The Balancing Act

Last Sunday marked the start of yet another hectic year of my University year. Within this first week I have been flooded with full days of lectures, draining practicals and forced directed studies. Yet, amongst all this I expected myself to have now found a part time job and to continue to make progress in the gym. Unfortunately, this has been an issue that I have been unable to solve since embarking on my bodybuilding quest.

Within months, what started off as a half-hour social activity with friends became hour-long intense sessions. Today it is not unusual for me to spend around three hours per day at the gym, with my longest ever session at the gym during the summer clocking in at a whopping 255mins! You might be questioning what I may be doing in that time, even wondering whether I actually spend that time training or getting distracted by external factors. The truth is when you combine the time spent stretching, foam rolling (the importance of which will be discussed in a future post) and warming up, alongside the intense volume of my workout regiment, the four hours seem more reasonable.

Spending four hours may seem fine in a summer where time would otherwise be allocated to re-watching episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air for the umpteenth time, but throw in a demanding University degree and it’s a whole different ball game. My second year was the perfect example of this. Being immersed in the “gym hype”, whilst still trying to recover from being the slob that I was during my first year, did not bode well academically. The time that was spent clubbing in the year prior, was now being allocated for working out. Although there may have been no hangover the next day, limiting myself to just 5 hours sleep was affecting both my muscle recovery and alertness during lectures.

This academic year, I had initially decided to work out BEFORE lectures, waking up at 5am, getting ready by 6.30 and back at 8.50. However after my first trial of this day plan last Wednesday, I’m not so sure. Granted I was able to fit my training, lectures and holy 8-hour sleeping window within the day, but there was not much time left to socialise and enjoy myself. Saying this, it is almost impossible to fit in all that we want to do within a day, and giving up social time for progress is a sacrifice I am more than willing to make.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to getting our priorities right. I remember being asked by friends whether it is possible to gain mass or lose fat WITHOUT stepping foot into the gym! Would you expect to earn your salary without actually working? We all have the same 24 hours, but it’s what you do with it that makes all the difference. Not many people are willing to sacrifice a night-out with friends for their own self-improvement at the gym. Even fewer would say “No” when pressured. There have been days when the motivation was lacking (especially last Wednesday), but just like with school and work, it WILL improve when you knuckle down.

Now that’s not to say I spend my days in solitary confinement, working, gymming and sleeping. I make sure I spend time with my closest of friends, and even have a designated cheat day once a week so I can fit that local Chinese buffet that has recently become our flat’s regular get-together. The best thing about it is, that full day of binge eating hardly sets me back (if at all) due to the hours of hard work and discipline I have been putting in the prior six days in that week! Being fortunate enough to have friends that appreciate what you do helps massively too, although that comes naturally when you associate yourself with like-minded individuals.

Whether I have got the balance finally right remains to be seen, with the initial major test coming up in the form of my January exams. Yet the initial signs seem to be encouraging. For those of you that want to get into shape but feel like you don’t have the time, please think again. Do you actually have no time? Or is that time being spent forming your Ultimate Team on FIFA, in the pub or any other activities that actually won’t aid you in achieving your goals?



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