The Barbell Prescription: The What, Why and How of Weight Training

So much cool stuff happens on campus all day every day. It breaks my heart that I literally don’t have the time to go do and see and hear everything.

On Tuesday, I went to a free seminar that was held at Hart House called, “The Barbell Prescription”.

You know it’s going to be a good one when you’re already taking notes and salivating over the guest’s credentials.

Dr. J Sullivan joined us from Michigan. A former US marine, 3rd degree black belt in Karate, 3rd level Krav Maga practitioner, doctor, researcher… The guy received a $2 million research grant from the NIH… that’s the National Institutes of Health. It’s a big deal. On top of all that, he owns, manages and trains clients at a gym called Grey Steel, for aging adults.

Dr. Jonathon Sullivan

Dr. Jonathon Sullivan Source:

We started off talking about what we considered an “athlete”, how we’d define the word. I learned a little bit about Greek athletes (the word athlete comes from the Greek “athlos” which means contest or feat). Apparently there was an athletic event in the Greek games, “Hoplitodromos”, which was a race in full battle armour. Competitors in the games had to swear an oath to Zeus that they trained for a minimum of 10 months. Awfully specific for so many years ago! Continue reading

You Never Know What You’ll Discover – A Testament to Fitness and Athletics on Campus

Anyone who knows even a little bit about me probably knows that I do Jiu Jitsu. I started practising Shorinji Kan Japanese Jiu Jitsu in September of 2013, when I began my undergraduate degree. I joined the Jiu Jitsu Club at UofT and I’ve now been the president of for about two years.

That decision was the best I’ve made over the course of my undergraduate career. Let me tell you why.

Continue reading

Sometimes you need a break

I was sitting in the lower lounge of  E.J. Pratt library last week when I looked outside and realized that there was waterfall just outside the glass, and that somehow I had been completely oblivious of it despite having sat right beside it for four days in a row.

photo of the pearson garden behind EJ Pratt library, featuring the elusive waterfall

Continue reading

A Strange Nuit on Campus

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you probably know that Nuit Blanche, an all night contemporary art event that turns the streets of Toronto into an art gallery, took place this weekend. Nuit Blanche is one of my absolute favourites events of the year, and when I heard that this year U of T would be one of the exhibit zones, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

photo of UTS window with strings lit up by lights photo of different photos of a school projected on school windows along with a fibre installation in front of the projections

My first stop was UTS (University of Toronto Schools) where Remembering the Future was hosted. This interactive fibre and video piece was created in part by the students of UTS, and had to deal with teenage fantasy and high school nostalgia.

photo of concrete sculptures of shoes hanging from a ceiling

My next stop was the Bata Shoe Museum, which may not technically be a part of U of T, but sits in the centre of campus. The Bata Shoe Museum featured EMPREINTES (above) and Shoes That Line The Lane (below). EMPREINTES was comprised of carbon casts of shoes, and carried messages by school children regarding their carbon footprint. Shoes That Line The Lane was one of my favourite pieces of the night, explored our strange custom of hanging shoes off power lines, as well as the memories and significance we associate with items of clothing.

photo of dozens of pairs of shoes hanging off of wires outside the shoe museum

From there I headed to OISE, which hosted Time of the Empress, a piece that explored the cycle of growth and decay with images of modern buidings being created and then destroyed.

projections of buildings collapsing on the oise building


From OISE I headed down the car free street to the ROM. One of my favourite things about Nuit Blanche is getting to explore the Toronto at night, since usually when I’m out at night I’m trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible.

photo of the ROM at night

DSC06536Outside the ROM’s old planetarium was a new pop up planetarium that Zero Hour, a video piece which flipped north to south, showing astronomical images of the sourthern sky as well as catastrophic weather from the southern hemisphere.


After a relaxing stroll through Phillosopher’s Walk, I ended up at Hart House, where Muscle Memory was taking place. Muscle Memory was a fluid dance and drama performance piece, which explored how memories can affect our physical bodies, and how our bodies carry the weight of these memories.


