Progress

From last September until now, I’ve made progress.
I acknowledged my penchant for lying around, and I made solid goals to get myself moving. I also reached these goals and am currently in the process of reaching others. I completed two registered classes. I became a lover of both the plank and pirouette. I went to the gym and tried trampoline dodgeball. I took a few walks here and there in the good ol’city of Toronto. I was up for any challenge.

I took risks.
I became less self-conscious.
I’ve made progress.

From my first post to this very lost post, I made the leap from being inactive to active. And throughout my journey over the past eight months, I’ve learned that my body can do amazing things. I can jump, run, stretch, twirl, and lift. Becoming physically active helped me ease into the idea that it’s not about how I look, or what societal convention that I can fit into. It’s about what I can do and how I can move freely and be healthy.

There were some days when I admit I did nothing. But I also found a way to pick myself back up and get moving again. There were also days when I remembered that by being active, I will actually get more things done. I would go to a Pilates class, and then be able to focus on my studies. Productivity needs to come from some sort of activity in order to get the momentum going.

 

We made it. VIA FIREBONES.TUMBLR.COM

 

Now that this blog is ending for this semester, all I can say is that we are in the homestretch. It’s exam season, and we can conquer this! With essays/assignments and tests, it’s easy to just slip back to old habits. My books might be calling me to hole myself up in my room for days end, but I refuse to give up on my hard work. After all, being physically active isn’t a temporary goal, but a lifestyle.

Here’s what I’ll be doing for the remainder of exam season to keep my lifestyle goals in check:

1) For every half hour of studying, take a 5-10 minute break and stretch.
Keep that blood circulating!

2) Hit the gym twice a week, either before or after library visits.
Exercising is now officially the best friend of studying. It’s a win-win situation for conditioning both the mind and body.

3) Try a drop-in class one a week.
Since registered classes are finished, I plan to keep myself going by heading to the Athletic Centre and trying out a drop-in class that’s new to me each week. Adding spontaneity will help with my studying, as I will be able to break away from a monotonous routine of burying my head in the books during exam season.

4) Explore a bit of Toronto!
I need to refresh myself and get out of the campus bubble. I want to take advantage of the fact that the weather is now nice enough for average human being to not turn into an icicle. Therefore, I should start walking around the city again and go on adventure mode away from the campus.

5) Take a rest, and relax.
Treat yo’self. No explanation needed.

We all start off as beginners, but as time goes by, we change. As for me, I’m always looking for something new to try out—that’s the best habit I’ve developed this year.

 

A dance of celebration. VIA GIF-DATABASE.TUMBLR.COM



I’m getting the hang of this. I can totally do this.

Are you ready exam season?

-Amanda

Being Graceful 24/7

I’ve been going strong with my ballet classes at the Athletic Centre, but I can’t believe I’ve completed a semester of pirouetting. Honestly, it still has not hit me that I will no longer be going to the dance studio every week to practice my dance moves—however, that doesn’t mean that the dancing has to be over!

Over the course of the semester, I learned to incorporate one of the toughest type of sports into my daily life. I practiced the art of strengthening my core by correcting my posture while in class, I kept up with my planking, and I stayed faithful to my warm up stretches. When I was not in the dance studio, I tried my best to incorporate every graceful aspect of ballet in between dance classes. Now, I call that discipline.

I remember attending my first class and having to depend on looking at the wall-length mirror for guidance as the instructor called out positions. Now I feel as if I’m on autopilot when it comes to going from one position to another—it’s slowly becoming second nature to me.

1st position, feet are angled opposite from one another while touching at the heels.

2nd position, feet are still angled opposite from one another, but this time a few inches apart.

3rd position, one foot is placed in front of the other while still angled opposite.

4th position, same as 3rd position, but this time a few inches apart.

Are you noticing the pattern here?

Last but not least, the 5th position, where feet touch each other again, but heel to toe.

Dancing does not have to be an optical illusion. -VIA MOILLUSIONS.COM

See, I got this. And I’ve improved with each class!

With practicing straightening my posture while in and out of class, I’ve also found myself focused dancing gracefully. I decided to look at my participation in ballet as something more than just physical activity. After all, ballet is both a sport and an art form. As time went by, I learned that balance within my core is key when trying to perfect the plié and tendu. I found myself more in-control than ever and I’ve been able to twirl around the dance studio with a little more self confidence. Most of all, I’ve been able to relax while going to this class, which was much needed considering how exam season is here.

