How to Balance Fitness and University

For those of you who have recently started university, you may have realised that it’s a struggle trying to balance lectures, seminars and fitness as well as adapting to your new surroundings and making the most of your new found social life. The key thing to remember is that fitness isn’t the be all and end all in these first few months, the most important thing is that you throw yourself into uni life.

However, if you have always been active before you came to uni, like I was, then this rather disrupted training program can send you flying straight into panic mode. So, here are the top tips I used for balancing fitness and university.

Join a Club

A great way to keep up with your fitness, and be an integral part of university spirit, is to join a club. Most universities offer hundreds of different types, from korfball (a mixture of netball and basketball, apparently) to rowing and climbing. Most clubs usually train twice a week, alongside matches and tournaments, therefore you are getting a great workout in several times a week. Alongside the fitness aspect, you are also getting the opportunity to meet new people and socialise which is what university is all about.

Go to Exercises Classes

Seeing as the majority of universities offer world class gym facilities it would be a waste not to utilise them. There is a fitness class to suit all, from yoga and pilates to body combat and body pump. They usually last from 45 minutes to an hour and on average the body pump classes I attended used to burn 500-600 calories per hour. Similar to joining a club, attending an exercise class is also a great time to meet new people, but if you’re skeptical about going on your own then why not drag your new flat mates!

Plan your Day

A great tip which I found really increased my motivation to workout in first year is to plan your day. If I had planned my work, prepped my meals and packed my gym clothes I would very rarely skip the gym that day (unless I’d had a few too many vodka and soda’s the night before). Whereas without planning, I was always tempted to come straight back home and miss my workout.

Find Something you Enjoy

If you’re dragging yourself to the gym purely for the knowledge that you have worked out then this is the completely wrong mind-set to have. You want to be going to the gym excited about your upcoming session or class, not praying for the moment you can finish and come home. Finding something you enjoy is vital to both your motivation and your mental health. If you hate cardio then try weight-lifting, if you hate the gym then try an exercise class or go for a walk. The main aspect to fitness is that you’re happy within yourself.

“What Does It Mean To Be Healthy?”

Upon starting my fitness account on Instagram, I was pleasantly surprised by how many young people also had accounts of this nature. Young people tend to get a bad wrap when it comes to health and fitness so I was interested in putting together a short film on what each individual understands the term “healthy” to mean.

Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KfxfnHMpkk

Enjoy.

Let’s talk CONFIDENCE

The thing I like about the word ‘confidence’, is that to almost every single person on the planet it could mean something slightly different. From body confidence, to personality confidence, to occupational confidence; all have different attributes and all have different results. As fitness is obviously a huge part of my life, confidence surrounding body image is the area in which I feel as though I deal in the most. It’s an incredibly tricky subject to discuss on social media, as due to affecting such a large majority of the online population it therefore tends to attract some rather controversial opinions. One of which I believe to be that those who choose to share their fitness progress are often met with phrases such as ‘showing off’ and ‘boasting’.

The idea of shaming those who post these types of pictures both saddens and confuses me. Firstly, any girl, boy, women or man who feels pleased with the progress they have made to both their body and their health surely should not be made to feel discouraged? They should be made to feel congratulated and subsequently full of high hopes to continue their journey. Secondly, social media is FULL of people sharing news about their school grades, university acceptance, new job offer, marriage, kids, a new house; personal things in which they are proud of. So, if this is deemed socially acceptable, with posts like these receiving handfuls of likes & supportive comments from friends and family then why is it not the same for fitness posts?

The reasoning I have for this particular difference is that body confidence is something which EVERYONE struggles with, no matter how confident you may seem on the outside. From children starting high school, to fitness models at the top of the industry, everyone has parts of themselves which they dislike and wish they could change. Therefore, when viewing a friends, colleagues or even a random accounts fitness progress it can be hard to be pleased for them without succumbing to the thoughts inside your head of ‘I wish I was that skinny’ or ‘I wish my legs looked like that’.

However, the picture you are viewing on social media is a post most likely chosen out of 20-30 others, impeccably posed and then edited to the best of the account owner’s ability. So, although some people accuse transformation pictures and gym selfies as being over-confident, the reality is that these pictures have undergone just as much self-scrutiny as a typical Facebook profile picture receives. Although the person is incredibly happy with their current progress in the gym, they still have insecurities surrounding their body and goals they want to achieve.

In my opinion, for every post in which it is clear that the person behind it is proud of something, we should respond with praise and encouragement. Your reception may be the difference in them deciding to continue to pursue the difference they want to make, or giving up.

Screw the Scales

If you follow me on Instagram (paigefitnessuk), then you’ll know that I’ve talked quite a lot recently about my experiences on a lean//slow bulk. Due to a stomach infection last September, followed by training for a half-marathon, I lost a LOT of weight. I didn’t find this out by weighing myself, I found this out by my worried mum noticing how much muscle I’d lost on my legs, followed by a friend at uni, who I hadn’t seen for a while, commenting on the thinness of my arms after a reunion hug. For some people, I understand that these comments might have appeared upsetting, but for me it was exactly what I needed to hear. Because you are looking at yourself everyday, it’s almost impossible for you to see the extent of personal weight loss/weight gain, so sometimes it takes a family member, friend or even a doctor to inform you otherwise.

