First Time Fitness

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Alexandria Sese>English>Sophomore>University of Illinois at Chicago

College presents many surprises to students who are not prepared. You may have found out that coffee is not the holy grail of energy and that skipping meals actually made you gain more unwanted and unhealthy weight. While you were at it, you might have discovered that the freshman fifteen is actually the freshman thirty.

Meet two college students who discovered the trick to looking and feeling better without starving themselves or drinking bottles of energy drinks. Their fitness stories may be enough to prove that anybody can achieve a more active lifestyle—and look good while doing it.

Katie Trela is a sophomore at the University of Chicago and a college-level volleyball player. She explains that getting her braces off in 8th grade was the perfect time for a new look and decided that a more active lifestyle would be the best way to achieve that goal. At the same time, Trela figured that she would have a better chance at the sports teams she wanted to be a part of in high school. This complete overhaul in lifestyle for her was more of a mental challenge—just as it proves to be for every other person pursuing a healthier lifestyle for the first time.

“Losing weight is mainly a mental thing,” Trela says. “Your body knows what it needs food and exercise-wise; it’s your mind that tells you you’re hungry when really you’re just bored or that you can’t run any farther when really you can.”

Fast-forward to a few years later, and now Trela is a volleyball player for the University of Chicago and admits that, “volleyball is [her] fitness lifestyle.” She follows an intense routine to keep her performance at its best and adds healthier eating habits to maximize results.

But it’s not all fun and games for Trela; even she has the problem each of us faces: “I would have to run in addition to all of my volleyball training to stay in sprinting shape, and frankly there’s not enough energy in me, nor enough time in the day.”

So what keeps her going? Trela keeps fitness goals. Although they’ve changed from just losing weight to fit in her prom dress to being at the top of her athletic game, Trela is motivated by these goals to stick to her plans—even after she gained the freshman fifteen like most students.

It is a long road to adopting a healthy lifestyle and results certainly do not come overnight, agrees Mike Salazar, owner and personal trainer for Evolution Personal Training. Going slow and steady with your fitness routines is the best way to go, adds Salazar. “Quick results usually do not last very long.”

Tela also shares a few tricks for beginners to consider when starting a fitness routine: “Set a measureable goal for yourself before embarking on a new fitness or weight-loss program. Set deadlines. Make it a competition between you and a friend or a family member. Vary your type of exercise, like take a dance class or a hot yoga class or something fun and different every once in a while.” Trela’s passion for volleyball proves that using something enjoyable to be fit will keep you on track.

But what if you’re not an athlete like Trela and you just want to look and feel better? Meet Cody Lambert, a freshman from the University of Central Florida. “I first started lifting [weights] when I was in middle school to help out with sports,” Lambert says. “Now that I’m out of high school, I don’t lift for sports anymore. I now lift for the ladies.”

Again, sometimes the simplest goals can push people to pursue their fitness goals. When asked how he keeps on track, Lambert explains that he takes advantage of the amenities and clubs at his university to become more active. He is part of UCF’s Rock Climbing Club and advises others to join a fun, active organization.

Aside from joining clubs and lifting “for the ladies,” Lambert is also active in other sports—a fitness strategy many students pursue as an effective alternative to routine (and sometimes boring) gym workouts. “Listen to someone who knows what they’re talking about and keep doing it,” Lambert adds when asked what tips he’s picked up over the time he started pursuing a more active lifestyle. “Get some good music too, always helps me get an extra rep or two out!”

Finally, as a sport nutritionist, Salazar shares one of the most important reminders that most beginners forget, “Nutrition is at least 80% of the equation. The rest is 15% training and 5% genetics. You can literally eat your way out of exercise.”

Images courtesy of and

College Magazine Staff

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