Staying in shape to stay sane

February 25, 2008

Darden is great, but it is also really draining. The workload, while not exceedingly complex, strikes me as quite heavy in volume and so different from what I did before (I wasn’t exactly designing a company’s optimal capital structure before; I was a military officer). The recruiting events, blissfully easing up only very recently, are frequent and require your committment in order to build your future career. I also feel a need to give back to Darden and the community, so I frequently pitch in when we’re hosting admissions events or conducting a charity event. Even the social events, fun as they are, can exacerbate the situation by compressing the time you have available for all the other demands on your time. Weekends become crowded with cases, studies, social events, and, of course, a number of oft-delayed errands.

 Although a spring break vacaction to Costa Rica is drawing very near and is looking really good right now (oh man), it’s important to have some small daily time to yourself. For me and for many other students at Darden, it’s physical activity that sets me free and clears my mind.

Many Darden students participate in intramural or pickup sports. Most of us participate in Darden “Cup” events, which are competitive events held between sections. Many other students hit up the North Grounds Recreation Center, which is the high-quality, fully equipped gym next door to the Darden grounds.

For me, it’s a combination of things that help. In my youth, I was very happy to spend the day playing video games or watching TV. When I entered the Army, I was quickly intiated into a world of daily fitness training. What at first was an irritation quickly became a very personally fulfilling and enjoyable activity. I especially began to enjoy running.

At Darden, the initial toll of the workload diminished the time I had for running. I also wanted to get to the gym to do some strength training, but it was so difficult to find the time. When the third quarter began after the New Year, I made a resolution. I wanted to be in shape by spring break. It is surely a coincidence that I’ll be on a beach that week 🙂

The combination keeps things interesting. I run every other day or so, and I keep it to 3-4 miles at a quick pace in the interests of time. As the weather keeps many of these runs a cold proposition, I often head indoors. After tiring of treadmill workouts, I’ve taken my workout to the Aquatic Fitness Center (AFC), about a five minute drive or a fifteen minute walk from Darden. They have an indoor track. 10.5 laps equals a mile. To my amazement, I’ve held up fairly well on the track surrounded by undergrads. For some reason, it’s more fun to run when you’re surrounded by others… I don’t know why. Somehow having someone in front of me keeps me focused and even makes me run a little faster. I do my strength training there as well… there’s plenty of equipment, which means that it’s easy to get in, work out, and get back to work fast.

Since I’ll be surfing during break, I started swimming about a month ago. The AFC has an olympic-sized swimming pool. It’s really cool to walk out of a locker room and onto a pool deck under a banner emblazoned proudly with ACC Swimming championships. I had no idea Virginia was so competitive in swimming. And, as a student, I get to use these same facilities almost any hour of the afternoon!

The first time in the pool was a real eye opener. After a struggling through a few raggedy laps, I pulled myself out of the pool, light-headed. I had no idea why I can run for an hour without a problem but for some reason ten minutes in the water almost killed me. I realized I had a long way to go.

So I’ve picked up the workout pace. I’ve traded a few runs a week for more swimming, and I’ve added a few laps to each workout. I’ve also started concentrating on form and breathing. It’s funny how on the first lap of the night I can swim almost half the length of the pool without coming up for air, and by the last lap I need to breath after almost every stroke. But progress has been steady, and I know it’ll pay off when I get on a board in a few weeks.

Fitness is a lifetime committment to yourself and your loved ones. It is the greatest gift you can give yourself. But it is so hard to find the time, the energy, and the motivation to go sometimes. Darden offers a lot of challenges. The military did as well. When I was in Iraq, when I needed time to think or reflect, or just to clear my mind and gain some human perspective, I hit the gym. It’s so cool to be able to bring that same experience into this new and challenging environment. The pounding of the pavement, the slick feel of the water, the beating of the heart. It all keeps me grounded, gives me back my human condition, my perspective.

Now, I just need to work on getting more sleep 🙂


4 Responses to “Staying in shape to stay sane”

  1. Phew! How on earth do you manage to study with all that going on? Pretty impressive, I must say. But I think you’re dead right in saying that one has to keep the body fit to keep the mind sane. Too many students forget this (to their detriment). I’m going to put a link to your blog up at htt:// in the hope that others will be inspired by your example. Either that or it’ll help identify those in need of a stint in the army to sort them out!

  2. […] One Day at a Time, a former military officer, shares strategies on “staying in shape to stay sane” in the face of a draining academic […]

  3. please don’t become a triathlete. then you have to be 3 times as disciplned 😉

  4. Gaurav Purohit said

    I am an Indian MBA graduate with around 6.5 years of experience. I am planning to apply for the 2010 MPBA program at Darden.

    I am bit of a swimming enthusiast myself and was wondering whether they have a swimming pool at Darden. I was googling for it and so stumbled on to your page. Nice to know that they do!!


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