in the sauna after a hard night of drinking to sweat out the alcohol. Others enjoy soaking their feet in a glass tank of water, gazing in awe as the clear water turns brown between their toes. “You see that brown stuff? Toxins.” Others will drink copious amounts of water, teas or juice to “flush” out these unspeakable toxins.

These practices should sound familiar, but it’s detox diets that have caught the public’s attention. Millions of consumers have sought redemption from an easy-to-follow protocol with claims of enhanced health, and we’re told it’s as easy as drinking a bottle of juice.

Why do people love to juice cleanse?

Cleansing is big business. Even bottled water has jumped on the bandwagon: “Detox with Evian: Evian spreads quickly through your system and facilitates the elimination of waste and regenerates the body from inside out in the easiest, most natural way.”

We know that human beings have a long history of purifying and cleansing, but the question remains. What is it about juice cleanses that people find so alluring? The answer to that question involves a fundamental misunderstanding about the way the human body works.

The media frequently tells us that “toxins” are the scapegoat behind just about every conceivable illness known to man, from a mild gluten allergy to cancer. This is in large part due to celebrity-driven marketing and advertising. Celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow sing the praises of a prolonged juice fast, and the fad has become a mainstream phenomena.

Juicing has gained popularity over other alternatives because it’s convenient and easy to follow. By ingesting nothing but these juice products (some cleanses also allow water), you’ll flood your system with nutrients and give your body a chance to rest, heal, and reset.

Consider this list on bestproducts.com of the 8 best tasting and most popular juice products in 2016. Rather than dissect each company, here’s a list of the collective claims being made.

Juice cleansing can:

  • Help you detoxify
  • Alkalize the body
  • Give your digestive tract a chance to “rest”
  • Give your body a “kickstart” after a pattern of eating unhealthy food
  • Help reset your body
  • Help you lose weight
  • Get rid of heavy metals and toxins
  • Purify your body of harmful toxins
  • Lower your risk of disease
  • Increase your energy

Incredible, right?

These are some pretty far-reaching claims. Can juice cleansing really cure disease, detoxify your body, help you lose weight, and more? Can a good juice fast reset your body in some way?

This idea of a reset, and bringing the body back to harmony is the precise reason why juice cleansing is so alluring, and in this next section we’ll talk about the evidence behind some of these claims.

What’s in a toxin?

One of the underlying goals of every juice cleanse is to rid the body of accumulated toxins. In this context, a “toxin” may refer to any substance that is believed to be toxic or harmful such as environmental pollutants, chemicals, heavy metals, preservatives, or even food additives like high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Depending on the company or the product being sold, a toxin can be just about anything for anyone.

We talked about the theory of autointoxication earlier in this article, and despite the fact that it was abandoned by the scientific community in the 1930s, the concept is still heavily marketed– and customers are buying into it. The trouble is, after being scrutinized by the scientific community, no such “toxins” have ever been identified.

In 2009 a group of scientists organized by the UK charity group, Sense about Science, reached out to the manufacturers of 15 products sold in pharmacies and supermarkets that claimed to detoxify. When manufacturers were pressed for evidence behind these claims, not a single one could produce a shred of evidence or define what they meant by detoxification, or even explain what they meant by “toxins” in the first place.

Let’s clear things up with the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s definition: “Toxins are substances created by plants and animals that are poisonous in large amounts.” Conversely, “toxicants” refers to man-made poisons found in the environment (i.e. pollutants). By that definition, just about anything could be toxic in the right amount.

What is a “detox”, really?

With regards to detoxing, “there are two types of detox: one is respectable and the other isn’t,” says Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at Exeter University. The respectable one, he says, is a legitimate medical treatment to help treat people with life-threatening drug and alcohol addictions. “The other,” he goes on, “is the word being hijacked by entrepreneurs, quacks and charlatans to sell a bogus treatment that allegedly detoxifies your body of toxins you’re supposed to have accumulated.”

Detoxification is a recognized medical treatment, but as Ernst says, the term has been bastardized by companies trying to sell a product. While there is a disconnect between how the word is supposed to be used and how it actually is used, there is another relevant issue to consider, and that is the context. Most cases of legitimate detoxification involve specific, recognized medical conditions and procedures, like weaning a patient off of addictive drugs or alcohol, or addressing an identifiable toxicity of a known substance. In these cases, substances in the body must be removed or destroyed because they are a specific cause of illness for the patient. Conversely, ordinary people who want to detox are chasing after an idea and trying to rid themselves of nondescript, unidentified “toxins”.

Juice cleansing is often purported to be the answer to the abundance of unwanted substances in our diet. By subsisting on nothing but juice for a few days, you’ll allegedly detoxify and bring your body back to harmony, and you might even lose some weight.

But without a rigid definition of what a toxin even is, what’s the real enemy we’re talking about here? The evidence has routinely shown that even common substances like water or cocoa, for example, can be harmful at high doses — toxic, you might say.

Water can kill you if you drink too much over a short period of time. It lowers the concentration of electrolytes needed for muscles to function — including the heart.

Cocoa is safe to be eaten by humans, but the theobromine in it makes it potentially lethal for dogs.

This logic chain can be followed for just about anything you can think of, making many ordinarily harmless substances toxic or potentially lethal at high doses. The point is, anything taken in excess has the possibility of incurring harmful consequences in the body, and a fancy juice diet simply won’t help.

The body doesn’t need to be cleansed.

It just doesn’t. To jump back to the colon cleansing example, some proponents claim that slow bowels can cause digesting food to rot and putrefy in the gut, leaking harmful “toxins” into the bloodstream. Just the other day, I overheard an employee at a popular nutritional supplement store talking with a customer about cleanses. In trying to sell the cleanse program, the clerk made the all-too-familiar comparison between the intestines and the pipes underneath your kitchen sink: without routine cleaning, particles may build up and cause a blockage, a leak, or any number of problems. A good cleanse will “flush everything out” and “unclog your system.” Does “the system” really need to be unclogged in the first place?

The body is incredibly efficient at cleansing itself already.

Our body is in fact remarkably adept at removing harmful substances and excreting the waste products of metabolism all by itself. The liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, and the gut are all organs that have evolved to rid the body of harmful or unusable substances.

  • The liver has enzymes that can process toxic substances like alcohol into benign compounds that are excreted from the body.
  • Your kidneys filter unwanted chemicals and waste through urination.
  • Your lungs filter the very air you breathe and your gut is a highly specialized organ that, in a healthy person, absorbs any nutrients the body can use, then excretes the rest.

All of these processes happen automatically, all day, every day. No cleansing product, no supplement, tea, or cold-pressed juice has been proven to do a better job or even enhance these systems whatsoever.

At the end of the day, the clinical evidence and our understanding of the human body just doesn’t support commercial “cleanses” of any sort. Clinical studies investigating the efficacy of juice cleanses are scarce, and based on a recent review, not very convincing.

There is a better way.

Juice cleansing is a practice of exclusion.

For a prolonged period you forfeit junk food, candy, drugs and alcohol in lieu of juice drinks. The fact is, most Americans eat poorly, and detox diets usually mean eating less unhealthy foods while increasing one’s fruit and vegetable intake. Avoiding unhealthy foods is a good move.

Anecdotal reports of weight loss during a cleanse are commonly just water weight or glycogen depletion, and reports of energy and vitality are likely a side effect of consuming such a high amount of healthy fruits, vegetables, and vital nutrients — nutrients that are largely absent from the Standard American Diet. In that respect, a juice cleanse can have some benefits for people struggling to eat nutritious foods; but there is a better, less painful way to reap similar benefits.

Focus on health habits you can sustain on a consistent daily basis, not something you endure once every two months just to experience a fleeting and momentary benefit.

Better options to stay healthy are much simpler (and you probably know them already):

  1. Have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  2. Don’t go overboard with sugar laden junk food.
  3. Exercise.
  4. Sleep enough.
  5. Don’t smoke.

You can drink healthy juice on a daily basis, but the smartest move is to supplement that with healthy eating habits.

An informed approach to health and well-being is one of inclusion, variety, and consistency not of exclusion or restrictive short term dietsNo matter what your diet looks like, having a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables will provide the healthy nutrients your body needs.

You’ve learned that the body does a fine job of filtering out unwanted substances, and the best way to help facilitate those processes is to eat and drink in a healthy manner every day.

The Bottom Line: Supply your body with a wide variety of nutrients on a regular basis, and you will help ensure that your body cleanses itself.

These are values we hold very close to our heart at SaladPower. One of our core beliefs is that “the healthiest thing you can do is inform yourself about nutrition”, and we hope this article helped! This isn’t about cleansing, it’s about a smarter, sustainable way to live and be your healthiest self. 

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I Thought My Eating Disorder was “Healthy Eating”

This article was contributed by Bree from Simple Healthy Eats. Bree is a health coach and health food blogger. Check out her blog and drool-worthy Instagram for more.

I never thought it’d happen to me.

I didn’t start calling it an eating disorder until a few months ago. To be honest, I think I was in denial. I thought I was completely in control of my diet, and I thought an eating disorder could never happen to me… Sure, I read about plenty of eating disorders, but for some reason I was blind to my own. I knew I was binge eating and that was pretty bad, but I never believed I was dealing with something more than just overeating. Except I was, and now I know my eating disorder was happening in secret all along.

Denial, Denial, Denial

My eating disorder started the moment I began obsessively counting the calories and macros in an app on my phone, the moment I was feeling anxiety about spending nights away from home without access to “my” food. I was approached by a woman in the gym locker room who told me that I should be careful, and that her daughter had recovered from an eating disorder when she was younger. What did I do? I thanked her for her kindness in reaching out to me and assured her nothing was wrong, then I left in disbelief.

