Redefining Health


What does health mean for you?  Is it eating a certain amount of fruits and vegetables per week?  Is it working out every day?  Is it weighing little enough to fit into your favorite dress?

There are so many different types of health, determined by our doctors, our society, our friends, and ourselves.  Health is objective in the sense that there are certain scientific parameters for what is and isn’t a properly functioning body.  Beyond that, our perception of health goes too far in some ways and goes nowhere in others.

Health should never be about how much you weigh.  It’s easy to say that larger people have no excuse for their size, and that’s it all comes down to laziness vs. initiative.  Let me rephrase: it’s easy to say that when you’re skinny.  However, when you find yourself in a mental battle with an eating disorder, some life crisis, or medical issue, you’re forced to look at the world differently.

Personally, I have a very fast metabolism and I’m very active.  When I gained a lot of weight freshman year, it was psychologically crippling and losing it was all I could think about for months.  I did lose it, but the mental stress I put myself through to do so may not have been worth it.  Am I healthier for having lost that weight?  Physically, maybe a TINY bit, but mentally, it affected me negatively.  This is what I mean when I say health is not objective, and it is not solely physical.

I think a lot about this in the context of one of my friends who has a slower metabolism and whose genes led her to be larger ever since she was little.  People assume that she must eat a ton, not exercise, and generally perpetuate her size without trying to change it.  Without going into detail, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Encouraging people to step away from technology or fast food for exercise and nutrition is important; shaming them for their genes is cruel.  Society’s expectations are exact and unforgiving.  This is why I’m a supporter of Metagenics, which stresses individual nutrition based on genetic potential.  Similar to me, they encourage a healthy lifestyle through exercise and healthier eating that is right for each individual.  One person’s idea of health necessarily differs from another’s, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all achieve what is best for ourselves.


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Readjusting to College Life: When You’re Sick of the Dining Hall (part 1)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, Notre Dame’s dining hall is not bad, and certainly better than the dining halls at many other universities.  I would even go so far as to say I look forward to eating there most days.  However, everyone has days where they just can’t fathom another dining hall dinner.  Especially when we’re coming off of a month long break, leaving the great food we had at home for the dining hall can be painful (literally, in the form of stomachaches!)

In order to save money, on these days I tend to seek out other food in Lafun, Duncan, or other restaurants on campus that will accept flex points.  However, we all deserve a meal out sometimes, so I’m going to tell you about a few of my favorites!

The type of food that I tend to miss most while I’m here is various types of ethnic food, especially Mexican, Asian, and Thai.  There are tons of “Mexican” restaurants here like Hacienda, Salsa’s and others that I haven’t yet tried that are honestly not Mexican food in my opinion.  As tex-mex, however, their food never disappoints.  I’ve tried a few more traditional street-taco style places here so far, and the best I’ve found is Flamingo’s.  While it’s still not quite the tacos I would go for at home, it tastes amazing, and the grocery market they have attached to the restaurant has so many cool, delicious, and traditional items!

Another type of food that I can’t live without is sushi.  I remember everyone’s excitement last year when we first tried Woochi, a higher-end sushi place in downtown south bend.  It’s great sushi and great fun, but I can’t justify going if I don’t have a special occasion.  Ichiban is another place I’ve come to love, but that is somewhat of a controversial statement among my friends.  It’s not the best sushi ever, but it’s price and the fact that they deliver to campus makes it more than worth it for me.  If you’re a bigger fan of Chinese food than Japanese, my friends rave about J.W. Chen’s as well.

As I mentioned, Thai food is another one of my favorites.  I’m still searching for the best Thai restaurant here, but I’ve had some success at Nom Nom Pho and Cambodian Thai.  If anyone knows where to find the best yellow curry in South Bend, please tell me immediately!

One thing that I hadn’t had at home but fell in LOVE with when I tried it here is the pho from Bowl of Pho.  I like to describe pho as fancy chicken noodle soup, and Bowl of Pho is an absolute staple here that you need to try if you haven’t already.  I never believed my friends when they said I would come to crave it constantly, but they were right—now we’ve made it a tradition to go almost every Sunday.

