No matter what anyone says, your first semester of college will come with challenges. Whether it be adjusting to the college workload, being away from home, trying to find your niche, or getting used to living with a roommate first semester of freshman year is not easy.  I'll be honest, I was pretty miserable first semester of my freshman year. I struggled with a lot of these things, and I began to see the toll it was taking on me both academically and socially. Since the very beginning of the semester, my dad had been telling me to try going down to the gym since studies show that exercising can improve grades, and maybe it would lift my spirits a bit. Me being the stubborn daughter that I am, didn't listen to anything he said and claimed that I had no time in my day to take an exercise break. Fast-forward to the end of winter break–when it was time to return back to campus for the second semester of my freshman year–I was definitely anxious about returning, and could not even think about having another 15 weeks of what I endured during my first semester. But I went in ready to try new things with an open mind, and I even decided to take my dad's advice. I never could have predicted the effects going to the gym had on me, and how going to the gym changed my freshman year.

My Grades Improved Significantly

My first semester GPA was not something I enjoyed looking at every time I logged in to my student account. My energy was gone by the time finals came around. It was hard to stay motivated in the classes I was uninterested and not doing well in. When I started incorporating workouts in to my daily routine, I found that my grades also began to experience the benefits. I had more energy to complete my assignments and I was able to focus more when preparing for exams, and I definitely think there was a link between the exercise I was doing and my performance academically. Going to the gym changed my freshman year because I was now extremely proud of my grades, which is not something I could have said after my first semester. 

My Time Management Skills Got Better

My thought first semester was, "I am so busy and there is no way I can fit in time to go the gym when I have more important things, like school, to be doing." I could not have been more wrong. After my first few trips down to the gym, it quickly became something that I enjoyed doing, and I looked forward to it all day long. I became more motivated to get my work and studying done, so that I would have time later in the day to fit a workout in. I created a schedule for what I had to do when classes were over, and this schedule forced me to maximize the time I had left in the day. Checking off the boxes on my Google Tasks list became a very satisfying feeling for me. I also found myself spending less time on my phone throughout the day. Rather than taking Netflix breaks in the library, my gym trips were the perfect time to fit in three episodes of The Office, no matter how many weird looks I got from other gym-goers. Going to the gym changed my freshman year because I learned how to use my time more efficiently.

I Got In The Best Shape I've Ever Been In

Weight has always been an insecurity and struggle of mine. Coming into college, I was definitely worried about the dreaded "Freshman 15". My physical activity first semester consisted of walking across campus to get from place to place, and while that did help me in not gaining the "Freshman 15", I wanted to do more to get in better shape. When I made my first trip down to the gym, the first thing I did was participate in a group cycling class offered on campus. Being in a room full of 16 other people excited and motivated to exercise was just the boost I needed. The energy in the room was extremely empowering, with the loud music playing, disco ball spinning, and instructor encouraging us along the way. The cycling classes made me both physically and mentally stronger, which has been useful in all areas of my life. Along with going to the cycling classes, I now enjoy using the machines and weights on my own. By the end of the semester, I had actually lost weight, and I have never felt better about myself. The gym changed my freshman year because I am now the healthiest and most confident that I have ever been, and am proud of the work I have put in to get to where I am today.  

I Was The Happiest I Had Been All Year

My mood and attitude definitely improved from my first to second semester. While there were still some aspects of college that I was struggling with and adjusting to, I was so much happier and felt a lot better about myself. Rather than being so consumed by my studies, which was not always fun, I set time aside to do things that were fun and that I enjoyed, but did not interfere with my academics. I had a very negative and pessimistic outlook first semester, but became more positive and optimistic about my future by the end of the year. I was happier about my academics, happier about my health, and just happier overall. 

Making that first trip down to the gym was definitely a step outside of my comfort zone, but a step I am so glad I took. To this day, I still make it a priority to make time to get to the gym and I am still seeing all of the same benefits. If your first semester did not go how you envisioned it would, try doing something outside of your comfort zone next semester and see if anything changes for you. Whether it be going down to the gym like me, joining a new club, or branching out to new people, try something new and see if it makes the difference between your two semesters. I sure know it did for me! And also, don't make the same mistake that I did; listen to your dad's advice the first time around.