I kept working out like crazy, tracking my macros, and getting more and more obsessive over my weight loss. I thought she just didn’t understand that I was “healthy” and “fit”. I was “in control” of my own body – there was no way she knew anything about me. To be honest, I was kind of upset the whole thing even happened.

This was 4 years ago.

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My Obsession with Weight Loss

When I look back, I know I believed with my whole heart that I was healthy. I had a six pack, my thighs didn’t touch, and I was lifting weights like I had never been able to in my whole life. I characterized my health by how skinny I was, and how loose my clothes fit. I was finally losing all the weight I wanted. I was one of those skinny girls I always wanted to be. I thought I was healthy and that the woman in the locker room, who reached out to me, just didn’t understand. She couldn’t possibly know the insecure place I came from, that all I ever wanted as a little girl was to be skinny, that I finally had the dream body I’d always wanted.

But she was RIGHT. Looking back I one hundred thousand percent had an eating disorder, but I didn’t know it. I was starving myself, overexercising, and losing my sanity to negative self criticism a little more every single day.

When I think about what I really did to myself, losing my sanity feels like an understatement. I was down right obsessed with weight loss. It was like no matter how much weight I lost, I wasn’t good enough. I remember seeing 106 on the scale at one point. I’m 5.5″ and I started my journey at 140 pounds. The weight loss was crazy to say the least, and 106 pounds wasn’t a healthy weight for me at all. Now I’d say I’m somewhere in the 125 pound range, but I haven’t weighed myself in a while. I don’t need to.

I Hated My Body and My Whole Life

If I look back, I know my obsession absolutely stemmed from my insecurities growing up. For almost my entire life, I can remember wanting to be skinnier. I tried dieting since I was in 5th grade, and I was constantly comparing myself to the pretty, skinny girls around me. I remember being in middle school and crying at night because I hated my body so much. I swore I’d never eat cookies again almost every single night; I wanted to stop eating sweets so that I could be pretty and skinny like the girls I was comparing myself to. But instead of keeping that promise, I’d only get more discouraged with my lack of willpower. I was ashamed that I couldn’t stop eating cookies, no matter how hard I tried. My torturous relationship with food was a vicious cycle of restricting myself from my favorite treats, then binging on the very food I was depriving myself of.

At first, losing weight was fine. I wasn’t overweight, but losing a few pounds wouldn’t make me underweight either. I started learning about nutrition and I gradually lost weight by working out and eating healthier. It was all good, and I felt pretty amazing about myself for being able to successfully lose weight for the first time in my life.

However, once I got to my goal weight, after losing 15 pounds, that wasn’t enough. I was looking at the fitness models I was comparing myself to, and I definitely didn’t look like them. I had to be skinnier. Leaner. Stronger. Better. It was like no matter what I did, I wasn’t good enough. I became a monster inside, and I had no mercy on myself. I stopped treating myself with kindness and I ignored all my basic needs in order to reach the extreme body image goals I had in my head.

I Was Starving Myself

My routine was insane.

I don’t know how I did it for as long as I did. I remember getting up early to go to the gym and do my lifting routine before I drove an hour to work. I had my 400 calorie dinner early the night before, went to bed hungry, woke up the next day still hungry, worked out, and then I wouldn’t even let myself eat my grossly under-nourishing breakfast until I got to work.

I was torturing myself, punishing myself in fact, in order to be skinny and “good enough”.

Finally, something had to break. I started giving in to my hunger by eating part of my breakfast (a banana) in the car instead of waiting until I got to work… because I was SO hungry and I felt like I couldn’t live another minute without eating. My hunger was so bad that I was eating both my breakfast and lunch as soon as I got to work at 9 am – but I somehow convinced myself everything was fine.

Then, when I got so beyond hungry that I couldn’t take it, I’d give in and buy an organic granola bar from the vending machine. But because I felt so guilty about not sticking to my calorie count, I’d only allow myself to eat half of it.

I was eating hundreds and hundreds of calories less than I actually needed to be eating because a fitness calculator told me I could only eat ‘x’ amount of calories if I wanted to lose weight. I wasn’t eating to support my workouts and I was literally starving myself. No wonder I was always exhausted, cold all of the time, and slowly losing myself to an eating disorder every single day.

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Becoming a Warrior

Some people might read this and think: Wow, I’m only trying to eat less cookies. My life isn’t like that at all. And some women might think: Wow that’s exactly like my storyBut either way, there’s something important to learn from my eating disorder.

It’s that no matter what your goals are, if you notice an obsession starting, it’s so incredibly important to recognize the signs and to seek help. An eating disorder is always knocking on the door when weight loss becomes an obsession, and an eating disorder is not something I would ever wish on anyone.

But don’t worry, there is a happy ending. It’s absolutely possible to heal from and eating disorder, and now I practice self love every single day. Recovering from an eating disorder is a journey and treating yourself with kindness is absolutely the most amazing way to heal from taking such a huge mental and physical toll on your body.

So what happened? I stopped counting calories and I lost my abs, but I gained my LIFE back.

I told my boyfriend all of the horrible things I had put myself through mentally and physically… and now he’s helping me love myself more every single day. Personally, I don’t think recovery has an end point, but I also think most people with an eating disorder would say that too. It’s a living journey, like a scar on your body, but it acts more like a scar on your soul. The wound will heal, but it’ll always kind of be there. The pain I went through reminds me that I’m a warrior– that I battled for myself, and I won.

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This card is with me always.

My boyfriend, Mick, made this card for me so that I’ll always remember to be happy with myself. He made me write, “I’m happy because I love my body” then he laminated it for me. Now, I keep it with me every day as a reminder to love myself because I am loved.

This little act of kindness WORKS for me. When I’m feeling down, I hold that card close because I can feel the emotion and confidence in those words. I AM happy, because I LOVE my body. This card proves that you always have the option to change your mind and start loving your body – and believe that you can start that right now! <3

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Eating Disorder Prevention

I’m thankful to be able to share my story, and to be able to use my blog, Simple Healthy Eats as my way to empower other young women, so they can see their own eating disorder and stop it in it’s tracks, heal from one they’ve already discovered, or even prevent one from happening in the first place.

If you feel like your obsession with weight loss is starting to turn for the worst, it’s never too late to get help – the best place to go is the National Eating Disorders Association’s website. No matter if you have an eating disorder already, or are simply afraid that it might be happening, please tell someone. At the very least you can absolutely talk to me. Send me a message here.

xoxo,

Bree

For further information on eating disorders and to learn where to get professional help, please visit the National Eating Disorders Association’s website.

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Spaghetti Squash Tater Tots with Curry Aioli

Who says you have to grow up and stop loving tater tots?

Tater tots are soooo good! I remember buying the frozen bags of them with my mom as a kid. She would throw them in the oven and I would come in and out of the kitchen anxiously peeking at them in hopes that they would cook faster if I did 😉 My favorite part was the fluffy inside because to me they tasted like french fries but so much better. They were like magic pillows of fluffy potato that I couldn’t wait to dip into some ketchup!

Who says you have to grow up and stop loving tater tots? Not me! That’s why these spaghetti squash tater tots are perfect. Made with sweet potato, spaghetti squash, and gluten free bread crumbs, these tots are a delicious snack or side dish. They’re secretly good for you and loaded with hidden vegetables. They also have the most amazing curry aioli thanks to my favorite avocado oil mayo. So who’s ready to dig in?!

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Toxic Tater Tots

Take a look at the ingredients in these Ore-Ida Tater Tots:

“POTATOES, VEGETABLE OIL (SUNFLOWER, COTTONSEED, SOYBEAN, AND/OR CANOLA), SALT, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, ONIONS, DEXTROSE, DISODIUM DIHYDROGEN PYROPHOSPHATE, NATURAL FLAVORING.”

Why the heck is there disodium dihydrogen pyrophosphate in these taters tots? Why is there added sugar in the form of dextrose? Why is there “natural” flavoring? Why do they use highly inflammatory oils from cottonseed, soybean, and canola? Oh yeah… because it’s FAKE FOOD.

News flash: most packaged food companies don’t have your best interests at heart. These tater tots are made to last years in the freezer aisle… in hopes that when someone finally cooks them they still manage to taste good. That’s exactly why they need preservatives and added flavors, because without them they would NOT be delicious.

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Spaghetti Squash Tater Tots with Curry Aioli

Time: 45 minutes

When to Eat Them: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack time 

Perks: low carb, gluten free

Sh*t You Need:

1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
1 large sweet potato
2 eggs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup gluten free panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. onion powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Avocado oil spray (or avocado oil and brush)
Curry Aioli: see recipe note below

The Recipe:

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Puncture your squash and potato with a knife to allow the steam to escape, then place both vegetables on a baking sheet. Bake them for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until the sweet potato is soft and the squash skin can be punctured with a fork. Allow them to cool.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Once the potato and squash are cool enough to handle, it’s time to make the tater tot batter. First, peel the sweet potato, then place the inside of the potato in a bowl and mash it. Next, cut the spaghetti squash in half. Scoop out the seedy inside part and throw it away, then scrape the “spaghetti” part of the squash out of the shell. Finely chop the “spaghetti”, then place it in a large mixing bowl. Add the mashed sweet potato to your bowl with the squash. Add the remaining ingredients, then mix well to combine.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then take a small amount of the batter in your hands. Squeeze it to form the batter into a tater tot, then place on the baking sheet. The batter may seem a little loose, but it will bake evenly. Repeat until the baking sheet is full, leaving a little room between tots to allow even cooking.

