By Travis Huskisson
It's graduation day and you've just said goodnight to your family who was in town to support you on this momentous day. Now you have to start looking for a job and decide what to do with your life (if you haven't already). You decide to go running at the fitness center in the morning before starting the job hunt when you realize your card will no longer give you access. Where will you go? You have no weights to lift, no bike to ride, no bar to do pull-ups on and no treadmill to tell how far you've run.
As small a concern this might seem, staying in shape after you graduate can get overwhelming. The truth is that many students get so used to the easy access to workout facilities, a wide variety of intramural sports and a never-ending supply of food in the dining hall that they can find post graduation exercise burdensome.
Brooks Cooper, '06, is a teacher at Rogers High School in Spokane and remembers the trouble he had trying to work out once he graduated.
"The first couple of months were really tough for me to go out and run or lift because I was on a completely different schedule than I was in college," Cooper said.
Now that Cooper has a set teaching routine during the day, he finds it easier to schedule time for working out. He's found that he can usually work out after school consistently about four days out of the week.
"Sometimes it's hard after a long day to get out and do something, so I find it easier to have a goal in mind," Cooper said.
For Cooper this is usually a road race of some sort. His goal right now is to run the Coeur d'Alene Marathon at the end of May.
"I know I need to be out there running four or five days a week, otherwise I won't make it during the race," he said.
Although Cooper found the transition from college to "the real world" to be a little slow, Katelyn Erickson, '07, is currently discovering life after college isn't that much different.
"Working out has always been a priority for me, so graduating hasn't changed that priority at all," she said
Erickson, who graduated in December 2007, is a former member of the Whitworth swim team and believes staying in shape has more benefits that simply looking good.
"Exercise is good for your mental health and also gives you something to work towards, which I think is always important to have," Erickson said.
Both Erickson and Cooper admit that they have their own "distractions" when it comes to working out. For Erickson it is the cost of a gym membership, which on average runs about $50 a month, while for Cooper it is not skipping a workout because he's tired at the end of another long day. However, each of them understands the need to keep a consistent exercise routine throughout the week.
Phil Grahlfs, '06, is one alumnus who hasn't been able to find a routine that works for him yet. Grahlfs works in the emergency room at Sacred Heart hospital and is called into work when needed.
"Sometimes you get a job that just won't allow you to set a certain time out of the day aside for exercising," said Grahlfs.
In order to keep in shape, Grahlfs tries to find time during the day when he is not working to go on a run.
"It's hard to get the motivation to go out a do something active. I've found it helps to get a group together who has the same motivational issues or goals as you do," he said.
For Grahlfs, playing basketball, baseball, or going on a run are his favorite things to do. He says his housemates help motivate him to get out and do something.
Though making the time to exercise is important for these alumni, it is not the only commitment needed to stay in shape. Nutrition plays a key role in the ability of a person to effectively work out.
For both Erickson and Cooper, the switch to life outside of college allowed them to eat healthier.
"My wife is a health nut, so she has done a pretty good job of keeping me in line when it comes to eating right," Cooper said.
Erickson found it difficult to eat healthily when living on campus due to the variety of food offered.
"In order to eat healthy in the dining hall I basically had to eat the same thing every day," she said. Now that she lives off campus, Erickson has found that the greater variety of foods make eating healthy more enjoyable.
Toby Schwarz, a professor of kinesiology and athletics, coaches the cross country and track teams and deals with nutritional issues among students all the time. He believes the biggest mistake students can make when it comes to eating is not monitoring their diet once they leave college.
"I live by the philosophy that the way to stay in shape is to balance the number of calories eaten with the number of calories burned. It is that simple," Schwartz said.
Professional nutritionist Patty Seebeck suggests that creating a plan when it comes to eating is the best way to maintain a balanced diet.
"Your diet should consist of about 30 percent fats, 50 percent carbohydrates and 20 percent proteins in order to maintain a healthy balance," Seebeck said.
Cooper has learned that eating healthy isn't just beneficial to your physical health. He's found that eating right actually makes him feel better mentally.
"Also, it is cheaper than eating fast food, so that is a plus," Cooper said.
Grahlfs doesn't like to spend a lot of time making food, so he admits that his diet could be better.
"I haven't been that concerned about my diet after graduating because my metabolism is still pretty high. Maybe in a few years I will focus more on eating healthy," said Grahlfs.
For now, Grahlfs has found what works, which is what all three alumni say is the key to staying in shape and adjusting to life after college. Find what works best for you and run with it. Literally.