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.


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.

How To Effectively Utilise Time Off

For those who are blessed, (or cursed), with having OCD over their daily routine, the thought of time off can be fairly daunting. The idea of relaxing and simply doing nothing is blissful in your mind, yet when it comes down to it you’re on edge, you feel unproductive and you cannot settle. I find that this situation is largely mind over matter, and over the years I have found a few ways to effectively use time off, yet still get the benefits of a well needed break.

Make a list of your goals

A great thing to do on your time off is to make a list of your goals which you want to pursue within the following weeks, months or even years. With your brain out of its usual routine this gives you more space to be able to think about what you ultimately want for yourself. Whether it’s an improvement in your health and fitness, progress in your career or simply to take up a new hobby.

Read, Read, Read

One of the most therapeutic, and beneficial, exercises you can possibly do for your brain is to spend an hour reading somewhere quiet. A novel, a blog, a magazine- it doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you are completely engaged with the text and have no room in your head to concern yourself with anything else.

Try something new

I’m not talking skydiving or becoming a vegan overnight, but something as simple as trying a new fitness class, testing out a new recipe or finding a new band or singer you love are all little ways to ensure you’re still feeling productive, but in a more relaxed way.

Revive an old interest

As well as trying something different to your usual routine, spending your time off delving back to something that you previously loved is also a great way to relax. With the stress of working, keeping fit and maintaining a social life there is often little room for anything else. Hunt down your old art supplies, guitar, camera, recipe books, tennis racket and have fun.

Try new products

With the limited timeframe in which you have to get ready on a day to day basis, time off can be a great way to discover and try some amazing new products. Buy some magazines, stalk Instagram, go to a department store and find the items which you have been telling yourself for the past six months that you ‘need to pick up’.

Treat yourself

Above all, the greatest indulgence with having time off is the ability to treat yourself without feeling guilty. You worked hard for this and you deserve it. However, for some this can be a hard task. If you struggle with your weight and you are wary to have a cheat meal or a night out because you might succumb to old habits, then treat yourself another way. Book a massage, buy yourself the staple handbag you’ve always wanted or arrange a weekend away. As long as you’re doing something to make yourself feel good, it doesn’t matter what it is.

What I Eat In A Day And Why

For many people the hardest aspect of losing weight, or toning up, is diet. Once you’ve established a routine, exercise quickly becomes addictive, but there is absolutely nothing addictive about choosing a riveta cracker over a chocolate fudge cake.



Both the problem, and the benefit, of fitness social media accounts, is that the pictures of victoria secret model lookalikes posing on a Caribbean beach is enough to make you consider whether you can in fact live off a grape a day. But, if you dedicate some serious scrolling time, you’ll learn that the majority of these girls are actually consuming 2000+ calories a day, alongside exercise, they just know exactly what to eat.

So what should you be eating? I have changed, adapted & tweaked my diet frequently over the last four years depending on my goals and shape. Right now, I’m consuming 2000-2500 calories on days which I train Legs, Glutes & Arms and 2000 calories on a day where I train Abs. I separate my calories into 4 or 5 separate meals, as I find eating little and often gives me the best results, and I ALWAYS ensure I’m eating 5+ fruit and veggies a day (being a newly converted pescatraian helps).

This is a typical meal plan for a weight intensive day at the gym for me. It consists of whole foods, fruit, veggies, protein, carbs & healthy fats which all assist in achieving goals on the outside of your body, and making you feel good on the inside too.


Pre Workout & Breakfast

  • 6 Strawberries
  • 10 Blueberries
  • 1 Banana
  • 4 tablespoons of ‘Oatly’ Oat Drink
  • 2 tablespoons of Coyo Coconut Yoghurt
  • Grenade Caramel Chaos Protein Bar

Using a blender, blend the strawberries, blueberries, banana, oat drink and yoghurt together. Pour into a bowl and then add the chopped up Grenade bar and any excess fruit. Smoothie bowls are a great way to consume a large majority of your 5 a day, and coupling it with a protein bar before your workout gives you the extra energy you need to smash your workout.



