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Staying FIT in College

You’ve probably all been warned of the infamous “Freshman 15”—the inevitable 15 pounds that you gain during your freshman year of college. Although this might be true for some people, I’m here to tell you that this does not have to be your fate! If you make proper meal choices and exercise regularly, you’ll have nothing to worry about!

For my first two years at Juniata, I was a member of the track and field team, so I didn’t have to worry much about creating my own workout schedule. My daily exercise routines were mapped out by my coaches. Due to a change in my priorities, I decided that being on the track team was no longer for me. This meant that I had to come up with my own workout schedule, if I wanted to stay fit.

Inevitably, I gained a few pounds from not having as rigorous of a workout routine as before, but I also started to get bored of my same uncreative workouts. Ultimately, I needed some more motivation.

Thankfully, I found out about FITLAB, which is a workout program offered every weekday morning at 8:00 am by Neal Utterback, assistant professor of theater. The program was originally offered to only a small group of students who were training for an endurance obstacle race, but due to the high interest from other students, the program is now open to everyone.  The workouts vary daily and include endurance exercises, circuit training, stairs, and yoga. Before beginning each workout, we have five minutes of silence followed by five minutes of mindful meditation.

My friend, Tyler Ayres, and I after our Wednesday morning yoga workout.

For me, these workouts are truly a blessing. Since this is my last semester of college, I had been getting a little distracted and not focusing on my health as much as I could have been. Now, I am motivated by working out with a great group of supportive people.

Though I don’t have my first class until later in the morning, I wake up every day at 7:20 am to get ready for FITLAB. I don’t regret waking up early because after a good workout, I feel awake and alert throughout the rest of my day!

A Runner’s Guide to Achieving Your Goals


I have been a runner since my freshman year of high school.   Cross country was a sport that was foreign and honestly terrifying to me. I could not grasp the concept of willingly going out and putting yourself through that kind of physical torment for extended periods of time. But my outlook soon changed. The first month and a half of cross country was a blur of pain, from the burn of asthma in my lungs to the dull ache of overworked muscle. But I kept with it, and to this day I could not tell you why I kept going. Perhaps it was the encouragement my mom gave (as well as her sly comment about how I would feel if I gave up) or not wanting to let down my coach (a family friend) or my teammates (who were beginning to become good friends). Though I have veered off from time to time, running, the simultaneously magnificent and terrible sport that it is, has led me down a surprising path that I could never have imagined as I stepped off the cross country bus for the first time five years ago. And in many ways I have the same thoughts about college.

There was never a point in my life where I did not want to go to college. I assumed that college was the natural next step on the path of life. As time passed of course I came to realized that college was not the path that everyone took… or one that everyone wanted to take. And as I make my way through my third semester of college, I am getting a very clear picture as to one of the reasons why one might not want to move onto higher education.

College is hard.

I do not say that to scare or intimidate, just to state a fact. College classes are difficult, and rightly so–they are preparing you for jobs in the proverbial real world or for even more education at a higher level. It takes work and dedication to achieve the grades you want or need and sometimes that means sacrificing other aspects of your life. My freshman year there was a talk about the Social, Sleep, and School triangle. If you dedicate too much time to sleep and your social life then your academics suffer and too much study time and social interactions decrease how much sleep you can get etc. I am still trying to find that balance, and to be honest I am not sure anyone has been successful.

The fundamental goal for an individual in cross country or track is to get a lower PR (which is your personal best time). The only way to do that is to practice; to get out on the track after school and run 200 meter repeats or go on a 7 mile run. There is no half-way when it comes to competitive training, you either put forth the effort or get left in the dust. Only once in my running career did I put forth that effort. My sophomore year of high school I ran like I never imagined I could. I was winning races because I worked for it. I had a passion for the sport that made all of the grueling workouts and sometimes tedious long runs seem like nothing.

Steve Prefontaine (also known as Pre) was the United States foremost running athlete in the late sixties and early seventies. At one point, he was quoted saying, “Some people create with words or with music or with brush and paints. I like to make something beautiful when I run. I like to make people stop and say, ‘I’ve never seen anyone run like that before.’ It’s more than just a race, it’s a style. It’s doing something better than anyone else. It’s being creative.” Should we not all be creative in what we do? I know at times it is difficult because we get run down with work, school, family, social lives, the newest season of The Walking Dead, but there should at least be some glimmer of that passion in everything we do.

College is hard but not impossible. While it is not always possible for us to approach everything with such a passion as Pre’s, we should at least try. In whatever we do, we should let just a little bit of that passion show through. Your quantifiable success in college is given by a three digit number which is the equivalent of your PR. The only way to get a better PR is to train; to study like you have never studied so that the material is not just familiar to you but permanently ingrained in your mind. So have a passion for whatever you are doing, academically or otherwise, because in the end, whatever you are working toward will be worth all of the mental or physical toil.

