Conquering the fitness challenge

And so, without fanfare, another semester ends. For some students, it was the first semester of the college experience. For others, it was the last. Most students lie somewhere in between. That’s one of the great things about the academic world: The lives of students and faculty members are divided neatly into segments punctuated by vacations. This gives us the luxury of looking back at the accomplishments and shortcomings of each semester — either to congratulate ourselves for being such erudite scholars and accomplished athletes — or to berate ourselves and vow to do better next semester.

As many of you know, when I started writing, I was not very happy with my own level of fitness. Recently recovered from a bad injury, I was scared to try new sports or even go back to the ones I used to enjoy. Because I spent so many months inactive, I felt frustrated because activities that were once easy for me became very difficult. In researching for this column, I have gained insight about different fitness and health issues that I may not have acquired otherwise. This column has also forced me to try new sports, such as horseback riding, which has me hooked now.

Being smoked by a bunch of geriatric skaters while researching my inline skating article also provided some much-needed motivation. Although I really can’t take credit for this, I am also glad to see an on-campus triathlon club forming (see for more information).

Yes, there have been quite a few accomplishments this semester. But one that I would like to highlight especially is the winner of our USF Oracle Fitness Challenge, USF student Valerie Rovinelli. Recently, inspired by the challenge, she changed her lifestyle to include more activity and a healthier diet. As a result, she said she looks and feels better and knows that she will maintain these habits for life. Here it is in her words:

Oracle: What inspired you to make changes to your lifestyle?

Valerie: I have fought with my weight — and have tried all kinds of quick diets to lose weight — since I was 10. Just a couple of months ago I finally decided to lose weight and get healthy, and the only way to do this was to do it right. I’m not just doing it for emotional reasons but also to be physically healthy. I know that there are so many health risks in being overweight and unhealthy, and I would like to lower my risks so that I can live a long, healthy, successful life.

O: What difference has this made in your life?

V: Working out has changed my life in a lot of ways. I just recently began and the results are not drastic, but I already feel better. I feel more active, I have more energy and my body is able to move better without hurting.

O: What is the most difficult part of following your new program?

V: I do not really like working out but I know I will like the outcome. I’m really pretty lazy when it comes to working out but I force myself to do it because I want to be healthy.

O: What is your fitness program like?

V: I have started out working out at least 4-5 days a week. I make sure I do at least 30 minutes of cardio and then I do weights for my arms and legs. I also work on my abs. I go to the YMCA by my house because they have a great variety of different things I can try there. I also had some help from a friend that knows a personal trainer.

O: What is your nutrition program like?

V: I was able to get a six-meal daily diet plan that is perfectly portioned for me so that I get all the ingredients that I need without overdoing it. Although it seems like six meals are a lot, they are strictly portioned and pretty basic.

O: Do you think you will maintain these habits?

V: The past couple of months have been a huge changing process for me, but this process will change my life, which makes it all worthwhile.

As Valerie explained, it’s the small changes that make the biggest difference in fitness, nutrition, relationships and academics. It’s hard to stick to crazy diets or miserable exercise programs but quite feasible to maintain healthy lifestyle changes that make you feel healthy and strong. For proving this, challenge winner Valerie Rovinelli will receive a prize.

To all the USF community and other readers, I wish you healthy holidays.

Tereza Zambrano is a senior majoring in international studies and is a triathlete. Readers can e-mail her at