Want to avoid gaining the infamous “Freshman 15”? Or do you want to work towards losing your “Freshman 15” that you already stacked on? It’s summertime, which means it’s the perfect opportunity to get in some designated time for working out before school starts. Let’s start prioritizing not only our physical health, but our mental health too. One of the best ways to improve our overall health comes from exercise. Just because you might live in a dorm, doesn’t mean you can’t stay fit.
Here’s some perfect workouts and essentials for keeping an active body and mind:
Yes, you heard me correctly… walking. A function so simple, it’s second nature to most of us. We take the ability for granted which leads to a lot of people not recognizing the health benefits walking provides us with. It not only improves blood circulation, but also benefits your overall mood. It’s probably one of the most low-impact workouts available for beginners entering the fitness space.
The best part? You’re able to do it anywhere. From walking around your neighborhood to your local park. I personally like to walk at the boardwalk by the beach with my dog. I walk the entire length of the boardwalk and back… that’s five miles in total. A task extremely difficult for people starting out (like myself). My advice, start off slow. When you get more comfortable, either pick up the pace or walk more often. Consider transitioning from weekly to daily walks. During the school year, if you live in a dorm, take a walk around campus. It’s a great way to stay fit, get some fresh air, improve your mood during the day and take in all your campus offers.
This exercise focuses more on bettering your mental health, but still provides benefits for your body too. You may not bulk up or change in terms of muscle development, but it does help to lower your blood pressure. Meditating works to relax the mind and decrease stress levels. Some find meditation an effective method in terms of achieving mental clarity along with improving general mental functions throughout the day.
Talking about at-home or dorm options for college students, meditation doesn’t need an alternative because you can do it anywhere, whether in a group or by yourself in your dorm. If you find meditation beneficial, being that it lowers stress and improves mental function, try doing it before, during, or after studying for exams. See if you feel more relaxed, then look to see if you notice improvement when it comes to your grades. If so, consider implementing meditation into your study routine.
“Dance like nobody’s watching.”—Mark Twain, a quote to live by when incorporating dancing into our workout routine. The art of dance unites everyone regardless of experience, whether a pro or a first timer.
“Dance is the greatest release for everyone’s mental health. Dance can tell stories, express emotions, and release stress/ anxiety. I stress the importance of always putting everyone in dance, as a way of communication and connection to a person’s feelings and emotions,” St. John’s University dance team graduate and dance teacher Matthew Kirschenheiter said. “Some stretches I tend to focus on the most are my neck, my hamstrings and my shoulders/arms. Since I am getting older, oftentimes these muscles will be tight, and run the risk of being sore. Therefore, I place all my emphasis there to prevent that uncomfortable feeling the next morning. The dance styles I perform the most, especially on the St. John’s dance team includes hip-hop, pom and jazz which focus heavily on those specific muscles.”
Some at home (or dorm) options include just putting on some music to let loose with, following someone else’s routine online, or (one of my personal favorite ways to workout) play the Ubisoft game, Just Dance. My favorite in the series, Just Dance 4 includes so many of my favorite songs and contains different dance moves with varying levels of difficulty ranging from easy to medium to hard. One of the hardest songs in the game, “Livin’ La Vida Loca” by Ricky Martin, qualifies as a workout in itself. You feel the exhaustion after just this one song alone, not to mention if you do multiple songs afterwards back-to-back. Playing dance video games allows for a fun workout for those who either don’t have access to a studio, or don’t consider themselves “dancers” since the games provide guides to follow. There’s also a section in the game called “Just Sweat” that’s designated specifically for workouts rather than just dancing to your favorite songs.
“College is one of the most stressful times of everyone’s life and whether it be working out, or joining a team, it will help increase everyone’s mental health. Working out allows people to release whatever is happening in the outside world, and just be present in the moment. Releasing endorphins and having fun, and it’s all from working out. It’s essential for college students to do it,” Kirschenheiter said. “My experience on the St. John’s University dance team has been a dream come true. I have had endless opportunities and lifelong memories that I will hold and cherish forever. I always say, I don’t have a team, I have an added brother and 28 sisters!”
