Getting in shape

How To Get in the Best Shape of Your Life on a Student Budget

Being a student is not easy...
July 7, 2020
9 mins read

“Your student days are some of the best days of your life”: That’s what grandparents say, as they attempt to pass on wisdom and remind you how lucky you are.  But the reality is that being a student comes with its drawbacks and challenges.

You’ve got the financial pressures. Thousands of students are broke and go into debt that will take years to escape. Maybe your parents have high expectations? They’re expecting you to fulfill the family legacy of being a lawyer or doctor, but it’s not what you want?

There’s peer pressure to go out, fit in and avoid isolation. What about the constant and never-ending social media feed of gorgeous people? Celebrities with bronzed and athletic bodies, fame, money and power?

Then there’s you, with none of the above — tummy rolls, a broken bank balance and somebody who gets out of breath walking up a flight of stairs. It can lead to feelings of unworthiness and dents your confidence. It’s natural to compare yourself to others (we all do it), so don’t worry.

What about your health? 

There’s temptation all around: alcohol, drugs, food and stimulants to get you through the day. Your body takes a beating.

Health often deteriorates at college and university. Weight gain is inevitable for many. This decline dents your confidence, self-esteem and makes your student days painful.   

Flip the switch…

One of the fastest ways to turn your life around is to focus time each week “working on you.” This includes your fitness, diet and mindset. 

Here are a bunch of tips to help you get in the best shape of your life (without needing to spend a fortune). 

To help me with the article, I asked one of the UK’s leading personal trainers, Nicholas Screeton, the founder of lepfitness.co.uk for some health and fitness tips for students. He says the keys to success for healthy student living depends on five areas:

  1. Goal Setting 
  2. Nutrition 
  3. Exercise
  4. Mindset
  5. Recovery  

Let’s explore these areas in more detail. 

1. Goal Setting

What do you want to achieve with your health and fitness? The more specific you can be, the better. It’s no use saying, “I want to lose a few pounds”: You need a specific number and end date. 

More importantly, is the “Why?” Why is this goal important to you? The more emotion you can attach to your goal, the more successful you are likely to be. Dr. John Martini says that you should write down 100-200 benefits of achieving your goal. This programs the subconscious part of your brain to get excited and keep you on track even on days when motivation wavers. 

2. Nutrition

Have you heard the saying, “You are what you eat”?

If you eat healthy, nutritious foods, you feel energized and have a healthier-looking body shape. If you eat rubbish — well, you already know how that feels.

Eating well at college and university can be challenging. There’s the constant temptation of fast food, and grabbing some sweets from the convenience store. It’s much easier to do this compared to cooking, which takes time and effort. Also, healthy food is expensive right? 

Well, not necessarily. Healthy food isn’t always expensive. You can buy pasta, rice, potatoes, fruit and fish/meats that don’t break the bank. 

Also, to lose weight, you don’t have to live on bland salads; as long as you create a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. 

Here are some calorie calculations you can follow depending on your goals:

Weight Loss: Your current weight in pounds times 10 calories. So if you weigh 200 pounds (200 pounds multiplied by 10 calories), you would need to eat approximately 2,000 calories or less per day to lose weight.

Muscle Gain: Your current weight in pounds times 18 calories. If you weigh 200 pounds (200 pounds times 18 calories), you would need to eat approximately 3,600 calories per day to gain weight.

3. Exercise

Exercise is essential not only for physical health but for your mental health. Exercising for 30 minutes per day, whether that’s weight training, running, playing sports or walking, will boost your mood. 

It’s crucial to find out what your goal requires. For example, if you want to lose weight and improve your body shape, weight training and cardio are key. 

If you want to increase strength and build muscle, you need to lift weights. If you want to be fitter, then cardio activities, such as running, walking, swimming and cycling, are beneficial. 

You also want to pick activities that you enjoy. The more you enjoy the activity, the more likely you will be to keep at it. 

If you’re on a tight budget, you could join a low budget gym, join a fitness class, do bodyweight home workouts or buy some resistance bands. You can also take up running, walking and play sports on campus. There are plenty of options available that won’t leave you broke.  

4. Mindset 

Your mind and body go hand in hand. If you work on your body, your mental state improves, and vice versa. Working on your mindset is crucial to getting in the best shape of your life during your studies. 

There are lots of ways to do this, but the most valuable are:

Reading Personal Development Books: Tony Robbins, Carol Dweck, Deepak Chopra, Pema Chodron, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. John Martini and Professor Steve Peters are some of the best authors to read. 

Podcasts: On your commute to campus, why not use the time to learn? Listen to feel-good podcasts; learn about the mind and human psychology. I’m a big fan of the following podcasts: Dave Asprey, Jim Fortin, Brian Rose (London Real) and Dr. John Martini. 

Coaching: if you can afford it, why not hire a personal trainer, life coach or a spiritual mentor? Learn from someone who has the knowledge, wisdom and experience. 

5. Recovery 

Sleeping less than 8 hours per night will negatively impact your studies. Your memory will suffer, and you’ll be more likely to snack on sugary treats. When you’re tired and stressed, you will not perform at your best. 

The most important area of recovery to focus on is sleep. You can improve your sleep by:

— Sleeping 8 hours per night

— Going to bed and waking at the same time each day (routine is key)

— Avoiding blue light exposure at night time (one hour before bed)

— Taking a bath or hot shower before bed

— Avoiding caffeine after 1 p.m. 

— Reading in bed (instead of watching Netflix) 

Meditating in the evening — I recommend using the app Calm or Headspace.

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