Looking forward to the long lazy days of summer, free of alarm clocks and late-night study sessions? Of course you are. But the summer break can also cause a break in your fitness routine, which can give you a sluggish start when it’s time to jump into a new school year in the fall.
Why? Consistent physical activity means more energy, improved academic performance, a better mood, and less stress—according to research—and that stuff matters for when you’re done lazing by the pool.
According to a recent Student Health 101 survey, besides the scorching heat, the biggest barrier to staying active during the summer is not having a set schedule. “If I have a job without a consistent schedule, it’s more difficult to have a consistent workout schedule,” says Bailey E., a second-year undergraduate at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Crazy how much of a difference a season free of sports’ practices can make, huh?
Then there’s the opposite problem: being so busy with a summer internship that finding time to stay active is even tougher than during the school year. “I work two jobs, one during the day and one at night. I have little free time,” says Maizie W., a third-year undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh.
The key to nailing down your summer fitness routine
Having an active summer isn’t impossible. Behavioral research shows us that students who believe they can make it happen are more likely to be active. Figure out what works for you, keep your goals realistic, and create a specific plan that anticipates what might get in the way.
Student Health 101 joined up with Bette Vargas, a certified personal trainer and wellness coach, to show us how to get there. In just a half an hour, you can put together your own killer fitness plan and set yourself up for an active summer that will keep your mind and your muscles from getting stale.
Bette Vargas is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach in San Francisco, California.
Got fitness goals? Plan it out
OK, so you want to be active this summer. Awesome—that’s step one toward crushing your summer fitness goals. Next, take your plan one step further—start identifying the stuff that blocks you from being the next ninja warrior (or just an awesome active person), and think about how you’ll overcome it.
Vargas suggests jotting down the answers to a few open-ended questions, such as:
- What are some activities that I enjoy that keep me moving?
- What keeps me from being more active or from participating in a particular sport or activity?
- What might help me feel better about the idea of moving more?
No sharing required, but honesty is recommended. “At the end of the day, no one is going to see that information but you,” she says.
Once you’ve checked in with your inner obstacles, it’s time to figure out how to work through them. Use our worksheet to help you get there.
Turn your fitness plan into a reality
- Copy or print out the worksheet to fill out your plan. Start thinking about the possibilities and record your answers to the following questions:
- What’s nearby? (For example: The park)
- How much time do I have? (30 minutes)
- What do I like? (Hanging out with friends)
- What could I try? (Arranging to meet friends at the park for a Frisbee® game or checking out a new hiking trail)
- What can I spend? ($10 on a new Frisbee or $0 for a hike)
- What motivates me? (Being outside in Instagram-worthy spots and spending time with my friends)
- What are my realistic goals? (To be active with my friends for at least 30 minutes, twice a week)
- What roadblocks might I run into? (Scorching-hot days, my summer job schedule, missing friends when they’re gone on vacation)
- Go back through your plan, highlight your best options, and figure out what needs to happen first (e.g., researching options, talking with your friends, getting gear, checking the weather so you’re not planning to be outside on the hottest day of the month).
- Finalize your activities by setting dates and adding them to your calendar or planner. Share your plan with others so you’re less likely to flake out.
Here’s how other students are making it work this summer
“To remind myself to partake in regular physical activity, I try to plan things with friends, whether it’s going for a hike, swimming at the lake, or playing tennis.”
—Sarah M., fourth-year undergraduate, Portland State University, Oregon
“Drink lots of water, wear breathable fabrics, and set an early reminder to work out before the sun fully rises to avoid the crazy heat waves.”
—Sonya Marlyn M., fourth-year graduate student, College of the Desert, California
“I have gym friends, I have a group run set up, and I make my own plans on nice days to get out and do something.”
—Nathaniel B., second-year undergraduate, University of Maine
“I have a schedule of when to work out and a minimum number of times I need to work out per week. I also make up a workout if I miss a day.”
—Danielle S., fourth-year undergraduate, Oregon Institute of Technology
Bette Vargas, certified personal trainer, wellness coach, and owner of Vargas Fitness Enterprises, University of California, San Francisco.
Allison, K. R., Dwyer, J. J., & Makin, S. (1999). Perceived barriers to physical activity among high school students. Preventive Medicine, 28(6), 608–615.
American Heart Association. (2014, September). Get moving: Easy tips to get active! Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/GettingActive/Get-Moving-Easy-Tips-to-Get-Active_UCM_307978_Article.jsp#.V2wxZmQrIsk
Barr-Anderson, D. J., AuYoung, M., Whitt-Glover, M. C., Glenn, B. A., et al. (2011). Integration of short bouts of physical activity into organizational routine: A systematic review of the literature. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 40(1), 76–93.
Berrington, L. (2016, April 1). Fitness for focus: How to power up your brain. Student Health 101, 2(15).
Carmona, J. (2016, June). How to have an actively awesome summer: Turn your fitness dreams into reality. Student Health 101, 11(10).
Chomitz, V. R., Slining, M. M., McGowan, R. J., Mitchell, S. E., et al. (2009). Is there a relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement? Positive results from public school children in the northeastern United States. Journal of School Health, 79(1), 30–37.
Dolan, S. (2012). Benefits of group exercise. American College of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2012/01/20/benefits-of-group-exercise
National Physical Activity Plan (2014). The 2014 United States report card on physical activity for children and youth. Retrieved from https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/other-documents/nationalreportcard_longform_final-for-web(2).pdf?sfvrsn=0
Reichert, F. F., Barros, A. J., Domingues, M. R., & Hallal, P. C. (2007). The role of perceived personal barriers to engagement in leisure-time physical activity. American Journal of Public Health, 97(3), 515–519.
Women’s Health Watch (2009). Why it’s hard to change unhealthy behaviour—and why you should keep trying. Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-its-hard-to-change-unhealthy-behavior
Whelan, D. (2016, September). Your fall fitness fix: How & why to make it happen. Student Health 101, 12(1).