Coming straight from an active college student himself, dancing does change lives. Dance not only transformed Matthew’s life but also positively impacted his studies. Incorporate dancing into your workout routine if you’re looking for a liberating experience. Form a group of friends to dance the night away with while breaking a sweat. Not only will you bond while enjoying some great music, but you’ll also better your health at the same time.
Zumba, a type of aerobic dance fitness program that incorporates different intervals of high and low intensity rhythms. Besides containing music and choreography that derive from Latin roots, it comes with some movements influenced by martial arts. Being very fast paced at times, Zumba focuses on burning calories, improving coordination, balance and your mood.
“Zumba is different because it has many different types of classes people can enjoy such as Zumba toning to shape and tone your muscles, Zumba gold for modifying moves, aqua Zumba for those who enjoy swimming and who like to get a workout in, and Zumba kids to get kids moving. Zumba provides a full body workout routine and movement that works every muscle without you noticing. Instructors use non-verbal signals and motions to help students keep on track or when routine is going to change. Zumba is all about the party that gets you into shape at the same time,” Licensed Zumba instructor Stephanie Graves said.
“My favorite part is the interaction with different students that come to class. It’s about enjoying your time in Zumba and working out. Making people smile because they enjoyed the class. Every instructor brings their own personality to their Zumba class and select songs they prefer. It is important that you find the best instructor that is best for you,” Graves said.
Gyms and schools often host Zumba events where instructors come teach a class to get everyone inspired to want to get fit. Tons of Zumba videos exist online so there’s always the opportunity to invite a group of friends to your dorm for a workout. Zumba, like dance, suits well in groups. also allows for an ice-breaker event or a great bonding experience between friends.
Yoga involves meditative techniques, but unlike meditation involves both mental and physical exercise. Yoga helps you control your breathing to promote feelings of calmness while improving balance and flexibility. Some of the most recognized poses include downward and upward facing dogs, the cobra and the tree. However, other existing poses not only appear more difficult, but involve another person as well!
The number of times I watched yoga challenge videos by who view pictures of these complicated poses, attempting to do it themselves is beyond measure. While maybe entertaining to watch, I don’t recommend doing that, because without any training you might potentially injure yourself or the other person involved. Try either visiting a Yoga studio to sign up for a class, search for videos done by professionals, or see if your school or local gym offers Yoga classes. Then you’ll learn the proper way to do everything, so you won’t get hurt.
Want a sport that’s a full body workout? Try tennis! While you may not play like Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal you’ll gain the benefits of this full body workout. In tennis, you use your entire body. Not only a great source of cardio, but you also build muscles in your legs from the running, muscles in your arms, shoulders and back from swinging the racket. You increase your stamina the more you play. Tennis also quickens your reflexes and improves coordination. It truly benefits your entire wellbeing.
“Tennis works out pretty much all parts of the body. When hitting a tennis ball properly with the correct technique, it starts with power generated starting from your legs with the bending of your knees and propelling your weight forward and upwards. The momentum of the movement is what generates power into your swing,” Tennis coach Patrick Thomas said. “Tennis is often referred to as a lifetime sport. Not only can tennis start at a very young age, it can also be played at a much older age to maintain strong mental and physical health.”
“Tennis requires the player to stay alert when thinking about what strategies to use on the court when playing the game. You must exploit your opponent’s weaknesses as well as use your strengths to give yourself the best scenario in winning the game. It’s not only about hitting the ball hard. It requires you to maintain control and know when it is best to be aggressive or defensive during the point and placement on your shot is very important. You have to constantly keep your mind alert, and this is what builds both mental and physical strength,” Thomas said.
Obviously being on a team allows you the chance to play. If you’re not on a team, but just a beginner looking to play for fun, go to your local tennis bubble and play on a recreational size court. Since most people don’t have a recreational size tennis court readily available at their disposal, practice certain drills that will strengthen specific skills needed in tennis. For instance, go to the park and find a racquetball wall or just a random wall, create a line at the height equal to a net and practice hitting the tennis ball against the wall.
