Trying to balance work and school is difficult task by itself, and throwing in your New Year’s Resolution of getting fit makes it even more difficult. The thought of having all this on your plate is enough to make most people order a pizza, sit on the couch and drop their annual fitness goals around February, but I urge you not to believe the misconception that you can’t work full time, go to school, and stay healthy. I’ll show you exactly how I’ve been doing it for years!
One of the reasons why a lot of people find it difficult to balance work, school, and a healthy lifestyle is because they don’t schedule anything and just try to “fit in” gym visits. When you have plenty of free time to work out at your leisure, you might be able to get away with this, but working 40+ hours a week and dedicating around 20 hours a week to school doesn’t give you much leeway in terms of working out and eating right. You need to develop a set schedule of when you’re going to go to the gym and when you’re going to eat meals.
When you create your schedule, make sure that it’s reasonable and something you can stick with. If you know you can’t wake up at 5 Am to hit the gym (I’m not a morning person at all), schedule it for another time because you’ll end up throwing your entire schedule out of whack by making an inconvenient plan that you won’t be able to commit to.
Pack your lunch
Nutrition was a huge issue for me when I first started trying to get healthy, and it’s something that I’m sure a lot of you struggle with as well. I learned the importance of making sure I packed my own food when I was working at night and going to school 4 days a week right after I finished work.
When you’re constantly on the move, it’s very tempting to hit the closest fast food restaurant you can find and get something to eat ASAP because you’re usually going a long time in between meals—as soon as you get a little free time you want food immediately and will grab whatever is convenient (which isn’t healthy food 9 times out of 10). In order to fix this, start making your food and taking it with you. My go-to meal was chicken, rice, and mixed veggies that I made ahead of time, which could be stored easily in little plastic containers and taken to work. Some other good food choices are:
- Sandwiches (use whole-grain bread)
- Mixed fruits
- Greek yogurt
These were all things that I kept on hand because they can be consumed quickly, are good for you, and don’t require cooking! Start eating 6 small meals throughout the day to decrease cravings and to avoid starvation. If you need more help in the nutrition department, here are some helpful tricks for healthy eating.
Keep a gym bag in your car
I once put off going to the gym after getting out of class because I didn’t want to go home, get my gym stuff and go back to the gym. This is when I realized that I needed to start carrying a gym bag in my car, packed with shorts, shoes, and a shirt. This way, I’d be ready to go to the gym at any time. You don’t want to give yourself any reason not to go to work out. If you took the first tip and penciled gym time into your schedule, you should already have your gear ready to go, but sometimes things come up and your schedule gets altered. Also, if you get out of class or work early one day, you can get in a workout before you go home!
Join your school gym
If you’re fortunate enough to have a gym on campus, take advantage of it. Today, it’s no longer just universities that have gyms for students: many community colleges also have gyms on campus that’s accessible to students. You just have to fill out some paperwork and present your school ID to get access. My school’s gym is completely free for all who attend it, so it saves time and money. I still have a gym membership elsewhere though because I like to have a gym close to my house— if you can afford it, it’s nice to have two options available like that.
The entire idea of getting fit and improving your life is very fun and exciting, and because of this, it’s easy to just go all in right away and immediately want to hit the gym 5 days a week. Commitment is great, and necessary, but you want to try to pace yourself into it. If you start out by going to the gym 5 days a week on top of your hectic schedule, it’s easy to wear yourself out quickly. Getting fit is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and pacing yourself will really benefit you in the long run.
You’re already dedicating over 60 hours of your week to work and school, so trying to stretch yourself to go to the gym another 10 hours a week is a lot. It’s certainly not impossible, but chances are your body isn’t accustomed to such a strenuous schedule. Just like your muscles, you have to gradually develop your schedule. Consider starting out by going to the gym 2 days a week, and after doing this consistently for a while, add on another day or two.
I love fitness apps, and really grew to appreciate them while both at school and working full time. Because we’re always running around, it’s hard to track things like our workouts, calorie intake and even daily schedules. At the very least, you should have an app for tracking your diet/calories, but if you’d like to track your workouts, get an app for that too. There are many great fitness apps out there, and you can check some out here: The Top 10 iPhone Apps for Losing Weight and Getting in Shape
Balancing work, school, and a healthy lifestyle is hard, but using these tips and tools helps me stay on top of it all. Don’t give up on that New Year’s Resolution just yet—let’s get fit!Featured photo credit: A portrait of a mixed race college student studying at campus via Shutterstock