5. Spray the tops of the tater tots with a light coating of avocado oil. The spray works great, but if you don’t have it you can lightly brush the tops with oil instead. Bake the tater tots at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, flipping half way through to brown both sides. Let them cool on a wire rack. Repeat steps 4 and 5 with any remaining batter.

6. Dip in curry aioli!

Notes: This recipe tastes amazing with a curry aioli. Just combine avocado oil mayo with a tiny pinch of cayenne, some curry powder, and a little squeeze of lime juice, then dip away!

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This recipe was contributed by Bree from Simple Healthy Eats. Bree is a health coach and health food blogger. Check out her blog and Instagram for more.

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Taking My Body Back After My Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

You can work through almost anything if you push yourself.

During the second semester of my freshman year, I started to notice that I was really tired from walking to class and walking up the stairs to my room left me out of breath and winded.

To give you some background, I’ve always been a pretty active and healthy person. I played sports growing up, enjoyed running in high school, and I loved my fruits and vegetables. When I got to college, none of that changed even though life got a whole lot crazier. My schedule was busy and life was chaotic, but I kept up with it. 

Well… until that semester. I thought that maybe I just had a weird bug or virus and that it would get better. It didn’t.

Unfortunately, it got worse. I began to wake up with terrible pain in my muscles and joints. I felt exhausted no matter how much sleep I got. After a couple months of this, I began to realize that something was definitely wrong. My body didn’t feel like it was mine anymore… it felt old, tired, and weak.

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After months of going to different doctors and specialists and getting various tests, I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal disorder that affects muscles, joints, energy levels, and the mind. Those who suffer from fibromyalgia experience a variety of pain and constant exhaustion, as well as “brain fog” which effects focus and memory. Fibromyalgia is considered an “invisible illness.” Those who suffer from it may look healthy and be able to function, but in reality they are suffering from what can be tremendous pain and fatigue. The worst moment I experienced was one day when I couldn’t get out of bed. My body was so physically exhausted and ache-y that I legitimately couldn’t leave my bed.

Since I was diagnosed, I’ve tried various treatments, medicine, and natural remedies. At first I was told not to push myself too far physically and to stretch my muscles in the morning and at night. That really didn’t work, so I was prescribed drugs that were shown to help some patients. The problem with fibromyalgia is that everyone’s case is different, so everyone needs a different type of treatment. After a year or so, the medicines did help but I still didn’t feel like the “old” me. I still felt my body wasn’t mine, and I wanted to get it back.

So at the beginning of 2016 I resolved to better myself and my body, doing whatever it took to get there. And I started to go to the gym.

At first, I was intimidated by everyone who seemed to know exactly what they were doing. It was a scary experience for me… I was a workout newbie who’d never really lifted weights in her whole entire life. I felt a little judged and a lot inadequate. There were times that I gave up and told myself that this wasn’t for me.

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But thankfully, a friend showed me the ropes. She taught me how to lift right and how to work out and target different muscle groups. She showed me what to do and what to eat to get stronger. She was patient with me, but also pushed me to stay dedicated to it. Once I got a handle on it, I began to work out on my own.

Now I’m at the point where I go to the gym nearly every day. I’m setting PRs and seeing my body change and get stronger. And it’s amazing, really. I feel like I have my life, my body back. I feel like I’m kicking fibromyalgia’s butt one rep at a time.

Today I am happier, healthier, and hella stronger than I have ever been. And it’s absolutely empowering. Just two years ago doctors told me that I probably would never be able to be as active as I once was, that fibromyalgia would always dictate my life. But now I can say that I’m the one calling the shots, not fibromyalgia. I’m doing things that they said I might never be able to. And I can’t explain how good that feels.

I’m not sure where you’re at in your fitness journey. Maybe you’re just beginning, maybe you’re a seasoned gym rat. But my encouragement to you is to never give up. Think of your biggest fitness goals and dreams… I promise you that they’re reachable, with perseverance, a strong mindset, and a willingness to fall at times. There are so many times when I have failed and have felt defeated, but I didn’t stay there. I got back up and tried harder until I accomplished it. Everyone’s fitness journey is unique and different, but they all require hard-work, dedication, a little courage, and a lot of perseverance. I’m cheering for you!

This fitness story was written by Erin Mathews. To see more, check out her blog, Instagram, and Twitter.

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A No-Equipment Park Workout to Try While It’s Still Nice Out

It’ll be a walk in the park. 

Time: approximately 60 minutes, depending on speed

Type of Workout: cardio, core strength

Sh*t You Need: a swing, space to run

Intensity: High

Body Target: Full body

The Workout:

Warm up: 1 mile jog

Cardio:
1 mile alternating jog + sprint
1 mile run
1 mile alternating jog + 10 broad squat jumps
1 mile jog + stop 4 times during jog (1: 20 push ups, 2: 20 leg raises, 3: 20 hanging knee tucks on bar--if park doesn’t have a bar just do another ab exercise, 4: 20 box jumps on bench)

Swing workout: Complete 3 rounds of the following exercises. 
20 knee tucks 
- Find a plank position with your legs on the swing and your hands on the ground. Now slowly tuck both knees beneath your stomach, keeping your feet on the swing.
20 swing squats
- Grab the chains of the swing. Lean backwards, and keep the chains taut as you pull down into a squat. The closer your feet are to the swing, the more work will gone into your legs.
20 pikes 
- From a plank position, pike your butt up into the air so your body looks like an upside-down V. Slowly lower back down to plank position. This completes one rep.

Cool down: ½ mile jog

This workout was contributed by Taylor Glinane (Fairleigh Dickinson University). Check out her Instagram for more. 

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A 20 Minute HIIT Workout for Your Busiest Days

Trust us. 20 minutes is all you need.

Time: 20 minutes

Type of Workout: HIIT, cardio

Sh*t You Need: treadmill, or some space to run

Intensity: High

Body Target: Full body

The Workout:

Complete as many rounds as possible of the following exercises for 20 minutes. 
- Run 1/2 a mile, 7-9 mph**
- 20 squat jumps
- 10 burpees
- 20 skaters
- 30 mountain climbers

**for an extra challenge, add a 5% incline to your treadmill

This workout was contributed by Jillian Wheelan (Northeastern University). Check out her Instagram for more. 

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A Powerlifting Workout ANYONE Can Do

You’ve probably seen the powerlifting team working out in your gym…ever wanted to join in? 

Well here’s your chance. Powerlifting could be just what you need if you are looking for something new to spice up your workout routine. It also could help you if you’re trying to put on some quality muscle mass. So if you think you are ready for an intense workout (and to be pretty sore the next day), then give this beginner powerlifting squat workout a try.

Time: 90 minutes

Type of Workout: Strength and conditioning

Sh*t You Need: Squat rack, leg press, and hip adductor/abductor machine

Intensity: Medium-high

Body Target: Total body

The Workout:

First, warm up by completing 15-25 minutes of dynamic stretching.

The Squat: 5 sets of 5 reps
 
- Find a squat rack, and choose a weight that's right for you. That may be the barbell with plates or totally without. Your body, your squat. You'll know the right weight for you by judging how hard it is to complete one rep. You want to make sure you hit the 5 reps, but it should be challenging to hit all 5. 
 
- If you miss a rep, drop the weight by 10 pounds and make sure you hit every rep on the next set.
 
- Rest time between sets should be around 2-3 minutes to make sure you are properly recovered before your next set. Remember, for this workout it’s all about lifting heavy, so don’t rush it or you could risk an injury.

Leg Press: 5 sets of 8-12 reps
 
- These will be tough after squatting, so go a little lighter on the weight and focus on good, solid reps. Remember to take it slow.

Hamstring curls: 4 sets of 8-12 reps

Leg Extensions: 4 sets of 8-12 reps

Hip Abductor and Adductor Super-Set: 3 sets of 10-15 reps each
 
- A superset is a set with no rest between types of exercises. After you complete the abductors, immediately being the adductors to complete the superset.

Ab Crunches and Russian Twist Super-Set: 4 sets of 15-30 each

Workout contributed by Brandon Lawlor (American International College). Check out his Instagram for more. 

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The Butt Workout That Does Way More than Just Squat

Never skip butt day.

Time: 45-60 minutes

Type of Workout: Strength

Sh*t You Need: Kettlebell, dumbbell, resistance cable, smith machine, hamstring curl machine, glute kickback machine, yoga or foam mat

Intensity: Medium-high

Body Target: Hamstrings and glutes

The Workout:

First, warm up. Stretch/foam roll for 5 min, then complete 10 min of light cardio on a Stairmaster or stationary bike.

Now, get to the strength moves... 
- Bodyweight single-leg side squat: 3 sets of 15 reps, each leg

- Single leg side squats, with 15 lb. dumbbell: 2 sets of 12 reps, each leg (Make sure you get really low! Try and squat so that your thigh is below parallel to the ground.)

- Cable kickbacks using moderate weight: 3 sets of 10-12 reps, each leg

- Kneeling squats with the foam mat under your knees, use moderate-heavy weight: 4 sets of 10-12 reps (squeeze/engage your glutes at the top!)

- Hip thrusts on hamstring machine, use moderate-heavy weight: 4 sets of 10-12 reps (squeeze your glutes at the top!)

- Kick back machine, moderate weight: 3 sets of 10-12 reps, each leg (keep these slow and controlled)

- Hamstring curls, use moderate-heavy weight: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Finish by completing this glute/hamstring muscle burnout:
Single leg kettlebell deadlifts, using a kettlebell of 10-15 lbs.: (keeping your legs straight with a slight bend in your knee) 3 sets of 15 reps, each leg

Workout contributed by Tori Richardson (Sacramento State University). Check out her YouTube channel, Instagram and Twitter for more. 

