The Distinct Joy of Exercising in College

There’s the shift of your feet across pavement, it’s the air entering your lungs and exiting in sharp, cold breaths–oxygen flowing into your bloodstream. Your feet toss leaves aside. You toss everything aside: exams, the homework you’ve been struggling through, the family drama going down at home, the endless text messages wearing you down, the fact that your brain hurts from thinking about it all. You toss aside everything as you run through the fallen leaves on this gorgeous campus that God has given you. You run and are finally at peace, as you separate yourself from everything. It’s just you, the Lord, and the pavement. This is why running is a distinct joy for me.

This is why I’m an advocate of exercising in college.

I wasn’t always this way. In high school, I was on a swim team, but in college exercise wasn’t exactly my thing. My parents forced me to hike and exercise with them. I despised hiking. I liked poptarts.

A couple of years ago, two events changed my perspective. (Okay, don’t judge the honesty here.)

  1. I got stuck working inside a stuffy pizza shop all summer. I smelled like cheese and grease from May-August. Suddenly, I craved being outside, and would find every excuse to drag the trash out to the dumpster just to feel the sun on my skin, just to feel human again. Suddenly exercising outdoors sounded like a wonderful idea.
  2. I had a crush on a runner. He was running solo, and of course he needed someone to run with him… (F.Y.I: That relationship did not work out, but I discovered a love for running through that experience.)

Yes, honesty. Anyway, once I started exercising I realized how much of a positive change it was in my life:

  1. It became a way to release stress, and use up energy that before I started running, I had been pouring into worry and anxiety-filled thoughts.
  2. Running made me focus and concentrate more in school. It just did.
  3. I started realizing how healthy running was for my body.
  4. It forced me to manage my time better. Running required me to plan out when I was going to run each week, and that planning made me balance my life in more healthy ways.
  5. Exercise can be an opportunity to pray. Sometimes it can be a bit hard to pray during an intense workout, but all workouts are not intense. Sometimes it’s wonderful to run at a slower pace, just enjoy nature, and enjoy the peace of Christ.

So. What I offer to you is this: find your groove. Figure out the types of exercise you enjoy. Maybe you’re into running, lacrosse, soccer, lifting weights, ping-pong, or dancing? Figure it out, and start exercising regularly. It doesn’t have to be anything insane, but set a goal and stick with it. Set small, attainable goals for yourself. Running three blocks farther than the last time you ran is an example of this. Running a marathon the first day you buy running shoes is not.

Also, don’t get hung up on everyone showing off on Instagram. They’re probably spending more time taking the picture than exercising anyway. Exercise for yourself–not other people. Enjoy yourself, as you start exercising in college. Enjoy the distinct joy.