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Magnum Athlete Meredith Perry writes about her experience juggling life between being a student and bodybuilder.
When I reflect on my four-year experience in university, I notice that getting an education and being an athlete in bodybuilding have many similarities. They are both a marathon, not a sprint, requiring long-term dedication and rarely offering instant gratification. In both cases, the most valuable part was the journey, not the end result.
You continuously become a better version of yourself through all the new experiences and people that you meet. In both cases, your willpower will be tested. You will feel overwhelmed and want to quit. You develop a mantra that if something doesn’t go right, just keep going… try again!
You find yourself asking the question, “Who do I want to be?” We all know the stereotypical student experience of excessive drinking, fast food, and poor sleeping habits. I began my undergrad thinking that I could somehow balance being a fitness guru by day and a carefree fun-loving student by night. It only took a few months to realize that participating in both lifestyles just was not realistic! Predictably, I gained some extra body fat and my grades were not where I wanted them. I was unhappy and unfulfilled.
Something I didn’t realize would be such an important lesson was to put myself first! I had to decide what I wanted, and I took steps toward prioritizing these goals. If I spread myself thin, I had to accept that I couldn't give 100% effort to every aspect of my life. It was pivotal for me to reflect and decide what was most important to me and really focus on that.
First and foremost, my priority is my mental health; it is impossible to excel at anything if I am struggling mentally. This means I needed a nutritious diet, better sleep, more water, and daily workouts. This helps maintain a positive mental state. My education was critical to me and to my future goals, therefore my grades were a high priority. I am happiest when my goals, self-identity and actions align. I identified as a fit, intelligent and hardworking person. Once I started actively chasing my goals, I felt like myself again. I chose to put my own happiness above pleasing others and fitting in.
I learned what areas I was willing to sacrifice.
Once you know what you want, it is important to accept that goals require sacrifice. I had to accept that I couldn't drink alcohol or eat pizza with my friends very often because I had terrible workouts when I did; I felt foggy and lazy and didn't sleep well! Not to mention that alcohol is full of sugar and empty calories. I am happiest when I eat healthy foods that give my body and mind fuel so I am feeling energized and sharp. I chose to do what best fosters my happiness, and that meant sacrificing some social treats.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a natural feeling, especially when scrolling through highlight reels on social media. In reality, I’m not missing out on much! In fact, it is because of the lifestyle I chose that I made unforgettable memories through my university experience! I volunteered, took dance classes, and made amazing friends. The fitness community has brought me endless fun and fulfilling opportunities. I even got sponsored by the world’s most fantastic company.
In my opinion, if you can't have fun with the people you’re with, without the aid of drinking and eating treats, you're with the wrong people. After committing to my goals, my friend groups slowly shifted to other bodybuilding competitors, athletes, and people who had similar lifestyles and values. I can confidently say I gained way more than I sacrificed through both my university and fitness career so far.
Preparation is absolutely essential to any health and fitness goal. Remember: If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. This applies to just about any goal you set. My favourite way to always be prepared is to meal prep. It has helped me in both my university and bodybuilding journeys. I set aside time once or twice a week to cook healthy meals and snacks so I can focus on my studies while staying on track with my nutrition goals. It’s repetitive but such a useful tool to success! Bringing extra food to campus in case you end up having to stay longer is key. Not only is campus food mostly unhealthy, but it's expensive, too! Get familiar with where the microwaves are on campus and don't forget to pack hot sauce and utensils!
As a healthy alternative, I cannot say enough good things about Magnum Quattro Protein - I’ve got all my friends hooked! It tasted like a treat, and I always looked forward to my daily shake. It is also a quick and easy meal if you don't have time to prepare and enjoy a sit-down meal.
My take on fitness is to just get it done! Go into the gym with a plan, execute the plan and get out. You will feel stressed out sometimes as a student, so it is essential to use the gym as an outlet, not a means to avoid your schoolwork, so be efficient. I recommend getting a locker on campus to keep shower essentials and gym shoes, so you don't have to carry them around. Make it a social thing when possible, invite others to work out with you! I was always the friend who motivated my friends to work out and I liked playing that role. I recommend keeping Magnum Pre Fo or Magnum Fasted Cardio in your locker for the days you need a little extra motivation.
I am still learning and I made a lot of mistakes along the way. My take-home point is to do what makes you happy, create a plan to accomplish your goals, and try your best. You will have better days and worse days, but they are all a part of the path. Accept and learn from your mistakes, but don't dwell on them. Make sure to take time to celebrate your success and accomplishments.
You can have your cake, your bodybuilding career, and your degree too, but it takes time and dedication. You will become that better version of yourself that you strive to be.
Meredith Parry is Magnum Athlete, IFBB Pro, and a recent graduate from Brock University where she earned her Bachelors in Kinesiology. She is a Personal Trainer and Coach for her own brand, Legendary Fitness, where she is devoted to helping people build confidence by achieving and surpassing their health and fitness goals. Follow Meredith on Instagram for fitness inspiration and motivation!