First Day of College: How to Prepare Physically

Dear little sis,

As your first day of college approaches, it’s important to start preparing. I don’t mean it’s time to start packing the car and ordering textbooks, but it’s time to start physically preparing yourself for this next chapter in life. Living on a college campus brings with it a lot of life changes. You are walking significantly more than you ever have (I guarantee), you are being tempted with an array of different foods, no more after school sports to keep you active. The list goes on and on, so how do you prepare yourself physically for your first day on campus?   

The key is to start now. Start creating lasting habits in your day, so when you go to college you’ll have a strong foundation. I wish I had created a routine for myself before my first day of college. Not having a firm foundation left me struggling to create lasting habits on top of my school work, and social time. Use these tips to lighten the load a little, and start college feeling less stressed. I know so many girls struggle with the fear of gaining the “freshman fifteen”. If you create habits that last there’s no need to worry about that! 

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1. Start walking

Most students have about 5-6 weeks of summer left which gives everyone plenty of time to start walking. First things first, get yourself a step counter. You don’t have to have a fancy Apple Watch or Fitbit, although I do recommend those. Downloading a step tracker on your phone is perfectly fine! I use Fitbit to track my steps and exercise. The Versa is a great way to keep track of your steps, heart rate, and it even has customizable watch faces that are super cool! 

I used my Fitbit to track my steps every day my first year of college. On average, I walked anywhere from 13,000 to 20,000 steps a day on campus. Some of you are probably thinking your 10,000 step goal is lame compared to those numbers, but once you get on campus you’ll be breaking 10,000 easy. The problem is being stuck in quarantine and enjoying lazy summer days has me averaging about 5,000 steps a day. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat! 

In order to prepare physically for that first day of college, you need to start walking…now! I recommend trying to walk at least 10,000 steps a day until your first day. This will help you build up a stamina and get used to using your legs so much on a daily basis. Going from 10,000 steps to 13,000 steps is a lot easier than 5,000 to 13,000. I know it’s hot outside right now, but the temperature isn’t going to be any different when you go back to campus in August. Get used to the heat, it’s brutal, but you gotta get through it. 

2. Drink lots of water

All that walking is going to mean you need to drink more water. This is especially important for the summer! When it’s hot outside, it’s easy to drink lots of water, but sometimes we aren’t drinking enough. Don’t let dehydration be a reason you can’t go have fun with friends! Most nutritionists recommend drinking at least half your body weight in water. Many water bottles come in either 20, 32, or 64 oz. sizes. Depending on the bottle, I try and drink somewhere around 60 oz. of water a day.

It’s important to get a bottle that can fit easily in your backpack. You’ll want to have water on you at all times when you get to campus, so get a refillable bottle that will last you most of the day. Many students carry either Camelbak, Nalgene, Hydroflask, or Swell bottles. I personally use a hydroflask because I prefer to drink water from a straw. 

3. Introduce healthy snacks

Stress snacking can happen so easily in college. Especially if we’re stuck in our dorm room doing online learning. It’s so easy to reach for the nearest bag of chips or crackers, and munch away. Now is the time to start finding healthy snacks you love. If you go to college with these in mind you’ll be more apt to make smarter choices. A few of my favorite healthy snack options are:

    • Carrots and hummus
    • Cucumber Tomato hummus bits
    • Apple and almond butter
    • Banana and almond butter
    • Boom Chika Pop popcorn – not the whole bag (I really love the kettle corn)
    • Almonds
    • Beef Jerky
    • Yogurt and granola

Over the next few weeks try snacking on a few of those to find some you really love. 

RELATED POST: Two Healthy Dishes you can Bring to College from Home

4. Start meal planning

I tried really hard to meal plan my first year of college, but I struggled. Part of the reason I struggled to create meal plans was because I never had to make them before. Start practicing now. Plan your meals for the week in advance and stick to them. Part of the challenge is actually sticking to the plan. Learn what kinds of foods you crave on different days and create lists with variety. It’s important to know it’s okay if you don’t follow the meal plan 100%, or if a friend invites you to lunch one day. 

I found that only planning breakfast, lunch, and dinner was the most successful. If I planned snacks in advance I would usually end up changing them around, so it wasn’t worth the time anyway. I liked to have a small notebook dedicated to my plan, but there are several apps out there if you prefer a digital tracking method. 

5. Make some easy meals

One of the hardest things about trying to be healthy is the time commitment. As a college student, you’re going to have little to no time to create meals. Not planning according to your weekly schedule will leave you reaching for whatever is easy, and usually unhealthy. The best advice I can give is to learn some easy and quick meals you can make in a pinch. 

A few of my go to meals:

    • Smoothie
    • Frozen meals – these are things that I make in advance and store in the freezer for later
      • Example: soups, chicken, rice bowls, casseroles
    • Grilled chicken salad
    • Grilled Shrimp and Sautéed Spinach
    • Quinoa and Kale

A big tip is to just keep some things on hand in the freezer. Smoothies were my favorite easy dinner. It’s so convenient to just throw a bunch of stuff in the blender and have a good meal. If you need a little extra, turn it into a smoothie bowl by adding granola and fresh fruit on top. 

RELATED POST: How to Make a Meal Plan in College

6. Explore fitness routines

Everyone is different. Our bodies were built to do all kinds of unique things, so it’s important to find a fitness routine that works for you. I highly recommend establishing a good routine before your first day of college. Determine if you want to work out in the morning, at night, or for a midday break. Explore different times of the day and see what works for you. I prefer to workout in the middle of my day as a little energy boost. 

Once you know what time of day you like working out, it’s time to start thinking about what kind of workout you like. I found that variety is honestly the best for me. Doing the same type of workout every day just doesn’t work for me. 

Workout Suggestions:

    • HIIT/EMON or any other kind of interval training
    • Kickboxing
    • Pilates/Yoga
    • Pump
    • Walk/Run/Bike
    • Strength/weight training


The best way to get in shape for your first day of college is to start now. Begin working healthy routines into your day until they become habits. Find what works for you and stick to it. You will be thanking yourself when you get to campus that first day. These tips will also help you remain grounded in your goals even as the semester picks up pace. What is your favorite healthy routine? 

With love,

ashley ardele


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