I started this class with sore feet, but I think I’ve been able to toughen up after all of that practice.
I’m never going to be a professional ballerina, but hey, one can dream.

One can dream though! -VIA 5-SECONDS-OF-IDOLS.TUMBLR.COM

What have you done to prepare yourselves for exams while staying active?

—Amanda

To Prospective MoveU’ers

Right now, many high school students are looking at their offers of acceptance and making big decisions. Part of that decision is considering what a university has to offer, lifestyle-wise (hey, university is more than just academics).

Staying active is crucial to your university experience. So to any of you prospective student readers out there, let me share with you some of the best aspects of U of T St. George campus.

The Athletic Centre
Ah, the good ol’AC. If you’re looking for a gym to work out in, or to take drop-in and registered classes that range from Parkour to Pilates, you’re covered. This place is legitimate — there is a dance studio (which I am currently taking ballet classes in), a 50-feet Olympic pool, field house, spinning room, weight room and various other rooms filled with brand new, and top of the art exercise equipment, you can spend days exploring this behemoth of a building.

Lo and behold, the Athletic Centre. VIA PHYSICAL.UTORONTO.CA

The Athletic Centre is also near another behemoth — the concrete peacock library of our time, Robarts. Need a break from studying to go work out, or vice versa? The buildings are about three minutes away from each other. How convenient to your academic and athletic career in university!

Does it not look like a peacock though? VIA SCE.LIBRARY.UTORONTO.CA

Hart House
Personally, the fact that you can be able to say to people that the gym you go to is in a castle-like building adds more cred to what Hart House is. People call this building Hogwarts for a reason: tons of stairs and arched windows. Although this gym isn’t as spacious as the Athletic Centre, it’s a gem on the U of T campus. I love the coziness of the small weight room, and the fact that the running track is just above the gymnasium, where many drop-in and registered classes take place. Most of all, it’s located at the heart of the U of T campus, and which makes it easy to travel to.

Ye olde Hart House. VIA HARTHOUSE.CA

MoveU Passport/Co-Curricular Record

The University of Toronto has introduced the co-curricular record, which is a transcript that keeps track of your activity and participation on campus. How can I build my CCR, you ask? Participate in extra-curriculars, work in jobs on campus, and take part of CCR-recognized events and programs, such as the MoveU Passport. The MoveU Passport, as I explained in my previous post, is an initiative where taking part in weekly MoveU events and getting active will count toward your CCR. Past events held by the MoveU Passport include Dance Conditioning, Table Tennis, and many more in this drop-in schedule! I don’t know about you, but having a flawless CCR is another reason worth going to the gym for!

The best part about all of these places and programs?
You’ll be able to meet people and make new friends through being healthy and active on campus.

Cheesy, but it’s true!

If you prospective students want to ask any questions about MoveU, feel free to ask away in the comment section!

—Amanda

 

Pirouette is the new plank

Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to try out ballet. The graceful movements, spinning, and endless pirouettes inspired me. I wanted to learn how to dance like that. So I was thrilled at the beginning of this semester when I discovered the ballet class being offered by the Athletic Centre. I had to sign up!

No big deal. VIA COEURGLACE.TUMBLR.COM

Classes like Zumba and Nia are dance-like programs offered at gyms all around the Toronto area. Yet, for an instructional class like ballet, I thought the only way to take a class was at a dance studio. After researching online, I realized that both the Athletic Centre and Hart House have dance studios that offer many distinct fitness classes—even ballroom dancing!

The dance studio at the AC. VIA PHYSICAL.UTORONTO.CA

As I have mentioned in the past, the only group fitness classes I’ve taken at the gym were stretch-based like Yoga and Pilates, or cardio-based ones like Cycle Fit. So I didn’t know what to expect. However, once class began, my nerves went away and I became excited at the prospect of starting something new.

Following along with the dance instructor was easier than I thought. At some moments, I would stumble and fall out of place, but at this stage in my journey I’ve learned to laugh that off. I was ready for the challenge.

