If you’re a college student, you’ve probably faced the quintessential challenge of staying healthy. With all-you-can-eat meal plans, late night munchies and the dark abyss known as finals period, it can be hard to make healthy choices. For health guru and fitness sensation Cassey Ho, CEO of Blogilates, it wasn’t any different – she, too, was a college student and wholly understands the struggles that we face.

In a recent interview with Spoon and Q&A with healthyU, Cassey gives her best tips on stress, fitness, food and community, key factors for staying healthy in college. It isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth it!

On Stress:

Spoon: What tips do you have for college students to get and stay healthy, especially under stressful conditions?

CH: First, sleep. Oh my gosh, sleep so much; I would get average of 4-5 hrs of sleep in college, and it wasn’t until a year ago that I started a healthy amount of sleep (7-8 hrs) and turning in before 12 am, and now I am less stressed, my cortisol levels have decreased and my metabolism has healed.

In college, time is always an issue. You’re stressed about class and work, and things can really pile up. Still, you gotta make time for yourself and for exercise, just like you make time for your papers and problem sets. Put it into your planner. Gather a group of friends together and work out together – it’ll make it much more fun.

Cassey Ho

Photo courtesy of @healthyu.yale on Instagram

Spoon: What do you do to destress?

CH: To destress, I like to get massages, visit the farmer’s market to get groceries, and to cook. Cooking is creative and meditative for me, and I love designing new recipes.

On Fitness:

Spoon: For those of us just starting out, what advice do you have for taking that first step?

CH: Make a plan. It’s hard, but it’s really satisfying to embark on this journey and to see your progress. Sometimes you just need to do it and take that first step. I have monthly workout calendars on my website, and designed a beginners’ calendar for those just starting out. These plans are free and it’s really gratifying to see yourself get stronger and graduate from the beginners’ calendar to the other calendars.

#SpoonTip: Cassey has countless videos on her YouTube channel that are quick, convenient and sure to work up a sweat.

Spoon: What exercises and/or workout programs do you recommend?

CH: Personally, I recommend pilates, POP pilates specifically, as it’s my true love and has improved my life so much. I just love PIIT. It’s a combination of pilates and High-Intensity Interval Training (PIIT) – I do it every single day. There’s no need for equipment, and you can do it anywhere. Every Wednesday evening after work, the Blogifam embarks on a specially designed PIIT routine.

PIIT28 healthyU

Photo courtesy of ilovenewhaven.org

Spoon: Where do you get inspiration for your workouts?

CH: A lot of my inspiration comes from fan comments, whether it be Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Facebook – that’s how I kept growing, by listening to fans. For example, after I uploaded the 1000 squats challenge, people commented that they thought 1000 abs would be cool, so that’s what I did!

However, for anyone looking to start or maintain exercise, you need to find something you love. For me, it’s pilates but for you, it may be running or CrossFit or dancing: find what you love and you’ll have a much easier time sticking with it.

Spoon: Just out of curiosity, how are you able to talk through the intense workouts you upload on YouTube?

CH: Haha, I’ve been teaching for 10 years, and therefore practicing for 10 years. It comes through practice. This applies to any endeavor – practice is key. You don’t have to talk during the workouts, though, you just have to do them!

Cassey Ho

Photo courtesy of @blogilates on Instagram

On Food:

Spoon: What is a typical day of eating for you?

CH: For breakfast, I like to have a fruit smoothie with almond milk, bananas, strawberries and sometimes orange. At lunch, I typically eat a salad or cooked veggies with protein, like a chicken salad with almonds on top and avocado slices, with strawberry vinaigrette dressing.

As a snack, I’ll have some fruit or coconut yogurt. I’ve recently been obsessed with poke bowls, so that’s what I’ve been having for dinner but another standard dinner would be salmon and asparagus with a side of quinoa, or another protein + veggie + whole grain combo. Also, when I get hungry, I’ll have an apple with peanut butter. 

Spoon: Where do you get inspiration for your healthy meals and recipes?

CH: I draw inspiration from reading books, watching shows and just experimenting! I work with Erin, the new Blogilates Head of Nutrition and Executive Chef. Our guidelines are to create recipes that are nutritiously dense and to stay away from processed foods, making sure people feel energized afterward. We aim for high protein and fiber as well.

Cassey Ho

Photo courtesy of @blogilates on Instagram

On Community:

Spoon: You started Blogilates while in college, and many of us health enthusiasts aspire to be like you. Do you have advice on how to establish a community and spread the health?

CH: You just need to get started. Work on your personality and let it shine; don’t worry about getting the details, like video editing, perfect. Start giving people the information you know, and don’t be selfish about keeping things to yourself.

When I started uploading videos, I wanted to leave something for my former yoga students in college, out of integrity to keep serving my community. It’s the intention that makes all the difference. Before you give fitness advice, however, you need to get ACE or AFAA certified.

Cassey Ho

Photo by Alyssa Chen

Lightning Round

Spoon: Favorite exercise?
CH: The Dancer’s Sweep.

Spoon: Favorite Cheap Clean Eats recipe?
CH: Two-ingredient banana pancakes.

Spoon: Favorite meal of the week?
CH: Breakfast on Sunday mornings. This is when I feel the most relaxed and have time to cook!

Spoon: Favorite snack?
CH: Peanut butter and apple.

Spoon: Favorite entree?
CH: Poke bowl.

Spoon: Favorite dessert?
CH: Plain tart greek yogurt from Go Greek.

Spoon: Most intense workout you’ve ever done?
CH: Sometimes on Wednesdays when we do PIIT, I put together crazy combinations and once, we couldn’t walk for days after.

Spoon: How often do you work out?
CH: Typically 6-7 times a week. It’s not crazy because my workouts are 30-40 minutes long. I don’t schedule in rest days because they will come when they come, with travel, for instance. I like to let rest come naturally.

Spoon: What sports have you played?
CH: In high school, I was a competitive tennis player. I competed for 4 years, was team captain for 3, and my dad was a UFTA coach – he was tough.

Spoon: What is your go-to mantra?
CH: Comparison is the thief of joy.