My favourite part of this piece were the sticky notes that covered the walls. Each note had a memory written on it by a member of the audience.


My final destination was the UC quad, where my absolute favourite piece of the night was. I’ve Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day was an illuminated text piece, which filled the quad with sunlight in the middle of the night. I loved how joyful and simple this piece was, and I really wish that they made it a permanent part of the quad.


Did you attend Nuit Blanche this year? What was your favourite part of it? 


Once Upon A U of T II

Well, friends, I would just like to take this moment to congratulate everyone on what was hopefully a successful and memorable first month of school. 

If you’re like me, you’re still checking your schedule to remember what classes you have or somehow already wildly behind on your readings (I will catch up soon, I promise).

But if you’ve been keeping up with lecture notes like a responsible and functioning member of this academic institution, I salute you. You are an inspiration to us all.

Since school started, I’ve been frequenting many of the same spaces. While this gets monotonous, I personally employ the use of an internal Disney soundtrack in my head – a strategy bound to make any mundane task seem fun. So on a related note, here’s a second instalment of Once Upon a U of T, in hopes that when you enter the same places, you will remember these photos and your day will be a little happier-ever-after.

A photo of the path along the Philosophers Walk. I photoshopped Aurora from the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty walking along the foreground, along with a few friends including birds, bunnies, and chipmunks.When walking through a place designated the “Philosopher’s Walk,” it seems only obligatory to get into the mindset of deep intellectual thinking. The scenery certainly helps to facilitate this and the walk is often a peaceful and pleasant start to my morning. I’m really looking forward to when the leaves start to change colour – the Philosophers’ Walk is stunning to walk through at this time of year.

A view of Robarts, as seen from the sidewalk along St. George St. I photoshopped Rafiki and Simba into the angular edge at the top of the building, with sunlight beaming straight down on them.

Ah, Robarts. It really is the central hub of our school. And much like Pride Rock, Robarts also shares the same visual appeal of a giant slab of concrete. Nonetheless, there’s nothing like surrounding yourself with 14 floors of hard-working students to get you motivated to sit down and write that paper you’ve been putting off. Plus it’s open 24/7 during exam time!

A photo of the food made in the Green Beat. I photoshopped Remy the rat from the movie Ratatouille onto the top of the glass display.The Green Beet is a vegan cafe located in Gerstein Library, another personal library of choice. The food always looks delicious… but I wouldn’t really know because I’m one of those people who obnoxiously monopolize the microwaves that are also present to warm up my own food. But I’ve made a mental note to try the curried lentils sometime within the next month! The Green Beet is also a space where you can freely talk without having to leave the library… so you don’t feel guilty about leaving the library.

Occasionally, I head over to the UC Union Building, located beside the Commuter Student Centre, which organizes a (FREE) tea and cookies event every Monday-Thursday at 2:30, making this its own kind of Wonderland. The comfy couches and laidback atmosphere of the building are always a nice treat and escape from studying. 

The thought of a Disney villain in Hart House is not far off because that place is so confusing that it can be frightening trying to navigate it yourself. But fear not; this massive building houses a lot of cool student resources, including photography classes, cozy rooms for hanging out, and Sammy’s Student Exchange. Check out Taryn’s post on her exploration through Hart House! Better sneak in a few extra days out on the patio before the weather gets too cold!

What are some places you commonly hang out in on campus? Let me know in the comments or snap a photo of it and tag us on Instagram at @lifeatuoft!

