I've often heard that the older you get, the faster the years start to go by. When I take a look back at my high school days and try to remember all the critical times involving friends, sports, exams, teachers, girls and everything else etched in my long-term memory, I realize the years are starting to feel like months!
I also remember how quickly life changed when I made the transition to University. One thing our coaches, teachers, and advisors don't teach us in high school is how to make a smooth transition to life on our own in the college world. This is when reality starts to set in... you're alone. Mom and dad won't be around to cook my food, wash my clothes, drive me to school, and anything else I used to depend on them for.
Just like many of you, I found this to be a little scary but very exciting in many ways. This is the time in life to take advantage of new opportunities and find out what you're really made of.
Almost every college in the country offers clubs that cater to any interest you could possibly have. Talk to your roommate and find out what they're interested in. Getting on the same page with the person you're living with will make your transition that much more fun and easy for the both of you.
After you learn the campus, get your classes set, and make a few friends with similar interests, find the gym (if you haven't already).
No matter what clubs, activities, or Greek life you may decide to join, the weight room will always be there as a positive outlet - that place where you can go and crush any negative thought, emotion, or stressor you may be experiencing.
Setting Your Priorities
College is the time to put forth a tremendous amount of focus into academics if you want to be successful. Taking control of your academic pursuits early on will give you unbelievable power and confidence. Combining a solid work ethic in the classroom with an intense attitude in the gym is a winning combination in college.
I know that from my experience, high school was more about sports and partying for the most part. At University, the temptations are still there to drink and shrug off that morning class. Only this time the consequences for screwing up are much more severe.
One of the biggest commonalities I hear from people is that drinking is a way to cope with stress and the demanding lifestyle that comes with being in college. This is definitely a negative way to deal with the situation, and no one truly wants to succumb to it. Bodybuilding is the opposite; it is a "positive addiction" and one of the most effective ways for letting out steam and diminishing stress.
Getting in the weight room on a regular basis can be the best thing for combating these adverse temptations because you will be more focused on achieving your goals in the classroom and with your physique. This doesn't mean you should stay in every night! Having a beer will not halt your progress; however letting that one turn into eight will undoubtedly turn your efforts into a futile pursuit.
To quote Dr. Seuss: "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." If you are serious about living up to you're potential mentally and physically, it shouldn't matter what anyone says to you if you're not drinking or conforming to the group.
Just say, "No thanks", and know that your discipline and hard work will bring much more satisfaction than any amount of alcohol can. You may be surprised to find those same people are the ones asking you for advice about your passion and progress down the road.
The bottom line is you have to make yourself happy and find those friends at your level who can push you to be your best, not bring you down.
Set Yourself Up To Win
These years in college are the "growth years" in terms of putting on muscle. Starting out young has its advantages in that you will be more sensitive to insulin, protein synthesis, and you'll have higher levels of growth hormone which will naturally create an optimal anabolic environment.
If you find yourself stalling with your progression in the gym, there are usually two different variables that are most probable in a college setting.
Don't Neglect Proper Nutrition
It is also important to be objective in this area by knowing how much protein, carbohydrates, and fats you're consuming just in case you have to make a change by adding or reducing calories. However, I realize this can be impossible at times when living in the dorms.
Here are some ideas you can implement to maximize your progress:
- An ideal cafeteria would have all the nutrition information posted for you to record totals, and allow you to go in and eat any time you want, etc. but unfortunately this isn't always the case. Instead, carry a journal with you and write down what you're eating so you have that information on tab when you need it down the line.
- In order to keep your body in an anabolic state, use your three meals in the cafeteria the best you can and have your other meals in your dorm room.
- Choose a combination of calorie and nutrient dense foods such as peanut butter, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, potatoes, milk, cottage cheese, fruits, eggs, deli sandwiches, nuts, avocados, and vegetables.
- Don't be afraid to ask the chef to make you an extra turkey wrap or sandwich to take back to your dorm.
- Grab some to-go snacks on your way out - you're paying enough for tuition as it is!
- Make sure and locate a market close by to store plenty of food in your dorm room. If you don't have a refrigerator, stock up on tuna, oatmeal, protein bars, and sports drinks for post workout shakes.
- Invest in a blender for quick meals and home-made weight gainers. I found a blender to be very useful for getting in enough calories throughout the day. Add 1- 1.5 scoop protein powder, 1 banana, 1 cup milk, 2 tbs peanut butter, 2 tbs flax seed, and 1/2 cup cottage cheese for a great mass builder shake!
- Use the mirror and performance in the gym to gauge your progress. That way, you can evaluate yourself and make some changes if need be.
When In Doubt - Go All Out
This is especially true during the first few years of serious training. There are times when exams and external conflicts arise and seem to suck out all your energy.
This is the time when the other guy quits and goes home because they're too tired. You must combat these limiting thoughts, dig deep, and have the best workout of your life.
When effort and intensity are at a peak, good things will happen. However, if you're putting forth the necessary attention on your nutrition and you're still stalling, then take a look at your training. Here are some possible pitfalls that may need some re-evaluation:
- Are you always going to failure? Have you switched things up lately? Try adding more volume and fewer sets to failure. The key is to find that balance for you in terms of intensity, frequency, and volume. The sky is the limit when you find what's best for your body.
- Have you done any sessions lately that were so intense they made you want to crawl home? It may just mean you need an intensity check. Some lifters think they're training hard when the truth is there's always another level to get to mentally which invariably ends up leading to some incredible physical gains.
Take Advantage Of The Time You Have
When you start to make progress in the gym there will surely be people asking you questions about what you're doing to get such incredible results. This can be very motivating and frustrating at the same time.
Remember that the average person or student is usually looking for the shortcuts in and out of the gym, but the truth is that just like anything worth obtaining in life, a great physique requires a great deal of hard work and sacrifice.
Contrary to popular belief, college is actually one of the best times in life to commit to putting on muscle in the gym. People think that with all the classes, extra curricular activities, work, relationship building, exams, and hundreds of other things that come up, there just isn't any time to workout!
Consequentially, people think there will be more time to focus on their physiques after school when they have more time, and that it will suddenly become a habit. This is rarely the case.
The truth of the matter is that responsibilities only increase in the real world after you leave college and finding time for the gym is more likely to take a backseat to other pursuits.
If you make your workouts a priority in college you will learn your body early, be able to cope with stress, develop confidence in yourself, look great, and it will be much easier to keep up with your efforts after school.
You will leave knowing you stayed true to yourself, fought off temptation, made life-long friendships, achieved your goals, and found a healthy, life-long hobby to assist you in leading a fulfilling life long after graduation.