University social life, education and various commitments and health and fitness do tend to be conflicting concepts. With so many variables eating away at your time in the day it is easy to let one area suffer unduly, but hopefully this article about Time Management at University in regards to maintaining/improving your fitness and body composition will hopefully help you gain more structure and success here.

As simply me giving you advice wouldn’t provide enough variety in opinion or personality, I have enlisted the help of two good friends I made at the University of Birmingham. We all had differing courses, but managed to develop in a fitness sense over the course of our degrees whilst maintaining a normal social life and enjoying ourselves.

Feel free to tweet the people in this article with questions, or indeed simply fire questions to @LDN_Muscle as Team LDNM have all maintained the gym and sports whilst we served our time at different universities across the country.

 

Name: Max Bridger

Twitter: @MB_LDNM

Instagram: @MB_LDNM

Course(s) & Degree Length:  

Geography with Urban and Regional Planning (BSc)

Contact Hours & Average Hours Reading a Week:

10-15 contact hours per week

20< hours group, field work and independent study hour per week (massively varied in second and third years).

 

Max Bridger

 

What did you find hardest about staying consistent with training and eating well whilst at University?

The road (Bristol Road) I lived down in 2nd and 3rd years was almost completely inhabited by fast food shops, express supermarkets (that had junk foods on offer permanently) and pubs. Although I don’t get takeaways that often there was the constant temptation there, and a lack of good value healthier options for those on a budget. I actually went out more in 2nd and 3rd year than in my 1st, so this presented issues with regards to time management for gym, cooking and studying.

In a training sense it was time management that was the issue really. The university gym became too busy in 2nd and 3rd year, so I moved to one that was a half hour journey away there and back by public transport. This was an amazing gym (Ironworks) but took some budgeting each day, and trudging through the not so safe areas in the dark! However, when you are already stretched for time, training 5-6 times per week threw up some issues.

 

 

How did you resolve/combat this?

I would bulk buy foods that allowed me to make simple, healthy meals quickly when needed or in bulk. I relied on self-made meal replacement shakes a lot, but always tried to include fruit, veg, good quality protein and enough fibre in my diet. If I did really feel like a takeaway or pig out (which is inevitable being surrounded by so many completely different people and outlets at uni) then I would allow myself this. I would be lying to say I always accounted for this in my macros/calories, but I didn’t dwell on it or let it become habit.

If I knew it was going to be a big night out I would plan for my rest day to be the day after this. In all honesty I do not eat on a hangover so would end up having one big (BIG) meal in the evening (which offset those consumed the night before somewhat), and prepping and planning for a productive next day training, nutrition and study wise.

Plan your day ahead of time the night before. This doesn’t mean you can’t plan for chill out time or for seeing mates in the evening, but rather stops you worrying and getting anxious from day to day as you don’t have a clear plan- I personally found it even helped me sleep better at night. I found having a gym partner or two, as well as people you could count on to go to the library/uni with you and revise was integral for me. I get lost in my own thoughts too much, so seeing other people in the same boat as me was a big help. We also gave each other lifts to the gym regularly, saving the dodgy areas becoming too much of an issue and getting fined for not paying for the train to the gym.

 

Were you able to talk to housemates/friends about stress and stress management? If not who did you talk to about this?

I dropped out of University the first time around as I didn’t ready myself for it properly, and couldn’t deal with stress or complete self-management. I also didn’t click with Loughborough University vibe or the surrounding area.

At the University of Birmingham I also considered dropping out, but was more open about it- speaking to friends from home, people at uni I was close to and not so close with (as I didn’t care if they judged me, but did value their opinion) and also going through options with my tutors. This made me realise dropping out again was misjudged, and to act by changing my subject and becoming more proactive.

If I ever felt like everything was getting on top of me I would speak to family, home friends and people at uni from here on. This way I found people were more likely to be receptive, open and honest as they were not taken aback by someone being so uncharacteristically open with them. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t have a wobble, and that I still don’t, but not bottling up emotions and attacking your problems is a big factor now for me.

 

Your best pieces of advice for struggling students?

Bulk order foods from online or the local butchers/markets. You have then invested in your diet, and will be sub-consciously less likely to spend more money on junk foods, and of course more likely to cook and utilise your heathier food stock. If freezer space is an issue share an order with housemates and you’ll save on postage and benefit by making use of the bigger/better bulk deals. You could even share cooking duties too.