Welcome to Florida

Before spring break, everyone on campus is talking about what they are going to do with their break. I personally heard three main types of spring breaks: the people who sleep through it, the people who go on vacation, and the people who take service trips. I however, was not in any of these categories. As a part of the Juniata Softball team, we took a spring break trip to Florida. As nice as the warm Florida weather sounds and how exciting and fun the trip actually was, it was exhausting. Overall, we were in Florida for a week. We played a total of ten games, two per day. The day we got there, we also practiced. Doing all of this, right out of the gates in the hot Florida sun is exhausting, but the fun parts made it totally worth it.

Me at the Yankees Game
Me at the Yankees Game

In my opinion, the best day of the whole spring break trip was Wednesday, March 12th. This day was also known as our only free day. We had to option to either go somewhere with our parents, go with someone else’s parents, or go with one of the coaches to a New York Yankee’s Spring Training game. As a huge Yankee fan, I decided that even though my parents were in Florida, I wanted to go to the game. It was pretty awesome. Not only did I get to sleep in that day, but I also got to see Derek Jeter in person, who is retiring this year. It was pretty exciting.

Team Community Service
Team Community Service

We did other fun things in Florida too. One night we got to explore Downtown Disney, the huge shopping center in Orlando. Another night, we ended up exploring Orlando trying to find an ice cream place because everyone on the team wanted ice cream. Something huge we also did was community service. Our Coach wants us to help out the community everywhere we go. We ended up helping a local softball park make its park look better by painting the parking stops. Overall, I would say the fun and exciting parts of the trip balanced out the exhausting parts. This kind of trip really helped our team bond as a whole and it was totally worth the experience.

Coach Smith and Beyond

That's THE man, Coach Smith.
That’s THE man, Coach Smith.

When you’re a student athlete at Juniata, your best friend is Coach Smith. Now while everyone has their love/hate relationship with Coach, myself included, we all have to admit the rockin body he gives us is awesome. Between the speed squats with chains and the Friday stair work out with our sand bags, the athletes at Juniata spend a lot of time in the gym with Coach. The best part about Coach Smith workouts is it only takes one off-season for him to turn you into the smoking hottie you were meant to be.

Oh, by the way, Coach Smith is casually one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the country and pretty much any big state institution would give anything to get him, but he chooses to stay at JC, which is awesome. He’s in such high demand because he can turn literally anything into a torturous workout. He uses random things from towels to scuba divers’ weights for arm work outs, ship chains and sliding boards for a leg work out, and stairs anywhere on campus for a cardio session. Coach also invents all these work outs you can do by yourself without any equipment or machines that are just as, if not more, tiring than anything you would find at a gym.

Coach Smith not only focuses on the physical side of training, but incorporates the mental side as well. He pushes each individual athlete to get out of their physical comfort zone to overcome mental barriers. He trains the mind and body to work as one to improve an athlete’s performance both on and off the court, field, or any other place you could play a sport. I personally have learned so much about how my body moves and how to lift or condition properly to get the most out of my body for volleyball while staying healthy. Coach Smith’s work outs not only make you stronger and a more efficient athlete, but also train you how you can mentally and physically overcome any obstacle using your mind and body.

Look at those awesome muscles!  Thanks, Coach Smith.
Look at those awesome muscles! Thanks, Coach Smith.

If you really want to get an amazing work out, Coach has a noon work out every day that anyone can go to. The cool part is that it’s his own work out too, so you get to sweat with the elite. I highly recommend it, especially if you would like to feel like you got hit by a bus the next morning. Kidding (sort of), they’re not that bad.

A Day in the Life of a JC Athlete

As you can imagine, student athletes have a little bit of a different schedule than other students at Juniata. We don’t have too much free time to nap, or watch tv, or hang out with other friends. If you plan correctly, you’d be surprised by how much you can fit into a day. Below I walk you through my typical Monday schedule (one of my more busy days).

A day in the life of a JC women’s volleyball player:
5:40am – Rise and shine!
6am – Practice starts
7:30am – Run back to my room to take a quick shower, grab something to eat (usually fruit or yogurt), and get ready for class
8-8:55am – Anthropology
9-9:45am – Nap Time! (best part of the day)
10-10:55am – Calculus I
11am – Go to the library and do work
12-12:45pm – Get lunch at Baker with the team
1-1:55pm – Biology Seminar
2-2:55pm – Organic Chemistry Concepts II
3-3:55pm – Rural Health Issues
4-4:45pm – Get ready for my hour workout with Coach Smith and do some reading
5-6pm – Coach Smith workout
6-7pm – Team meeting with the volleyball coaches

The rest of the night I’ll do homework, meet up with groups for projects, and relax. I try to go to bed by 11 pm because I have 8am lab Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that doesn’t always happen.

Also, Coach Smith is the greatest thing that will ever happen to you – but I’ll save that for a later post. But basically, he’s one of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the nation and creates specialized workouts for each team here.

I’m not going to lie, getting used to a hectic schedule is hard. But if you stay organized and can resist procrastination (which I personally am a victim of), you can esily get used to it. I also have a lot of support from my team and coaches, because they’re all going through it too.

Don’t ever let a busy schedule intimidate you. Balancing classes, practice, sleep, and a social life is a lot easier than you think, if you stay organized and can plan well.