Freshmen, don’t neglect exercise while on campus

You’d never guess it if you looked at me now, but I used to be semi-athletic. I could dunk with ease and I contributed a respectable amount to a few district championship-caliber basketball teams. I have three gold medals hanging on my wall at home to prove it.

But I grew tired of basketball. As a freshman and sophomore in high school, practice was a chance to improve myself as a player and teammate. But by senior year, practice, instead, became a chore on my daily list of burdensome activities. My heart wasn’t in the game anymore. So when we were eliminated from the district tournament on Feb. 28, 2011 – I remember the date exactly because our coach, though sympathetic toward us as seniors, wouldn’t let us live down that we were “the first team in 13 years not to play in March.”  I was relieved to dodge the state tournament.

In fact, I was so relieved about escaping the demanding competition preparation that I stopped exercising entirely. For months, I declined offers from friends wanting to play pickup games after school or get in a Saturday afternoon run at the YMCA. My sloth dipped into college, too, continuing for my first few months at Pitt where I substituted beverages for basketball and Antoon’s pizza for a healthy diet. 

Was it fun? Sure. Was it worth it? Absolutely not.

Don’t fall into the trap like I did.

Campus is littered with ways to keep yourself in shape. Students can use a handful of weight rooms, including a beautiful student recreation center in the Petersen Events Center that has racquetball courts, free weights and fitness equipment. Trees Hall has a pool for swimmers and a rock wall for climbers, as well as racquetball courts and a weight room.

Bellefield Hall on Bellefield Avenue between Fifth and Forbes Avenues has a basketball court, a dance studio and a 4-lane pool, as well as a fitness center and weight room. And for students who don’t want to leave the dorms during chilly Pittsburgh winters, there’s a 24-hour fitness center in Lothrop Hall, Nordenberg Hall, Litchfield Towers and in each wing of Sutherland Hall.

For basketball players, Trees Hall is the best place to go. Pickup games run constantly on three courts from the time gym classes end during the day until the time the gym closes at night. Speaking of gym classes, you can get yourself slightly closer to graduation by playing basketball twice a week. Pitt offers a host of physical education classes for a credit each, from yoga to soccer to volleyball (tip: learn to play racquetball. It’s a blast).

For people wanting a bit more structure, intramurals might be the way to go. Intramural basketball typically starts at the end of January and runs for seven or eight weeks. It’s free to enter a team for all Pitt students, and there are a few options to choose from – men’s league, co-ed league and fraternity league among them. But if you still want a higher level of play, like I did, perhaps you’ll consider making yourself a fake Division I athlete. That’s what I like to call myself as a Pitt women’s basketball practice player.

I’ve worked with the Pitt women’s team for two years now, acting as a member of, essentially, a male scout team. We act as the opposition, running their plays and putting their strategies into action. It’s a great deal: We challenge the women with size and strength, while they keep our sorry butts in shape. Typically, each of us practices roughly twice per week, depending on how our class schedules mesh with the game schedule. We’re always looking for good players to help out, so don’t be afraid to get in touch with me.

I waited far too long to get myself involved with the fitness and recreational opportunities available on campus. Don’t be like me. I wouldn’t wish the “freshman 15” — or, in my case, the “freshman 40” — on anybody. My advice: indulge, but take advantage of the countless outlets Pitt provides to stay healthy.

Write to Alex at [email protected]