Taken with breakfast

Every morning  I take one Zinc tablet and two Peppermint tablets with breakfast. Zinc helps build immunity as well as maintaining hormonal balance and the growth of your skin, hair and nails. Peppermint tablets assist in relaxing your stomach muscles and encourage sufficient digestion.



Taken after Breakfast (and each meal)

If you suffer with bloating after certain foods, or a big meal, then taking two capsules after eating helps to improve that uncomfortable feeling. Or, if you simply want to aid digestion then these work rapidly in assisting this. I take two after every big meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and then one after my snack.



Post Workout & Lunch

  • Tila Coconut Basmati Rice
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Asparagus

This meal takes under 5 minutes to prepare yet it’s filled with complex carbs, healthy fats and a source of veggies. I try to include asparagus with at least two meals a day as it’s a natural diuretic, meaning it’s great at cleansing your digestive system. Substituting salmon for a lean chicken is also a great combination.



Afternoon Snack

  • Narins Oat Crackers
  • 1 Banana
  • 4 scoops of Muscle Food Prutella Hazelnut Spread

This is the perfect snack to have mid-afternoon if you need an extra boost (or to satisfy some sugar cravings). Another one of your five a day ticked off and a great source of protein from the Prutella spread which will continue to assist your muscles throughout the day.




  • 1/2 cup of Pasta
  • 4 Broccoli Stems
  • 6 Green Beans
  • 2 Stems of Asparague
  • 1/2 cup of Sweetcorn
  • Handle of Mixed Peppers
  • Cod Loin

With my dinner I like to pile on as many veggies as I can, alongside a sufficient carbs and protein hit. This is usually my last source of food during the day, unless I’m particularly hungry and fancy another snack, so I like it to be as filling as possible. Again, substituting the cod with another lean meat is equally as tasty.

This is just an example of one of my week day meal plans. I like to try and mix it up everyday to ensure I still get excited about making and planning food. However, even though I may change the rice to a wholewheat bagel, or substitute pasta for potatoes, I’m still ensuring that I’m consuming good, whole foods, which I enjoy eating and give me the results I want.

Perspective, Perspective, Perspective

On THAT day when everything that could possibly go wrong, goes wrong, it’s important to think and consider that ever important P word. Pessimist? Pointless? Powerless? Paige? (Alas, no). It is in fact, perspective.

I have recently been involved in a variety of situations in which I’ve forced myself to gain perspective. From nearly suffering heart failure after discovering a dessert I had just eaten contained 60g of sugar, to lying motionless in bed after binge-watching yet another Netflix series, which successfully took over my life. These are small, unimportant things which should never have needed perspective in the first place, but we all have those days.

Aside from these shameful confessions, there is one situation which urgently required me to re-think my perspective, and I think it’s an important one to share. Over the past few months, I have been training for the London Half Marathon in order to raise money for the Institute of Cancer Research. For all the hard core, experienced marathon runners this is, quite literally, a walk (well, run) in the park. But, for a girl whose passion for weight training consequently results in absolutely 0 cardio ability, a 13 mile run is a big deal.

At times, training has been a struggle, but I counteracted this negativity by reminding myself that the pain I was suffering was entirely my choice. So, every time that I’ve felt like my ankle was going to give way, I’ve been tempted to snooze my alarm or the cold temperatures have tried their best to deter me, I’ve forced my mind to gain perspective. I’m choosing to suffer the pain which comes with training but, unlike me, cancer patients do not have a choice in the pain that they endure. This is the thought which I will be carrying throughout the run next weekend.

Whether you need to gain perspective in terms of your fitness, your health, your work ethic or your relationships, it is important to consider it as a whole, rather than individual aspects. If it’s your physical fitness which you want to improve, don’t let this overshadow your relationships, your work ethic or your mental health. I’ve learnt this the hard way, upon where I’ve been so obsessive over my fitness and healthy eating in the past, that my relationships have suffered because I wasn’t letting myself have any down time, cheat days or quite frankly, any fun. Therefore, the perfect word that I’d choose to go with perspective is balance.

