Fitting in Fitness: Austin to Anchorage

Written by ROSE NGUYEN

Pedaling over 4,500 miles in a fight against cancer – an inspiring group of UT students make this trek from Austin to Alaska for the past few years, including some from the College of Natural Sciences. Seniors Julius Zerwick (physics) and Ver Starr (computer science) took the journey this past summer to spread awareness and raise money for the cause.
Aside from the willpower and mental strength these guys must’ve needed to endure the ride, they also needed to be in physical shape to commit. Here, they share with us their fitness routines, including advice on starting your own and managing the day-to-day.
1. What is your fitness routine?

Ver: I “try” to keep a routine of 3-4 days a week of physical activity. This could be Monday, Wednesday, Friday or maybe a good recovery day on the weekend included. Cycling is usually my recovery workout to just get a good cardio workout in. As of recently, I’ve been following a WOD blog called Invictus with Crossfit style workouts where I’m in and out of the gym in less than an hour with a good cardio and lift workout. In terms of food, I eat whatever I want. Usually I lean towards protein, vegetables, and fruits as the bulk of my diet with a complex carb in the morning to get my day going.
Julius: My fitness routine is to go on a run three times a week in the afternoon after class and to go cycling twice a week on the weekends. And for my food plan that goes with it, I usually eat a bowl of oatmeal with fruit before I cycle and a small meal after I run or cycle.
2. How do you manage crazy school weeks? 

Ver: School is first, if I have to take a week or two off physical activity, I will do just that but the moment I get some free time, it’s back to the grind. I resume where I left off and just work through the barrier of getting back into the habit of working out.
Julius: When I have weeks with a lot of work or tests, I do cut down on my workouts a little bit to accommodate, so I'll only go run twice a week in order to have more study time. On the other hand, some weeks I'll need to run a little extra to relieve my stress, so it depends on the week. It's important to have your personal fitness be something that you don't budge on even when things get hectic.
3. What is your motivation that keeps you going?

Ver: How you are feeling is a good indication of what you need to change or keep doing. If I feel sluggish and I’m not doing anything, that’s motivation enough to get up and stop being lazy. This past summer, cycling to Alaska was no easy task. Sometimes we would have a string of days that were 100 miles each day. Physically, it isn’t ideal to be doing that even though you may think you’re burning all those calories and losing weight and getting a good cardio workout. Mentally, the individuals I met along the ride who were affected by cancer motivated me. Texas4000 always says the ride is a humble metaphor for the fight against cancer. In some ways it is because of how difficult the ride may be, but the real motivation comes from the actual fighters who have no idea when their fight will end or their fight’s outcome.

Julius: My motivation for continuing to workout is the fact that I feel really good after working out and I feel less stressed. Also, I've found that I am more relaxed and energized and that I sleep better when I workout regularly.
4. What practical tips do you have for students who want to start incorporating working out into their lives?

Ver: Start off a notch above your comfortable pace and increment from there. Start with 2-3 days a week with just an hour at the gym or a good run. From there you can gauge how much more or less you need to do. Instead of calling your diet a “diet,” call it more of life changes. Bring in healthy foods into your diet and then gradually subtract the bad.
Julius: For students who want to start having their personal fitness become a priority, they should devote at least 30 min to an hour on the days that you think you can work out and block it off as something that you can't miss, like an org meeting or lecture. You need to make it a regular thing that you do as part of your schedule. Another tip is to not compare yourself to others and to take things slow. It's your body and it needs time to adjust to regular exercise. And finally, remember that just because you exercise doesn't mean that you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand as part of your personal fitness.
5. Any additional comments about Texas 4000 and health?

Ver: Here are a few facts I think everyone should know about cancer. 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer on average. 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer on average. About 5-7% of cancers are hereditary, which means majority of our daily life choices influence our probability of getting cancer. Eat right and bring in some physical activity into your life. Refrain from smoking. You don’t have to cycle over 4000 miles across the continent to live a healthy lifestyle like I did. You can start by making life decisions that will make you feel better both physically and mentally.
Julius: I will say that being a part of Texas 4000 has given me a greater drive to stay healthy and physically active and from that experience I've learned how beneficial it can be to do so. I never in my life felt as fit and strong as I did while doing Texas 4000 and it's made me want to maintain the level of fitness that I gained from that experience. Also, exercise is always more fun when you have friends who can workout with you and it helps keep you on track.
If you wish to donate to the T4K or learn more about the organization, visit the website here.

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