Let’s talk about… My life as a student athlete

MY NAME is Alasdair Park and I am a student athlete. That description of myself means a large amount to me and is very significant. I am in in my final year of German studies and have never competed for the University. I have Mild Cerebral Palsy Diplegia and am a para-swimmer, currently training for The Great North and Great Manchester Swims next summer.

Swimming is the only vehicle through which I can stay fit because running is a non-starter, so I train with the Swimming and Water Polo Club here in Aberystwyth. Once you pay your £15 membership and £45 Sporty Card fee you can train with them for the year, which is considerably cheaper than paying per-swim at many leisure centres found the length and breadth of Britain.

Staying fit during your studies here in SY23 is very affordable, and even with the limited free time I have in my final year, I am in the best condition I have ever been in. I encourage you all to join the gym here at the Sports Centre, which works out as only £15.55 a month for the six facilities from a Wellness Centre. Full of a variety of weight and cardio machines, there’s also top of the range Watt bikes and Concept2 rowing machines. Once you think you’re at the stage to progress to Free Weights, there’s a room dedicated to do just that.

Alternatively, there is the option to join the local leisure centre at £99 for the year. This includes the price of swimming and group fitness classes. Motivating myself to train has given me both the energy to study and a professional mind-set to become the best version of myself, and you can do it too.

Nutrition is as essential to losing weight and getting fit as exercising, and if you are giving your body sub-standard fuel to function, you will function at a sub-standard level. If you’re not in the mood to cook and you’re living up the hill, Ta Med Da serve nutritiously balanced meals, but you can do it yourself very easily. In a nutshell, every meal has to contain protein, carbohydrates and fresh vegetables, and of carbohydrates stick to potatoes, rice and pasta. However, the old adage of everything in moderation stands strong. Make sure to mix up what you’re making as well; variety (and sometimes cumin) are the spice of life.

As a swimmer I am not focused upon building muscle and a large amount of my exercises are compound exercises designed to tone rather than bulk up. On a student budget it is easier and far more manageable than you may think to stay fit. I benefit from only having eight contact hours a week and a day off on Tuesdays, so I can train twice a day sometimes. However, the government recommend three sessions a week of thirty minutes or longer in duration to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Sleep plays an underrated role in the aforementioned healthy and balanced lifestyle and gives you the energy to get through the day – between seven and nine hours a night is the optimum amount.

This article might sound like I’m trying to be a personal trainer or come across as patronising, it might even seem funny. I’m simply trying to promote the idea that we are three-part beings; Mind, Body & Spirit. Exercise helps all three parts. If you’re getting into some serious training and you don’t take up any of my advice, just remember you are being physically outworked by a man with only three functioning limbs, who has trained six times in the last five days; and deep down we both know you are better than that.