Exploring Hart House

Last week, I ventured into Hart House to snap a few pics of Madelin. While there she mentioned that Hart House is one of her favourite places on campus, and how not enough students take advantage of everything it has to offer. I’m definitely one of those students. When I think of Hart House, two things come to mind: weddings and working out. Though Madelin and I weren’t there for long, it was definite that there was much there than I thought, and on one rainy afternoon this week I decided to explore the Hogwarts-esque halls of Hart House.

photo of the outside of hart house

Before I even got the chance to go inside I made my first discovery: an adorable little vegetable garden. Upon further investigation I found that the veggies were planted and cared for by U of T Dig In, a group dedicated to small scale sustainable food production. Want to learn more? See Danielle’s post about U of T Dig In.

photo of garden with sign that says "Dig In U of T Campus Agriculture" photo of some little baby tomatoes with a hand painted sign that says tomatoes

I decided to grab a coffee to help me warm up after being out in the rain, so I went into Sammy’s Student Cafe. The cafe has lots of vegetarian options, and serve healthy $5 lunches on Wednesdays. That’s a definite upgrade from my usual Tim Horton’s bagel.

entrance to sammy's student exchange

photo of a salad bar with fruits and vegetables in the foreground



After getting lost wandering the lower halls for a while, I went upstairs and happened upon the Reading Room. They really need to rename this place to the “talking room” or “fun room”. It’s bright walls and cozy couches make it the perfect place to hang out and socialize.

photo taken through a doorway of people sitting in the reading room

And to add to the Reading Room’s fun eclectic nature, Get Crafty, a weekly free arts & crafts program is hosted here! (Read all about Get Crafty in Emaan’s blog post)

turquoise sign outside hart house reading room that says 'GET CRAFTY'

photo cred: Emaan

Just down the hall I found the Map Room. Named for the beautiful illustrated map of U of T that it’s home to, the ivy covered Map Room seemed like the perfect place to snuggle up with a good book. It also shares space with CIUT, the campus radio station, and hosts an array of intimate concerts.

photo of a giant ivy covered window with people studying in front of it photo of a colourful illustrated map of u of t photo of an illustration of commencement on the map


Something I absolutely adored about Hart House was the abundance of art hung in the hallways. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to visit the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, but finding the little pieces sprinkled throughout the halls almost made up for it.

photo of a giant eclectic collage framed on a wallphoto of a photograph that reads " I got a gold card & nothing happened"


When I walked into the library I went from being 50% sure my dreams had finally come true and that I had been teleported to Hogwarts to 90% sure. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the walls covered in books, the giant window benches, and the ivy creeping in everywhere. The library has definitely become my go to study spot.

Madelin reading a book in the Hart House library.

Shout out to Madelin for introducing me to this beautiful place.

photo of a laptop on a bench in front of an ivy covered window photo of ivy creeping into an open window



I finished off my afternoon exploring Hart House by venturing out into the rain and into the Quad. This gorgeous manicured courtyard has a tented area perfect for enjoying a coffee outside on a rainy day.

photo of the Hart House Quad photo of a copper greek inspired statue in the rain photo of a copper greek inspired statue in the rain


What’s your favourite part of Hart House? Let me know in the comments below. 

photo of a person studying in a little nook



Keep calm and craft on

Hey, U of T, how long has it been since you sat down at a table and played around with markers or crayons or tubes of paint? Or actually attempted one of the many DIY projects you keep adding to your Pinterest board? (maybe that’s just me)

Kindergarten? Fifth grade, perhaps?

But, I mean, it makes sense – who can be bothered to go down to the dollar store, pick up supplies, pull out instructions and carefully read and follow them when there are readings to be completed, TV shows to catch up with and long commutes back home to embark on (in my case)?

Which is why I was quite excited to come across this giant turquoise sign in the Hart House corridor on Thursday:

turquoise sign outside hart house reading room that says 'GET CRAFTY'

that’s right- free.


all materials provided.

naturally, I was sold.

So Hart House’s Get Crafty program is a series of weekly, drop-in craft workshops held in the Reading Room where you can come by any time between 11-1 p.m. and work on the take-home craft project of the week.

