With vacations, weekend trips, case studies to read, meetings to attend, sick days, and social obligations, being a student at HBS does not lend itself to consistency or routine.
More often than not, the rigors of student life get in the way of the habits leading to a healthy lifestyle. Some get overwhelmed by the mere prospect of establishing and maintaining healthy routines, and opt to avoid them entirely. Others spend part of their semester working hard and sweating profusely in the name of health and fitness, only to see their hard work quickly wither away after a few weeks of hitting the books, vacations and holiday feasts, or just falling off the proverbial wagon.
Then there are those who never let go; despite the obstacles of academia and life in general, they keep themselves moving, stick to their routines, and reap the benefits. They learn the important lesson that consistency is everything, that the workout itself is not nearly as important as just getting up, or out, and doing something active as much as possible.
The reality of health and fitness is that you’re better off walking for 20 minutes a day than running 5 miles every other week; doing a few sets of pushups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks every morning is going to help you more than lifting weights occasionally. Your body is built to get up and move around on a daily basis, and the more you are in line with that function, the better you will feel.
This is not to say walking is superior to running, or calisthenics are better than resistance training. The best exercise is simply the one you keep doing. I think squats are one of the greatest exercises you can possible do, but if you hate them so much you rarely push yourself to do them, then I’d much rather see you play tennis, ride a bike, or try a group fitness class than paralyze yourself with the notion that it’s squats or bust.
Finding an activity you enjoy enough to do on a daily basis is more important than forcing yourself through the drudgery of a workout you ultimately have to force yourself to complete. Fitness is a lifelong journey, and you’re far more likely to stay on the path if you enjoy yourself while you’re there.
Your biggest motivator in maintaining a regular exercise routine is setting, and achieving, realistic short term goals. Telling yourself you’re going to lose 50 pounds in two months is a nice thought, but can ultimately lead you into failure by combining a limited timeline with a lofty goal, without any appreciable milestones in between. Give yourself plenty of time and keep your expectations reasonable; you’ll feel good about meeting your goals, and even better if you surpass them.
There are also plenty of worthwhile goals completely unrelated to weight loss — aim for 20, then 30, then 40 perfect pushups, finally build up to that 10k run you’ve been contemplating, or even something as simple as improving your flexibility enough to touch your toes can be enough to stay motivated.
Set yourself up to achieve something more every day, week, or couple of weeks, be it more repetitions, more distance, a faster pace, or just feeling progressively better/more flexible/fitter. The scale won’t matter as much if you lifted more weight, ran faster, and just feel more healthy.
No matter where you are during this school year, I want you to keep this in mind: anything is better than nothing. No matter what your excuse is, chances are you can come up with something to keep you moving during busy times whether you’re home or abroad. Take advantage of our facilities, staff, and classes at Shad Hall. We have a wide variety of trainers, disciplines, philosophies, and equipment to help you find workouts you enjoy, but we can only light the way. It’s up to you to take the first step, and to continue coming back.
If nothing else, just keep moving.