I have NEVER been the type of girl to weight herself week in/week out, but out of pure interest following both these comments I weighed myself and I was completely shocked. I weighed 51KG, which at the height of 5″7 is scientifically classed on the BMI scale as underweight. I had been following a Paleo based diet, due to ongoing stomach issues, which is perfectly fine, but seeing as I was still weight-training 4/5 times per week I now realise that I was getting absolutely no where near the calories my body needed to a) correctly function and b) repair and look after my muscles. Looking back on some of my ‘What I Eat In A Day’ posts or videos, I’m convinced that on some days I wasn’t even hitting 1200 calories, which is extremely dangerous for someone of my measurements.

So, after a few days of moral panic, where I started to doubt everything to do with my fitness regime/diet/life (shout out to my mum for rearing me back to sanity), I am FINALLY back and feeling content for the first time in just under a year. I’m aiming for around 2300 calories a day, with the minimum always being 2000, and I’m making sure I’m getting heaps of protein and healthy fats. If you were to compare by current regime to a standardised diet, the #iifym is probably the most accurate. However, I’m not obsessing over every gram or losing sleep if I don’t hit my recommended macros, I’m simply loosely tracking to ensure I’m getting the correct nutrients and calories in which my body needs.

I recently did a comparison picture on Instagram which inspired me to write this post. This particular picture gained the most activity out of all my posts, with the important message being that just because your weight has gone up on the scales, does not mean this a negative thing. Within two weeks of eating properly and consequently smashing my workouts, I’ve had several compliments from family and friends on my current physique, but the most obvious thing which has changed about me is my mood. I can’t describe how much happier I am in myself and my body. I’m starting to enjoy food again and even though some days I feel down if my stomachs playing up, I know that the place I’m at now is exactly where I need to be.

Super Tasty Overnight Oats

Breakfast is hands down my favourite meal of the day. I get SO excited about creating new recipes and amazing combos- especially when it comes to oats! This is one of my favourites at the moment as it’s light, quick to make and very summery.

Ingredients:

  • 40g Rolled Oats
  • Half a Tablespoon of Cacao Powder
  • 1 Ripe Banana
  • 4 Strawberries
  • A Handful of Blueberries
  • 100ml of Almond Milk
  • 2 squares of Galaxy Cookie Crumble (optional… but would recommend!)

Recipe:

  1. Measure out 40g of rolled oats and pour them into a bowl.
  2. Put the banana, strawberries, blueberries, cacao powder and almond milk into a blender.
  3. Pour the mixture onto the oats, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
  4. Add ALLLLLLLLL the toppings

Life Made Easier with Meal Prep

Summer in the UK is a big deal. Well, let me re-phrase, summer which actually represents a summer (aka the sun actually comes out) is a big deal. It puts the majority of the UK population in a better mood, makes for a better Instagram picture and also simultaneously turns said population into alcoholics, with “pub?” or “drinks tonight?” being frequent questions amongst thousands of group chats.

And although alcohol is your fitness stories worst enemy, it would be rude not to enjoy the rare occurrence of being sat outside in the sun with a #bev repeating “wow, it’s boiling isn’t it?”, applying the temperature filter on snapchat or tweeting “this weather” followed by a tick emoji. So, in order to stay on track with that summer body, a simple trick is to meal prep throughout the week so that you can indulge in these types of treats and not feel guilty.

Whether you’re at work or at home, meal prepping saves time, money and prevents you going off track by grabbing the nearest thing in sight when the hunger pains hit. I’m more of a grazer, so I tend to go for a three meals and then 4 snacks throughout the day. However, I am currently choosing to do a ‘slow bulk’, in order to bring back some of the muscle I lost from half-marathon training, so if you’re looking to lean out then three meals and two to three snacks will be sufficient.

I like to keep my meal prep interesting. You should look forward to the food you’ve got to eat- not dread it. Below I’m going to include an example of a lean meal prep and a ‘slow bulk’ meal prep, which can also be followed by those who are planning on lifting heavy weights on that specific day.

LEAN PREP

Breakfast: Spinach, Blueberries, 1 ripe Banana & Almond Milk Smoothie

Snack: Nature Valley Oat Bar / Primal Pantry Bar / Deliciously Ella Ball

Lunch: Protein | Healthy Fats | Greens

Combo 1: Chicken, Avocado, Spinach

Combo 2: Boiled Eggs, Walnuts, Kale

Combo 3: Tuna, Avocado, Lettuce

Combo 4: Salmon, Walnuts, Asparagus

Snack: Sliced Banana on Nairns Crackers with a drizzle of Honey

Dinner: Protein | Carbs | Vegetables

Combo 1: Chicken, Coconut Rice, Asparagus

Combo 2: Sea Bass, New Potatoes, fried Courgette & Tomatoes

Combo 3: Low-Fat Mince, Wholegrain Pasta, Tomato Puree & fried Peppers

Combo 4: Lightly Battered Haddock, Coconut Rice, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Lettuce