Last week, we had little bulletin-boards that we could paint and decorate – the session before that was button-making and projects from previous sessions have included mini-piñatas, card-making, handmade beads, lip balms, bath bombs and lots of other cool stuff:

colorful keychain resting on newspaper


photo of table strewn with markers and plain white sneakers waiting to be decorated


pink ombre flowerpot


black butterfly-shaped mini-pinata with polka dots


For more info, you can check out on their Facebook/Instagram aaaaaaand their Pinterest page.

P.S the poster doesn’t mention that there’s also free tea, cookies and (if you’re lucky) granola bars to be had!

photo of tray of apples, granola bars and milk cartons

mid-painting snack
my apple got a nice blue paint splodge but who cares?

Here are some photos from Thursday’s Get Crafty session:


photo of reading room while the crafting is in session- purple wall and people sitting and working at the long table


paper with paint blobs and newspaper covered-tablebasket of markers lying on a tabletopa piece of paper covered in blobs of blue and purple paintplain corkboard


cokrboard covered in tape and blue paint (looking like a right mess)

attempted to create perfect lines using tape

the corkboard with tape carefully peeled off to reveal frustratingly wobbly lines but nothing that cant be fixed with a coat of purple paint

attempt to create perfect lines: semi-successful

corkboard fully covered in blue and purple paint and drying on my knees


photo of the corkboard pinned up onto my wall and lovingly adorned with pushpins and tiny post-its

the mini-bulletin board now up and functional on my wall

I had a really great time last week. The whole session really helped me forget about the stress-y thoughts of readings, assignments and commitments dancing around in my head.

And it felt indescribably good to actually create something tangible and colourful after a year of only having produced hundreds of black and white essay pages. (thanks, political science class)

Everybody around me was absorbed in their project and happily chattering away and it was so refreshing to not be surrounded by conversation about lectures or assignments or deadlines and just focus on the task at hand.

I know I’ll be coming back for more! If this sounds like your kind of thing, come on out and get your craft on!


We made it! April has finally arrived! I just survived three essays and four exams all in the last two weeks and I don’t even want to know what percentage of my final grade all those tests and assignments were worth.

“Good thing I just had three final exams in the last three days, now my final exams can actually begin.” Unfortunately, this is not an April Fools joke.

Looking out my apartment window south down Bay Street. It's morning, but very dark and cloudy, with all the buildings lit up like night time. Weird.

At the first dawn of this week of exams, this is what my world looked like (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Seeing as how April has arrived, this will be the last First Nations House blog for the 2014-2015 school year! Can you believe it? This has been the fastest, craziest, most exciting and ridiculous year of my life and I’m honored to have been able to share my experiences with you.

Last week, I attended a Ulead workshop which focused on legacy and transition in leadership. I had a great time and I really enjoyed all the people who attended and who facilitated the workshop. The topic of legacy was very intriguing and makes me think of what legacy I hope to leave with the First Nations House blog this year.

First, I’ll take some time to reflect on where I was when I started last September, and where I am now. Or rather, who I am now.

In September 2014, I had never written a blog before. I was also still new to the WordPress program. In September, I had never been to 98% of the events I went to this year either. I had only barely started learning Cree, and had never spoken or written a word in Anishnaabemowin. I had never been a co-chair in an Indigenous student association before either.

In September 2014, I had never given an on-air interview at a radio station before, and I had never had an Indian Taco from the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. I never made a snow-Zach on campus before, and I had never shared my secret rye biscuit recipe.

A quaint little office with a big Hart House wooden door, a window looking into the Map Room, an old-school telephone, my coffee, and my laptop with what looks like Russian homework in progress.

A view of what it’s like to work in the CIUT 89.5 FM reception desk in Hart House (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A side view of the on-air booth for CIUT 89.5 FM in the Map Room, with all the microphones, gadgets, and even the big fancy fireplace

Another glimpse into the world of CIUT 89.5 FM (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I had never mentored a Toronto Catholic high school class from an Indigenous perspective, and I had never really publicly talked or written about much of my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual journey. I had never made so many friends and spent so much time in one place like First Nations House. I had never felt so comfortable with who I am and I had never felt like I had a home away from home on this campus.

