Easy Steps to Staying Fit

Sara Angle

College can be a huge adjustment period, not only mentally and emotionally, but also physically. The daily routine from high school is shaken up and turned upside down when you enter the college world, where an 11 p.m. meal is normal and bedtime is closer to sunrise than sunset. The drastic changes that our bodies go through during this time should not be ignored.

“Starting a healthy lifestyle now carries into your adult life,” Director of Intramurals and Recreation Lisa Melillo says.

Villanova offers a few options on campus to help students achieve their goals of a healthy lifestyle.

Melillo, a graduate of Ithaca College with a degree in athletic training and exercise science, developed a personal training program that is new to students this semester. After the Davis Center opened two years ago, the fitness center space on campus doubled, and Melillo saw a huge increase in the number of students going to the gym. With the campus’ new focus on fitness, many students who previously went to outside facilities stayed on campus. Melillo received many requests for personal training after this shift and was finally able to develop a personal training program. Staying on campus for personal training sessions is much cheaper and more convenient than conventional gyms.

Different sessions are available based on students’ needs and experience. In a 45-minute orientation session, students learn how to use the equipment, are taught the right approaches to meet their goals, and are provided with ideas for variety and new exercises. This session is great for first-timers in the gym environment and is very basic. In four one-hour sessions, your trainer will help you design and implement a personal workout plan. Melillo has worked with everyone from athletes to non-athletes, and beginners to advanced gym-goers.

After a student purchases a training session, they fill out a survey about their goals, medical history, current activity level, experience and interests. Then, upon meeting with his or her trainer, they go through an interview process to further assess their needs. Melillo urges students to try out the personal training services so they can learn the facts and make sure that they are using the correct tools to meet their target fitness level. Working out is also a great way to develop time management skills, as one must balance taking care of oneself and school work.

Jessica Pellicciotta, the coordinator of nutrition and fitness programs in the Office of Health Promotion, reminds students that in addition to exercise, nutrition is also important.

“Achieving a healthy lifestyle can’t just be one or the other,” she says. “Exercise can balance out your eating and provide cushioning for some of your ‘bad days.'”

She is quick to point out, however, that students need to get rid of the good food/bad food mentality and the “food police.” Pellicciotta offers comprehensive nutrition consultations that are tailored to the individual in a way similar to the personal training programs.

A consultation will include instructions to record my food and fluid intake for three days and an in-depth survey about eating habits, medical conditions, dietary restrictions, food allergies, goals and concerns. Pellicciotta mainly sees students that are concerned with health or just want to know if they are eating well. She points out that Villanova is a health-conscious campus, which is great for college students who should prioritize nutrition in order to keep up their energy level and stay focused on course work. Nutrition consultations can also be geared toward specific needs such as gaining or losing weight, nutrition for certain dietary restrictions or medical conditions and athletes looking to change their diet to meet certain goals.

Pellicciotta’s advice to students is to avoid skipping meals and try to follow the eating plan they had before they came to college (granted that it was a healthy one). She also debunked the common myth that eating late at night is bad; eating late is fine, “as long as you are meeting all your nutritional needs by the end of your day.” By eating every three to five hours, a healthy energy level can be maintained. Pellicciota suggests eating snacks that combine a carbohydrate and protein. Some suggestions include cheese and crackers, a bowl of cereal, s’mores that replace marshmallows with peanut butter, smoothies and frozen yogurt topped with nuts instead of sprinkles.

Headed by Pellicciotta, the Office of Health Promotion runs several other unique programs to guide students through the nutrition maze. Grocery shopping tours can be arranged to help navigate the aisles and make a healthy cart. You and a group of friends can learn about reading food labels, buying produce, picking out fresh fish and meats and the best times to buy sale items. A group of students can also get together for cooking demos, which usually take place in the West Campus apartments. These demos are usually centered on microwave and George Foreman grill cooking. During these demos, you can plan and create a healthy meal, learn the nutritional benefits of the ingredients and get some recipes to add to your collection.

If my positive nutrition consultation experience isn’t enough to convince you to stop in the Office of Health Promotion, Pellicciotta’s words might.

“Come learn about how you can eat any food you like and still maintain a healthy lifestyle,” she says.

With an enticement like that, how can you say no?