Did the Olympics spark that fire for your inner-competitor too? Obviously the highlight for me was the track events. I have so much respect for these world-class athletes, but I also know how much of a sacrifice they make to commit their life to a sport. Running is literally their job.
Now that I’m on the other side of the collegiate-athlete world, I started realizing how differently I look at running/races as a competitive athlete versus as a recreational runner.
When I signed that scholarship agreement during my senior year of high school, I was committing to represent Northern Arizona University, the Lumberjacks, and Adidas. Training was a mandatory part of every day. Being on an NCAA Division 1 Track team was something I’d worked hard for, and it will always be one of my proudest achievements.
When I graduated one year ago, the collegiate running career officially ended as well. Now I have to find the motivation to run myself. Suddenly running is a choice. Do I even want to run anymore? Of course I do. That’s a no-brainer. There’s just no training plan I “have” to follow or any races I must compete in. There’s no one else tied to my performance.
I can’t say I prefer one over the other. I LOVED being a collegiate athlete; it gave me an identity and purpose at my school. It was incredibly rewarding, but stressful at times, and I think 8 years (high school and college) is the perfect amount of time to be a serious competitive athlete.
I’m also learning to LOVE the perks of being a recreational runner. There’s less stress and pressure; there are more options for workouts beyond what’s dictated by a coach. So here’s my comparison of Competitive Athlete vs. Recreational Runner now that I’ve enjoyed my time as both:
- Collegiate running spoiled me with free race entries, plus free transportation, lodging, food, racing gear and not to mention a dozen pairs of shoes a year. That’s a tough one to say goodbye to after college. (Thankfully I was able to jump right into the Boise Elite running team when I moved to Idaho which has a couple of sponsors and free race entries.)
- A coach can give you an outside perspective on your weak areas and ways to improve.
- Your team and coaches hold you accountable for your workouts; skipping a long run is simply not an option.
- Collegiate races have competitors at or above your level who can help push you through the race to improve your time. The atmosphere, the crowd, and the “official” nature of these types of races also boost adrenaline and help performance.
After graduation, that all goes away unless you are in the seriously elite 1% who become professional sponsored runners. I’m definitely not in that group :) I said goodbye to my blue and gold uniform but my love of running is still strong and I’ve been enjoying local race events as an individual runner.
- The stress of pleasing your coach and representing your school is lifted.
- I actually find enjoyment from my sport again now that I put less pressure on myself.
- You meet so many people in your community, who are just happy to be there, and it instantly boosts your mood.
- You can find scenic courses and run through gorgeous scenery rather than a turf oval track.
- You can win money ;) NCAA rules prohibit any “extra benefits” which include race prizes.
- You can race with an iPod!!! This one is HUGE for me because I run twice as fast it feels like when a really good beat comes on.
This weekend, I’ll be racing a local 10k road race. After that, I’ll continue training for an upcoming half-marathon. Transitioning from a student-athlete to a random road race runner isn’t too difficult because both have their perks. Let me know if you have any additions to these lists!
I’ll catch ya later on this week with a new back-to-school breakfast recipe I’m working on too :)
My Packing for Dorm Life post has been, by far, my most popular on this blog. After four years, it still drives the most traffic to my site – 37% of you found Strong Like My Coffee by searching this topic or finding it’s link on Pinterest! After nearly half a million views, I quickly realized that my “Healthy College Girl” theme was resonating with a lot of my readers. Every single summer for the past four years, my blog’s page views sky rocket….the back-to-school preparation begins and my fellow healthy college girls seem to be researching healthy grocery guides, meal ideas, and tips for finding balance in college before heading off to school soon!
I did the same thing. Pinterest was just getting popular right before my freshman year at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. I looked up dorm decorating ideas, ways to increase storage in tiny living spaces, tips on living with a roommate for the first time, and study tips. But what really interested me were the posts on avoiding the notorious Freshman 15, ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and a social life as a freshman, and advice on fitness and nutrition as a busy college student.
After a couple years as a student-athlete, a lot of what I learned was through trial and error and experience. I navigated my way through campus dining and the all-you-can-eat buffets. Sometimes I made my own healthy salad and other times I gave into Temptation Station…AKA the dessert cart, which was stocked up on every type of cookie, pastry, and donut along with a soft-serve ice cream bar.
Some of the most important points I learned about prioritizing health in college:
- Getting enough quality sleep affects your academic performance, your athletic performance, and the nutrition choices you make throughout the day. Oftentimes when we are tired, we crave instant sugary snacks to boost our energy. Quality sleep keeps your brain sharp, your muscles repaired, and your energy levels more stable.
- Lose the “get my money’s worth” mentality in the dining halls. Quality over quantity.
- Pre-plan your “treat” days. Completely restricting certain foods (like that ice cream bar) will most likely lead to a total binge when you’re having an off day. Planned indulgences will keep you from feeling deprived without totally going overboard.