Unsurprisingly, there are far more non-ethnic restaurants than ethnic restaurants here, so I’ve barely scratched the surface of where to eat in South Bend.  In terms of ethnic food, this is by no means an exhaustive list; I have many more places to try, and two and a half years to do it in!

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Returning to the Tundra!

Welcome back from break, fellow ND students!  Seeing as how today is the first day of class, I thought I would share some tips for acclimating to a new semester and winter.  Maybe you live somewhere cold and returning to school wasn’t as much of a shock for you as it was for me, but things are different from home regardless!

First of all, about the cold; even if you’re used to snow, you probably don’t have to spend every day walking semi-long distances from class to class when it’s snowing at home.  In my last post I mentioned how we actually walk a surprising amount at school, and I proved myself right on the first day.  Even though I only had one class today, I’ve managed to walk 3 miles by 3pm just by going about my day!  For this to be feasible as temperatures drop even more, you need a few things.  Obviously you need a good parka and boots (I recommend bean boots), but you also need to protect your hands, ankles, and face.  I recently found this amazing brand called LETHMIK on Amazon that sells the warmest, cheapest gloves I’ve ever seen.  I ordered a pair for my boyfriend for $8 and he said they’re the best he’s ever owned (and he lives somewhere cold!) so I just ordered a pair for myself!

Another thing that I often forget about in cold weather is the issue of wet hair.  I’m way too lazy to dry my long hair, but it’s important to not go outside with wet hair because it will literally freeze, and can snap fully off if you disturb it while frozen.  I never believed my friends about this until it actually happened to me last year!

A third issue that I’ve had to deal with is extreme dryness, especially in my face and hands, due to the cold and especially the freezing winds we get here.  If you have sensitive skin like me, it’s important to make sure you don’t put just any kind of lotion on your face.  Earlier this year, I used a scented lotion that gave me recurring hives for two months, even though I stopped using it the day after the hives started (ask my dermatologist how this makes sense, not me!).  For this reason, I recommend using plain Aquaphor to moisturize or Olay anti-aging moisturizer.

As you start this new semester, jump into your classes with the mindset that this is a new year and what happened last year doesn’t matter.  In college, we’re blessed by the fact that every semester is a set of (usually) all new classes, classrooms, professors, etc.  If you’re looking to be less stressed this semester, I recommend trying Essential Oils, which can be used to stimulate benefits such as alertness, relaxation, energy, memory, meditation, and much more.  It’s something I’m instituting in my life as part of a New Year’s resolution about my daily mental state, health, and outlook.  In conclusion, go Irish, beat spring semester

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Working Out Without Really Working

Happy New Year’s!  In the midst of everyone’s 2019 resolutions about changing their lifestyle and being healthier and generally better than last year, this post is about making health and activity fit into the lifestyle you already have.  In a manner more specifically geared towards students, I’d like to talk about the issue of working out during winter break!

I’m not sure if everyone can relate to the issues I will describe, but because they’re unique to the fact that I am a college student, I figure I’ll give it a shot.  Something that I’ve noticed over my long breaks from school is the difference in activity at school versus at home.  At school, even if I don’t make an explicit effort to work out by running or going to the gym, I tend to forget that I’m still active.  Just by going to classes, meals, friends’ dorms, study sessions, etc., you actually do a lot every day.

Of course, this is minimized on campuses where students mostly drive to class, but on a walking/biking campus like Notre Dame’s it is surely the case.  I often check my health app, and it’s usual for me to walk 3-4 miles a day just for my daily schedule.  We don’t think about it much because it’s normal and necessary.  However, when I got home, I realized that there was no inherent activity like at school.  I make sure to stay healthy by eating well and taking vitamins targeted to support overall health and wellness like those from Pure Encapsulations, but being active is a whole other issue.  If I didn’t make an actual effort to work out, I would literally be engaged in no physical activity besides maybe driving somewhere and then walking to find my car in a crowded parking lot.

Another issue that may or may not be generalizable to many students is the lack of a gym membership.  Because I’m home for 4 months of the year and at school for the rest, it doesn’t make sense to commit to any gym at home.  Luckily I live somewhere where I can exercise outside in the winter, but if you can’t say the same or if you depend on a gym then this can be a major issue, especially with all of the decadent food surrounding the holidays.

