My fitness journey at Cornell

“Are you not going out to play basketball with your friends today?” my mom asked me, as she searched for something from my room. 

 “I’m just feeling a bit tired today, I’ll join them next time,” I remarked, as I perused through a list of the “best comedy movies over the last century.” 

 This was a common occurrence for my high school self — turning down many physical activities for more passive undertakings. Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with the occasional movie or TV binge, but I knew I wanted to make a change, to find a balance and prioritize my physical health and conditioning. The chips, cookies, Nutella sandwiches, and candy I couldn't help but devour during my viewing marathons had indubitably taken their toll on me. I often felt lethargic; though I dabbled with sports in elementary and middle school, I had never been on a sports team or undergone any semblance of an exercise regimen. There was much to learn...

As a first-year in college, I moved into Mews Hall, which was, to my luck, across from Helen Newman Hall, one of Cornell’s recreational facilities. After settling in, I forced myself up early, waking up at 6 a.m. at least 2-3 times a week for weight lifting workouts. I was far from conditioned, however, since I was only aware of a few basic compound movements — the bench press, squat, pull-up, and shoulder press. Beginning with these, I began to build strength, perhaps filling up in a more desirable way than before. Nonetheless, my motivation occasionally tended to fade, and I felt inevitably tied to the basics.

Soon enough, however, I met James. Lean, strong, and muscular, he seemed quite experienced with his workouts — much more practiced than I was. After a brief “nice to meet you, what do you study, where do you live on campus” conversation, he showed me some new compound exercises and ab workouts. After James easily demonstrated them, I feigned my workout competence and attempted to mimic his seemingly effortless aura. Towards the end of our mini partner workout, he showed me a physique progress photo. Astonished, I asked, “How?”

His side-by-side comparison seemed to illustrate two entirely different people, not only in physical shape, but also in skin, mood, and personality. “Consistency. Make it a priority, and crazy things will happen, man,” James calmly asserted, “I did a lot of running, but you should do whatever cardio you enjoy.” Relieved, I realized I’d made the right decision to take the boxing PE class and join the boxing club. 

Having watched the "Rocky" movies for the first time, I was enticed by the allure. As with any fan, the training montages lit a fuse in my mind. I had never done any contact sports before, so boxing would be a giant leap out of my comfort zone. My conditioning and stamina were initially lacking, as I struggled to complete workouts at the gym and boxing drills at club practices. However, after two semesters of incorporating high intensity cardio workouts into my morning gym routine, gradually decreasing the time I rested in between club drills, and continuing my sparring practice, I felt more versed as a boxer. The basic techniques I had learned from PE 1345, the beginner boxing class, along with the conditioning drills and technique workouts from both PE 1346, the intermediate class, and club practice, had enhanced my endurance and power. By this point, after many waves of motivation, I had attained a respectable level of consistency with my gym workouts. Yet after nearly two semesters of progress, I felt I had an arduous path ahead of me. I aimed to workout intensely over the summer and throughout my sophomore year to improve my fitness levels past my original standards.

Challenging personal struggles and a hectic schedule have undoubtedly drawn me into motivation deficient workout slumps, yet I have realized progress rarely follows an ideal path. Impediments are inevitable, and the response and struggle defines the journey, not simply the result. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly stymied my fitness motivation yet again, yet with resistance bands, a pull-up bar, and a bodyweight workout regime, I maintained the consistency necessary to keep my level of conditioning. As of yet, campus gym facilities have opened with strict safety requirements in place - social distancing, mask wearing, and decreased occupation limits. Though I plan to return to the gym, I have realized that disciplined consistency matters far more than the type of exercise.

It is undeniably crucial, as James once advised me, to prioritize fitness and nutrition in order to obtain a healthy lifestyle. One need not lift weights or box, but overall well-being connects the mind and the body. My long path ahead indeed remains arduous, but I now encourage friends and family to prioritize physical fitness, step out of their comfort zones, and persist through obstacles as I did. With consistency, dedication, and balance, I feel the possibilities are limitless.

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 Siddharth Venkatesh
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