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Superset Shoulder Workout

7 supersets, 60 minutes. You got this.

Time: 60 minutes

Type of Workout: Strength and muscle endurance

Sh*t You Need: Machines (Smith machine, cables with a straight bar and rope attachment), dumbbells, a jump rope, battle ropes, and a Dynamax ball (or other medicine ball)

Intensity: High

Body Target: Upper body with a focus on shoulders

The Workout:

The following sets are all supersets. This means that you complete the exercises straight through, with no rest between sets. 

Compete 3 sets of the following superset: 
- Seated singe arm shoulder presses on smith machine,  10 reps each arm
- Standing single arm dumbbell press, 10 reps each arm

Complete 4 sets of the following superset: 
- Seated shoulder presses on smith machine (regular grip, wide grip, and narrow grip),  5-10 reps each grip
- Push ups for 5-10 reps

Complete 3 sets:
Land mine squat shoulder press with alternating hands, 20 reps total

Complete 3 sets: 
Shoulder raises with rope cable attachment, 10 reps

Complete 3 sets: 
- Straight bar face pulls, 10 reps
- Bent over rear dumbbell delt raises, 10 reps
- Around the worlds, 5-10 reps

Complete 4 sets: 
- 50 jump rope
- Battle ropes: 10 reps arms together; 10 reps pulling from middle to outer right corners (see video); 20 reps total alternating arm rope slams (10 reps each arm)

Complete 4 sets:
- Dynamax ball slams, 10 reps
- Dynamax ball push ups, 10 reps
- Shoulder taps, 10 taps total

VIDEO
1st clip: Seated single arm shoulder press on smith machine (ensure you get full range of motion)
2nd clip: Standing single arm dumbbell press
3rd clip: The entire circuit of face pulls, rear delt raises, and around the worlds
4th clip: Battle rope circuit beginning with arms together, pulling from the center to upper right direction, and finishing with alternating single arm slams

**Note that almost all the clips are sped up 2X the speed, take these exercises slow and controlled and really focus on that mind to muscle connection!**

Workout contributed by Morgan Smith (University of Florida). Check out her Instagram and Twitter for more. 

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Do This Workout to Boost Self-Love

Move, love, and work your body. 

As college students, we all go through tough times. Whether we’re facing heartbreak from a relationship, stressing out about school, or feeling down about our appearance, it’s normal to lose track of your confidence now and then. Exercising is a great way to get positive, stand back up, and learn to love yourself again.

Enter: the workout that helps you love yourself. The workout boosts your endorphins, the happy hormones, and leaves your body and mind feeling great. 

Time: 3-30 minutes, you decide!

Type of Workout: Circuit workout

Sh*t You Need: Your body and your best foot forward. For an extra challenge, grab some dumbbells and a jump rope.

Intensity: High

Perks: Boosts endorphins, adaptable

The Workout:  

This workout is about speed. So turn your music up and move as quickly as you can through one exercise to the next. 

1. Jump rope (or jumping in place). Try to add variety to your jumps. This could be done by moving side to side, front to back, twisting, or even jumping on one foot. Get fancy with it.
30 seconds total

2. Dumbbell squat jump (or bodyweight squat jump). With your hands or dumbbells by your side, squat down then explode up into the air. As you come down, bend your knees so you fall back into a squat position. This should be a continuous motion.
10 jumps, or 30 seconds total

3. Dumbbell curls (or bicep squeezes). Standing strong, squeeze your biceps as you bring up your hand. In order to work your core stability too, use one arm at a time for this exercise.
12 curls per arm, or 45 seconds total

4. Double-dumbbell triceps extension (or triceps flexes). Standing tall with both dumbbells in hand over your head, bend your elbows down to 90 degrees then straighten them up until their parallel with your body. Focus on really squeezing your triceps through the movement.
15 reps total or 30 seconds total

5. Arnold push press (or bodyweight push press). Standing with both dumbbells in hand facing you at shoulder height, slightly bend at the knees then push up. As you push up, press the dumbbells up and over your head. They should naturally rotate so that your palms face away from your body. As you come back down, rotate the dumbbells to the starting position, and repeat.
10 reps, or 30 seconds

6. Plank position dumbbell pull back (or plank pull backs). These are also known as the renegade row. In a straight plank position, pull back one dumbbell at a time. In order to keep your balance, focus on squeezing your glutes and your core.
8 reps per arm, or 45 seconds total

Workout contributed by Nick Johnson (Purdue University). Check out his Instagram for more.

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Burn Out Your Legs in Less than 10 Minutes

burn out your legs

Finish leg day like a champ. 

This is meant to be a finisher for a leg workout, meaning you will feel completed exhausted both during and after this set. Keeping that in mind, it’s probably not a great way to start your workout if you’re planning on squatting afterwards.

Time: 7-10 minutes

Type of Workout: Strength and conditioning, finisher

Sh*t You Need: Kettlebell or dumbbell

Intensity: High

Perks: Targets legs, quick workout

The Workout:  

10 jump squats
15 goblet squats
Weighted wall sit (with the weight you use for goblet squats) for as long as possible
Bodyweight wall sit immediately after for as long as possible

Repeat 3x with no rest.

Workout contributed by Alec Ceccon (Northeastern University). Check out his Instagram for more.

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HIIT the Wall Workout

The great thing about walls? They’re everywhere. Do this workout outside if it’s nice out, or next to a wall inside if it isn’t.

Time: 16 minutes

Type of Workout: HIIT, strength/conditioning

Sh*t You Need: Dumbbell (one heavy, one moderate), interval timer, & a sturdy wall

Intensity: High

Body Target: Total body

Perks: Incorporates both cardio and strength 

The Workout:

Set an interval timer for 24 rounds of 10 seconds rest, 30 seconds work. (This will set you up to complete four rounds, which will take a total of 16 minutes.) 

Complete as many reps of the following exercises with proper form within the 30 second work period. 
- wall plank toe taps
- weighted sumo squats
- wall burpees
- weighted side lunges (switch legs each round)
- dumbbell drag pushups
- wall sit with shoulder raise

 

Workout contributed by Alison Yeung (Boston University). Check out her Instagram, Twitter, and blog for more. 

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This Track Workout is the Opposite of Boring

Explosive cardio, strength moves, and some quick laps in between. This workout is no joke; when you’re done, the track will never seem dull again.

Time: 45 minutes – 1 hour

Type of Workout: running, HIIT, strength and conditioning

Sh*t You Need: A track, stadium, or the open road

Intensity: Medium-high

Body Target: Lower body

Perks: Do anywhere, killer cardio, no equipment needed

The Workout:

First, warm up. Run/jog half a mile, then go through some dynamic stretching.

Now for some sprints: 
- Sprint 100m, 6 times, allowing 30 sec to recover. Make sure to walk for a few seconds to catch your breath after each sprint before stopping movement of your legs entirely.

- Sprint 50 m, 6 times, allowing 30 s recovery between each sprint.

Stadium run circuit: 
Run 2 laps* and then complete a bodyweight exercise (listed below) for 30 seconds. Once you have completed the exercise, immediately begin running another 2 laps, after which you will complete the next exercise. Continue until you have done each exercise. If you want a longer workout, you can complete the circuit twice. 

Round 1: Burpees
Round 2: Air squats
Round 3: Sit ups
Round 4: Push ups
Round 5: Jump rope

*If you are in a stadium, you can run up and down the steps twice instead of 2 laps.

You're done, and you crushed it. Cool down time. Run half mile followed by static stretching.

Untitled

Workout contributed by Halie Schoff (St. John Fisher College). Check out her website and Instagram for more. 

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A 90 Minute Lift to Seriously Work Your Upper Body

One bench, two major muscle groups, three days of soreness when you’re done.

Time: 90 minutes

Type of Workout: Strength 

Sh*t You Need: Barbell and bench, dumbbells, cable machine

Intensity: Medium

Body Target: Upper body (chest, shoulders, triceps, back, biceps, forearms)

Perks: Incorporates both cardio and strength 

The Workout:

Bench press, 4 sets of 8 reps
Barbell bent-over row, 3 sets of 8 reps
Dumbbell single arm row, 3 sets of 8 reps
Low-to-high cable chest fly, 3 sets of 10 reps
Bicep curl, 3 sets of 12 reps

Notes:
*These numbers of reps & sets are a guide. Keep all sets around 2 reps from failure.
 
*Never fail a rep on any set. If you are approaching failure, rack it & choose a lighter weight for the next set.

Workout contributed by Taylor Glinane (Fairleigh Dickinson University). Check out her Instagram for more. 

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Mix Up Your Routine With This Rowing Workout

From the row machine to strength moves, this upper body workout leaves no muscle untouched.

Time: 60 minutes

Type of Workout: Strength and conditioning

Sh*t You Need: Row machine, resistant band, rings (or a barbell on a low rack), a box, exercise ball, and a bench

Intensity: Medium/high

Body Target: Abs, arms and back

Perks: Incorporates both cardio and strength 

The Workout:

Warm up: 5 minutes on row machine

Complete three sets of the following exercises:
10 standing rows w/ resistant band
5 burpees

2 minutes on row machine

3 sets: 
10 Ring rows
30 box touches/high knees (x3)

2 minutes on row machine

3 sets:
5 toe taps, 5 knees to chest w/ exercise ball
10 box jumps (x3)

2 minutes on row machine

3 sets: 
15 hop overs on bench
15 V ups on bench (x3)

Workout contributed by Olivia Kennedy (Jefferson College). Check out her Instagram and Twitter for more. 

