I remember last September as if it were yesterday. I was full of optimism, slim, toned and with a cracking tan from my post-school celebratory holiday. I was no Victoria’s Secret model, but Miss Jean Brodie may have said that I was dangerously close to my prime. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was fully aware of the danger university threatened to my physique. Late nights, fast food and sickening volumes of cheap wine: all this threatened to add several stone onto my body, but I was determined to not become a statistic. I would be the small percentage of first-year students who resist the weight gain, I would rise above the after-party meals at two in the morning and I would only visit Dervish once a month. This was all charming in notion, but in practice, my naivety was evident and little was executed as I had planned. So, the weight was gained, the double chin was grown and the cold winter of St Andrews offered no comfort or temptation in the long, long walk from Sallies to the gym. I wish I had known better and I wish I had followed my own advice. So, to all you Freshers and people who, like me, wish they had had a full blown guide on how to avoid the Freshers’ 15, but still have fun in this small town (honestly, during those dark November evenings, sometimes Dominoes seems like the only option) I have devised a list of dos and don’ts on how to avoid that Fresher flub.
1. Go back to the Roots
Why did you choose St Andrews? Probably one of the reasons was the beaches and generally beautiful surroundings. Why not make proper use of them? You don’t have to run the length of West Sands (although this is a great workout). Instead go for a beach walk, group or solo. This can even be enjoyable on a cold November morning.
2. Spare a Thought for the Gym
It’s a quick and easy solution. If I had gone there even once more a week last year then this article may not even exist. Make it fun. Again, why not take a friend? Do what you enjoy. If you hate running, don’t quit immediately, wait until you’ve experienced those endorphins then see if you still don’t want to go back for more. Furthermore, the classes at the gym are excellent, so if, like me, you lack the self-motivation to stay on the treadmill for half an hour, sign up for class. They’re often not that long and all the gym staff who take them are very, very nice.
3. Join the Club
Perhaps more of a social venture than a health-related one, the sports clubs in St Andrews offer so many ways to get active and also meet loads of new people. Plus, Sinners is arguably one of St Andrews’ greatest night outs.
4. Outside the Norm
If you don”t fancy bumping into people from your tutorial or that guy from the night before, why not go further afield? The View offers a variety of classes and package deals so that you can give pilates, ballet barre and yoga a try. Functional Fitness St Andrews also offers great classes in crossfit and alternative ways to get fit. Finally, Hot House Yoga is an intense workout, which is one-of-a-kind in St Andrews. They are great alternatives, plus you are almost getting out of the Bubble.
5. Drunk Food
Okay, top tip, instead of buying Dervish cheesy chips at 2am and hating ourselves the next day, my roommate and I would buy in bumper packs of Quavers because they are basically air and satisfy those late night cravings. Tea and toast are also massive favourites of mine.
6. You are what you Eat
As unjust as it is, if you eat rubbish, you’re going to feel rubbish. Looking back, eating stuff that was so bad for me in the deep, dark nights of November was probably the worst idea for both my physical and mental health. Sugary foods give your blood sugar level an instant high but actually drop it back to lower than it originally was, leaving you hungrier and also feeling extremely deflated, therefore wanting more sugar. The Internet now has so many healthy recipes and alternatives to your good old packet of chocolate buttons and Market Street favourites, plus you’ll feel like you’ve achieved something in recreating them. Again, good for both your mental and physical state.
This is probably the most difficult aspect of university life. Freshers week and the rest of first year can seem for some like a never-ending party. We all know that excessive drinking in general and drinking on a regular basis is bad for your health. However, if you want the lowest calories, opt for spirits instead of wine, beer and cider. Mix them with soda, tonic water or diet mixers if you really have to.
One of the biggest causes of poor exercise attendance is our dear friend the hangover. Ways to avoid it include drinking the same drink all evening, having a litre of water before bed and eating a form of carbohydrate (remember tea and toast) before you sleep. However, ways to cure it are probably of more use to you. The best cure for a hangover is hands down getting out of bed and going for a beach walk, no matter rain nor shine, just get up, grab a hungover friend and walk halfway down West Sands. Trust me, it helps. Plus you get to discuss everything that happened the night before.
To conclude, I urge you all to remember the first meaning of the word ‘fit’. Your health is something that you have to put at the top of your priority list. The most wonderful thing about starting out running or going to the gym or doing a spin class is that you can confidently know that the first time is going to be the worst. This article is not an encouragement to get thin, but to get fit and healthy, or remain so. Everything in moderation is an annoyingly truthful stock phrase. Give into the temptation of the Tesco confectionery aisle when you want to, just don’t do it every night.