Join a gym that motivates you to train, rather than one that is too busy or not to your liking. This way you will look forwards to training knowing you won’t be stuck in line for machines or crammed in. I also found swimming to be a great release rather than the gym where I would often still fail to switch off between sets (and by swimming I mean a maximum of 2 lengths at a time!).

If during busier periods of education you find you genuinely have no time for training then I wouldn’t stress over reducing training to as and when, and don’t beat yourself up- just use it as a break and to maintain your progress thus far. However, I feel even during very tense periods- excluding of course in the days/hours before an important deadline- that everyone can budget for some exercise, and will benefit from it physically and mentally.

A good gym partner is ideal in my experience. I had a good gym partner (or two) who would also kick me up the bum to come revise with them, which does force you to be more productive compared to work done in your room. Without the circle of friends I had, which was admittedly quite small, I wouldn’t have had half the fun or done half as well at university in a gym or an educational sense- and in all honesty I probably would have dropped out again.

Essentially, prioritise and plan ahead of time. You are spending a lot of money on your education, but your mental and physical well-being can be managed in between your educational and social life.

 

Name: Alisha

Twitter: @Alisha_Casement

Instagram: alisha92

Course(s) & Degree Length:  

MBChB Medicine & Surgery 5 years

BMedSc Public Health 1 year intercalated degree

Contact Hours & Average Hours Reading a Week:

1st & 2nd Year – 30+ hours lectures and around 10 hours extra work
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3rd/4th/5th Year – Hospital placement, so essentially 9-5, with travel time on top. Travel 30mins-1hour each way.

 

What did you find hardest about staying consistent with training and eating well whilst at University?

When you do placement, it’s more difficult to fit training in because you can’t manage your own time as easily, because you have to be in for 9, or earlier, and often don’t get home till 5 or 6. This means you have fewer options in terms of when to train. Eating well isn’t difficult so long as you PLAN! My biggest problem was when I forgot to bring in any food, or didn’t bring enough ‘good’ food in. In this case I’d either eat nothing, or eat something bad like a packet of crisps. Also the cost of food and gym memberships etc can be difficult.

 

How did you resolve/combat this?

In order to be able to fit things in I have to plan loads! It makes things easier to be in a routine, for example, last year I used to go to the gym before hospital in the morning so just got used to getting up a little earlier. I found that going in the morning was better because not only did it set me up for a good day, but also often if I left it until after placement I couldn’t be bothered. At the moment I’m on a break from Uni, but have a job. Fitting cardio and weights in is made easier by cycling there and back, about 12 miles, which saves me fuel and gets my cardio done! In terms of cost; Birmingham council did swim sessions for free at certain times (usually 6-7.30 am), which is useful, especially as it forced me to go at this time because it was free! Joining a gym where I can pay monthly means the months I go home I don’t have to pay for a membership I won’t be using. Also, Sainsbury’s reduced meat is great at certain times, I buy loads when they have good offers and freeze it! If I’m going on a night out, I plan my rest days around it, because although I can train after going out, I find it difficult to eat properly and coupled with no sleep this isn’t a great combination for muscle recovery. Being flexible with training makes it easier to not miss out on things!

Were you able to talk to housemates/friends about stress and stress management? If not who did you talk to about this?

My housemates in 3rd year weren’t medics, so weren’t doing placement, and their timetables were often more flexible so they were able to fit things in around lectures. Sometimes, when I was stressed with exams, I found that it was going to the gym that suffered. Now, during exams, I use the gym as an incentive to plan properly and get work done and break my day up. If I do enough work in the day I ‘allow’ myself to gym!

 

Your best pieces of advice for struggling students?

Get a gym buddy/ gym buddies! None of the girls in my house last year were really into the gym because they had no time, or were scared of the weights room. I started taking to the gym whenever I went and made it a social thing too, something to look forwards to after a day of studying. It was really good to workout together because when we were resting we would chat about our days and it made sessions so much more fun! If you arrange to go to the gym at the same time as others it acts as a motivator to get you up and out, for not wanting to let other people down. Going to the gym with mates is good if you’re nervous about going alone, and you can help each other in terms of spotting, technique and racking up weights. It’s also good to discuss new ideas for sessions! So, if you know someone who goes to the gym a lot, why not ask if you can tag along to a few sessions with them? Now my housemates have left, I train legs with a girl who also goes to my gym, we always push each other really hard, and those are the sessions that I feel my best! With someone else, you discover that you can do things you didn’t even know you could do yourself!

