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Can health be unhealthy?

| Wednesday, March 4, 2020

As a freshman at this university, I have had to take in a lot of new things in the past several months — football chants, dorm stereotypes, colloquialisms like “ring by spring” and “Menbroza” are just a few.  

You’d think I’d have wrapped my head around campus culture by now after almost six months as a student here. However, there’s one thing about Notre Dame students that really gets my goat — their obsession with exercise. 

Don’t get me wrong — exercising is great. I definitely am a fan of exercise. I just think it’s kind of weird how seemingly every person on this campus was on their high school cross country team and/or hits the gym at least four to five times a week. Like, how do you have time for that?

At least among people I know, there’s a subtle pressure to stay in shape one way or another, the preferable option being running. I have friends who have run marathons, attended week-long running camps and hold national titles for sprinting — and they somehow keep up these workout regimens here on campus. 

The part that baffles me the most is that I didn’t even know the half of it until I succumbed to the pressure myself. I’ll admit that I am at least pretending to train for the Holy Half in spite of my sheer lack of athleticism. This has caused me to make my way over to Duncan a couple times a week myself. 

The things I’ve seen at the Smith Center in these regrettable past few weeks have surpassed my wildest expectations. 

There have been times when I’ve walked in and every single treadmill in the entire place was taken. I’ve witnessed people furiously playing Sudoku while running at an 8.0 mph speed for an hour straight. One time I even laid eyes on one brave soul who decided to run in the opposite direction of everyone else on the track. 

And dare I mention those men of steel that run outdoors … on the ice … in SHORTS?! 

I’ve concluded that people will risk it all to get their daily workout in. 

Now, I have to give these people credit — it takes a lot of effort to get to the gym that often and go that hard. But I must say that the exercise culture on this campus can be suffocating at times.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s okay to not eat salad at the dining hall every day. It’s okay to not be able to run an eight-minute mile. It’s okay if you don’t go to the gym at all!

There are a million other ways to stay active on this campus that don’t require AirPods and a gym bag. Taking a walk outside on a nice day or playing a game of casual pickup basketball can be just as fulfilling as a three-hour workout, if that’s how you operate.  

If you’re one of the people who exercises like it’s your job, I’m here to tell you that you look great. If you can’t make it to the gym one day, please don’t stress out over it. You’re already way ahead of the rest of us — I beg of you, take a day off if you need it. 

And if you’re like me and you know you’ll never be able to run for 10 minutes without breaking a sweat, consider this a personal invitation to hang out far, far away from the gym and enjoy a guilt-free dessert and a leisurely stroll around campus. 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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