One good solution to these issues is that at practically every gym, you can sign up for a guest pass to try out the gym.  This will give you usually 3-7 days, depending on the gym, to use it for free.  If you live in a city, you probably have enough gyms around you to do this at a new gym each week (I did it for a while over the summer!).  As always, I recommend running outside, but if you aren’t in the mood for an actual workout, there are other options as well.  I love walking my dogs with my family, and a simple walk every day is actually an excellent way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  I’m also a huge fan of hiking with friends; it gives you something engaging to do together, and helps your health and your wallet at the same time.  Even boring or tedious tasks can boost your activity level—I’ve gotten a lot of steps out of not only buying Christmas presents and grocery shopping for family parties, but also now that the holidays are over through traversing shopping centers, returning everything that I don’t want or that doesn’t fit.  These options may not give you the perfect body that you’ve made a resolution to work towards, but they’re a big step off the couch and in the right direction!

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How to Have the Happiest Day at the Happiest Place on Earth

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season and a great end to 2018!  Because I don’t have any academic issues or things at Notre Dame to advise on while on break, I thought I’d tackle a happier subject.  One of my gifts this Christmas was a family trip to Disneyland, which occurred yesterday.  I hadn’t been for a few years (we used to go as a family once a year) but now I can safely say that they call it the “Happiest Place on Earth” for a reason!

However, there are certainly challenges involved in a day at Disneyland, and I believe there is a right and wrong way to do it.  My family’s way is filled with constant action, food, and fun.  Included in this post are some tips for how to maximize your Disney day!

Before getting into the tips, I want to present some of the challenges I mentioned.  The biggest one is that there’s too much to do, in too little time.  There are so many rides, attractions, shows, and so much to eat, see, and do.  It can be incredibly overwhelming, and it is complicated significantly by the ridiculous lines.  This was an issue yesterday in particular, as Disneyland is a crowded mess during the month of December, especially in the weeks before and after Christmas.  Overall, our biggest objective is always to maximize our time in order to justify the absurd amount of money we spent on tickets.

The effort to maximize our trip means that we literally try to be there for every minute the park is open, which for yesterday was 8 AM to 12 AM.  Before you even get to the park, it’s essential to have a decent meal that will hold you over for a while, especially because the walking and lines make any day at Disneyland very depleting.  If we hadn’t had a good breakfast before we left, we would’ve spent $30-$60 more for food at the park to make up for it!

Another thing that I recommend doing before leaving for the park is packing warmer clothes for nighttime.  I know it’s California and it doesn’t really get cold here, but it will certainly be colder than during the sunny daytime, and I know I’ve sincerely appreciated my change of clothes each time I brought it (especially when I get drenched on Splash Mountain!).  Because carrying a big bag is a hassle, we always get a locker.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

The next important tip is to make use of Fastpasses in the most efficient way possible.  Some of the best rides, like Space Mountain and Indiana Jones, have a two to three hour wait all day long, and the Fastpass is the only way to get around it by using your pass to stand in a separate, significantly shorter line.  However, you can only get a Fastpass for one ride at a time, and each ride runs out of Fastpasses for the day quite early.  Therefore, in order to avoid the most horrendous rides, it’s necessary to not only choose strategically, but also to get them as soon as you’re in the park/as soon as you’re able to get a new one.  For the rides that you aren’t able to get them for but aren’t willing to wait for, you should target them early in the morning or right before the park closes for the chance of a shorter line.

Aside from the rides, there are so many things to enjoy.  First of all, the food is amazing.  Crowd favorites include churros, Dole whip, corn dogs, and the giant turkey legs, but a lot of the food and desserts at the restaurants is to die for (although very expensive).  Second, there is an abundance of shows and special events, like tree lightings, parades, water/light shows, and fireworks.  The most important part of Disney, however, is experiencing it with your loved ones.  Above all, remember to go with the flow and enjoy your time together.  If you’re lucky enough to get the chance, hopefully my tips can help make your trip a little more magical!

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Ho, Ho, Healthy Holidays!

Congratulations on finishing finals!  I hope you had a successful week without too much stress or disappointment.  As grades are coming in, I’m sure all your hard work will pay off.  Regardless, it’s time to relax and recover from everything our professors put us through!

