If I had to give one piece of non-academic advice to any USC freshman, I would definitely recommend taking advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities at USC’s Lyon Center. The Lyon Center has the equipment or room for any activity you may want to do, including four full-size basketball courts, two weight rooms, a long-course swimming pool, and a rock-climbing wall.
I first started using the Lyon Center consistently at the end of my fall semester freshman year. A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to play racquetball, and I decided to learn the sport! I began playing racquetball at the Lyon Center during the heat of finals season, and the game provided a nice study break. On a typical day during finals, I would study astronautical engineering for a few hours, play an hour of racquetball, and then go back to studying calculus for another few hours. I loved sweating out the stress and would always be more productive after an hour of running around the racquetball court.
Starting to frequently use the Lyon Center was a nice change of pace for me. In high school, I had always been physically active. I played baseball until my junior year and joined the high school tennis team my senior year. During the winter season, I swam on my high school’s varsity swim team all four years and was captain for two years. My first semester at USC, I was extremely busy with classes, pledged a fraternity, and never made going to the gym a priority. I started to realize I had missed working out.
As second semester started, I broadened my athletic horizons. I purchased a red, white, and blue Speedo and jumped in a pool for the first time in over a year. As I built up strength and confidence, I got into a routine of swimming a 1,000 yard workout every Monday and Wednesday afternoon. While I may never reach peak swimming shape, I definitely enjoy the feeling of tanning poolside after a tough workout.
To compliment the cardiovascular benefits of the swimming workouts, I also decided to take a weightlifting course. Designated PHED 102a, weightlifting met every Monday and Wednesday, and I conveniently fit my swimming schedule around the class. When I started the weightlifting program, I really did not know what to expect. I had never loved weightlifting in high school and was not particularly muscular. But I stuck with it and continued to go every Monday and Wednesday. Now, as the second semester comes to an end, I have definitely seen improvement. The maximum amount of weight I can bench has increased by 50 pounds, and I have lost about 5 pounds of the freshman 15 I gained in the fall.
Outside of the physical benefits, weightlifting has made me a much more productive student. On days when I lack the motivation to complete a long physics problem set or write a MATLAB code, I first go to the gym, blast the Red Hot Chili Peppers on my iPod, and hop on the rowing machine for 15 minutes. Exercising at the Lyon Center keeps my brain refreshed, and I find that I am able to finish homework in less time and more accurately.
So bring it on finals. I’ll be hitting the racquetball courts and the weight room to keep me sharp for studying!