- It’s not just about diet and exercise; reducing stress is a major component of a healthy lifestyle. There are many stressors in college – roommates, finals, frat boys – which can have an impact on our motivation to workout and the foods we crave. Every finals week, I craved allll the sushi, macaroni and cheese, and frozen yogurt. :) Finding healthy ways to cope with stress is one of the biggest pieces of advice I can offer – one that I am still working on myself, one year post-graduation!
- Alcohol and abs don’t mix. Not to sound like a buzz kill, but alcohol consumption has a drastic impact on our bodies. Beverages contain empty calories of carbs and sugars, but alcohol also has an inflammatory effect on the body. Moderation is key! I definitely enjoyed my 21st birthday and a few fun nights downtown, but I also happily volunteered to be designated driver and substituted fruity water. Balance!
I continued to post content relevant to this theme for the past four years. As I noticed my page views beginning to climb again last week, I thought I would put together a “Round Up” of my favorite Healthy College Girl themed posts in one spot. They are in order of my personal favorite! Each link will open in a new tab :)
- 6 Tips for Navigating Through Campus Dining (Guest blog post for Quest Nutrition)
- Healthy College Girl’s Travel Guide
- Observations from a College Campus Gym
- Healthy Study Snack List
- College Girl Grocery Guide – dorm edition
- College Girl Grocery Guide 2.0 – apartment edition
- College Girl Meal Plan
- List of De-stressors
- Sweet Tooth Cures
- By the Time You Turn 22…
Hopefully you found something helpful here! It’s been a year since I graduated. Now that I’m living 1,000 miles from “home” with a brand new marketing job and real life responsibilities, I feel like I have to “re-learn” my own healthy habits. Post-grad life is mostly just figuring it out through trial and error. Figuring out how to balance the normal adult chores and errands, work, enough sleep, healthy meals, workouts, play time, and whatever surprises come up. Having a supportive family with similar goals certainly helps. Surrounding yourself with positive people is probably one of the most important components of your health.
Let me know what other kinds of content you’d like to see, or any healthy tips of your own! Tomorrow marks my two-month anniversary of moving to Idaho and we have an epic day adventure planned. Full recap on Monday! :)
Almost a year ago to the day, I took one of the best vacations of my life so far (what I justified as a “graduation present” to myself). As a country-lovin’ girl with a fascination for small town charm, rural areas, east coast beaches and southern accents, I excitedly planned a roadtrip through North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. I still think about that trip at least once a week.
I’m bringing it up again because my mom and I finally started to save all of our pictures from the trip and put them into a scrapbook. We had started our day with a sprints/HIIT workout during sunrise, and after work I had a strength training/plyometrics workout with our trainer for Boise Elite Running. Suffice it to say, I earned my glass of Riesling, which I think heightened my sense of nostalgia over this trip. I may have ended the night by creating a new Pinterest board planning my next southern road-trip (now to decide: autumn or spring?!).
My mom and I planned a girls night to make dinner together, rent a redbox movie, and hang out together. The low-key girls night without workouts, errands, or social stuff was so refreshing since most nights here have been go-go-go. When the sun is out til 10pm, it’s hard to stay home. But then it makes the rare nights with movies and pajamas so much more appreciated! :)
We knew we wanted a healthy dinner so that we could splurge. The most difficult decision: wine or ice cream?!
One of my all-time favorite meals is roasted root vegetables, no matter what time of year. Chopping up the butternut squash is so time-consuming (and slightly dangerous for my fingers) but so worth it. The rest is just chopping up sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots, onions, apples, brussels sprouts and whatever else you want to throw on the pan. We mix the veggies with a little bit of olive oil and some marjoram spice, garlic and pepper. Roasted at 425 degrees for 50-ish minutes and they come out so warm, caramelized and flavorful. My mouth is watering!
Have you seen Hello, My Name is Doris? We LOVE Sally Field, especially from the old show Brothers & Sisters. This wasn’t my favorite movie but it was still cute. Some parts were so awkward that it was painful to watch, where you just cringe for the main character. I’d give it a 6.5 out of 10 stars, so we had to add an episode of Friends before we went to bed to end the night on a funny note. :)
Nothing super special about our leisure girls night in but sometimes it’s just what you need. Especially when we’re balancing out such adventurous weekends…..cliff jumping and paddle-boarding are on the agenda for the upcoming weekends. We are living more in Idaho than we did in 20 years in California!
Tomorrow morning, I’ll be meeting a friend I made through the running club in a nearby town for a trail run before work. I love driving when it’s so quiet out and running through the sunrise. The first five minutes after the early alarm clock goes off are the worst but thankfully a pot of coffee is waiting for me. And the feeling after a good run through nature is indescribable; you just have to experience it for yourself.
Hope you have some fun plans this weekend & I’ll catch ya back here Monday!