Words by Kathryn Lance who studied abroad in Florence as a senior from the Texas State University during summer 2015.
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Fitness is a big part of my daily life. When I found out that I was going to Italy, I became super excited but also somewhat worried. People kept talking to me about the amount of weight I would gain, but not about the experiences I would have. With these comments coming from my friends and family, I began having a lot of anxiety about my trip. Yet after arriving, I discovered some tricks to help with my anxiety and was able to fully enjoy my time in Italy.
1. HYDRATE! DRINK LOTS OF WATER. Make your water bottle your best friend. It should go everywhere you go. All throughout Italy there are multiple water fountains available to fill up your water bottle. My goal each day was to drink around 64 ounces of just water. It may seem like a lot, but the amount you will be walking each day equals lots of sweating.
2. HAVE SNACKS ON YOU AT ALL TIMES. I made sure to always have some healthy snacks with me. I never knew when we would break for lunch, so having a protein bar, fruit, or even some nuts with me would help give me that extra energy to make it through the day.
3. DINE IN! I know this is hard when you are in the land of amazing food, but this is a great way to make sure you are eating healthy options. Also, dining in is cheaper than going out to eat and is a fun way to get to know the people you are rooming with during your trip abroad. I was able to do this multiple times with the friends I made while I was studying in Italy.
4. WHEN DINING OUT, TRY TO PICK A HEALTHY OPTION. Since you're in a foreign country, you are going to want to eat out and try the local cuisine. When you do, try to pick a healthier dish. Often you will be surprised by what you are able to find on the menus. I realized that Italy has way more to offer than just pasta and pizza. I discovered that one of my favorite dishes to eat while in Italy was grilled calamari.
Tip: Stay away from heavy cream and cheesy sauces
5. TAKE A DAILY VITAMIN COCKTAIL. When going abroad, find a good multivitamin, probiotic and some allergy medicines to bring along. Start taking these about a month before you leave; it will help with your health.
6. NO GYM? NO PROBLEM. Gym memberships at home are pretty pricey; just imagine getting one for a month in a foreign country. So my solution for you is YouTube. There are tons of different types of workouts that are just waiting to be discovered if you start searching. Make sure to bring some of your favorite workout clothes for the extra motivation.
Tip: My favorite YouTube-ers are Tone it Up, Bodyrock and FitnessBlender. Go check them out before you leave to start a workout playlist.
7. SKIP THE CAB AND TAKE A WALK. My group walked everywhere! I averaged about seven miles a day, which was a good way to be active. I invested in a FitBit right before I left, and my teacher and classmates got a kick out of knowing just how many steps, miles, and flights we had done for the day. Another good way to keep motivated is to compete with your fellow students. See who can walk more steps, climb more flights, or even simply who can make it to a certain building the quickest. Also, taking the scenic route when time allows is another good way to burn extra calories while getting to see the beauty of the country.
8. FIND ACTIVITIES THAT GET YOU MOVING. On the few free days that you have, try to do something that will keep you moving. One of my free days I decided to try a drop-in yoga class and it was a wonderful experience. While the class itself was in Italian, the chaturanga pose is the chaturanga pose, no matter which language the class is being taught in. So once I got used to the different language, I fell into the flow of the class and it felt just the same as any class taught back home. Also, try to run some errands with your friends, or even find some activities that y’all can do together as a group. Biking throughout Lucca, Italy is a good example.
9. GET YOUR REST! Surprisingly enough, many people forget that rest is such an important part of being healthy. Being in a different country means that there are tons of things to do, and many sights to see, but you don’t want to wear yourself out before your trip is even over. You need to let not only your body, but also your mind recover from the day. That’s why every night you should try to get a good night sleep.
10. ENJOY YOUR TIME. Last, but not least, have fun! This is going to be a once in a lifetime trip for you! While being healthy, know that it’s okay to have pasta, pizza, gelato, and even some wine! I indulged plenty while I was Italy, because I was not going to miss the chance of having the best things that Italy has to offer.
Studying abroad was one of my life long dreams and thanks to CAPA and my university, it was made possible. I know that staying healthy can be hard but I hope that these tips can help out so you can worry less and enjoy the time you have there.