While I allowed my mind to wander while taking part in stretch-based classes, I quickly learned that in this class, I really had to focus. Ballet, quite like Yoga and Pilates, demands attention to posture and position at all times, but is even stricter with accuracy. If anything, this class teaches discipline by repeating moves again and again until they’re perfect. If the instructor saw someone struggling with a move, she would help them and if you were doing it right, she would let you know. It was encouraging to have the instructor praise you when she saw you nailing a move spot on. Hard work does pay off!

I tend to shy away from competitive sports, so I found ballet to be right up my alley. While you’re learning your steps, you’re also collaborating with the rest of the group. Everyone wants everyone else to do well. After all, a crucial part of dancing is for everyone to flow together. Near the end, all of us in the dance studio were prancing and twirling, but somehow we did it in unison. After only one lesson, I felt quite proud of myself!

After class ended, I left the warm AC building and walked back into the typical icy weather.
Once I got back to my room, I started practicing my ballet moves. Last semester, I tried to master the plank in between my Pilates classes. This semester, it’s the pirouette.

Have you tried any new fitness classes this week?

—Amanda

Staying active while sick 101

If you’ve gone outside within the last few weeks, then you’re aware of how brutal the weather is in Toronto. This means many students are getting sick. Sadly, I am one of said students. For many university students, catching a cold per semester is practically a tradition. Sadly, when I’m sick, I tend to put my life on hold until I get better.

Being sick can be a bit of a hindrance when trying to keep up with my goals, but it’s not the end of the world. I’ve found that with  exercise, the usual lethargy  that comes with  having a cold tends to go away. Being sick doesn’t mean that I need to stop everything I’m doing but instead, just change my pace,

Here are my tips on staying  active while fighting a  cold:

1) Stretch, Stretch, and Stretch.
No, seriously, stretch as much as you can. Even if it means touching your toes and lifting up your arms, warming up your muscles can alleviate symptoms of soreness in your body. Even though having a cold means full-on exhaustion, I personally find that by stretching, I regain some of that lost energy and feel less lethargic.

Once I’m feeling a bit better,  I’ll try a drop-in  exercise class on campus. I’m aiming for a class like Stretch Works, which happens on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the Athletic Centre (Free for all U of T students). I find that  getting out of bed and moving my body makes me feel  better mentally and  physically.

2) Buddy Up!
Of course, having a cold makes you want to isolate yourself and create a blanket fort in your room. Well, at least for me. But why not create a buddy system and make plans to hit the Hart House gym after class, just for a half hour or so? I’m planning on going to a drop-in class with another bed-ridden friend of mine this week. We can encourage  one another to leave our rooms and hit the gym! An exercise session with a friend   can benefit  your studies too! Physical activity helps me to focus on  schoolwork afterward. Believe me, with all of the drowsiness and brain fog caused by this nasty bug, focus is needed right now!

3) Rest
Call it a day, or call it a night—getting rest  is an  important element  in the recovery process. I know that I tend to be a night owl, but I also know that I need to defy the typical university student sleep schedule and go to bed early.  I start my day with  stretching to energize myself, and I end with more stretching  to calm myself down. When it comes to stretching before bed, this is when I  focus on yoga moves such as Pigeon Pose, where I stretch one leg out and back, and then lunge my other leg while bending it toward my inner thigh. Doing yoga  before bed  helps prepare me for the next day by releasing tension from my body. I can already feel myself calming down just  thinking of the poses I’ll do!. Namaste!

I couldn’t agree more.. VIA MULTITUDEOFGIFS.TUMBLR.COM

Even when  sick, it’s still possible to boost your  energy with exercise!

My dear readers: how do you stay active while recovering from a cold?

—Amanda

Hard Work Pays Off

The University of Toronto has always been known for its ambitious student body. Not only can you earn a degree here, you can also establish a co-curricular record, which is a transcript-like document that keeps track of your extra-curricular involvement at U of T. Yup, that’s right—at this university, all of your hard work dedicated to extra-curricular activities gets recognized. After all, we have a reputation to maintain, don’t we?

I’d like to say that when it comes to extra-curriculars, I am a bit scattered. I like to write for one of the newspapers at U of T, I dabble in filmmaking, and do behind-the-scenes work with theatre productions at Victoria College. I want to build that co-curricular record of mine while participating in the hobbies that I love.

As MoveU blogger, I have made my goal to be physically active a key part of my life. I want to make being active a lifestyle choice and not just something I try once in a blue moon.

