There are plenty of life changing events that happen when you graduate college. Juggling more bills, paying student loans, finding friends at a new job, and often moving to a new place are some of the challenges you may face. One of the hardest challenges, however, can be the difference in your routine.
While you’re in college, much of your routine is up to you. There are set times for you to attend class, but these only amount to a few hours a week. You might work a part time job, but the shifts tend to be short. Time-consuming activities are otherwise done at your discretion- you can decide whether you want to study until three a.m. or get up at six to prepare for a test. You can choose whether to go out with friends or catch up on sleep. And you can work out whatever time of day works best for you– morning, afternoon, evening, midnight, you name it.
When you get your first “grown up” job, you have very little say over your schedule. If you’re lucky, it’s predictable, and you can get into a routine for exercise. Chances are, though, you’ll be working long hours and constantly falling short on sleep. Don’t rob Peter to pay Paul- get the rest you need to stay healthy! Failing to do so puts you at risk for injury and burnout.
If you have a routine, make working out your number three priority. Work comes in number one, followed by adequate sleep, then your fitness.
Use a system like google calendar, outlook or another scheduling device. Put everything in it. This way, you don’t find yourself missing a workout for the fifth day in a row because you forgot about what you had to do.
Enter your working hours, and budget on the generous side- the goal is to be realistic here, not optimistic. Once those are in, schedule in your sleep. Seriously- mark out those 6-8 hours a day to get real rest.
Once you have these in, add special events and other “can’t miss” times. What you have left is your time to work with. This allows you to realistically prioritize fitness. Look for a pattern in your free time. It might be obvious- two hours of time after work every Monday-Thursday. It might be a little less clear, though- you might need to work out early here, and later there. Now, enter your workout times into the schedule and follow it.
Find exercise you don’t dread. Chances are there will be days you really don’t want to work out. The key to success is to choose to exercise you really enjoy. Look at your schedule: what do you like that lines up with the time you have?
If you are short on time or money, try some home workout options. Running isn’t your only choice, especially with the variety of streaming services and YouTube channels with awesome options. If the thought of working out alone at home every day seems dull, invite a few friends to join in. This is a great low-cost way to stay in touch, too.
You might see that your varied workout schedule allows you to try different gym classes nearby at a different time. Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore. Variety and evolution in your fitness routine keep you engaged and growing.
Having too much coffee in the morning is a recipe to crash later in the day and risk a cycle of stress and exhaustion that’s hard to break. Save coffee for a late morning or afternoon treat. Try to drink no more than four cups a day.
Avoid other body-altering substances as much as you can, too. A few drinks with friends is fun but stick to a healthy lifestyle. Most college grads find themselves choosing between two paths when they graduate- party on the weekends or succeed and stay fit. Which one will you choose?
Obviously, avoid smoking or vaping, as these seriously inhibit your ability to work out or stay healthy in general. It can seem like a great way to get to know coworkers, but it’s best to avoid the temptation.
If you have an extended block of time on your hands, or a weekend here or there that you can use, make a point to get outdoors. Camping is an awesome cheap outing if you’re a recent grad. You don’t need too much gear, and most of it can be found cheaply.
While you’re camping, take a hike, jog with the dogs, climb some hills, or swim in the lake. Fitness can be play. Most people spend the majority of their lives indoors. Recent research shows, though, that time spent in nature improves mental health and cognitive functioning. Getting in shape outside has more benefits than your average exercise. Most communities have dedicated groups of backpackers, hikers, kayakers, and other explorers who can be found on sites like meetup. Organizations like the Sierra Club can also help you explore outdoor fitness in a safe way, too. So, what are you waiting for load up the car with what you need for a camping trip and get going.
Working in your garden is a great way to burn some calories while making your garden look great. Cutting and maintaining a nice green lawn, trimming your trees with a manual pole pruner and pulling weeds all require different muscle groups and are great for maintaining muscle mass and dexterity. Organic vegetables are great for health and maintaining a healthy weight. If you have a vegetable garden you can also eat what you have grown to help you maintain a balanced diet.
Try out meal prepping as a great way to save time and money while staying fit. Many find success making food on Sundays. There are a few ways to approach it.
-Plan everything. Portion out each breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. This is a great choice if you are trying to stay seriously fit and know you can be really tempted when stressed. It’s easier to bypass the pastry place when you know there’s a healthy meal waiting at home.
-Shuffle your options. Cook a few different things and freeze a few portions each week. Stock your desk and kitchen with healthy choices but leave the rest up to your whim on any given day. This is a wise option if you get bored with repetition.
-Stock your basics. Keep only healthy ingredients around, so it is always easy to whip up a good meal without too much work or wait. This gives you the most flexibility without setting you up for temptation. It’s still good to keep a few ready-to-eat items around, too, though.
No matter how hard you try, the demands of life after college are simply different than life during school. There will be days you are sick as a dog but still drag yourself to the office. Some weeks, you will be so busy with meetings you can’t see straight, and the morning donuts will be irresistible. Even when life gets in the way, keep up with your scheduling and prioritizing so you can get back on track.