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The 10 Minute “Get Off the Couch” Workout

10 minutes is all you need for this energy-boosting workout. 

We all have those days. Sometimes, all I need to feel better is a little movement. So if you’re feeling restless and like you want to move a little, without having to go all the way to the gym, take 10 minutes, stay home, and do this instead.

Don’t forget to drink water before, during and after your workout for best hydration, body function, and recovery!

Time: 10 minutes

Type of Workout: Bodyweight, circuit training, total body

Sh*t You Need: Clock or other timer*
*Read about GymBOSS and other apps you can use here

Intensity: Medium

Perks: Do anywhere, quick but effective

The Workout:

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds.

Bodyweight squats
4 mountain climbers to 1 pushup
Stationary lunges
V-Ups
Rest 30 s.
Star jumps
Narrow pushup
Heel touches
Plank walk-ups, switching planks from your elbows to hands
Rest 30 s.

Do the entire circuit 2x through for a 10 minute workout, or if you want to keep going once you've finished, do it 4x through for a 20 minute workout.

Workout contributed by Natalie Nishi (University of Oregon). Check out her Instagram for more. 

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Total-Body Tabata Workout

10 seconds of rest never seemed so quick. 

You’ve probably heard of HIIT training. These workouts are all the rage, and for good reason. 20 seconds of intense work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. And repeat. This workout is no joke: I recommend a water break after the first round. 

Time: 25 minutes

Type of Workout: HIIT, total body, cardio, strength

Sh*t You Need: Medicine ball, timer*
*Read about GymBOSS and other apps you can use here

Intensity: High

Perks: Improves posture, helps with back pain

The Workout:

Complete each exercise 4 times in a row, working hard for 20 seconds and resting for 10 seconds between sets. Take no additional rest between exercises. Complete all 6 exercises two times through. By the end, you will have done each exercise 8 times.

1. Sumo burpee to plyometric lunge
2. 180° jump squat
3. Med ball skaters
4. Alternating med ball push-ups
5. Med ball hamstring pulse
6. Rocking plank (option: single leg)
 

2 rounds of 4x each 20s on/10s off 🔥

A video posted by @karenfaithfit on

Workout contributed by Karen Ma (Purdue University and George Washington University). Check out her Instagram for more.

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A Workout to Improve Your Posture

posture

Prevent back pain, get strong doing it. 

This strength workout is best performed at a gym and works your chest and back muscles from various angles, helping to improve posture and decrease back pain. This workout uses supersets, so you’ll also get your heart rate pumping along the way.

What's a superset and how do I get one?
A superset is when one set of an exercise is performed directly after a set of a different exercise without rest between them.

Time: 30 minutes

Type of Workout: Strengthening back workout, upper body, supersets

Sh*t You Need: Bench, low to medium-weight dumbbells, cable machine

Intensity: Medium

Perks: Improves posture, helps with back pain

The Workout: 

Go through each superset with no rest between each exercise. Rest 30-60 seconds between each superset. 

Superset 1
3 sets, 12 reps push-ups (modification shown in this video)
3 sets, 12 reps lying dumbbell pullovers on bench (shown in this video)

Superset 2
Note: Before this superset, set the bench at an incline of about 45 degrees, this will target your upper chest muscles

3 sets, 12 reps incline dumbbell chest presses
3 sets, 12 reps incline dumbbell flys
3 sets, 12 reps each arm one-armed dumbbell rows*

*Set the bench so it is flat. Rest your right hand and right knee on the bench. Begin with a dumbbell in your left hand; your left arm should be straight and your shoulders should be parallel to each other. Slightly bend your left elbow, and use the muscles in your middle back to pull the dumbbell to your hip. Think about bringing the shoulder blades together. Slowly return the dumbbell to the starting position. Perform 12 reps and repeat on the other side.

Superset 3
3 sets, 12 reps cable decline chest presses**
3 sets, 12 reps high cable lat pulldowns (shown in the video below)

**Stand in between two cable pulleys facing away from the machine. Positon the cable pulleys so that when you grab them, your hands are even with your chest and your elbows are out in a goal post position. For stability, stand with one leg in front of you with your knee slightly bent. Press the cables down until your arms are outstretched with a soft bend in your elbow, then bring them back up to the starting position. This targets your lower chest muscles.

Workout contributed by Emma Balek (Boston University). Check out her blog and Instagram for more.

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Make Amazing Summer Veggies With Your Grill

These grilled vegetables are the perfect side dish for any and all meals.

Grilled veggies are like my favorite thing ever… Well, besides peanut butter, sweet potatoes, watermelon… Okay so I have a few favorites.

But I do eat these with my meals at least 5 times a week; I can’t get enough. They are also ridiculously simple and so perfect for the summer. Oh and they pair so wonderfully with these quinoa bowls… hint hint.

Time: 20-25 minutesvegetables

When to eat it: With any and every meal

Perks: Works for any vegetables, easy clean-up

Sh*t You Need:

Your favorite veggies (My go-tos include brussel sprouts, bell pepper, carrots, broccoli, and onion)
Fresh dill
Garlic powder
Coconut or avocado oil*

*Fun fact: Coconut and avocado oil both have high smoke points and don’t denature when exposed to high heats. Oils like olive and canola both have lower smoke points so they denature and become carcinogenic when heated; it’s best to try and use avocado or coconut when cooking and save the olive oil for things like dressings!

Grill
Aluminum foil

The Recipe:

1. Light grill

2. Chop veggies into large chunks.

3. Throw them on top of a large piece of foil.

4. Sprinkle with the dill and garlic powder (or whatever seasonings you like).

5. Spray with coconut or avocado oil.

6. Take foil and fold over to make a tightly wrapped packet.

7. Put the packet on the grill (temperature should be around 300°) and set timer for 10 minutes.

8. When 10 minutes is up, flip the packet over and set for another 10 minutes.

9. Take packet off the grill, unwrap, and enjoy!

Recipe was contributed by Becca Hauser (Sacred Heart University). Check out her Instagram for more. 

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How To Do A Triple Plank With Your Friends

triple plank

Normal planks are so passè. We’re movin on to a triple plank.

You’ve seen those dope fitness pictures on Instagram.

You’ve tagged your friend and said “@friend, we’re doing this tomorrow.” But have you ever actually gone back and done it? 

…..have ya?

Well today, that all changes. Today, you’re going to take one of those dope fitness pictures and someone else is going to comment on YOUR Instagram photo. Our friends, @acroyogies, put together a simple step-by-step guide to mastering the triple plank. So go ahead…share this with your friends, get the cameras ready, your Instagram is about to get a whole lot better.

triple plank

But first, we gotta warm up.

@Acroyogies tell us to start this routine by completing five 1 minute planks with 10 pushups in between each set.

Go on now, we can wait here.

Ok, now what?

Once you’re feeling warm, you’re ready to incorporate Acro Yoga! This means double or even triple planks. Here’s how:

1. Choose one person to be the base of the plank. This person is your rock. 

2. A second person will place themselves on top of the base in plank position facing the opposite direction of the base (Person 2 puts their feet on person 1's shoulders, and holds on to person 1's ankles).

3. If you're feeling crazy, person 3 comes in and does the same thing person 2 did. *You may want to consider putting a step behind you so person 3 doesn't fall while climbing to the top ;)

4. Have a fourth person near by so they can snap a picture ASAP.

So let’s see your planks! Tag @gofitu @acroyogies in your new dope Instagram pictures. #fituniversity

Get Your Arms and Abs on Fire with This Workout

Let your legs chill while your upper body does some WORK.

Time: 35-45 minutes

Type of Workout: Circuit training, bodyweight cardio, weighted resistance training, plyometric

Sh*t You Need: One set of dumbbells (I used 10 lbs.), a bench or elevated surface, 1 heavier weight (I use ~15-20 lbs.), swiss/bosu ball

Intensity: High

Perks: Cardio, strength (upper body & abs will be on fiya)

The Workout:

Repeat the following circuit for 30 mins, with little to no rest between rounds:

- 60 mountain climbers
- 1 min high knees
- 40 weighted russian twists
- 20 decline push ups
- 1 min high knees
- 30 weighted bent leg jack knives
- 15 weighted burpees + rows
- 1 min high knees
- 20 plank mat hops
- 30 elevated leg raises
- 15 tuck jumps
- 20 lunge back + bicep curl

After 30 minutes is up, do this Swiss/Bosu Ball Ab Burnout (complete 3 rounds):

- 20 knee tucks
- 20 pikes
- 20 plank toe taps (alternating)

Workout contributed by Taylor Glinane (Fairleigh Dickinson University). Check out her Instagram for more.

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Keep it 100! with this Killer Squat Workout

squat

Find a squat rack and get to it.

Time: 30-45 minutes

Type of Workout:  Intermediate – Advanced strength workout

Sh*t You Need: Squat rack, spotter (optional)

Intensity: High

Perks: Quads, glutes, & hamstrings 


The Workout:

First, warm up.

Do 2-3 sets of 10 reps with the barbell alone. You may also want to do some active stretching like unweighted walking lunges.

You warm? Good. Let's add some plates to that barbell. 

Start at a weight you can comfortably do 10 reps of. This will be your base weight (if you're a beginner, you may keep the bar with no plates as your base weight). Then, go through the following series of squats:

Base weight. 10 reps, 2 sets.
+ 20 lbs. 8 reps, 2 sets.
+ 30 lbs. 4 reps, 2 sets.
+ 20 lbs. 2 reps, 2 sets. YOUR HEAVIEST SQUAT OF THE DAY.
- 20 lbs. 4 reps, 2 sets.
- 30 lbs. 8 reps, 2 sets.
- 20 lbs (AKA, your base weight). 10 reps, 2 sets.

