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  • Kiersten Formoso

The Gym and Grad School

Updated: Jan 22, 2019

A few weeks ago, right before winter break, I made a very sudden decision to change my life and health. I sought out to drastically improve my diet, sleeping habits and establish a gym routine, one that I could keep up with when the semester started up again and throughout the rest of my graduate school career. My philosophy behind this is, if not now, when? I'm only getting older and graduate school will only get harder, so I felt now is as good a time as any to set myself up for success with a solid physical foundation which is intertwined with one's mental foundation.

By some amazing force I have actually kept up with this commitment and the results are starting to show, not just physically, but also in my academic performance. I am now goal oriented with my life and assignments, more relaxed, and working efficiently and enjoyably. Overall, things have become less overwhelming and I actually feel poised and ready to take on the rest of my PhD. Going to the gym is now as important to my graduate studies as any of my graduate work. Though of course it's not "the gym"per se that's helping me out. We all "know" the positive effects of being active, but this is the first time in my life I am actually experiencing all these benefits I've been reading about for years, but never actually taking the plunge on. I was fit and active in undergrad, but more passively in the form of activities like marching band, biking to class, and being a bicycle delivery driver for Jimmy John's. Right now, however, is the first time in my life where I go out of my way to be active, not just through an activity or job.

I encourage the addition of any frequent and easy to incorporate physical activity that keeps you active several times in the week for all grad students, especially ones that have waning focus and inability to really sit and do work as I did. Walking, biking, jump rope, anything! As far as my sleep and diet goes, I try to get to bed before 10:30 every night, no matter what, and I use the app MyFitnessPal to track my calories and macronutrients based on recommendations by an on-campus dietician. I eat lots of fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains now and have no doubt that this is also responsible for my improved academic performance.