This will enhance your forehand and backhand strokes, which will make you ready for when you do get to play on a court. Also, practice bouncing the tennis ball on the strings of the racquet to improve your hand eye coordination, or practice footwork exercises like karaoke steps, lunges, high knees, or side shuffles. Whether by yourself at home or playing singles (two people) or doubles (four people), tennis is a great workout for the body.
School’s officially done for the summer. With the high temperature in town, it’s the perfect opportunity to start swimming. Learning how to swim: an essential life skill to know (if you don’t already). You never know when a situation will arise that requires you needing to know how to swim to save your life or potentially save someone else’s. It’s always good to be prepared. Like they say, better safe than sorry. Immersing your whole body in the water lets you utilize various muscles for different strokes. There’s the freestyle stroke, the butterfly stroke, breaststroke and the backstroke. Swimming cools the body down, builds muscle, improves cardiovascular health and strengthens lung capacity.
I personally love swimming. During the school year when I’m looking forward to summer break, I always envision spending time relaxing in the water. Back in my childhood days, I remember being obsessed with “underwater gymnastics.” Which meant attempting to do handstands, frontwards and backwards flips in the water. For swimming, there’s always the ability to combine other sports and physical activities within your workout. There’s water Zumba, water volleyball or basketball and all other forms of exercise. It’s harder to move around in the water than on land, making it an additional method of building up body strength.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” wise words given to us by the great professional boxer, Muhammad Ali. Boxing, a combat sport and another great example of a full-body workout. Boxing gets your heart pumping, forehead sweating, and lungs kicking—being that boxing’s an aerobic exercise. It builds muscle, quickens reflexes, emphasizes the importance of footwork and improves agility.
“Boxing allows you to switch from the outside world and be present in the moment. It’s an excellent form of stress relief and stimulates endorphin production. It builds self-confidence along with body strength,” Professional boxer and personal trainer Ahmed Samir said. “What you do outside the ring helps your boxing too. Implementing habits like eating healthy, visualizing the training, good sleep and meditation. Allowing your body time to recover along with staying hydrated by drinking a lot of water is important.”
Along with it being a great workout, boxing’s a great way to learn self-defense. Another essential life skill separate from the concept of working out but equally important. I tried boxing once with my friends, only to fall in love with it. Being that I never boxed before, not only did I learn a lot of cool self-defense techniques, but I also accomplished a fun workout with my friends. I truly wish I could relive that experience for the first time.
9. Circuit Training
Last, but not least, circuit training. The “freestyle” of working out if you will. In my high school gym class, we did circuit training exercises monthly. Circuit training consists of multiple different workouts performed in rotation. After completing one station we would trade positions until we all completed our sets. Some of the exercises included dumbbells, medicine balls, or bodyweight workouts.
“As an active college student, I normally go to the gym six days a week. My workouts consist of two upper body days, three lower body days and one H.I.I.T workout (High Intensity Interval Training). I rest one day a week. Even though I do lower body a total number of days more than anything else, my movements meaning they work many muscles other than the lower body,” St. John’s University junior and active student Diana Deserto said.
“Working out now in college benefits both my physical and mental health in many ways. This is because especially during online school, I am not as active as I would be normally, so working out allows me to find time for physical exercise in between online classes. Mentally, it is a great outlet for stress because while working out I leave all my obligations behind me. Working out allows me to feel confident in myself after making healthy choices to benefit my health,” Deserto said.
These basic workouts included push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, mountain climbers, wall-sits, etc. While sit-ups workout your core, push-ups workout your upper body, and burpees / mountain climber’s workout different parts of the body, wall sits specialize in the lower half of the body. These equipment free workouts make exercise an affordable at home experience. Perfect for college students looking for ways to stay fit. You only need yourself and a little bit of space to perform each task. Since circuit training consists of different stations, this makes it optimal to do with a group. Also, because of the different stations, you get to compose workouts of varying difficulty and focus so you know you’re working out all different areas of the body. If it’s the dreaded leg day, your workouts all target that one area. But if you’re doing chest workouts… you guessed it, you’re working out your chest.