Here's an example with real numbers. (This was a heaaavy leg day for me):
 
- 2 x 10 135 lbs 
- 2 x 8 155 lbs
- 2 x 4 185 lbs
- 2 x 2 205 lbs
- 2 x 4 185 lbs
- 2 x 8 155 lbs
- 2 x 10 135 lbs 

Finish off with some accessory work, such as leg extensions, lunges, leg curls, or cable kickbacks. 

Workout contributed by Taylor Zurick (Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth School of Pharmacy). Check out her Instagram for more.

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An Easy Way To Add Acro Yoga Into Your Life

Acro Yoga

Wanna add some spice to your routine? Enter, Acro Yoga.

Time: ~20 minutes

Type of Workout: Yoga, flexibility, strength

Sh*t You Need: Buddy, yoga mat or soft surface, (optional: spotter)

Intensity: Low

Perks: Complete workout: core, body, soul & mind

The Workout:

Warm Up:

- 10 press ups into backbend: On your own, go from laying on the ground belly up to full backbend, hold 5 seconds and lower.

- 5 belly to bows: On your own, start belly down and extend your arms back to grab both ankles and come up into bow, lift chest off the ground and head to the sky, hold 10 seconds and lower.

The Pose - Inverted Centipede:

- Choose one person to be the base and one person to be the flyer. 

- Base should press up into the backbend (*Expert level: from standing position, drop into a backbend). 

- Once the base is balanced, flyer lays their hips on top of base’s hips. 

- Once stable, flyer extends arms back and pops into bow while stationed on top of base (*optional: spotter stands on one side of the base and stabilizes flyer). 

- Hold position for 10 seconds and have someone snap a cool picture! :)

 

 

A video posted by Amanda & Zani (@acroyogies) on

Workout contributed by Amanda Brodow and Zani Moore (University of San Diego). Check out their Instagram for more.

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Full Body Stair Workout

A full body workout you can get done in as little as 15 minutes. All you need is a set of stairs.

When you don’t even have the will to leave your dorm building, this workout is your best friend. Head to the stairwell with your roommate and try this full body stair workout. Bonus points if you can get your whole floor to join in. Click the video above to see the workout (description found below).

Time: 15 – 30 minutes

Type of Workout: HIIT, circuit training, bodyweight resistance training, plyometric

Sh*t You Need: A set of stairs

Intensity: Medium – High

Perks: Full body

The Workout:

10 right leg stair pop-up
10 left leg stair pop-up
10 stair push-up with cross knee drives 
   (10 push-ups total, 20 cross knee drives )
10 stair jump & squat
20 stair tricep dips
10 stair burpees

Complete all exercises back-to-back, resting as little as possible. After completing 1 round, rest for 1 minute. 
Repeat for a total of 3-5 rounds.

Workout contributed by Kelly Puryear (Certified Athletic Trainer & CSCS®) from University of Alabama. Check out her website & Instagram for more. 

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Take A Study Break With This Short Workout

study break workout

When finals got you like:

You owe it to yourself to stop, breathe and just maaaaybe squeeze in a workout. Exercising is proven to boost productivity & endorphins, after all.

Here’s a workout that is simple, quick & requires no equipment (seriously, you can even do it in the library). Take a 15 minute study break and get to moving. Then follow it up with one of these 10 *drool worthy* healthy study snacks.

Jumping Jacks x 40

Air Squats x 30

High Knees x 20

Push-Ups x 10

Burpees x 5

Complete the following circuit 3-5x, resting as needed. Then BOOM, you’re done.

Happy finals!

Watch this documentary about body image issues among college athletes

Take a look at the cover models on popular fitness magazines: Shape, Women’s Health, etc…. Are these women what we consider “healthy”?

What does it mean when we start associating these images with words meant to be body-positive, such as “health”, “fitness”, and “strength”? 

There’s no doubt that societal expectations are changing. After all, “Strong is the new sexy.” 

But how could this new, seemingly empowering ideal become harmful? Check out this documentary, featuring the Ithaca College women soccer team, to hear from the athlete’s point of view how their body image, self esteem, and overall mental health are affected in modern society. 

Original video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXsAsYBBDVk#action=share.

These College Fitness Couples Are Valentine’s Day #Goals

fitness couples

A couple that lifts/sweats/runs together, stays together right? This Valentine’s Day, we interviewed three college fitness couples to learn how fitness has affected their relationship. In the meantime, we’ll be over here crying in our singles corner… 

Halie & Nick (St. John Fisher College)

valentine's day fitness couples

Marisa (Northeastern U) & Gilbert (Boston College)

valentine's day fitness couples

Hailey & Federico (Boston College)

valentine's day fitness couples

How’d you meet?

H & N: On our college ski club trip to Okemo Mountain in Vermont.

M & G: We’re high school sweethearts! We were in English and Economics together, but we met through Spanish class. It’s a funny story – I [Gilbert] had to interview her mom for a project, and that’s how I got her number. We started texting and one thing led to another. Now, we’re here almost 4 years later!

H & F: At the gym [classic]. A mutual friend introduced us.

 

What’s the plan for Valentine’s Day?

H & N: Just a nice dinner. I [Halie] have practice in the early afternoon and he has a game so we just plan on spending quality time at a nice restaurant after that to unwind!

M & G: We’re keeping it pretty low key this year and having a dinner date at home. We both love cooking and it’s always fun to get to do it together. Our original plan was to hit a long run before dinner, but that freezing Boston forecast may have to change that…movie day?

H & F: A relaxing Sunday and going into Boston for dinner.

 

Do you workout together? What’s your favorite workout to do together?

valentine's day fitness couples

Halie & Nick

H & N: We do workout together when we can! We usually do lots of circuit training and fun workouts like that. I loved the one we did at the track: we started with some 50m and 100m sprints then did a circuit with ropes, burpees, sled runs, jumping and agility. It was super fun and we pushed each-other!

M & G: Yes of course! We started running together a little over a year ago, but that has slowly progressed into other areas of fitness. Now in addition to running, we go to the gym together whenever we can. [They didn’t mention this, but they trained for and ran a marathon together…casual.]

H & F: Not usually. We always go at the same time but do our own thing. I [Hailey] do more cardio and circuits, he does more heavy lifting.

 

Any chocolate or candy this Valentine’s Day?

H & N: I’m a sucker for anything sweet but Nick’s more of a “totally devour my entree” kinda guy. We both love Halo Top, Complete Cookies and all of those healthy treats but we can definitely destroy some Reese’s ice cream or peanut butter dessert together.

M & G: Gilbert: I’m not the biggest fan of very sweet and decadent treats. But, once in a while, I go for cheesecake and coffee. It hits the spot. Marisa: I am a Cookie Monster. All types of cookies. Send them my way.

H & F: We both LOVE ice cream. Any flavor.

 

What are some ways that fitness affects/is incorporated into your relationship?

H & N: Well fitness is pretty much how we connected, we met on the ski trip and instantly bonded over protein shakes and meal prepping? we really got each other more involved in it. We both became Fit U ambassadors and then started our clothing line and fitness plans with Prominence Athletics so it’s really a huge part of both of our lives. Working out and staying active doesn’t just have to be in the gym, we have went on some really awesome hikes, kayaking trips, ski trips and we even have a blast walking our dogs.

valentine's day fitness couples

Marisa & Gilbert

M & G: When we’re in training season for races we long run together almost every weekend. It’s definitely not easy but it’s nice to have him there to keep me going and push me when I want to give up, plus it’s fun to have someone to race when we sprint the last couple meters. Beyond running we do a lot to stay active together- walks through the city, cooking healthy meals, tennis when it’s nice out- we make our workouts into dates!

H & F: It’s how we originally met and going to the gym is something we do together everyday.

 

What advice do you have for other fit-minded couples?

H & N: Channel what you both love, show the other one something new, and teach each other. No one in this world knows everything so the more you can get from each other, the better. Be willing to push, support and encourage one another through the journey. If you are with the right person you can make anything fun and turn a regular workout or what may seem tedious into something really awesome.

M & G: Gilbert: Couples who workout together stay together. Make it a date to workout. Afterwards, go grab a bite to eat to recover. It’s like an instantaneous date! Marisa: Find a workout you both enjoy and make it a point to do it together often. Take new fitness classes together, learn to cook healthy meals, run a race, go dancing! When you both make fitness a priority in your lifestyle it’s so easy to find ways to spend time together.

H & F: Try to incorporate fun new workouts into your routine. Maybe even try doing a workout class together!

valentine's day fitness couples

Hailey & Federico

How To Actually Keep Your New Years Resolutions

how to keep your new years resolution

The bullet-proof, 5-step plan.

One year passed and another has begun. How this past year flew by so fast, I have no idea, but it’s a reality we have to accept. Along with the new year often comes the inevitable new years resolutions.

I get the whole concept of new years resolutions…”new year, new you” right? But frankly, new years resolutions are a bunch of bullsh*t, in my opinion. It’s just like saying “I’m starting my diet on Monday!” or “Next semester, I’ll start working out!” Will you really? 

92% of new years resolutions fail, according to the University of Scranton. Swallow that for a minute.

92%!

Just because you give yourself a starting point (i.e. Monday, next semester, next year, etc.) doesn’t mean that anything will be any different once you actually get to that starting point. The question to ask yourself is not, “What will I do this year?” Rather, ask yourself “How will I alter my behavior to make a change this year?” That’s where you will find success… in figuring out the road map to your destination, not just deciding when or where to take off.