How Pescatarian Week Affected My Fitness

Due to having a mixture of both vegetarian and pescatarian close friends, me and my two meat-loving flatmates decided to try and last a week following one of these diets. Due to the amount of weight-based exercise I partake in each week, coupled with training for an upcoming half-marathon, I chose the pescatarian diet; to ensure I was still getting a substantial amount of naturally sourced protein.

I found the week a LOT easier than I expected. I only had one near meltdown, going to Gourmet Burger Kitchen and having to order a bean burger instead of my usual meaty stack, but aside from this, I had no substantial urge to eat meat. I am certain that meal planning immensely assisted my lack of cravings, as I had bought and prepped breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner throughout the week.

The plan was as follows:


Exercise: 1hour Body Pump

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch- Feta Cheese Salad & Asparagus

Snack- Strawberries, Banana, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner- Salmon & Spinach Fishcake, Carrot, Broccoli, Green Beans & Sweet Potato



Exercise: 3K Sprint Run & Ab workout

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch- Salmon & Cream Cheese Bagel

Snack- Strawberries, Banana, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner- Low Fat Aubergine & Mozzarella Pasta Bake



Exercise: 20 Minute Ab Workout

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch: Golden Vegetable Rice, Green Beans & Asparagus

Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Veggie Burgers, Tomato, Lettuce, Fresh Ciabatta, Carrot & Broccoli



Exercise: 7K Run

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch: Feta Cheese Salad & Asparagus

Snack: Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Gourmet Burger Kitchens “Californian Bean Burger” with mature cheddar, avocado, smoked chili mayo, crispy onions & relish.



Exercise: Rest Day

Breakfast: Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Grapes, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Veggie Lasagne, Carrots, Broccoli, Green Beans & Sweet Potato



Exercise: 1hour Body Combat

Breakfast: Breakfast: Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch: Scrambled Egg & Salmon Bagel

Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Grapes, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Veggie burgers, Lime & Coriander Rice, Carrots, Broccoli & Green Beans



Exercise: 1hour Triple Challenge

Breakfast: Weetabix & Blueberries

Lunch: Lunch: Scrambled Egg & Salmon Bagel

Snack: Strawberries, Banana, Grapes, Raspberries & Activia Low Fat Yoghurt

Dinner: Cod & Parsley Fishcake, Carrots, Broccoli, Sprouts & New Potatoes


My breakfasts are usually a tad more exciting than a grainy cereal & some blueberries, but due to meat being a solid source of fibre, I wanted to ensure that I was still getting a regular intake. The same goes for my afternoon snack of fruit and Activia yoghurt, due to training for the half marathon I’m not consuming any processed sugar for just under a month in order to aid my endurance. You could easily supplement this with snacks such as a peanut butter & banana bagel, a low-carb/ high protein bar, oats & fruit, cream cheese & riveta, carrots and humus- the list is endless.

Although I didn’t experience any major cravings, I did notice a difference in my energy levels. Despite, on some nights, getting 9 or 10 hours sleep I was still waking up feeling fatigued, leading to a further decrease in energy as the day progressed. Assuming this was due to a sudden lack of iron (largely found in meats: especially red meat) I started taking iron supplements every morning, which began to help towards the end of the week.

I also noticed a difference in my muscle performance. I was struggling with my usual squatting weight, due to aches and pains from previous workouts (usually healed fairly fast by a large in-take of protein), and my stamina was also suffering with long distance running. However, in terms of mind-set and motivation, I felt great. Whether this was simply due to a sense of sheer determination in not giving in to a Nando’s wrap, or whether my sudden increase in fruit and veg was to blame, who knows? But I enjoyed it.

If I was to follow the diet again, or consider converting to pescy full-time, I would definitely repeat planning meals ahead and taking iron, vitamin and protein supplements. Even though I have just demolished a well-earned beef burger, with 0 regret, I am definitely going to keep including a more varied mixture of veg with my normal diet, as well as Tesco’s Salmon & Spinach fishcakes. Once you’ve had one, you’ll understand.