In this last week of class, with finals looming, many students are feeling the stress of this time of the semester. I notice that as the assignments and deadlines approach, I find myself exercising less and eating whatever I find in front of me that is quick to prepare (or does not require any preparation at all, cue the bag of marshmallows). I start to feel pretty tired and stressed, and I don’t always have time to pay close attention to my exercise and eating patterns. Food and physical activity goals melt away and then just seem like memories of things I once cared about.
But hold on, all is not lost! We have one big opportunity coming up to spend a little more time on ourselves: summer.
That’s right, summer – the promise of freedom from classes and new opportunities. Summer is a great time to re-evaluate, re-create, or re-commit to a food and fitness plan.
Keeping Physically Active
This summer, you might be away from campus, and potentially without access to a gym, but don’t let that stop you! There are plenty of ways to stay physically active over the summer that don’t require a gym membership. Here are some fun things to try outdoors:
- rock climbing
- speed walking
Caution! One caveat of working out in the summer heat: try to get out early in the day. Intense heat during mid-day and afternoon can make you sweat more, leading to dehydration, which might come sooner than you expect.
If you are missing the free weights in the gym, there are plenty of exercises that you can do just with body resistance. Try going to a playground and doing some pull ups on the monkey bars, or doing pushups on the ground or with your hands on the side of a picnic table for a little less resistance. There’s also the ever-popular seven minute workout, which you can do anytime and anywhere.
In addition to the solo workout, there are lots of options to do fun things with a team. When I moved to a new city a few years ago and was trying to figure out how to meet new people, I remembered how my brother had made tons of new friends by playing kickball. I searched for a local league and joined a kickball team. My kickball team became a bowling team in the winter and a soccer team in the spring, and then they were just my new group of friends to exercise and hang out with. There are sports leagues in many cities, and while they typically do have a fee, they usually cost a lot less than you would pay for a gym membership. And they comes with free friends!
If you’re still itching to get back to the gym, try looking for your local YMCA, which often has much lower monthly membership fees than a standard gym (check out the special discount for young adults aged 18-24).
Eat Those Vegetables
The summer is a delicious season. I admit that I immediately picture hot dogs on the grill and frequenting the ice cream truck (never too old), but summer also means abundant fresh local produce from your own garden or from a local farm. Surveys show that Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, and young Americans (aged 18 to 24) are especially likely to be among the low-consumers. If cost is a barrier, remember that frozen vegetables contain the same nutrient content as fresh, and are often cheaper. If you live in a place that is near farms (that includes the Triangle!), volunteering on a farm in exchange for local fresh vegetables can be a cost effective option to increase your vegetable intake, while staying physically active at the same time.
Make Food Goals
Whether you choose to try eating more vegetables, avoiding sweets, or becoming a pescatarian, you can increase your chances of success by making concrete and achievable goals. Once you have goals, make a plan for how you’re going to stick to your food goals. Write it down. Refer to your goal as the summer goes on and into the fall semester.
This summer, one thing that I plan to do is make a weekly menu. I occasionally feel overwhelmed by the decision of what to cook or what to bring for snacks during the day and I know that if I just wrote down things I like to eat, map those onto the days of the week, and make a rotating schedule, I will feel much more at ease. Making a weekly menu plan could also be a great way to carry your commitment to eat well from the summer into the fall.
Whatever you do, where ever you are, have a great summer (you’re almost there!) and take care of yourselves, Tar Heels!
Photo credits: skateboarder by Victor Erixson, vegetables by Webvilla, both retrieved from http://unsplash.com/