Being an athlete in college affords a freshman a large array of possibilities that would otherwise not be there. One is being immediately surrounded by a group of like-minded individuals who are bonded together with the same determination to be as good at their sport as they can be.

At the same time, an athlete can be as engaged in academics as is generally expected. A balance between partying, academics and sports, however, is often hard to maintain.

A freshman hall might be an acceptable atmosphere to find friends when coming to college: classic college fun is obviously not limited to athletes. But after partying all the time, without (in my case) running 50 to 100 miles a week, one might find himself more prone to the effects of gravity (getting fatter). This is important to keep in mind should an injury or some other sort of foul happening occur that might put one’s training and fitness on hold. During my freshman year, I realized the full implications of such a message.
My first three or four weeks of the season saw the biggest jump in miles run in a week that I have ever and will ever try to make. Many might not be aware of the necessity of a slow build in mileage but, without it, injury becomes a major possibility.

As I jumped from a summer of 30 miles a week to around 65 miles a week at school, all I thought about was my running and having a good time on the weekends, a luxury I felt I afforded myself by training hard and long. This was not to last.

Seconds after I finished my second race of the season, I found that I could not run without a truly insane amount of pain coming from an acute area of my tibia.

I ended up not running or training for more than a month and a half as I waited for my shin to heal. In the meantime, my Saturday nights were filled with the same old thing that I had been doing: drinking in excess.

Sure, some would say that that is what the average college kid does, but after years of training in a manner so that it would be impossible to gain weight, it was not something that I could handle.

As the fall semester progressed, I became more detached from the life to which I had so tightly clung. My grades, though not originally that fantastic, slipped more as I stopped going to classes and started sleeping in later, often just waking up to eat and then going back to bed. At the height of it, I skipped two weeks of class and gained 17 pounds. I left for home during winter break looking for a change.

Being at home helped and, though I slept through the majority of the month, I started feeling better and decided that maybe it is true that one can only be good at two things out of the three in college: sports, academics or social life. I decided to choose sports and academics and committed myself to staying sober throughout the rest of my college experience.

My experience is an argument for thoughtfulness and care for one’s body. As one takes to the field or sits down for a test, keep in mind that it truly is a careful balance; take it from me that failure is really not a fun thing.

Lang is a member of the class of 2011.

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