Winter break is the best because it’s a true break.  Because we take new classes next semester, we have truly no coursework to keep up on in this time!  For me, knowing that I don’t have to do any homework when I’m traveling home is a very special detail, and I take advantage of it by downloading way too many movies.  Once you get home, you don’t have to feel guilty about any way you spend your time because there’s no homework!

Not to be a downer, but I wanted to add a slight caveat to that point.  Another way that I’m going to take advantage of having no work is by getting ahead.  Especially for math and science classes, it can be a huge benefit to yourself to buy the textbook early or use online materials (I love Khan Academy for any math or science) to at least familiarize yourself with the things you’ll be learning.  For example, next semester I’ll be taking the notoriously difficult Organic Chemistry at Notre Dame.  I know from my friends that the class is taught 100% from the textbook, so I brought a friends’ textbook home and will work through the first several chapters so that I’m a little ahead of the game in January.

Still, that doesn’t mean I’m not taking a substantial break and enjoying my family time!  Because this break is so long, you honestly can’t start working yet because you’ll forget it in a month from now.  The most work I have now is finding Christmas presents for everyone!

So, how do you stay healthy during the holidays?  First of all, as I said; it’s time to recover.  Sleep all you want, spend time with your family and friends, and generally relax.  I’m also a fan of supplements from Herb Pharm and Renew Life for a whole variety of health needs.  The holidays are glorified for being a magical time, but the reality of the matter is that they are a nightmare for many people.  It can be stressful with family issues, money issues, feelings of loneliness, etc.  While I hope this doesn’t apply to you, it’s important to talk about and admit that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  It’s also important to take care of yourself during this time.  Family is everything, but if some members are toxic in your life, it’s totally warranted for you to avoid them.  On a physical level, the holidays are filled with unhealthy (although amazing) food that may make you feel less than your best.  Don’t torture yourself with the fear of gaining weight, but strive to find the balance between indulgence and health.  This means something different to everyone, and that’s okay!  Make sure to enjoy your family and friends, and make time for yourself too!

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Go Irish, Beat Finals

Congratulations with finishing a semester of classes, and happy reading day!  I hope it made for a fun Thursday night and a productive Friday.

In my mind, there are two ways of visualizing the next week.  The first is as the hellish obstacle that stands between you and Christmas, and it will require you to bust your ass every night just to get through.  The second is as a mostly free week with a few exams, and overall holding the significance of being a chance to end the semester strong and be proud of yourself (with Christmas AND good grades as your reward!).  Can you guess which one is better?

I’m one of those weirdos who partially enjoys taking exams.  The anxiety thrills me, and I love the feeling of starting it when I know I’ve studied all I can and it’s all up to my brain now.  I fully understand this is not a common opinion—exams bring anxiety, frustration, even hopelessness—and that’s why I’m here with some advice!

First of all, you have a lot of time.  This can be a positive and a negative.  Sometimes, having a busy schedule actually keeps us more on track because we’re more directed and pressured in the time we do have.  Now that classes and almost all other commitments are done for the semester, we have 7 totally free days to do our assignments and take our exams.  Some people use this to pull ridiculous all nighters and basically live on the brink of death right before each exam or project is due.  I’m begging you to avoid this—not only is it not fun, but it’s not good for your health.  It’s not good for your studying either!  People severely underestimate how badly our brains need sleep.  I guarantee that more often than not, as long as you have done some prior studying, an hour of sleep will serve you better than that extra hour of studying.  You may be thinking that you need to just stay up and fit as much information into your brain as possible, but don’t forget that your brain needs sleep to actually encode this information and allow you to retrieve or manipulate it on an exam.  If you’re focused and if you’ve been trying in your classes, then there is realistically no reason to ever need more than 7 free days to study!

Still on the topic of brain health, the next most important thing is to make sure to eat.  You CANNOT survive on coffee!  Even if you don’t have time to go to the dining hall, every building on campus has some kind of food place less than five minutes away by foot.  There’s no excuse to not treat your brain right, or even reward yourself for your hard work with a treat from ABP.  If you have flex points, now is the time to spend them anyways!  Bonus points if you take supplements/vitamins to boost your brain and your immune system; Fungi Perfecti has some great options.

