Senior Mag 2023: Finding the perfect fit for fitness

August 30, 2023 — by Jason Cheng
Photo by Jason Cheng
Balancing between track in the spring and body-building throughout the year was a tough yet worthwhile journey.
It’s all about striking a balance in life.

It’s been a wild ride.

Over the past four years, I’ve steamrolled through dozens of specialized diets, workout routines and sports rosters in search of the perfect balance between personal fitness and competitive sports. It was always a daunting dilemma between training for track in the spring and body-building year-round for health.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck on the exact day my first-ever track meet was supposed to take place, I found myself utterly unmotivated for the prospects of my short-lived track career. At the time, I was, to say the least, a measly scrub, dangling on the fringes of an enormous roster. 

Everyone seems to know the narrative arch: There’s this sudden flicker of inspiration, a glimpse of hope and an arduous uphill battle to finally reach the summit — the zero-to-hero, rags-to-riches story.

During the endless quarantine period, I slugged around within the landscape of my bed frame, forgetting that an entire world was outside my doorstep. By the time sophomore year ended, I was still shriveled up in my shell of disappointment. 

There wasn’t ever a burst of inspiration that pushed me to actually get a grip. Some of my friends just randomly packed their gym bags over the summer, so, I thought, why not? When track season returned around May of sophomore year, I was finally able to experience life again — crowds of people, bright sunshine and, most importantly, satisfaction.

Still, I was clearly at a crossroads: Should I sacrifice my track recruitment hopes for a gym membership? It was impossible to succeed at both tasks, considering they were in direct conflict with one another. Training for track would completely eliminate my body-fat percentage, potentially jeopardizing the muscle growth that was so desirable to me.

Here’s where I flipped the script: I failed miserably at both. 

During the off-season, I maintained a rigorous exercise schedule with no silly excuses and missed days at the Los Gatos Swim and Racquet Club. It became a sort of daily habit: Hop in the car, scan my card at the front desk, plug in my headphones, fly through my sets and devour a meal afterward.

Yet, when track season rolled around at the beginning of the calendar year, I was absolutely unprepared. I hadn’t done an ounce of running in the months prior, a decision that came back to haunt me in the form of injuries. With the sudden shift from heavy weight-lifting to fast-twitch explosiveness, the pain piled up: shin splints, calf cramps, hamstring strains — you name it. After toiling through this agonizing stretch, I was back at square one; I had barely improved on my previous track credentials and all my gym progress dissipated into thin air. 

Looking back, I don’t regret the choices I made. Of course, it was impossible to achieve two contradictory goals, but I truly enjoyed every second of my pursuit of self-improvement. As a naive teenager giving advice, I can confidently say the most important principles of life are balance and happiness — balancing your daily workload and ensuring you maximize your happiness with what you do.

And, if you have any brains at all, don’t run the 400 — I beg.

Tags: fitness, track
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