Fortunately, the new MoveU Passport allows me to combine physical and extra-curricular activity. The MoveU Passport program is aimed at getting U of T students active and the great thing is, passport activities are recognized on your co-curricular record! Activities include a range of drop-in classes like Zumba and Stretchworks, Aquatics, and MoveU social events. Once you sign up for your passport, simply attend ten designated classes or events by April 4 to be eligible for prizes, and best of all, recognition on your co-curricular record.

I have found yet another reason to get active! Exercising, being healthy, and having it count towards your co-curricular record? Sign me up, please! Best of all, these classes and events are FREE! If you haven’t noticed from my posts last semester, free is the best word ever for a university student!

As a lover of drop-in classes, I’ve had my eye on the free Zumba class for quite some time. However, I want to start off with a strength and conditioning exercise class. I did a lot of cardio and stretching last semester, and now I’m interested in toning up my body. Last December, I came across this article on The Daily Beast on how weight-bearing exercise energizes you more than caffeine. As a busy student who is easily drained, I need to keep my energy up. So I’ve kept the idea of strength training in the back of my mind. And with the Strength Basics class being part of the MoveU Passport program, I’ve found the catalyst to finally start my strength and conditioning routine!

When it comes to strength exercises, I usually limit myself to doing reps of bicep curls with a five-pound dumbbell—rudimentary lifting, if anything. But when it comes to weightlifting techniques, I’ve been content with staying away. Not only do certain techniques look confusing, but knowing that five-pound dumbbells are my limit, I’ve had trouble with the idea of giving strength training a try.

Even this kid can lift heavier weights better than I can. VIA GIFHAUS.TUMBLR.COM

However, the Strength Basics class teaches proper training technique.  This class is designed for participants to lift at their own pace. I found that it helped seeing people trying different techniques with dumbbells and weight machines, as it gave me something to emulate.

What I learned in the Strength Basics class is that good posture is key in being able to build more stamina throughout each rep. I am determined to improve my posture, and will make this a strength and conditioning goal in addition to toning up. I look forward to trying more strength and conditioning classes–as well as the other drop-in classes in the MoveU Passport program. I have until April 4 to try all of the different activities. I’m up for the challenge!

Of course, I have realistic goals. VIA CROSSFIT4ME.TUMBLR.COM

For those who have signed up for the MoveU Passport—what classes have you tried so far?

Welcome Back: The Going To The Gym Edition

I get it. It’s cold outside, and walking for more than 15 minutes makes it feel like every drop of blood inside is freezing. So why bother leaving your place when you can just stay inside, right? The thing is, I know from years of bed-hogging and tv-marathoning experience that slugging around instead of going outside and being productive also makes you feel terrible. With this brutal weather, living a productive life can be a catch-22 for a university student. In the past, I’ve used bad weather as an excuse for being inactive. But now? Not even the frozen pathways of Queens Park were going to stop me from going to the gym (well, because I can just walk around the park instead of go through it…).

Slipping on ice? Ain’t nobody got time for that. VIA GIFRIFIC.COM

It’s just that ever since the holidays, I’ve only been able to exercise at my own place instead of in public. So keeping to my planned schedule, and pact to #tryitUofT, I went to the gym on Monday for the first time in the ever so “fresh” and “new” year of 2014.

Going to the Hart House gym for the first time since December 2013, my first initial thoughts were:

-“I am going to start back at ‘square one’
- ‘I’ll have to relearn everything.”
-“Everyone is going to be looking at me.”
- “The experience is going to be uncomfortable, just don’t go.”

It’s so easy to fall back into feeling insecure when you’ve had some time away. Yet, I was determined not to let anything stop me.

Not surprisingly, it was all in my head.

Instead, I just picked up where I left off. I was comfortable exercising in public. Once I got into Hart House and left the change room, I found myself naturally making a list in my head of what I wanted to do: stretches, strength, and cardio.

Naturally, I walked to the little hidden cove behind the stairs to do my stretches first, where I prepped and warmed myself up for where I was going next: the weight room. Last semester, visiting the weight room was very much a trial-and-error process but having my stretches complete, I felt confident going into the small room full of beautifully-toned weight lifters. And I didn’t compare myself to others around me with my five pound dumbbells. Instead, I just did my biceps and triceps reps, kept to my own, and moved on.