It is essential to remember your health during finals week in the ways I’ve mentioned.  However, please don’t forget the importance of mental health.  Study hard, but don’t be afraid to take a break, see your friends, take a nap, or get a work-out in.  You’ll feel much better, and in turn, you’ll be able to be more productive afterwards.  Overall, you have control over how hellish your finals week is.  Even if it’s terrible, you have your family, home, and Christmas waiting for you when you finish!

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Dining Hall: Delicious or Disaster?

At Notre Dame, and probably at many other schools as well, the dining hall is more than just where we grab a quick meal.  It’s a social hub, meeting place, and break from the day.  It’s where you’re guaranteed to see everyone you know, whether that’s a good thing or not!

However, dining halls on any college campus are inevitably surrounded by debate concerning how good the food and facility is.  Some people might disagree with me, but compared to most other schools, Notre Dame’s food is very good.  According to our campus dining website, we’ve been ranked highly (top 50, occasionally top 10) for many years now.  If you’re someone who doesn’t see how that’s possible, then maybe some of my advice can help!

My first tip would be to think ahead.  The dining hall lists their menu for each day on the Dining section of Inside.nd, and I find that literally no one knows about or takes advantage of this.  It’s helpful for me during times like burger night (which most people love, making me an anomaly) because I know ahead of time that the dining hall will be absolutely packed with lines and serving solely burgers.  Because I’m able to see that ahead of time, I might decide that that’s a day for me to enjoy a better dinner in Duncan Student Center or Lafun.

Another way to make the dining hall better for yourself is to investigate other areas, especially the ones where you can make your own food.  Waiting in line for stir fry or browsing the usual homestyle/grill/pizza section will turn out well most of the time, but you can get more creative.  You can make great sandwiches in the deli section with the panini press, great salads with the many toppings in the salad bar as well as the meats in other sections, and even waffles with a leprechaun on them.  My favorite thing right now is to make a breakfast sandwich with a bagel, and toast it with eggs, bacon, cheese, and anything else they have in the breakfast section that day.  Another crowd pleaser is getting the warm cookies right after they take them out of the oven and topping them with the amazing soft serve, or even making a delectable ice cream sandwich.

Other sections that should not be taken for granted include the fruit on select days, the vegetables, the cinnamon rolls in the pizza section, and the drinks.  There are actually a ton of drink options, and in North Dining Hall there is an abundance of different tea options.  I probably shouldn’t be advertising this, but it is all too easy to bring food out with you or fill up all of your water bottles with any drink of choice.  Personally, whenever I’m running low on tea from Mountain Rose Herbs, I have a bad habit of stealing a handful of tea bags to hold me over!

As I hope I’ve demonstrated, some creativity and planning can take you a long way when it comes to the Notre Dame dining halls.  There has to be some way to make it manageable, and even enjoyable, to eat there every day for months on end.  Still, Thanksgiving will be much needed, so go Irish, beat food comas!

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From Football Season to Parka Season

Lots of things are happening on campus right now; our team is still undefeated, basketball and hockey season are starting up, another round of midterms is beginning, and Thanksgiving is approaching quickly.  However, another change that is surely felt by all is the drop in temperatures—winter is coming!

Last week was peak autumn, and it was gorgeous.  Because I live in Los Angeles (where seasons don’t exist) and we kind of skipped fall in South Bend last year, this year was the first time I had REALLY seen what fall is supposed to look like.  It was worth the wait—the colors of the trees and the leaves falling around me last week was one of the prettiest sights I’ve ever seen.  However, in the back of my mind was my other understanding of fall.  As pretty as it is, it serves as a warning that winter is near.  Sure enough, a week later the leaves are almost gone and we’ve descended into almost freezing temperatures.  Additionally, those (not) amazing winds from the lake have reached a point of violence.  There’s no going back now!

In the face of the beginning of winter, you may have a few questions.  I know I did last year!  When is it acceptable to start wearing a parka?  When should I wear boots?  What is even the point of wearing a hat and scarf?  And how in the world will I survive this weekend’s football game?

