How To Balance School and Training with Leah O’Connor

Blog post

Professional Runner and Michigan State University Graduate, Leah O’Connor shares her best advice on how to balance school and training as a student athlete. Read our latest blog post below!

Staying Steady

Balance is officially defined as an even distribution of weight, enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.

Finding balance as a collegiate student athlete takes a young person who is willing to practice independence and discipline, and finding success in both school and your sport will take a village of tutors, professors, coaches, parents, and friends.

During my five years at Michigan State University, I had to learn (sometimes the hard way) how to find the equilibrium between school and running. Not always the easiest of tasks, especially at a large university. Thankfully, my incredible support system kept me afloat during the stormy semesters and helped direct me through the good and bad times of my collegiate career. Hopefully, this blog post is my way of forwarding the favor.

Utilize Your Resources

As a student-athlete, you’re essentially agreeing to manage a job while you’re in school. It’s incredibly time-consuming work, but with your commitment comes a lot of perks. You have the opportunity to benefit from early enrollment, free tutoring, study halls, and dedicated academic coordinators.

While the majority of the student body is anxiously waiting to update their class schedules, you have the chance to get into any classes you want first. It’s really easy to take little gifts like these for granted. Always try to remember, these resources are handed to you before you even step on campus, resources many people would love.

Consolidate Distractions, Be Picky

At MSU, I had complete freedom and thousands of people and opportunities waiting just outside of my tiny dorm room. It was exciting and overwhelming all at once.

Until stepping foot on campus, my entire life operated under the watchful eyes of my parents. I had curfews, scheduled responsibilities, and a consistent fear of being grounded keeping me from making choices that would ultimately put my well-being or future in danger. At 17 years old, I had to learn to pick and choose wisely where I decided to spend my time and with whom. Little things add up, and where you devote your hours in the day makes all the difference. Take responsibility for yourself and the person you want to become.

Don’t Panic!

If you don’t know what you want to do with the rest of your life, it’s okay. Most people don’t have a grasp on their 10-year plan or their 5-year plan. Honestly, most people are doing really well if they have a grasp on what they’re eating for lunch. Yet there’s a huge push when you get to college to pick a major and move quickly. Maintain perspective, your whole life is ahead of you. The most important thing, especially in the first couple of years of school, is your happiness and how you are managing your pre-requisite class load. I took a couple of years to decide to major in journalism because I wasn’t sure. You’re spending good money on a degree (or working really hard for a scholarship), so spend your time pursuing a field you love and are genuinely interested in. If you don’t know, take your time to figure it out. Always remember it’s okay to choose and change your mind, again and again, if you have to.

Fuel To Function

Last, take care of your brain. College can be a fun but stressful transition in your life.  It is a large investment of time and money and you want to do your best. That can be overwhelming Counselors, mental health professionals, coaches and other forms of support like friends and family will help you through it all if you let them. Please trust so many people have been there before and you’re not on an island. Asking the people who care for help when you’re struggling is sometimes the bravest step forward.  Also, you need fuel to function, and this all starts with the food you are putting into your body. Don’t forget to eat, don’t go on any restrictive “free” fad diets, and stick with the healthy diet; lean protein, whole grains, plenty of fruits and veggie and of course, 3 servings a dairy every day. This provides a nutritious balanced diet. Plus, who needs the stress of counting every single calorie?

Related: Nutrition Resources

Final Thoughts

School definitely matters, your sport matters, but most importantly, you matter. Enjoy this next chapter of your life and its crazy ride.


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