I also had never told the story of my cactus, Jose!

An awesome pointy weird green cactus in a square purple pot, with epic party sunglasses of course

Cactus Update: I have a new cactus, and this one is like my Dad’s cactus back home whom he calls Spike. So say hello to Spike Jr.! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Now, because of First Nations House, the people I met there and the balance I have found within, all of this has changed. I can honestly say I am a better student and a better man because of First Nations House and this blog. For that I am grateful.

The primary message I wished to send this year is the importance of balance in university life. Take care of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual self and I guarantee you will find a pathway through U of T into your life beyond.

I have also learned from my time in First Nations House this year what community and leadership truly means. Community means inclusivity. People from all backgrounds and walks of life have important experiences and talents to share, and should always be welcomed into the circle.

The round building on the west end of University College, with it's fancy stonework lit up in marvellous deep blue

Circles are the best, even in architecture. Always keep your circle open, just like UC, which was lit up in blue on April 2nd for World Autism Awareness Day! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Leadership means respecting that circle and everyone in it. Leadership means taking all perspectives into account, and recognizing the effects of the group’s actions on others. Leadership means responsibility, accountability, transparency, and building balanced relationships which are mutually beneficial to all those who are involved.

Leaders cannot be followers and have the right and responsibility to protect their circle even from imbalances within the circle. When the circle is broken, true leaders stand up to defend the circle and the pursuit of balance. Sometimes, standing up for the sake of a balanced circle means leaving a broken circle behind and moving forward towards a better future.

Leadership means always striving to find and protect the circle though finding that circle can be a long journey. But once you find your circle and community, I can honestly say the long journey is worth every moment and every single step.

Looking up from the base of the big centre tower of University College, lit up in blue, looking spectacular

I remember way back in June 2012, when the first picture of me at U of T was taken right here in front of UC, in the middle of the night. I took this picture three years later, after my last lecture of the 2014-2015 school year. It took many steps to get here, and what a journey it’s been so far! (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Finally, I can talk about legacy. It is my greatest hope that my blogging this year leaves a legacy which empowers you to engage with U of T and First Nations House and to balance your university life and a legacy which shines a light when there is only darkness on the path ahead. Be brave and be yourself. There is always hope and there is always a path worth exploring.

Looking at University College, with an incredibly bright blue street lamp in the foreground, in the middle of a dark night.

I know the future can look dark and clouded sometimes, so I hope I have been able to shine a light for you (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I’m not very good at goodbyes, I’ll admit. Writing this last sentence may or may not have made me a bit teary-eyed!

So for now I’ll just say niawen:gowa, mii-kwec, спасибо, and thanks!

Winter break may be Over, but that doesn’t mean a cold slog until Spring.

It is week four of term and I am already missing the chocolate-consuming, snuggled in comfy clothing, social function-filled days of the winter break. Not to mention that I am frozen to my core. Yes I know, it was way worse last year, but a late start to the winter lulled me into a false sense of security and now I am finding my warm bed and cranked heat more attractive than ever.

There is so much to look forward to and do over the next few days and weeks though, and I’d love to impart it all to you so we can enjoy the fun and frivolity and embrace the winter chill together. Winterfest and Frost Week might be over, but that doesn’t put fun to an end.

Get Warm with Exercise

Did you know that the Varsity Center has free skating and pick-up hockey scheduled all term? You can even rent skates! If you’re into outdoor skating, try Nathan Phillips’s Square, where you can also rent skates and a helmet for $10 for two-hour use.

For indoor exercise, don’t forget the drop-In classes at Hart House or the Athletic Center (AC). Registered classes at Hart House and the AC began this week, but I think you can still sign up for them if you’re looking for things like dancing (of all sorts), Pilates, various martial arts, swimming, , or archery (though you might want to leave the Mockingjay pin at home).

