I study business administration at a small school in central Maine called Thomas College. I recently transferred to Thomas from the larger urban University of Southern Maine, which was much further from home and lacked the community feel that I desire. I have been a full time Olympic Weightlifter for nine months, and was an avid CrossFit participant (which I still coach) for a couple years prior to my transition into weightlifting.
My experience has shown me that not only is being a nationally competitive weightlifter possible, the environment of being a student is conducive to training and competing at a high level. I have deliberately adjusted aspects of my life and created a living situation that means I have the time, energy and constant drive to excel in both school and weightlifting. The following are some of the strategies that I use to further my academic, and athletic success.
When I sign up for classes, I am careful to make a few considerations. The first consideration I make is when will I have to wake up, am I going to get the 8 hours of sleep that my body needs on a nightly basis?
Next, when will I eat, am I going to go a long period of time without a meal or have a meal too close to or too far away from my training session? Third, when will I train, am I going to have enough time to attend class, train, and complete all the other responsibilities that I have on a daily basis, or is 3 classes too much for one day?
I generally don’t schedule a class before 10am, I make sure that I can eat at least a snack at some point, and I don’t want to have more than 3 hours of classes per day. I also am conscious to schedule my weekly coaching night on my rest day so I am not trying to attend class, train, and coach all in the same day.
The “body, mind, and spirit” approach to self-care is a cliché, but I believe it’s also a really solid outlook on it. Managing time well will help reduce stress, but there are further measures that can be taken to alleviate stress.
Having a solid macro/micro nutritional system, as well as planning ahead where your meals will come from, is important for always staying satiated and fending off being “hangry.”
This is a real problem; if I don’t eat directly following a workout I get hangry and sometimes get so depleted that I feel sick. Planning my meals allows me to stay fed, and not constantly eating out. I also try to get massages as well as sit in the sauna as often as my budget allows; this serves as bodywork but also effective stress release.
In addition, the relationships that we choose to participate in and nurture can be integral in stress management. Having friends who support, encourage, and push you can be both helpful and rewarding; whereas having friends that cause drama, engage in unhealthy activities and are unsupportive of your athletic and academic endeavors can be draining, and dangerous. It is very important to me that I maintain positive relationships with fellow athletes as well as my friends that I have outside the gym. This creates a positive balance that is invaluable when it comes to sustaining a rigorous training regimen for a long period of time.
Budgeting is something that I am constantly working on, and it is a struggle for most of my friends who are in a similar situation. Knowing what to spend on, what not to spend on, and how to save on things you need is a must. First and foremost I avoid paying gym membership fees by being a coach, which also allows me access to my nutritional coaching at a vastly reduced rate.
The man I choose to coach me is local, young, and hungry to win — all qualities that produce a great coach at an affordable rate. He knows that I am committed to him for the long haul, so we have worked out a deal that we both agree on. I could not pay for some of the online programming/coaching services that I have looked at; I also value lifting with my coach on a weekly basis.
I am a 105kg lifter, so buying food and supplements can get expensive! I generally buy what I can in bulk except for my meat, which I think is necessary to buy at the local butcher (its slightly more expensive, but worth it for many reasons). I also am partaking in a health study that sends me vitamins in exchange for periodical surveys.
During school breaks I work as much as possible to have some money in my bank account. I recently worked for UPS over winter break delivering packages out of my personal vehicle. I was paid very well, and really enjoyed the daily challenge of getting the packages delivered quickly! One of my friends recently quipped “Do you ‘know someone’ for everything?” The short answer is no, but I do often utilize the connections that I have built in the community. Some of the most sound financial advice I ever received was to download apps that track my bank accounts, and credit cards. Knowledge is power, and sometimes checking my balance is the deciding factor between Chipotle and heading home to eat.
Aspects of College Life to Avoid
Sometimes it feels like college wants me to procrastinate. Professors that don’t mention that they posted homework assignments due the next night, term papers with subjects leaving much to be desired, and speeches that you are not allowed to read off notes.
Procrastination is the single greatest cause of stress in my life in college, one would think I learn my lesson after the first, fifth, or tenth time I wrote a paper due the next day (only to have my procrastination reinforced by good marks). I write a list of all the homework, work, and side projects I have to do at the beginning of a week — it feels really good when everything is done by Wednesday.
Not drinking is something that has helped me maintain a lot of time to do productive activities. I still enjoy socializing with my friends, and even going to a bar to hear live music once in a while, but not feeling the need to drink allows me to get home when I intend to and wake up ready for the day. As mentioned before, mitigating negative relationships is vital to athletic and academic success. People who drain you mentally, and emotionally will eventually drain you physically in one way or another. Understanding your training cycles will also help you avoid injury and burnout. I am constantly talking to my coach about what I should or shouldn’t modify if I am experiencing pain, fatigue, or even just being unmotivated for more than a day or two.
Weightlifting and being a student may seem like tall orders in and of themselves. Participating in both concurrently has given me an undeniable confidence and drive to be successful in all areas of my life that I derive fulfillment from. I encourage you to go out and find your passion, whatever it is and pursue it to its fullest every day. Maybe I will see you on the platform!
Images courtesy of @rob3clark.photo on Instagram
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.