 

Name: Adam King

Twitter: @adamking112

Instagram: @kingg12334

Course(s) & Degree Length:  

Sport & Exercise Science (BSc) and Marketing (MSc)

Contact Hours & Average Hours Reading a Week:

20 contact hours

20< group, field work and independent study hours (massively varied, but lots in second and third year).

 

What did you find hardest about staying consistent with training and eating well whilst at University?

During my 1st year I lived in catered halls, initially I found this difficult because there seemed to be a distinct lack of healthy options. This often made it difficult to track what I was consuming on daily basis, especially with regard to my protein intake. Through 2nd and 3rd year I lived in Selly Oak, the area was densely populated with fast food outlets meaning temptation was always there.

In regards training, during 1st year the only real issue was the university gym facilities and how busy they became during peak times. A limited number of benches, squat racks and dumbbells could significantly impact the success of your training sessions during busy periods. This was a deciding factor in my decision to move to Ironworks in 2nd and 3rd year. This was a brilliantly equipped gym, however it provided its own problems in the sense that I would have to get the train there each day. Whilst paying £3-4 for train doesn’t seem too much for a one off, this soon builds up if you wish to train 5-6 times per week and can end up costing an extra £20 each week. As well as this train cancellations or delays were an issue, especially when pressed for time during busy 3rd year periods.

 

How did you resolve/combat this?

During 1st year, I made the conscious decision to cook the majority of my meals when possible. As I was on a budget it often meant buying in bulk, which admittedly could make food repetitive at times. However it allowed me to hit my targets with regard to protein intake, and I was able to get my fat and carbohydrates from sources I deemed healthier. During 2nd and 3rd year, I made greater use of the fruit and vegetable stall on campus. This alongside supermarkets such as Aldi made it easy to source a greater variety of fruit and vegetables. This alongside a greater effort to be more creative with my cooking was key, making it easier to resist the temptation of the fast food outlets surrounding me.

In first year, having a plan or a set time to go to the gym was key. Often I would either go early mornings or late in the evening if I was I wasn’t going out. I found going in the morning easier if you had a training partner, I always found this meant I got up as I knew I was meeting somebody and didn’t want to let them down. Moving forward into 2nd and 3rd year, it was all about being organised with your time. By that point I was going to the gym with the same people each day, we had a good understanding of each others’ timetables and when we were free and was really just about setting a time to go really.

 

Were you able to talk to housemates/friends about stress and stress management? If not who did you talk to about this?

During the 1st term of my first year in Sport & Exercise Science I seriously considered dropping out. I wasn’t particularly enjoying the course as much as I thought I would and was certainly struggling in parts.

I found the lecturers and tutors were very approachable, when speaking to them about my issues they were able to calm my nerves. They assured me this was normal, and there were lots of students in the same boat. If anything they told me to relax a bit and to not stress about areas I didn’t understand as this would come with time.

As work got tougher during 2nd and 3rd year especially there were certainly times where I would feel the pressure. Having friends in the same situation made it easier, being able to talk to others about problems or issues was a great way of relieving pressure.

 

 

Your best pieces of advice for struggling students?

On a tight budget it’s key to source your food, especially meat in bulk. Your best bet are local butchers or wholesalers if you have access to them. Variety is key when sticking to your diet. I recommend purchasing a variety of fruits & vegetables, as well as being more creative in your cooking with regard to spices and flavourings.

Improve the efficiency of your training. During 1st year especially my friends and myself would often spend too much time in the gym. We were guilty of going to the gym and training arms for an hour & half. I recommend targeting multiple muscle groups per session, with a heavy emphasis on compounds especially when facing time constraints. This should ensure you hit muscles at least twice per week, ensuring progress and also allowing time for days off when you have time to go the gym.

Finding a gym partner or a group of individuals to go to the gym with is key. I was lucky in the fact I had number of training partners who were great friends and would always push me. I enjoyed the fact we always seemed to compete against each other in a fun manner. It motivated me to go each day, and ultimately made my sessions a lot more enjoyable.

Relax and enjoy University. Exams and essays are stressful enough; being too strict with your training and nutrition will only increase make it worse. Allowing time to relax and go out with friends was key for me at University. It was a great stress relief, and I found myself far more productive in lectures and the gym as a result.

 

The LDNM Guides are designed for use alongside a normal lifestyle. We understand the rigours of fitting in training and preparing meals, and unexpected obstacles that pop up at annoying times, so have designed our flagship guides to work within a normal lifestyle- rather than detract from it:

Cutting Guide

Bikini Guide

Home Bikini Guide

Bulking Bible

Muscle Group Workouts