From Kristen

Kristen’s Fitness Experience in College

Why yes, that *is* Kristen in the 1999 MSU Intramural Sports handbook. And yes, the team name *was* “Lady Ballas.” Oh, 90s.

As part of the first-annual Fit Bottomed College Week, each FBG is reflecting on her fitness experiences in college. Read on for the good, the bad and the oh-so honest!

My college experience was maybe a little different than the other FBGs. I started school at Michigan State University, attended for two years, and then seized an opportunity to move to Florida, finishing up my degree at the University of Florida (after taking off a year to establish residency). Still, like Jenn, I loved it. I loved the freedom—freedom from living at home (although my parents were actually really cool, but, you know, it’s still a whole new world to not live under their roof), freedom from mandatory basketball and volleyball practices, freedom to choose whatever I wanted to eat. Or, as is the case with so many college students, drink.

That doesn’t mean my college experience wasn’t rife with pitfalls, though. Read and learn, darlings!

My College Fitness Experience: The Good, the Bad and the Oh-So Honest

The good: Working out and playing sports for fun was a pretty foreign concept to me before college. Happily, I immediately became friends with a fellow volleyball player, and we quickly took advantage of open courts at the rec center to pass the ball around, eventually taking a volleyball class and joining some intramural teams. One of my old AAU volleyball coaches was leading the club team, and I briefly considered joining—I enjoyed the practices and the girls seemed nice. But I just enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night for a tournament on Saturdays so much, and I couldn’t see giving that up.

Intramurals were actually a big part of my fitness experience, at least for the first couple of years. I wasn’t super comfortable with all the equipment in the gym, but I was perfectly comfortable with a basketball in my hand. I teamed up with a few of the girls I’d spent the last four years shoving around on the basketball court. We were all able to let the past go, and we ended up winning the league one semester. I realized I truly loved the mix of a team environment and a low-key approach (i.e. no coach screaming at me and no state championship on the line). I was hooked.

My first roommates in Gainesville, Fla., were a brother and sister. The brother had played football at UF and encouraged me to get a membership at the local gym. He showed me around the cardio and strength equipment, and while I still wasn’t comfortable running with people, I learned to love my hour or so at the gym. And, at the University of Florida, I became a regular at many of the group fitness classes. In fact, it was there that I took my first Pilates class (and, of course, fell in love).

Near the end of college, I began dealing with a major bout of depression and anxiety. I knew exercise helped, but found going to the gym and facing people pretty overwhelming, so I started running. I kept my distances short and I had no goals other than “FASTER,” but it was one of several factors that helped me work through it. Still, if you’d told me back then that I’d have two half marathons (with one on the way!) and a whole slew of triathlons under my belt by now, I’d have laughed so, so hard.

The bad: I was really, really worried about gaining the Freshman 15. I’d always been fit but never slender, and as much as I loved having the freedom to work out when and how I wanted, I knew I wouldn’t be burning as many calories as I had before. I followed the Herbalife diet for a few months, and truthfully, felt great about it at the time. It was quick and easy (which is key in a dorm room), I was getting lots of nutrition from the shakes and vitamins, and I was slimmer than I’d been in high school. But, I was also getting a little…weird about it. For a Type A person like me, there’s a fine line between finding a regimented program that works, and finding a regimented program that allows me to get obsessive about it. By the end, I was veering into the obsessive area.

Aside from that, a shake-heavy diet wasn’t right for me. After a few months, I wanted FOOD. Like, that I could chew. I was happy that I felt so good and had remained so healthy all winter, but I wanted to be able to grab lunch with my friends instead of sucking down a shake, and I wanted to learn more about getting all that nutrition through the food available in the cafeteria. It didn’t happen right away. I went from my strict diet of shakes to saying, “Eh, one more grilled cheese sandwich won’t hurt, right?” Fortunately, I was active enough to keep too many pounds from piling on, but, boy, it was a challenge.

Finding the right balance of food I want and nutrition I need while keeping my weight in check remains a constant struggle for me, but I’m thankful I at least began that journey back then!

The oh-so honest: Like Jenn, I was a pretty big fan of the “go out drinking, hit Taco Bell on the way home” plan. Shoot, I still do that occasionally. As much as I loved school (and I did—I’m a big ol’ book nerd), I now realize that the high-stress environment I created for myself wasn’t in any way conducive to healthy, balanced living. I wanted to be amazing in all my classes, and make friends at every party, and not miss out on any once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. And while some people might be able to do it all, I’m not one of those people. I need some down time. I need to spend a little time alone with my thoughts. I need to focus more on what makes me happy than what other people (be they professors or students or anybody else) might think. I think that’s one of those revelations that come with age, and regardless of how mature I felt at 21, I had a long way to go in that respect.

What were your good, bad and oh-so honest college fitness experiences? Were you ever intimidated by the gym or the team sports? —Kristen



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