Next I went to the main gym area where I hit the elliptical machine for thirty minutes, and after a five-minute stretching rest, did fifteen minutes on the bike. By going to the gym frequently, I’ve realized what I like and what I don’t. For example, running on the track isn’t my favourite, but running on the machine is. Yet I hope to get more acquainted with the track this year, not specifically for running, but just to use it for walking. So I ended my gym-going experience with a nice, albeit brief, walk around the track to cool myself before going back to the change room.

In retrospect, the hardest part of going back to the gym was just getting ready to leave my place. But once I got back there, I realized that I underestimated my progress. Just going to the gym reassured me about my capabilities when it comes to reaching my goals. I haven’t fallen off the wagon. And my initial thoughts after my first 2014 gym visit?

“You’re still on the right track. Keep on going.”

My dear readers, care to share your experiences getting back to a certain routine?

—Amanda.

Getting Back To Business

Last week was all about settling in to the new semester. This week, it’s all about bringing my game back. Now is the time to juggle school, extra-curriculars, and physical activity.
Being active during the holidays was admittedly easier. However, this semester with three new half courses added to my previous load, I need to start planning out when I going to exercise.

Trust me. VIA GIFS-FOR-THE-MASSES.TUMBLR.COM

During first semester, I would exercise on whim, but would still schedule in a registered class, like Pilates. Yet I’ve made a pact to crank up intensity when challenging myself. I know that organizing and planning workouts are the next step to achieving my new goals. Of course, I love being spontaneous like any other student at this university (does anyone consider 2:00AM food runs a normal way to bond with their friends now?). But when it comes to getting back on track, structure is crucial to realizing my goals. Over the past few days, I reviewed my schedule to see what exercise plan I can realistically commit to now that life is just getting busy again.

Monday
Ah, the start of the week. The overall beginning. Monday.
I only have two classes. My last one ends at 4PM. I don’t know about you, but whatever happens on the first day of the week seems to set the tone for the days that follow. So from now on, I am going to aim to make Monday a gym day, when I go to Hart House and use the elliptical and other machines and do not care about working out in front of peers and strangers. By starting the week with going to the gym, I hope that it sets a positive “you can do it!” type of attitude when trying to exercise on the other days.

Speaking of starting off with exercise, today is the first day to start on building the MoveU Passport that goes into your Co-Curricular Record! If you want to sign up, just bring your T-Card to the Athletic Centre main office, and from there you can get on going with attending free drop-in exercise classes and social activities on campus. For more information, check out the facebook event page for the program. Don’t forget to #tryitUofT.

Tuesday
Tuesdays are two-class days as well. However, I finish at 3PM Since I’ve picked up a heavy course load with dense readings, I will devote Tuesdays to one registered exercise class so that I can head on out to the library afterwards. I`ve got my eye on a Judo class-stay tuned!

Wednesday
I’m scared about Wednesdays. They are eight-hour class days this term. My last class ends at 6PM, so I still have the evening and night to myself, but I don’t want to end it by collapsing onto my bed.  Since hump days are stress-ridden days, then this shall be a day devoted to relaxation. I will unleash my stress by dancing in my room, doing yoga, or Pilates, and any stretching that will calm me down. How else will I keep up with my planking?

Thursday
Thursday is yet another two-class day. However, I plan to make this a rest day. I will recharge and not panic over whether I should go to the gym or not because Queens Park is too icy to cross through. I think it will be much needed. Of course, just because I’m not going to the gym, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to be huddled up in my bed on a TV-watching marathon. I’ll nonetheless do my best to keep active during my “free” day.

Friday
Fridays are slack days! It’s the end of the week, and I’m practically free, except for one class that ends at 11:00AM. I plan to make this not only a gym day, but a day centred on walking all over campus. I don’t want to just leave my relaxation to the confines of my room and planking—I want to be able to calm down in a public setting as well while taking in the sights and exploring hidden gems around U of T. Most recently, I’ve wanted to get acquainted with Hart House. It’s more than just using it as a place for going to the gym. I’m planning to check out live shows playing at the theatre there—as inspired by fellow blogger, Stephen’s post on theatre-going.

THE WEEKEND!

 

The past. I think. VIA GIFRIFIC.COM

 

Saturday
Freedom at last? Only temporarily. Depending on my workload and what’s due the week after, I will devote my weekends to either exercising or doing homework. After all, with no academic classes, why not take advantage of drop-in classes? Last semester, I was able to do a few drop-in cycling classes that my friend taught, and I plan to do the same for this time around as well.

