In the corner of my room, right in front of my over-crammed bookcase, I keep my black Nike tennis shoes. These shoes have followed me a long way: they’ve cushioned me on ten mile runs, supported me when I put 300 pounds on my shoulders in the gym, and even splashed into the Willamette with me during crew practice on one of the most scorching days of this unusually hot summer.
When I started as a graduate student at Portland State last fall, I knew that I would need to be proactive about finding time for recreation and fitness. I’m getting my master’s degree in English literature, and I am also teaching writing courses to undergraduates. Trying to be a student and an instructor at the same time can be demanding and I knew that there would be no time for play in my schedule unless I made it a priority.
When I was in college, I didn’t have the healthiest habits. I rarely got seven hours of sleep, and though I liked to exercise, I didn’t make time for it regularly enough to reap its benefits. I was always tired and stressed-out and relying on coffee to give me the energy to power through my day.
I decided that graduate school would be different. My first step was that I signed up to have a personal trainer at Campus Rec. I had never felt very comfortable lifting weights—at other gyms, it always seemed like everyone else there had been lifting for years and they were silently judging my rookie mistakes. Having access to very affordable personal training led by other PSU students in such a welcoming environment was a great opportunity for me.
Before I started, I had lower back pain from sitting with bad posture at my computer, and I didn’t have enough flexibility to even perform some of the most basic lifts. Now, I lace up my Nike’s practically everyday, and as I perform my favorite lifts I feel my new-found strength radiating from my muscles throughout my whole body.
My shoes are now worn and ready to be replaced, and I find myself feeling surprisingly sentimental about letting them go. In buying these shoes, which were a little bit of a splurge on my student budget, I decided that I deserved good support in pursuing my fitness endeavors. In using these shoes, I remembered how much I like to challenge myself to get a little bit stronger everyday. Today, these shoes and their wear and tear represent goals made and goals achieved.