We asked some of our Fit University ambassadors their best tips for being the rare 8% that actually succeed at new years resolutions. Here is our 5 step guide on how to actually keep your new years resolution.

Step 1: Choose your goal.

Joe Romeo from Northeastern, said it best: “Have a good reason for achieving a goal that is your own.” Your friend may want to start lifting, your mom may want to travel more, and your roommate may want to simply “be more healthy” this year. Those are all wonderful goals but they may not apply to you. Your goal should be something made to better yourself, not anyone else, so don’t jump on the bandwagon of “this year, I’m going to be gluten-free!” if your heart’s not into it.

Step 2: Make a pie.

Confused? Keep reading.

Picture this…it’s New Years Day and you want to bake a pie (a healthy pie with natural ingredients, that is). You can’t just say, “I want to bake a pie” and boom it appears! The world don’t work that way, friend. You need to take the proper steps to bake the pie. Look up the recipe, gather all of the ingredients, pre-heat the oven, measure out the ingredients, mix, pour, bake, and cool. It takes completing all of those small steps before you have your completed – and delicious – pie.how to keep your new years resolutions

Your goals are just like pie. In order to reach them, you need to break them down into “small, tangible steps each month or week,” says Fit U ambassador Hannah Heitz (Emory). John Griffin (NU) adds that, “setting daily goals to achieve weekly goals, weekly goals to achieve monthly goals, and monthly goals to achieve yearly goals” helps him bake the pie, if you will 😉

So, moral of the story? Big goal, small steps. 

Step 3: Ease into your goals

Why do so many resolution-ers fail? Because they try to go from working out essentially never, to working out 5 days a week. Take it from Danielle Dionne (FAU): “Trying to cut something off cold turkey is wayyyyy harder than scaling down weekly or monthly. Similarly, adding in a gym routine is easier if you start once a week and build up to 4/5 times a week.”

Step 4: Find a support team

It’s important to surround yourself with people that are positive and supportive of your goal. Don’t believe us? Look at the research. A study conducted by UPenn found that students who were given workout buddies over a 13-week period were more motivated and exercised more than students without buddies #science. It’s easy to find a support team at Fit U…just look at the hashtag  #fituniversity on Instagram and you’ll see over 11,000 posts of students living fit & healthy lifestyles. Jump right in and join the online community! You’re in even more luck if your school has a Fit University chapter to join. (Want to start one if it doesn’t? Dooo it!).

how to keep your new years resolutions

The #fitufam is strong.

Whoever your community is, finding it is crucial in your success.

Step 5: Keep motivated

When we first set goals, we’re excited and anxious to jump in. But as the semester picks up, it’s easy to lose that motivation in the sea of papers, exams and extracurriculars. Keep things interesting by finding new ways to workout, new recipes to try, and fun ways to stay fit.

how to keep your new years resolutionsIf you’ve broken down your goal into smaller ones, you give yourself opportunities to make small victories on a regular
basis. There’s nothing more motivating than seeing checkmarks all down your list of goals. Take it a step further…Fit U ambassador Katie Terrone (University of Scranton) suggests, “small rewards keep you motivated to continue reaching your goals!” We’re not saying to buy yourself an ice cream sundae every night you make it to the gym (unless you’re looking for all sorts of #gainz), but maybe vow to buy yourself a new pair of sneakers 6 weeks in or take yourself out for a good meal after hitting a big milestone. 

When you look back at your goals and see that you’ve accomplished it all (because you will), start thinking about your next move. Fit U ambassador Rich Zapata (Stony Brook) is all about “staying hungry after you reach one goal. [Once you hit it], you go for another.” Ready to bake another pie? Repeat entire process starting at step 1.

Something to consider:

Goals should be a source of excitement and motivation, not a source of stress. If you find yourself stressing out because you’re not where you pictured yourself to be, know that that’s ok. Fit U ambassador Hannah Liistro (NU). makes an excellent point: “don’t beat yourself up if you have an off day; instead, use it as motivation to succeed the next day!” If you find yourself stressing out day after day, it might be best to reevaluate. Goals can always be readjusted to fit your current situation, there’s no need to fret. 

Happy new year – you’ve got this. 

Check out these articles too:

Why You Should Set Non-Fitness Resolutions Too
New Years Resolutions: A New Perspective
Check Yourself: The Silent Predator of New Years Resolutions
Food Trends To Get You Excited for 2017

Does the Freshman 15 really exist?

freshman 15

Setting the facts straight about the Freshman 15.

The Freshman 15 is a common expression that recent high schools grad often hear about and fear. There’s a constant debate about whether or not the freshman 15 really exists so we’re here to set the record straight.

What is the Freshman 15?

The Freshman 15 refers to incoming college freshmen gaining 15 pounds during their first year of college. As Urban Dictionary explains…

does the freshmen 15 really exist?

It’s easy to see how this could happen… dorms definitely don’t make it easy to cook healthy meals three times a day. We have to rely on the dining hall or restaurants close to campus for sustenance, and let’s be real – it can be hard to find healthy options at these places. To make things worse, the transition from having a home cooked dinner every night, or lunch packed every day, to having to fend for yourself is much harder than expected. Fit University ambassador Ali shares,

I definitely experienced the Freshman 15. I gained it the first semester and lost it the second. My biggest adjustment was dining hall food and learning to negotiate all the options. In Jamaica, we’re taught to eat what’s on our plate/what’s given to us so I would always finish what I was served (which was a lot more than I was used to) and I had to start asking for less or being okay with leaving a little on my plate.  

The majority of us have a meal plan, so we’re mostly limited to what the dining hall is serving that day (can you eat healthy in the dining hall, anyway?). Add in the stress that comes with the first year of college and giving up time to exercise for time to study or hang with new friends, and it makes the Freshman 15 seem like a real possibility.

does the freshman 15 really exist

So, Does the Freshman 15 Really Exist?

The debate continues, but a study published in Social Science Quarterly in December of 2011, says…..drumroll please…. the Freshman 15 is a myth. They say that freshman tend to gain around 2.5 – 3.5 pounds during their first year of college, but not 15. Of course, this doesn’t mean that some students won’t gain more than that, but it ultimately depends on the student’s lifestyle. 

Here’s the kicker…

While students might not gain the dreaded Freshman 15, the same study revealed that after freshman year, students continued to gain weight at a steady rate throughout college and after they graduated…shit. To back that claim up, researchers at Auburn University conducted a study to examine not only weight gain during freshman year, but weight gain throughout all four years of college. 

Sareen Gropper, a co-author of the study and professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management, explains,

While dozens of studies have investigated weight gain during the freshman year of college and have reported on the so-called ‘Freshman 15,’ our study is the first to examine changes in weight, body mass index (BMI), body composition and body shape over the four-year college period.” In our opinion, BMI, body comp and body shape are much more important to examine overall, rather than weight alone since factors like muscle growth can affect weight gain.

According to the study that examined 131 college students from the beginning of freshman year to the end of senior year…

  • 70% of students gained an average of 11.7 pounds during their four years of college
  • The percentage of students that were underweight-normal weight decreased from 82% at the start of freshman year, to 69% at the end of senior year
  • The percentage of students that were overweight–obese increased from 18% at the start of freshman year, to 31% at the end of senior year
  • Overall, there was an average increase of weight, BMI, fat-free mass, fat mass, and body fat amongst students throughout college

does the freshman 15 really exist

Should you be worried?

NO! These facts aren’t meant to scare you, but to let you know what the realities of the Freshman 15 and college weight gain are. Late night pizza and unhealthy dining hall food can be tempting, but it’s important to be smart about your health. After all, you were smart enough to get into college so you should be smart enough to take care of yourself now that you’re here. Maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise that you enjoy doing (because why do something you don’t like doing…amiright?). 

In terms of exercise, get physical at least three to four days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Not only will exercise improve your health and keep you fit, but it will also help you to blow off college-related steam. Case in point, if you have a class stressing you out, going for a run, hitting the gym, or working out with Fit University on campus can help to lower your stress levels and mellow you out. If you’re new to exercise, start taking walks around campus to ease into exercise. Better yet, join your school’s Fit University chapter – open to all levels of fitness. 

So there ya have it. No, the Freshman 15 may not necessarily ring true to its name but weight gain throughout college is as real as ever. By adopting healthy habits during your freshman year, you can be sure to beat the statistics and maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout college and after you graduate. There is no reason to fear the Freshman 15. Have fun and focus on the great aspects of the next four years of your life.

Sources

Gropper SS, Simmons KP, Connell LJ, Ulrich PV. Changes in body weight, composition, and shape: A 4-year study of college students. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, andMetabolism 2012;
37: 1118 – 1123.

Zagorsky, J. L. and Smith, P. K. (2011), The Freshman 15: A Critical Time for Obesity Intervention or Media Myth?. Social Science Quarterly, 92: 1389–1407. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00823.x

5 Healthy Breakfasts That Might As Well Be dessert

5 healthy breakfasts that might as well be dessert | fit university

Are you a sweet or savory kinda-breakfast-person? Either way, everyone can use a dessert-like breakfast once in a while. These 5 healthy breakfasts are so good that they might as well be dessert, you’d never even know they were good for you.

ats6

Brownie batter peanut butter swirl oatmeal

Chocolate? Peanut butter? You can’t get much better than that combo. The best part about this recipe is that it’s dorm-friendly… just make the oatmeal in the microwave instead of on the stove. Boom.