Sunday
As for Sunday… well that’s a different story. Even though it’s the last day of the weekend, I think it’s best to admit that Sundays are truly Mondays. The pangs of guilt for procrastinating on readings all? And then spending all day catching up? Grudgingly completing rudimental chores? Worrying about the tests and assignments due in the upcoming week? For all of that, I’m leaving Sundays as a day for spontaneity. I could make time to hang out with my friends, go shopping, read a book outside of the curriculum, discover a parkette, and more!

I mean, I’m a university student after all; I still need some rebellion from my daily schedule.

So with all this fussing over trying to be organized how I’ll fit in my exercise, I could use some helpful hints. Tell me readers, how do you squeeze in staying active!

New Year, New Resolutions.

It’s 2014. Second semester has already started and I’m still trying to settle in. Along with my two full-year courses, I’ve got three new half-year courses, so my schedule has completely changed. And speaking of change, my schedule isn’t the only thing getting an overhaul. My goals have changed too. I know, it’s typical for everyone to make a few resolutions at the beginning of the year, and also to drop them after a few weeks, but this year I’m a little more hopeful.

My reaction to every new years resolution making before 2014. – VIA BILLBOARD.TUMBLR.COM

During the holidays, I took some time to reflect on my last semester and my attempts to establish a healthier lifestyle. I made a jumpstart on my aspiration to make a total 180 by getting out there and being active.I signed up for a Pilates class at the Athletic Centre. I made a pact to go to the gym at least once a week, and conquered the ever-so-despised plank. That was only the beginning. With the new year, I’ve come prepared with new, yet realistic, goals that I hope to achieve by the end of the semester. My goals for 2014 are as follows:

1) Try out a new exercise class.
With the second semester starting and all, I’ve been a bit inspired by the #tryitUofT campaign celebrating January as the month to get into new clubs and events. When it comes to exercise, I am craving a new approach. I’ve always stuck to slow, relaxation exercises, like yoga and Pilates. I think it’s now time to try something new. Now that doesn’t mean that I will quit Pilates— I mean, that whole semester spent doing planks wasn’t all for naught. I plan to keep up my relaxation exercises, along with my crazy dancing when I’m in my dorm, and in the gym.

I’ve been looking into martial arts, to even quirky classes like archery. Oh the many options that Hart House and the Athletic Centre at U of T has to offer!

2) Eat healthier
First semester was all about getting off my butt and moving my body. Second semester is still going to be about that, but it will also be about finding balance with the meals that nourish and energize my body. This is especially important after workouts, when I need my muscles to recover. I’ve realized how important eating healthy is; I find it affects my stamina when I have to move around all day. If I want to achieve my new goals, I need to start treating myself better.

Most of all, I don’t want to have a mid-day slump. I want to be able to be energized going into the gym and relaxed going out of it.

For inspiration, I took a look at fellow Student Life, and Health & Wellness, blogger Gloria’s post on mindful eating.

3) Go to the gym three times a week
Last semester was all about getting rid of the fear of going to the gym alone and exercising in public, and honestly, even though there are some days when I find myself slipping back to those thoughts, I’ve never once regretted going to the gym. Now it’s time to bump it up from going to the gym casually to making my commitment official.

4) No More Sleeping In
Oh my, sleep is a wonderful thing. Sleeping in is even better. But it’s a time-costing luxury that gets in the way of doing my work, and being an active person. Just like eating healthy, sleeping well is another goal that isn’t directly connected to being more active, but plays a huge role in the quality of exercise I get. So I want to be able to get to sleep earlier, and wake up earlier. I don’t want to go to the gym in the evenings, but instead, I want to start off my day by going to the gym first! That old expression, “you snooze, you lose” has never been this relevant!

What I used to think about sleeping. – VIA THETEENAGEGENTLEMAN.TUMBLR.COM

So far, these are my “healthy” goals for this semester.

Care to share your resolutions for 2014?

A Walk In The Parkette

Moving from a smaller city to a bigger one, I’ve expected many changes in my new environment: more people, more city events, more culture, etc. However, what took me by surprise about living in the big city of Toronto is that it is filled with parkettes. Of course Toronto has big parks as well, like High Park, and even Christie Pitts. But the little spaces of green hidden between buildings—that was fascinating to me. I like the idea that while we are living in a metropolis, we can take a break in between our destinations and find tiny patch of green space to relax in.

