Thursday, 1 September 2011

Preparation for Life at University, Part 1

As the start of the new university term approaches, we hope to bring you a range of blog articles that will give you some ideas on how to organise your life, get the most out of university life, and help you strike a balance between sport, study and social life.

Having spent most of the past 14 years either studying or working at a University, I am what is known as the eternal student.  This is partially because I’m scared that if I move away from University I’ll have to grow up, but mostly because I have an appreciation of the importance of the university years.  I believe that the university environment can be a perfect one in which to nurture talent and realise your true ability.  Yes exams and assignments are difficult, but it’s only when you go on to a nine-to-five job that you really appreciate how easily you had it.

From my experiences, these are some of the top mistakes students-athletes make while at University:

  1. Drinking too much
  2. Not bothering with their sport in the first year because they want to make new friends,
  3. Training too hard and get injured all the time,
  4. Take a ‘year-out’ of their sport to concentrate on their final year,

I’ve never met a person who said that they wish they’d drank more at university or went out more often.  I’ve met many who whished they’d concentrated more on their sport and studies.

Be Sensible about your Training Schedule
Many athletes train too much when at University.  If you have the opportunity to train with a good group or team, it’s likely that you can access sessions twice a day, 6 or 7 days a week.  Be careful though.  This intensity may be appropriate for a 3rd or 4th year student who has gradually been increasing their training over the years.  It is not appropriate for a first year who has previously only trained 3 or 4 times a week.  Be sensible.  Speak to your coach about what you have done up to that point.  Don’t feel that you are being soft by not doing all the sessions available to you.

Balance Training Intensity and Social Life
It is inevitable that there will be some late nights during your time at University.  Whether this is a social night out, or an all-nighter to get an assignment finished on time, don’t ‘punish’ yourself by still trying to do high intensity sessions the next day just because they have been scheduled.  You are much more likely to get injured or pick up a cold if you train when you are tired and dehydrated (i.e. hungover).  Plan ahead.  If you have an important session, don’t drink the night before and come home early, or adjust the training plan so that you have a light session the day after a night out.  If you have more nights out than you do high intensity sessions in a week, then you probably going out too much.

Get Plenty of Sleep
Don’t underestimate the value of sleep.  When you are trying to pack you life with study, training and partying, it’s easy to try and burn the candle at both ends.  Sleep is very important though.  Set aside one evening a week when you go to bed early and catch up on sleep lost during the rest of the week.  This is far more effective than having a lie-in.

Eat Sensibly
The traditional student diet of pizza and curry is probably not the best for a high-performance sports person.  Be sensible, plan ahead and eat as much fresh fruit and vegetable as possible.  Over the coming weeks we will suggest some healthy, cheap, easy-to-prepare meals and snacks that you can use.

It may sound like a bit of a contradiction, but enjoy your student days.  You don’t have to drink every night to make the most of the student experience.  Be clear about what you want from your days at university.  With a little bit of organisation, everything else will fall into place.

In part 2 we'll take a look at basic time management and planning strategies.  Fell free to post your own advice and time saving tips in the comments section at the bottom of the post.

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