Fitness, College, And Finding My Inner Self

By April 18, 2017Motivation

From high school athlete, to collegiate fitness extraordinaire…

Being 6’0” in middle school was an interesting experience. My days consisted of dodging questions from strangers inquiring about whether I played basketball, attempting to squeeze into the tiny school bus seats, and trying not to hit my head as I dismounted the bus.

Inevitably, I played a variety of sports, and due to my height and my “athletic” look, I was always expected to be the best on the team.  This was entirely bittersweet.

At times, the pressure to be good at a sport and not let my teammates down overwhelmed my ability to actually enjoy my time on the field or court and find my niche. Because of this, I decided not to be a collegiate athlete when the time came. I enjoyed every aspect of being part of a team; however, I wanted to take advantage of the new space to learn more about myself and what I enjoyed. I wanted to identify myself beyond the court.

My definition of “fitness” during my first year of college was extremely narrow. In my mind, being fit meant that I had to go to the gym everyday. It meant that my workouts had to include 30 minutes of cardio. And, it meant that if I did not leave the gym sweating, then my workout was not “intense” enough.

Fitness, or my health for that matter, was just another thing on the laundry list of tasks that I had to complete. Exercising had transitioned from something I loved to something tedious. Fitness was no longer fun, and trying to find the motivation to get active became increasingly difficult.

At this point, I knew I needed to reassess my lifestyle.


Like any other college freshman, I underestimated the difficulty of university life and being away from home. At times, I was too preoccupied with work that I often skipped dinner and instead would spend nights in my room eating copious amounts of snacks. Balance became difficult, and I was merely eating foods for caloric value without paying attention to which foods made me feel energetic and which foods made me feel sluggish.

I ignored the bloating and discomfort that I experienced when I ate certain foods and assumed everyone else experienced similar symptoms. I thought that it was “normal” to feel this way.

Eliminating the foods that made me feel this way, I decided to adopt a predominantly plant-based/vegetarian diet, which was beneficial to my physical well-being, and my physical appearance. The sleepless nights became fewer and I felt much stronger.

During this transition phase in my life, YouTube became my best friend. I was curious about other vegetarian/vegan college students living in dorms and how they managed to navigate school and their health. Instead of merely eating foods to ensure I consumed adequate calories, I paid more attention to eating foods that made me feel energized, and not ill.

Living in a dorm room didn’t have to restrict what I could and could not eat. Realizing that I could still enjoy wholesome meals — rather than living off snacks — even though I was away from home, was extremely liberating. Overnight oats, smoothie bowls, and loaded/stuffed sweet potatoes were just a select few of the gourmet meals I enjoyed.  

In addition to altering my nutrition, I knew I needed a boost in my workout routine if I wanted to remain active. I slowly transitioned away from the cardio machines, away from the monotonous routine I had gotten used to, and starting incorporating weights, and speed and agility workouts that I learned when I was on the track team in high school. At the beginning of every week, I included a daily fitness plan in my journal, but made sure that my plan did not solely include a workout schedule. I wanted to break out and try new things, while also learning to listen to my body and take rest days when I needed them.

My college experience plays a significant role in my fitness journey. Stepping away from team sports was bittersweet. However, it was an important decision that I made to help me find my niche in the world. Fitness transitioned from something taxing and stressful, to something that I thoroughly enjoyed. It became a way for me to meet new people, while also learning about myself.

I also discovered my passion for nutrition. By playing around with foods that made my own body feel good, I declared a nutrition major after my freshman year so I could help others do the same.

Nothing excites me more than discussing health tips with my friends, convincing my friends to try new workouts with me at the gym, or surfing social media in search of new recipes. I am excited by where I am in my fitness journey: I am happy, having fun, and I am doing what I love. What more can I ask for?  

Fitness Journey

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Author Vivien Ikwuazom

Vivien is a senior at Cornell University majoring in Nutritional Sciences. She decided to study nutritional science because of her fascination with the intersection of nutrition (the foods that we eat), biology, human physiology. She enjoys hiking, and any workouts involving sprinting, medicine balls, or the TRX. She is also obsessed with nut butters; peanut butter and cashew butter are her favorites. Outside of her academic work, Vivien enjoys working out with friends, writing, and cooking.

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