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Real World Fitness: Eleanor Zhang 18, 4/C Midshipman, USNA

Mar 15, 2017 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Lisa Gotto Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.

What does working out look like for a Midshipman?

I typically work out around five days a week. Some weeks will be more, some less; depends on how I’m feeling. I am on the Navy Karate Team, which has four practices a week, each an hour long. Here, we work on things like Karate technique, flexibility, and body hardening. After each practice, I personally like to go to the gym’s weight room for lifting/core or the cardio room/outside to run. Lifting takes anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours; it depends on what I’m doing. Runs are usually around 20 to 45 minutes.

What are your goals for how you look and feel?

Back in high school, my main goal was to run faster and help my team win races. But running isn’t the only thing we do here at the Naval Academy. Each semester, midshipmen have to take the Physical Readiness Test (PRT), comprised of three parts: push-ups, sit-ups, and a run. I was close to maxing out all three sections on the last PRT, so it’s a goal of mine to perform just as well on the next one. I’m also getting ready to take the MARSOT screener, which is a pre-test for Marine Corps-related summer trainings. I’ve never really cared about how I looked because the sports and activities I involve myself in do the job for me. As long as I can perform, I’m happy.

What part of your workout is the most challenging? Why?

Running, mainly because it’s so easy to stop in the middle and call it quits. My high school cross country/track & field coach always said that running is a mental sport, and he is 100 percent correct. It was easier in high school because I had a team to practice with every day. At the Academy, aside from weekly plebe morning trainings, I more or less have to run on my own. It’s also harder to make improvements in run times after you hit a certain point. I have goal times I want to get to for certain distances, but compared to high school it’s been difficult trying to stay on track.

If your workout has recently changed, please explain how it has changed.

As I mentioned before, all I did in high school was run. Once I got here, I had no problem with running, but I felt behind when it came to strength-oriented exercises. So I’ve been doing much more lifting recently. The only downside to this is that I feel like I’ve been slacking a bit in cardio. My roommate tells me “Cardio kills gains, and gains kill cardio.” She’s right.

Like I said before, aside from doing more strength training after Plebe Summer, I usually just work out what I feel like working out.

Does mental toughness play a part in your workout? Explain.

In my opinion, definitely. It would be easy to say “3 miles today” and then partway through, tell yourself “never mind, maybe just 1.5 miles. Better than nothing.” Yes, better than nothing, but also a much slower path to results. If you want to get something done, you need to commit to it. I like to tell myself that the harder I go now, the less struggle and more progress I can make later. Sounds cliché, but it’s true.

What tools do you use to motivate you when you just don’t feel like working out?

Right now, the upcoming MARSOT screener and PRT are enough to get me moving. I personally also get in a bad mood when I don’t work out for a while (quite grumpy, according to my roommates). I try not to take more than a day or two of rest unless I have some type of competition or physical test coming up. I’m weird because I am almost always up to go for a workout, but on the rare offchance that I “don’t feel like it,” I tell myself that anything’s better than nothing, and that I’ll probably regret not working out later.

If I were to take a fitness class, it would probably be…

Cycling. Or swimming. If triathlon were a fitness class, I would take it.

What role does nutrition play in your life right now?

Nutrition is where I get my energy from. If I don’t eat well, I won’t perform well. That includes not only eating healthy foods, but also eating enough, having a consistent meal schedule, and drinking a lot of water. I’m pretty good about avoiding things like chips and soda, but I have a terrible sweet tooth that I highly doubt I’ll ever get over it.

A diet splurge for me would be…

Ice cream. Lots of ice cream.


Check all that apply to your fitness type:

Finally getting serious about my health and how I look and feel

   Have always aspired to be physically fit

   I have always made fitness a priority

I wish I could be more consistent with my workouts

✓✓✓✓✓✓   I feel out of sorts when I haven’t worked out

   I am a high-intensity individual when it comes to working out

I am systematic and steady in my approach to working out and weight maintenance

I am excited when it’s time to work out

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