Relaxation and Rejuvenation for your Mind and Body

After all that exercise, you might want a massage, and Hart House delivers free mini Shiatsu massages every Monday in the chapel from 12:00 to 3:00 PM.

There are also regular mindfulness opportunities throughout the week to help you get centered and re-energized.

Get Creative

For those of you who appreciate self-expression through the written word, try Write Now!, a weekly drop-in session run by peer mentors. It’s offered three times weekly: at The Multi-Faith Centre on Tuesdays, on Thursdays at Hart House (room locations change so check the link above for specifics), and the Koffler Student Services Centre on Fridays.

Get Crafty! at Hart House returns this term. You’ll have the opportunity to make everything from lip balms to buttons to aromatherapy sprays (among other cool things), so don’t miss it.

Hart House also hosts tons of creative classes, where you can learn everything from clowning to film-making. Why not learn a new skill this term?

Theatre, Art and Music

There are so many great shows this term! Free weekly jazz nights at Hart House, Jesus Christ Superstar and other great plays at Hart House Theatre, and free concerts galore from student groups – you can review the listing of all Hart House musical groups and their respective concert dates above. There are also a ton of events listed at UofTtix.

Feeling your inner performer needs to be unleashed? Hart House’s got you covered with monthly open mic nights.

Last but certainly not least, for those into visual art, there are several exhibitions open at the UofT Art Centre and the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery.

But wait, there’s [probably] more

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should be enough to get you started towards beating the winter blahs. Have any other events to look forward to that you think everyone should know about? Let me know in the comments!

Congratulations and Celebrations

In one of my favourite classes here at U of T, we learned about something called reflective practice. It’s essentially the process of looking back and learning from our experiences. Now that we’re smack in the middle of finals, I’ve been having those “when will we ever actually use this in real life” rants. To keep my morale up I’ve decided to actually apply what I learned in school (!!!!) and be reflective about 2014! How fitting considering this is my last blog post of 2014!

I’ve had the busiest but most rewarding summer of my life, working three jobs while doing summer school. I was a more active part of the extracurricular scene at U of T, joining the executive team of several clubs I was interested in during first and second year. I’ve also even managed to fulfill some of my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions by bringing my grades up, staying more organized and eating healthier.

Picture of tupperware with veggies sitting next to chocolate on the desk

(That last one’s still in the works. But hey, there’s still 3 weeks left of 2014. And miracles can happen.)

But the point of reflective practice is to highlight what I learned and what I could do differently. So what have I learned this year?

  • I’ve learned how to write a killer blog post (All credits go to Tricia!!)
  • I’ve learned enough yoga to strike a perfect yoga pose for pictures
Api and Aviva doing yoga poses

Me and fellow Healthy U Crew member Aviva striking some poses at Unplug Fest. Photo Credits to Carly Michelle!

  • I’ve learned how to get A’s on papers
Photo of api holding a Paper with "A-" written on it

See! I wasn’t lying!!

  • I’ve learned how to plan events to help people get more involved!
photo of tables set up in Hart House East Common Room for Global Health Expo

Throwback to Global Health Expo!

I realize that all these lessons equate to one thing:  I learned how to step out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone has always been with a small group of friends and a small range of activities, but 2014 was the year I made an effort to explore new places, try new activities and meet new people! If this whole process has been me breaking out of my shell, then 2014 was just the first crack! Here’s to 2015 being another year of great experiences! But there is one thing that was the most important thing I’ve learned this year:

Screen capture of tweet by @Api_UofT reading: "Winter in Toronto went 0 to 100 real quick"

I’ve perfected the art of bad drake puns

Congratulate yourselves on the accomplishments and celebrate the victories! Let me know about your year, your holidays or even just how your day is going down in the comments! Happy holidays, and happy finals everyone! Remember, you might actually be able to use some of that knowledge in real life (lol).