Let’s take a second to break down that title. Staying fit does not mean getting that “summer body” or taking off inches from your waist, it merely implies maintaining a healthy body. Working out to fit into the idealized, impossible body standard society throws at us is the wrong reason to do it. You are bound to start down the road of body dysmorphia and self hatred. Instead, we should be working out for all the health & mental benefits. If my body is my temple then why wouldn’t I want to maintain it and make it a comfortable living space for my soul?
To me, staying fit means staying healthy in whatever way works for you. A big part of that is exercise; weightlifting is not for everyone, neither is running, yoga, or kick-boxing. To start a weightlifting journey is to put your ego to rest. Starting weightlifting is nothing short of rocky and embarrassing. From using machines wrong to ego lifting, I have done it all. But that is just another thing to conquer as insecurity turns to capability and confidence. I have been lifting consistently 5-7 times/week for 3 years by now. So you can see how going abroad for the semester would make me uneasy about losing progress. This blog is based on my experience as well as the personal reminders I give myself on a daily basis while abroad.
My Own Spanish Gym
When I arrived in late January I was already scouting for gyms in my area and finally settled on LowFit Viapol Center. Straying from my favorite American gym and second home was definitely daunting. Strangely enough, LowFit has become one of the most familiar things to me here. That gym feels like home. My workouts and JID playing in my headphones are probably the only things that haven’t changed in my life since coming abroad. I almost forget that the people around me are speaking Spanish and not good old midwestern English.
There are a few concepts I want to address here.
1. A gym is a gym
While the price for a gym membership is generally more pricey in Europe than in the US, and of course the weights are in kilograms instead of pounds–a gym is a gym. As long as there are some free weights and a bench, you can get a decent workout in. I have been to many different gyms and it’s a little crazy how the same weight machines, such as the lat pull-down bar, are found all over the world.
2. Putting your fitness journey on the back-burner is okay.
It is easy to get lost in the panic of missing a workout, to hate yourself for it. Just think about all the happy moments you miss out on with that attitude. You can always get a good workout in. You cannot always travel somewhere new, meet your people, and have the experiences that shape you. Your workouts may take a backseat while you immerse yourself in the culture that is your new home. Need I say it again? That is OKAY. You have a lifetime to workout, you do not have a lifetime to study abroad. As long as you are active; walking, paddle boarding, juggling–it doesn’t matter! Let’s be real, it’s four months.
3. Food is not earned
Studying abroad is such an amazing opportunity to try new food! Passing up meals or restricting your eating abroad is A.) denying yourself once in a life time experiences, and B.) unhealthy. Our bodies need food, it needs fuel. Your workouts are useless, if not harmful, without eating to fullness.
4. A well-rounded workout is not just weights; A well-rounded fitness is not just exercise.
Within the weight room, there are a few key things are constantly overlooked: hydration, stretching, and warming up. With whatever activity you do to stay active during your months abroad, keep these in mind more than ever. A warm up could be your ten minute walk to the gym before weights, stretching can be pre-, intra-, or post-workout. The most important thing is listening to your body. Do what works for you.
Outside the gym, fitness becomes a mindset. Taking a week off working out to relax on the beach in Cádiz after midterms is maybe what your mind and body need sometimes. Your ‘hard-earned gains’ are not going anywhere, but your mental sanity might if you don’t take time for yourself. Studying abroad is scary at first and it is important to take care of yourself.
Tessa Fiore is a student at University of Nebraska Lincoln and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying with ISA in Seville, Spain.