My fitness journey truly began when the gym became a place of solace for me.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been active. Soccer, basketball, track & field, you name it — sports were my life.  But, volleyball is truly my passion.

I fel1496023_469754533129464_2015578498_ol in love with the sport in middle school and it became the center of my life until high school graduation. The sport was my escape from reality.  It harbored some of my fondest memories growing up. And, it truly showed me what it’s like to be madly, deeply in love with a sport.

 

Deciding to not pursue my volleyball career in college was a difficult decision, but it was made in efforts to allow myself time to focus on my studies and embrace the college experience.  My freshman year, I promised myself that I would avoid the infamous “Freshman 15” and stay in shape during my transition. Well…easier said than done when you’re going not going to volleyball practice everyday anymore!

While fitness was no longer used to stay in the best physical shape as an athlete, it instead became the way I kept sane.

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Change, evolution, and new beginnings — college brought its own forms of stress in entirely new ways. I’d never been away from home for a long period of time and I felt alone at times, so my anxiety began to overwhelm my life. When my anxiety began to feel unmanageable and I hit my lowest low, I found relief at my university’s gym (Go Bulls!).

My ultimate goal was to be able to accept myself.

I wanted to learn to live through every struggle I faced without having to rely upon any anxiety drug or therapy.  I wanted to go to college and truly enjoy every experience without allowing my anxieties to take over.

On days where anxiety attacks plagued me and I felt completely out of control, hitting the gym cleared my head and put me into a better frame of mind. The more I pushed myself in the gym, the less anxiety ridden, sleepless nights I had. 

I felt like I was finally becoming one with my body. 

I’ve always been passionate about health, so as a result, making nutritious meals became an obsession.

I started getting creative in the school dining halls, and I learned that having a dorm “kitchen” with just a mini fridge and a microwave didn’t have to be a barrier to living a healthy lifestyle.  Sure, I had to make some changes in how I prepared food and what I ate, but I discovered that it’s not impossible to stay healthy in college. I could make my favorite dishes with healthy substitutions…and I could document it endlessly on Snapchat of course.

In turn, the more I researched the food I put into my body, the more I began to think of food as fuel and not just a source of comfort.

Once I began to see the mental and physical changes of a healthy lifestyle, I was hooked.

I’m in my second year now, and I still struggle with severe anxiety bouts, sad moments, and feeling alone in the hectic college life. But, I have compiled my way toolbox of ways to cope with these things, and the gym is top on my list.  It is no longer a means of avoiding the Freshman Fifteen, it’s a place where I can go when my anxiety is creeping in, but also where I can go to have fun.

As I invested more time in taking care of my mental and physical health, my friends and family noticed how much happier I was and saw a genuine spark in me.  I have always loved my body and have been generally healthy, but seeing it truly transform in a matter of a year has been rewarding. Instead of doing the workouts I felt I had to, I found what I love to do in the gym, and stuck with that. The chance to experiment with new training styles and trying new things keeps the gym fun even on days when motivation wasn’t easy to come by.

 
C1GvYvBXUAIyB5iI have learned that binging on my favorite foods every once in a while is a part of living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining your mental sanity.

I have learned to listen to my body, fuel it properly, and take care of myself.

I have learned to accept that my body needs rest to repair itself and that I don’t need to go to the gym everyday. 

I have learned to accept my body in all states.  

I have learned to take my anxiety and let it strengthen me, not defeat me.

And, I have learned to love every party of myself.

This is only the beginning of my fitness story.

 

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About The Author

Natasha is student at the University of South Florida, Go Bulls! She has a passion for writing, social media, and design as a second year Mass Communications student. She’s the ultimate beach bum, health food junkie, and fitness guru.

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