Since I’ve been trying to get more creative with how I integrate physical activity into my lifestyle, I’ve made getting off campus a goal, especially during this time of the school year. As my mind has been so consumed with finals as of late, I decided to take a break and venture outside of campus. So far, as I have been tackling each region of Toronto, I’ve fallen in love with The Annex neighbourhood, which is located slightly on the west side of downtown. With the old houses, funky shops, live venues—there’s always something going on in this area. Most of all, The Annex is host to a slew of parkettes, like The Sally Bird Parkette (located on Brunswick Avenue). This parkette is like a jungle gym for adults: colourful exercise equipment (made out of playground material), along with benches to relax on. Even though I have walked down Brunswick back and forth countless times before, I have mindlessly missed this tiny space of green and metal. Since I was walking leisurely around Bloor Street West, I was able to observe the area in a little more detail, and discovered this gem. With a free schedule that day, I decided to stop for a few minutes to try out the equipment.

Even though I’m making an effort to be less self-conscious while working out, I was happy to realize that I couldn’t care less about this when I’m exercising outdoors. Technically, this parkette is a mini gym. But I decided to get on the steel elliptical machine with the same carefree attitude I would have on a swing set (acting like it’s second nature to me). This helped to erase my fears.

It was fun to get on the machine and not be so serious about being active. The elliptical was quite heavy to push through; I found it was more of a strength workout than a cardio routine. What started out as a quick trial and error exercise turned out to be a solid fifteen minute session. I realized that throughout this semester, I have become more and more competitive with myself, and less focused on those around me. I took my time in the parkette, testing myself to see if I could last more than ten minutes.

In between my explorations of the city, I’ve managed to complete my last Pilates class (and showed off my major planking skills, not to brag)! Three weeks ago, I tripped and strained my right foot (I’ve always been a klutz), but I’ve found that doing Pilates has helped to alleviate the pain. However, I still had to go get a bone scan at a clinic in Rosedale to make sure that things are on track. To my surprise, on my way to the clinic, I discovered another parkette!

Oh the feeling you get when you have discovered a new parkette!

Oh the feeling you get when you have discovered a new parkette!

Although there wasn’t a metal gym like the Sally Bird Parkette, but an actual jungle gym for kids, the Sergeant Ryan Russell Parkette’s space made for a great place to explore. Inspired by the overarching trees drooping down the pathway, I decided to speed walk around the area. I figured that it would help condition my foot and warm me up; it was a bit brisk outside that day!

It was tempting to climb that.

It was tempting to climb that.

The Sergeant Ryan Russell Parkette is a wider space than Sally Bird and that makes it more feasible to do a few quick stretches in between walking rounds. Like I mentioned in my previous posts, I’ve been trying to make stretching part of my daily routine. One of the stretches that I do before mild exercise is the hamstring stretch. For this stretch, I bend one leg and stretch out the other. And in between my five minute speed walking intervals, I stop and do about five squats (standing with my feet hip-width apart, and bending down for thirty seconds) for strength conditioning.

If it was not for the cold weather, I probably would have made a pile of leaves and jump into them.

If it was not for the cold weather, I probably would have made a pile of leaves and jump into them.

While exploring this parkette, I was able to fully appreciate living in Toronto, and enjoy the view outside of campus (and the four concrete walls of my bedroom). However, I was glad to return to U of T grounds. I’ve been planning my gym outings for next week now that my Pilates classes are now done.

As the semester, and year, comes to an end, I look back in awe, wondering how I was able to get myself going in my health pact. I still have many goals to complete, but I’m glad that I met a few goals, like completing my Pilates classes (I didn’t miss one!). Just getting out there and being active instead of living a sedentary lifestyle has been terrific. Since it’s December, I’m determined to keep up with my goals, and will make use of the extra free time I’ll have. Maybe I’ll explore more of Toronto? Or perhaps I’ll start thinking about next semester and get an early start for my new goals come January. There’s a lot of planning to do, and I’m excited as to how I’m going to challenge myself next semester.

What are your go-to places for getting exercise outside of campus? Any suggestions for a place to check out?

Also, what are your goals for the upcoming semester?

— Amanda.