UCI’s Gym Class Hero

Courtesy of Taylor Weik

Courtesy of Taylor Weik

Andy Nguyen has a routine. Every day he wakes up, heads over to the Anteater Recreation Center and spends an hour and a half focusing on his intensive weight-lifting regimen that he defines as push, pull, legs. The push consists of chest and tricep exercises; the pull focuses on biceps and back; and legs is all about lower body strength. This has been his routine ever since coming to UC Irvine and this motivated Anteater hasn’t broken it since.

Did we mention he does this six days a week at 6 a.m.?

Nguyen’s almost-daily workout may seem daunting to some, but to the regulars — those people who always seem to be at the ARC straining, sweating and generally looking like they belong in a Nike advertisement — it’s the standard.

The regulars at the ARC form a specific class of UCI students; one that many people refer to as “meatheads” and “juicers,” which are terms that give off a negative connotation and conjure images of disgustingly-buff, Arnold Schwarzenegger-types. While there are some that fit the stereotypical mold, most of these gym-goers embody the values of health, motivation and positivity.

“It comes from this intrinsic motivation to become the best me that I can be,”  Nguyen, a third-year civil engineering major, said on how he’s able to commit to an early morning routine.

“I want to be well-rounded, so not only do I want to do well in my studies as a student, but I want to do well in other aspects of my life like improving my fitness, being healthy and overall just trying to do as much as I can with the time I have.”

Nguyen, like most body-builders and pro-exercisers, prefers to head to the gym with a partner or group of friends, but as he puts it, “When I go at six in the morning, I’ve just accepted the fact that even when my friends say they’re going to come, chances are they’re going to sleep in or be too tired. That’s fine; I just have to do what I know I have to do.”

Nguyen made his decision to start exercising during high school when his older brother showed him a b-boy, or breakdancing, video that inspired him to do something about his weight.

“I figured I’d have to lose weight because it’d be impossible to do all those crazy tricks and dance around like that being 200 pounds,” Nguyen says.

Nguyen started b-boying, losing 20 pounds and finding himself feeling more fit and gaining more energy as a result.

For the rest of his high school career Nguyen took up track and field where he learned how to be more disciplined, something that he’s proud to have learned.

And he’s taken this discipline with him to college. Now weighing in at 158 pounds, Nguyen’s commitment to his early workouts has taught him to prioritize his time. Unlike many of his friends, Nguyen has found himself finishing up homework as soon as he gets home from class and focusing on his job at UCI Student Center & Event Services so that he can go to sleep at his reasonable bedtime of 10 p.m.; a time when most students are just starting their work.

“My top priorities are school, gym — it might seem like a lot but it’s really just an hour and a half each day — and work,” Nguyen said.

Though his priorities all seem separate, Nguyen insists they’re all connected to his rigid workout schedule. If he gave up his fitness, he believes he’d lose his motivation to do well in his studies and in the workplace, too.

“This motivation I have, it comes from within,” he said. “But working out has tested and shaped this motivation. I’d rather lose some sleep and energy to be able to achieve my fitness goals. Although I try to get to sleep early, I avoid sleeping in because sleep is the enemy of success.”

Nguyen’s best advice to Anteaters who want to start developing a healthy lifestyle is to tell friends and family about it so they can support you and ultimately hold you accountable, because “it’s not only a promise to yourself, but a promise to the people around you.”

Though he mainly lifts weights to exercise discipline, Nguyen doesn’t deny that his physical appearance is a factor that fuels his motivation.

“I don’t really want to be a fat engineer,” he laughs. “A lot of engineers tend to be overweight because they don’t exercise or go outside, so I want to break that mold.”

But in the end, while he works out to see results in his fitness now, Nguyen would also like to see himself reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in the future.

“I want to be that really buff dad or really buff uncle lifting up his kids,” Nguyen says thoughtfully. “I want to be active with my kids; I don’t want to be old and decrepit and too tired to hang out with them. I want to be there for them.”