In terms of a parka, the rule of thumb is that it’s acceptable to start wearing your biggest coat when the weather is consistently in the thirties.  I’m in my medium-warmth coat right now, but as someone who’s always cold, I wouldn’t judge anyone for wearing their parka now.  Even if the weather is in the high forties, the wind here can make it feel much more brutal.

I’m someone who believes that boots are only necessary when it’s raining or actively snowing.  This got me in trouble last year when it was dry, but icy, one morning; I slipped on the pavement and absolutely ate it on my way to class (with everyone around me watching!).  I also learned the hard way that everyone is right when they say you need to wear a hat, or at the very least a hood.  One day last year, I went outside too quickly after showering and my hair literally FROZE SOLID.  I was lucky in that I quickly and gently put it inside my coat to thaw and hurried to my destination, but I’ve been told that your hair can very easily and fully snap off once it freezes.

A scarf and mittens are also lifesavers.  Other aspects that people don’t mention as much include taking preemptive measures to take care of yourself internally.  When we don’t see the sun very often and don’t always have access to the freshest food, it is possible that we will lack certain important vitamins.  Additionally, the cold weather and wind will easily dry your face to the point where it is constantly peeling, or make your lips chapped to the point of pain.  For these issues, I swear by Acure and Standard Process products.

If you see me at the football game this weekend, I’m sure to be engulfed in many jackets and my full parka, with hand and feet warmers on me at all times.  The snow and below freezing temperatures will be brutal, but it’s worth it to cheer on our team for the last home game!  Go Irish, beat winter AND Florida State!

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Your Campus as Your Gym: Part 1

As we all know, there are many important aspects and types of health.  We need food, water, sleep, to survive.  We need social health, financial health, spiritual health, mental health, and many other types in order to be a well-functioning, self-fulfilled human being (yes, we’re talking about Maslow’s pyramid in my psychology class).  One part of health that I find to be underrated by some is physical exercise.  Not only do we need it to be physically fit, but it has so many other purposes.  For me, working out is a huge part of mental health; after I run or play a sport I feel much more in control and much less stressed.  This is partly due to release of endorphins and other biological reasons, and also partly just psychological!  Regardless, starting my day off with a run and a hot shower is all I could ask for and I’m always proud of myself afterwards.

However, an effective workout depends on many things, the most important of which is the venue and type of exercise.  Where should you exercise at Notre Dame?  Luckily for us, there is a wealth of options for any day, time, or weather.

Something important that I must stipulate before going on is taking care of your body, especially as it does get colder.  Don’t push yourself too hard; if you’re not a runner, then start with one lake and if you like it, increase to running both or even more. Additionally, make sure to take care of any sore muscles or joints by stretching and getting the proper nutrients!  Something I rely on to calm inflammation in my knees and hips is CuraMed products, which focus on cellular protection to promote healthy aging.

Before launching into a list of the different gyms on campus, I would like to point out my absolute favorite workout: running the lakes.  The St. Elizabeth and St. Mary’s lakes are absolutely gorgeous, and running around them once or twice is almost a spiritual experience.  They are behind South Quad and the (appropriately named) Lake Lot, and the course takes you around the back of the Dome, the Grotto, and to Carroll Hall.  In total, running one lap around each lake is a little over two miles.  If you aren’t a runner then I totally understand if you completely disregard my suggestion, but if you’d like to try, then I highly recommend that you get out there before it gets too cold!  I know that I’ve worked out far more times this semester than I had previously planned to solely because whenever I’m deciding whether I should or not, I tell myself that I need to take advantage of the lakes now before they’re covered in ice.

I live in McGlinn, so running to, from, and around the lakes is very convenient for me.  However, if you live on the other side of campus, then I know many people who simply make their own route around campus.  With all of our devices, between phones, apple watches, Fitbits, and more, it’s so easy to track distance and calories that you never have to feel like you’re running without some measure of accomplishment.  A run around campus after class can be a calming and gratifying way to gain appreciation for our beautiful school and the many opportunities we have here (AKA a distraction from the amount of stress it sometimes causes us!).

These two workout options conclude my first part of a guide to working out on campus.   Go Irish, beat stress and Freshman 15!

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