As the sun rises over the Potomac, most GW students are snuggling a little deeper under the covers. But sophomore Lynn Tan is hitting the pavement on her daily jog around the White House.
“It’s a great stress reliever,” says the California native. Around campus, many students are discovering that exercise is necessary to combat typically unhealthy college living, including late-night pizza parties, ice-cream binges and calorie-heavy beer.
Even the new food stations at J Street lean toward not-so-healthy fast food options like Burger King and Taco Bell.
“The food and lifestyle in college makes it easy to gain weight,” graduate student Mike Flores says.
Luckily, beginning a fitness regimen at GW can be easy, even for the most experienced couch potato. Taking the long way to class or taking the stairs are simple ways to increase the activity level in a daily routine.
On the Foggy Bottom campus, the Smith Center is the hub of athletic activity. It accommodates about 3,000 students every day, says Aubre Jones, director of Recreation Sports and Fitness Services.
The Smith Center, which is home to many club and intramural sports teams, offers a weight room and an exercise room with stationary bikes, stair-climbers and rowing machines. By the end of the month, Jones says the Smith Center will begin a series of exercise seminars in conjunction with the department of exercise science. Though there is no exercise professional available to advise students on safety and techniques, Jones says students can simply follow the instructions on most of the exercise machines or ask other exercisers for help.
For a change in exercise regimen, the Smith Center also offers a rock-climbing wall, pool and racquetball courts and basketball courts, available for pick-up games. A potpourri of classes, ranging from step to kick-boxing, are also among the Smith Center’s most popular offerings. For some, though, their own drive is strong enough.
“I was on the swim team in high school, but in college I started exercising on my own,” says senior Remy Tesser. “There’s more personal motivation here. I look forward to it.”
Within the exercise science department a slew of one-credit courses offer a hands-on, academic approach to fitness. Creative options include foil fencing, yoga, tae kwon do and aquaerobics. Even horseback riding is a credit option.
Tan, who enjoys taking her workout off campus, advises “exploiting all the opportunities we’re offered here. Even walking around the city is exercise!”
Despite GW’s urban campus, the surrounding areas offer a plethora of exercise options. The Potomac path, which stretches from Georgetown’s harbor front past the Lincoln Memorial, is a favorite for skaters, bikers, runners and walkers. Checking out the monuments is another physical adventure, (just jogging the Lincoln steps is challenging). If the weather is pleasant, paddle boating in the Tidal Basin is a unique alternative to standard exercise.
No matter the level of physical intensity, exercisers should start and end each workout with a short, low-intensity aerobic warm-up and stretching, says Jolie Glass, director of the Women’s Exercise Research Center in the School of Public Health and Health Services.
She also recommends drinking plenty of water, juice or sports drinks before, during and after exercise to replenish lost liquids. The most important thing, though, is sticking with an exercise program.
“Choose an emotionally safe environment,” Glass says, one where the atmosphere is supportive and not intimidating. But more importantly, she says, “Make it fun!”
-Gayle Horwitz contributed to this report