Snack (if needed): Two scoops of Swedish Glace Ice Cream

Water Intake: 3-4 Litres & 2 Peppermint Teas

 

‘SLOW BULK’ or HEAVY WEIGHTS PREP

Breakfast: Wholegrain Rolled Oats, Coyo Yoghurt, Blueberries

Snack 1: Pineapple Chunks, Strawberries & Raspberries

Snack 2: Rebel Kitchen Mylk Drink / Kombuccha / Coconut Water

Lunch: Protein | Carbs | Healthy Fats | Greens

Combo 1: Chicken, Sourdough Bread, Avocado Lettuce, Tomato

Combo 2: Tuna, Coconut Rice, Walnuts, Spinach

Combo 3: Salmon, Wholegrain Bagel, Low-Fat Cream Cheese & Asparagus

Combo 4: Sea Bass, Wholegrain Pasta, Chia Seeds, Lettuce, Tomatoes

Snack 3: Gluten Free Ginger Snaps / Nature Valley Oat Bar / Proper Corn Popcorn

Dinner: Protein | Carbs | Healthy Fats | Greens

Combo 1: Chicken, Whole Grain Pasta, Coconut Oil, Spinach

Combo 2: Poached Eggs, Whole grain Bagel, Avocado, Asparagus

Combo 3: Heck Sausages, New Potatoes, Chia Seeds, Green Beans

Combo 4: Low-Fat Minced Burger, Sweet Potato, Walnuts, Peppers

Snack 4: Paleo Blueberry Muffin, Blueberries, Strawberries, Swedish Glace Ice Cream

Water Intake: 2/3 Litres & 1 Peppermint Tea

Meal Prep is a great way to keep on track but it’s important not to get too caught up with it. Make sure you have 2 or 3 treats a week, enjoy these treats without feeling guilty and if you slip from prep don’t feel bad! Just enjoy the rest and be extra motivated to get back to it the next day 🙂

Click here to see my latest video of a KILLER glute workout and my moving to london blog.

Collaboration With The Pilates Studio

Pilates is often stereotyped as a form of exercise which is substantially less vigorous than the majority of other workout options. In terms of how you feel during the session; fairly relaxed and not too out of breath, it definitely feels less strenuous than say a high intensity session. However, because you are repeatedly engaging your muscles and paying attention to specific areas of your body, Pilates can often be a more beneficial workout.

There are a few variations of the workout including mat, barre and reformer machines. The most popular is a mat pilates session, upon where you work through a process of strengthening and toning exercises in order target different muscle groups. Even though the tempo is fairly moderate, the results you can get from continuous sessions of this format is incredible. Within a few weeks you feel stronger, more toned and eager to try more difficult moves.

Having only ever experienced this form of pilates, I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to try more variations of this ancient exercise at The Pilates Studio in Norwich. Nestled down a scenic side street, The Pilates Studio boasts a wide range of machines in the most aesthetically pleasing and relaxing studio. The owner of the studio and experienced teacher, Lauren, tentatively went through each exercise by informing me and my friend, Lorna, the science behind the effects it was having on our bodies and how it would help our posture and flexibility. After only an hour’s session, both me and Lorna agreed that we had learnt more from our time with Lauren than we had with any other fitness instructor.

A real eye-opening moment for me during the session was Lauren’s comments on how both me and Lorna naturally do not sit with correct posture. We both appeared to hold our spine at an angle, most likely due to our prominent lifestyle of spending hours on end sitting at a desk studying. Alongside this reason, which will affect a large majority of the student population, another factor to our improper posture are exercises which me and my friend regularly partake in. As fans of Les Milles Body Pump class, there are frequent elements of fast paced deadlifting, which appears to helped in forcing mine and Lorna’s spine to naturally fall into an incorrect position. Lauren aided us in helping to focus on correcting this error and by the end of the session my back felt sufficiently stretched and less tense. When I go to deadlift now I make a conscious effort to make sure my back is set in the correct position, and I have subsequently noticed a big difference in terms of my upper body flexibility and ability to perform more reps.

A lot of people associate pilates as being an exercise for the older generation. However, with young people spending more time than ever at a desk, or slouched over their phone, it is just as important for our generation to practise pilates in order to assess and prevent issues within our bodies which may occur later in life. At her studio, Lauren offers both group and private sessions. For your first time I would highly recommend a private session, so Lauren can figure out your strengths and weaknesses in order to tailor your sessions in a way which will benefit you the most.

I cannot thank Lauren enough for the patient and methodical approach she took for our session. I learnt so much about my body and, due to implementing the tips given to us, I feel as though my posture has greatly improved after only a week on. To book a session at The Pilates Studio, simply contact Lauren by email on info@thepilatesstudionorwich.com or ring 07891 987055. It’s also worthwhile checking out her Instagram, @thepilatesstudio_norwich, which is full of mindful quotes and amazing progress pictures. If you want to see the session in action, then click here to watch the video we filmed on the day.