Do What You Love by Suzanne Onorato

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Suzanne Onorato is an associate dean of students at Agnes Scott College. She completed her doctoral work in higher education administration at Florida International University and a master’s at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In her free time she enjoys traveling to places where she can engage in activities that challenge her body and mind including white water rafting the Pacuare river in Costa Rica, hiking the Grand Canyon and the Cinque Terre trails in north eastern Italy.

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Suzanne Onorato is an associate dean of students at Agnes Scott College. She completed her doctoral work in higher education administration at Florida International University and a master’s at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In her free time she enjoys traveling to places where she can engage in activities that challenge her body and mind including white water rafting the Pacuare River in Costa Rica, hiking the Grand Canyon and the Cinque Terre trails in north eastern Italy.

Our bodies are incredible machines, they are powerful, they are efficient and they are awesome. I love to challenge my body to see what it is actually capable of. I have avidly exercised since I was 18 years old and took my first weight training class in college. Ok, so I must admit my girlfriend and I thought it would be a great way to meet guys. Our instructor was cute, but he also challenged me to test the strength of my muscles. It was in this class that I began to figure out what my body was capable of.

Fast forward 10 years. I’m in my second post master’s job in residence life and my colleagues and I are challenged every day by the concept of work life balance. If you’ve ever worked in residence life (or let’s face it, any position in student life) you know what I mean – the late night emergency calls, the Friday at 4:59pm crisis that your staff member is experiencing, the Saturday night program with your hall council. Finding time for yourself, your friends, your family and the things that are important to you can be difficult to find time for and prioritize.

One particular evening my colleagues and I are in the dining hall eating dinner and talking about this very topic “work/life balance”. One friend asks me how I seem to always find time to work out in the midst of my busy schedule. It was then that I recognized how many of my friends struggle with finding time to work out. For me, working out became a priority during that weight training class when I was 18 years old, when I learned not only how much I enjoy challenging my body but how much it helped alleviate any stress I was experiencing. At that time I couldn’t formulate the advice that my friend was looking for – what I did share was that I made sure I found time in each day to work out, not so helpful when you are having a hard time doing just that. But today, 15 years after that conversation in the dining hall, I share this knowledge that I have gained, that’s worked for me, in the hopes that it may help someone else find the time to make exercise a priority in their life.

  1. Find something you enjoy doing. For me, it’s important to be outside when I exercise. I enjoy being in nature, smelling the scents of trees and flowers, taking in the sites of a beautiful blue sky or enjoying light rain as it falls from the sky.
  2. Honor your time with your body as you would any other appointment. On Sunday night I take a look at my schedule and figure out where I have time to exercise. I add it to my schedule as I would any other appointment and try to stick to it. Now, there may be days that something else comes up that must take priority. When that happens I take a moment to think about whether the thing that came up is urgent – sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. As long as I am making my work out a priority 5 days a week I don’t worry about it.
  3. Vary your exercise routine – Very few of us can do the same thing day in and day out and not get bored. I enjoy a lot of outdoor activities; rollerblading or cycling in my neighborhood, hiking or running with my dog, taking a weight training or kick boxing class, playing tennis. Doing something a little different every day makes my work out fun and doing it with friends and/or our dogs makes it more social.
  4. Find an event that you need to train for to participate in and find a friend to train with. One of my girlfriends wanted to compete in a triathlon before she turned 30. I happened to be turning 40 that same year. Given our busy schedules we didn’t really get to train much together but we did enjoy several long swims and bike rides together and having an event that I had to be “ready” to compete in made it easier to hold ourselves accountable to work outs.

The “trick” is to find what works for you. If you are a morning person work out before you go to the office. If you enjoy socializing with friends find an activity that you all enjoy and look forward to. If you thrive on competition, find an event to compete in and train for. Make your workouts adaptable to your life and you will find success and enjoy most (if not all) of your work outs.

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