6 Essential Apps You Need for When You Workout
This one may seem like a given, but it’s probably the most essential in my opinion. Music not only helps to pass the time, but it also helps to keep you focused on the task at hand. Prior to COVID, when I used to workout at my school’s fitness center, I would use music and implement it into my workouts all the time. Spotify contains their own workout playlists (for different genres and types of work outs). If you don’t like theirs, customize your own personal workout playlist. Because let’s be honest, we all know that person that makes up a playlist for absolutely everything. Any music streaming platform suffices, but Spotify is my go to—there’s even a discounted premium version for students!
If mediation caught your eye earlier, then download the app Calm. Awarded the 2017 iPhone App of the Year by Apple, Calm provides soothing sounds for relaxation. The app also provides guided meditation exercises and stories to fall asleep to. There’s even a desktop version for those who want it on their laptops. Developing a plan is important, especially when trying something new. You want to know what you want to gain from this new experience. Essentially this means creating an end goal of a result you hope to see. Calm allows you to choose your top goals when it comes to the change you want from Meditation. This mindset is great, regardless of what fitness activity you’re doing. In the end, see if you accomplished those goals, made any progress, and if you’re satisfied with the outcome. This will determine if this fitness method is right for you.
Like Calm, Headspace also helps with mindfulness. They also provide guided meditations for sleeping and waking up, aiding focus, etc. Headspace provides meditation exercises for kids too. The app offers shorter duration sessions compared to Calm, as low as three minutes. This makes it great for college students with a busy schedule, always on the go. Take some time while getting ready in the morning to try one out. See if it helps. If you’re seriously considering meditation, definitely look into both of these apps for when you start meditating.
4. Motivation—Daily Quotes
Ever possess the feeling of wanting to workout but just can’t find that motivation to push yourself forward? Motivation—Daily Quotes provides you with inspirational words of encouragement to motivate you. This app allows you to choose the topic or situation you want your motivation to tailor towards. In this case, the topic of choosing would fall under health and fitness but you’re able to pick more than one. Sometimes we all just need a little positive affirmation in our lives to help us get stuff done.
This app focuses on the healthy food side of being fit. Eating right goes hand-in-hand with exercising, affecting your ability to work at your best. MyFitnessPal serves as a calorie counter and diet tracker that comes with its very own meal scan. Being it breaks everything down for you, this app allows you to keep a log to keep track of exactly what you eat on a daily basis.
Diet plays a huge part in your physical and mental health. Eating healthier helps with losing or maintaining your weight but it also boosts your energy levels. With your mental health, you may see improvement in your mood and even in your memory. Being college students there’s the stereotype that we eat generally unhealthy foods. That’s not entirely false, so MyFitnessPal turns the tables to help us maintain a diet. When you eat healthier alternatives, you just feel better. For instance, you might feel more productive, which means you might not procrastinate when it’s time to get your homework done or write that next paper. So next time you’re looking to grab a bite in between classes, substitute that BigMac or instant ramen for some fruits, veggies and healthy protein.
6. Zin Play
Lastly, Zin play, an app developed by Zumba. If you’re a Zumba fanatic, you need to check out this app. It allows you to customize your own personal Zumba playlist. I know you’re probably thinking “why would I need Zin Play if I already downloaded Spotify?” It’s because the thing that separates Zin Play from a lot of its competitors is not only the fact that it’s specifically geared towards Zumba but also the apps’ ability to customize the songs by trimming / editing the songs along with adding your own sound effects. Learning that music plays such a huge role in the Zumba experience, I find the idea of the app allowing you to create your entire soundtrack down to the specifics of song timing and sound effects allows for full control of your Zumba workout.