 Strawberry-Chia-Smoothie-Bowl-cu

Strawberry-chia smoothie bowl

Smoothies are no longer just for drinking…now you can sit and enjoy your smoothie by the spoonful. With just a handful of fresh ingredients, this breakfast is ready in a few minutes and doesn’t disappoint your sweet tooth. 

5 (healthy) breakfasts that might as well be dessert | fit university

Banana oat greek yogurt muffins

Let’s get one thing straight – muffins you see in convenience stores are not healthy. They’re packed with tons of sugar and fat, leaving no room for protein (one muffin can cost you ~500 calories). These banana oat greek yogurt muffins, however, are made with whole ingredients and almost no added sugar. 

5 (healthy) breakfasts that might as well be dessert | fit university

Confetti cake protein pancakes

If you’re looking for a protein-packed, dessert-like breakfast, you have met your match. Is it breakfast? Is it cake? You be the judge. These pancakes are the perfect Saturday morning, post-workout brunch.

5 healthy breakfasts that might as well be dessert | fit university 

Apple pie oatmeal cookies

You never thought you could have pie for breakfast… until now. These apple pie oatmeal cookies are gluten-free, low-fat and made with whole, healthy ingredients. Grab a few on your way out the door when you’re headed to class — or maybe crumble one into some greek yogurt added protein.

13 Easy Tips To Stay Fit In College

stay fit in college

Can you really stay fit in college? Hint: YES.

One of the biggest misconceptions around is that it’s impossible to stay fit in college. At Fit University, we have one thing to say to that… BULL. SHIT. To give you a little boost of motivation, we asked some of our Fit University ambassadors from schools across the country to give their #1 tip on how to stay fit in college. Here’s what they had to say:

1. It is 100% possible.

Believe in yourself, eat good healthy foods, exercise regularly, and be kind to yourself. You’ll be amazed at how well you’ll respond to the positive changes in your life–your body will thank you! – Charlotte K.

2. Watch the alcohol intake.

Also…eat your veggies, have fun and love what you do. – Kristen W.

3. Find the time.

Plan your day before you get to it, and stop making excuses. If you’re like me, you can be pretty good at persuading yourself out of commitments. But it’s important to hold yourself accountable. You wouldn’t skip an appointment with your professor or your doctor — treat your workouts as an appointment with yourself. Honor yourself and don’t be rude… show up! – Colleen O.

4. Get enough sleep.

You’re gonna need it. How much you sleep and the freshman 15 could be related..read more here. – Joe B.

5. Maintain balance.

A fit and healthy lifestyle is all about balance in all aspects – diet, exercise, studying, working, and relaxing. Being healthy is more than always perfectly hitting your macros (shout out to IIFYM), and exercising every day. It’s listening to how your body feels and giving it what it needs. If you’re tired, rest, if you’re hungry, eat, and if you’re stressed out, take a little break for yourself. So go ahead, treat yourself to a cookie every now and then, lift heavy things, run outside, and never underestimate the part your mental health plays in your overall health. – Marisa L.

6. Have fun with it!

Staying fit can be achieved through countless activities that all take varying amounts of time. Being fit can be as little as 20 or 30 minutes a day. Making the commitment to staying fit depends on doing something that is enjoyable. For some, it could be running. For others, it might be team sports or lifting. It is difficult to stay committed if it isn’t fun. – Cam R.

7. Don’t let a rough patch get you down.

You’re going to have weeks where it seems like you have literally no time to do anything, not even sleep. Try your best to fit in a quick workout, whether its lifting, cardio, yoga or something else you enjoy. It will help you reset your mind and prevent you from letting a rough week become a rough month or even a rough semester. – Amanda G.

8. Start small, think big.

If it’s hard for someone to make big health changes, start small. Small change adds up over time and will eventually lead to big success! – Nick C.

9. Find yo’ peeps.

Surround yourself with people that share the same goals as you. Having all my friends and boyfriend be so supportive and into fitness as me makes it so much easier to push myself. It’s also so much more fun to go to the gym with your BFF and prepare healthy meals and share each other’s journey! – Halie S.

10. Be mindful.

Making conscious decisions about the food you put into your body is hugely important to staying fit. And also knowing how often you should be exercising and following through with it. – Sarah K.

11. Stay away from the crappy food…

And stay in the gym 😉 – Marie L.

12. Don’t stop moving.

If you have class far away you can always ride your bike and even in between classes you can ride around. If you don’t know the people you are living with, make friends with them and maybe ask if they want to go to the gym some time. Just stay active! – Mike C.

13. Find a workout buddy!!

The hardest part about going to the gym is actually GOING. If you have a friend pushing you and reminding you of workout plans, it is much easier. It makes you accountable to another person! (PS: you can easily find a workout buddy at your school’s Fit University chapter. Don’t have one on campus? Start one!) – Nellie T.

Check out these articles too:

9 Tips to Help You Get Started in the Gym

getting started in the gym

Your 9-step guide to getting started in the gym

Getting started in the gym can be a bit intimidating but everyone’s got to start somewhere, right? Fit University Ambassador from Stony Brook, Michael C. shares, “When I first started lifting, I was a little intimidated because there are some strong people there. I felt weak lifting my weights..”

Sound familiar? He continues though, “but that mentality faded away rather quickly because, for the most part, everyone at the gym minds there own business and is worried about their own health and well being. People who are serious lifters would be happy to see new people hitting those weights if anything.” 

This guide is designed to get you acclimated and comfortable on the gym floor so you can reach your fittest potential. 

getting started in the gym

1. Know the basics

Familiarize yourself with a few basic exercises so once you step into the gym, you’re confident in your movements. You can learn the basics right in your dorm which makes it all the more easy. Northeastern student and Certified Personal Trainer Lauren Smith explains,”Don’t start with a barbell squat before you learn how to do an air squat. Don’t try to jump on the bench press until you can do a push-up. The basics are underrated and it’s always more important to start slow and be consistent.” Some basic exercises to know are:

Squat

Lunge

Plank

Push Up

2. Consider a group fitness class or a personal trainer

Classes are great for two reasons. One, you have someone telling you exactly what to do and exactly how to do it. Two, they are generally high energy and incredibly fun. Take a Zumba or BollyX class, for example. Maybe even a glow in the dark yoga class. You can take what you learn in the class and apply it to your solo workout. If you’re a little timid to get started in a class, stand in the back but make sure you can still see the instructor and yourself in the mirror. It might also be a good idea to schedule a few sessions with a personal trainer if you’re trying to get serious. They can show you around the gym, what equipment to use and how to use it.

3. Workout during “off” times 

Amanda G. (Northeastern), says, “try going at times when you know it will be less crowded so you can get acclimated without feeling like everyone is watching you. Sunday mornings are usually pretty quiet, especially on a college campus, and can be a great time to take your time figuring out your routine.”

getting started in the gym

4. Do your research 

When you’re getting started in the gym, it is so crucial to do your research. The best and worst part about the internet is that there is endless health and fitness information available to you and as a result, there is a ton of misinformation out there. Just because someone works out doesn’t mean they are a personal trainer. Look for sites that use credible sources and rely on certified professionals for their content. Bodybuilding.com is a great resource to learn proper form to avoid injury. 

And of course, you can always ask the gym staff how to do an exercise. It’s much better to ask if you’re unsure than to do an exercise incorrectly and hurt yourself. 

*Ladies… let me save you a bit of research. If you’re worried about strength training, please know… lifting weights will not make you look bulky.  I repeat, lifting weights will not make you look bulky.

5. Set a schedule 

When you’re first getting into a good gym groove, you might want to consider setting up a schedule with specific “gym days.” Pick one day of the week that’s the best time for you and stick to it – just one day. Starting off slow will make your goal of working out more attainable – if you happen to go a second or third time during the week, great! But if not, no biggie. Make a reminder in your phone so you have no excuse of forgetting.

6. Go in with a plan.

A plan without an action without a wish. Sorry, had to say it. It’s true! Walking into the gym without a workout in mind is like walking around the grocery store with a grocery list. You’ll just wander in an out of the isles until all of the sudden you’re spending $300 on paper plates because they were on sale. Don’t be that guy. Instead, go into the gym ready to know what your workout is and what equipment you’ll need. Need help finding a workout? Here’s a bunch for you to try.

7. Find a gym buddy

Accountability, motivation, fun-ness… that’s a word, right? These are just a few of the benefits of having a workout partner. Fit University ambassador Marie L. says, “What helped me when I was getting started in the gym was definitely the fact that I started going with a buddy, in my case Michael Crespo! He was more experienced with the gym and was able to show me around and teach me everything he knows about lifting. In no time, the intimidation of being a new member of the gym went away!” Don’t have any friends who are willing to make it out the gym with you? That’s ok! Our Fit University chapters have workouts in the gym to help you find your way around the gym. 

getting started in the gym 2

8. Try new things 

You’ll never know what you enjoy or what works for your body until you try it. Try a spin class, rock climbing, weight lifting, pole dancing. Whatever it is, try it! Worst case, you don’t like it. Best case, you just added something new to your life.

9. Have fun 

This is probably the most important part of it all. Nobody wants to go to the gym if it’s boring and seems like a chore. After you’ve tried some new things, figure out what you like and don’t like. Do the activities you like and don’t do the activities you don’t. Love kickboxing but hate running? Don’t run. Fitness should be something you enjoy and crave not something you hate and dread. Find your fun and stick to it.

getting started in the gym

Check out these articles too:

What You Need to Know About Basic Nutrition
Healthy Habits for College Life
No, I Didn’t Always Love Staying Fit (But I Do Now)
Fitness is About More Than Your Appearance: Here’s Why