College life is anything but structured, so it can take some effort on your part to create routines and schedules to keep your life and fitness on track. After leaving the 18 years of mom-made schedules, most college students prefer to simply go with the flow. If this keeps your to-do list clear and your waistline trim, then more power to you. If not, keep reading.

The key word here is “routine.” Once something becomes a routine or a habit, we are able to do it without thinking. I always considered my 3-hour Saturday class a habit, since I’d make it all the way to class, sit there for 30 blissfully boring minutes, and then think, “why did I even come today?” It’s a good thing that thought process didn’t kick in earlier in the day or I never would have made it to class. The same goes for eating habits and fitness habits.

First, find a time to schedule your workouts when you won’t be distracted. If your roommates and friends have lots of classes throughout the day, pick a time either right before your class or right after to fit in an hour or two at the gym or a few miles running around campus. When your friends are elsewhere, they can’t convince you to skip working out for video games or an extra-long lunch at the dining hall. Coordinate your habits around your friends’ schedules.

Sign up for an intramural sport. We’re talking indoor soccer with all your friends at 7pm on Wednesday nights, or some other similar commitment that you’ll be inclined to keep. When you have a team relying on you, or even when you choose a workout activity that’s also fun, you’re almost twice as likely to keep it as a part of your routine.

Find a running buddy. Your roommate, your classmate, or your buddy across campus will suffice. The best is if you can get a running buddy who has to do something really inconvenient to meet you for the run – like take the bus to your dorm, or get up hours earlier than he or she would normally like. This way, once your friend arrives, he or she will definitely drag you out of bed when you try to pull the covers over your head.

Schedule a date and time, and dress for the occasion. You’ve got a break between classes from 3:20-5:40? Great, wear your running or workout clothes to class, sneakers and all, and you’re halfway there. Simply drop your books off, or better yet, hand them off to someone who lives in your dorm to carry home for you, and sneak in a workout and a quick shower while everyone else is lounging around wasting time on Facebook. Squeezing workouts in between other routine activities doesn’t add any extra time to your day, meaning you can still sleep in and stay up late, and this helps those workouts become a part of your routine.

Finally, a nice trick is to pack a light snack for your classes. If you’re planning a run after your noon lecture, but your stomach starts growling as soon as you get to the classroom, you’re not likely to skip burgers with friends later to go for a run. Pack a light snack, like string cheese, yogurt, or a granola bar, and you’ll always have the fuel to get you through your lecture and your workout.

[Image credit: kk on Flickr]