Every Tuesday and Thursday, Samantha Spino rolls out of bed at 6 am, puts on a T-shirt and stretch pants, grabs her University of Md. ID and drags herself next door – to the Campus Recreation Center.
“I like working out in the morning,” Spino said. “There’s hardly anyone there so there’s no wait for the machines.”
“I like being back in shape,” she said.
“If this is how I have to do it, then so be it.”
Health experts note that in the spring, it’s common for students like Spino to be motivated to put in extra time at the gym, usually to melt away winter weight gain.
Tracy Zeeger, the coordinator for University of Maryland’s Center for Health and Wellbeing, found that students come to the center for health and fitness advice at two key periods: after New Year and before spring break.
“After the first of the year we get a lot of students coming to us to fulfill New Year’s resolutions,” Zeeger said. “But a couple of weeks after, the number of students taper off.”
Zeeger works with students individually to set health and fitness goals on a weekly basis. She finds that it’s easier for students to become motivated to stay in shape in the spring when the weather is nicer and the days are longer.
The University Health Center dietician, Jane Jakubczak agrees.
“They become much more motivated to watch what they eat in the spring,” Jakubczak said.
“Physiologically, students eat comfort foods in the winter to keep warm,” she said. “But when it gets hotter outside, they don’t want heavy foods so they eat lighter.”
Though there are a consistent group of students that will come in throughout the year, the second rush, right before spring break, brings students who are motivated to get in shape to lose weight, Zeeger said.
Jakubczak noticed that the reason students come to her for counseling is when they break out the clothes from last season and realize they can’t fit into them anymore.
“Students are also wearing less clothing,” Jakubczak said. “They’re more self-conscious about the way their body looks.”
To help motivate students, Zeeger suggests going to group fitness classes, where “it’s someone else’s job to motivate you.” She also emphasizes the importance that each student is motivated in a different way, and it’s her job to help students find out what that is.
“One girl who comes in loves to run on the outdoor track,” Zeeger said. “Round and round in circles – it’s just what she likes.”
Jakubczak finds it’s helpful for students to remember how much better they feel when they eat better, and to use that feeling as motivation.
“People today always want to see instant gratification,” Jakubczak said. “It’s difficult to do that with weight loss, so I tell them to think of the rush they get after a good workout.”
“People across the board say it makes them feel better, and I try to highlight that,” she said.
To make the most of a jog, Zeeger also suggested putting magazines away and using music instead.