Staying Active When You Really, Truly Don’t Have Time

You know what really grinds my gears? It’s the frequent mentioning in the media, on the Internet, social networks, etc. of the importance of making time to work out. They say there’s no such thing as not having enough time to do something active, get out and get moving. While I’m all for cute, inspirational, motivating messages, to me that isn’t one. On the contrary, I think it could be a detrimental message.



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It’s Finally Summer – Let’s Go To The Market

Dear Blogosphere,

I am not a vegetarian. In fact, I am a bit of a carnivore and a junk food addict. I know, I know. It’s shameful and it’s unhealthy. But when I’m at Robart’s at 4am on a Tuesday, and only halfway through an analytic philosophy essay, all I want is a really big cheeseburger with extra grease. (And incidentally, Grease, is a great musical.) In fact, friends of mine tried to take me to a vegetarian restaurant the other week, and it turned out something like this:

All that being said, when the summer months roll around, I always start to realize that my diet of bacon, mashed potatoes and poutine just isn’t cutting it. So, I give myself any number of pep talks about how I’m finally going to do it this time. I’m going to eat healthy, get myself to the gym, and finally be able to dash from class to class without showing up as a wheezing mess while that pretentious kid from logic class laughs at me. (You know who you are.)

Summer is a great time to get healthy. There’s fresh produce, you’re not as hungry because of the sweltering heat, and it’s finally warm enough to get outside and get yourself to a farmer’s market, for inexpensive local products. (That are usually pretty healthy, too!)

And that’s where U of T has you covered. U of T really does want you to be healthy. And that’s why I was pretty excited to head over to U of T’s first summer farmer’s market. For the rest of the summer, they’ll be taking place every Thursday from 2-5pm in front of Sid Smith Hall.

Walking by these tents, I stopped to check out some vegetables from Fresh City Farms.

Courtesy of UeaT!

Courtesy of UeaT!

I walked by some maple popcorn that looked absolutely delicious. And then… Well, then… I discovered the vegan bakery tent:

Never before had I considered eating, or even getting near a vegan pastry. But I hadn’t eaten lunch yet, and I was so hungry. And all I can say is that I would consider killing someone to get my hands on more of that vegan banana bread. (Which just might defeat the purpose of veganism… huh.)

In a lovely complement to the farmer’s market, the Willcocks pedestrian zone is fully functioning, so once you’ve picked up your local-healthful-snack, you can sit under one of the umbrella-covered patio tables, or lounge on the lawn as you watch significantly-more-athletic-people-than-me play basketball on the half-court.

And while I may not yet be a converted health-addict, when I walked by my favourite poutine truck, I didn’t even think twice, I walked right on by.

(Wait, that last bit was a lie, I stopped to take a picture!)

Maybe one of these days I’ll actually muster up the courage to walk into the Athletic Centre.



dance, dance, dance

Off-beat bop. Wild shoulder shake. Index-finger-point with hip-shake. Y-M-C-A. Lawnmower. Sadly, that’s about  the extent of my dance moves. But I love dancing and take every opportunity to bust this short repertoire…in the privacy of my own home, of course. I’m sure my cat thinks I’m nuts.

So, readers, you can imagine how much I love watching great dancers perform. I become mesmerized by their grace, style and flawless ability to move their bodies like they’re part of the music. I start dreaming of the day, where after years of living room shimmying and shaking, I confidently declare “no one puts Shannon in a corner,” rush onstage, and wow the audience with my jaw-dropping talent. If only…

No one puts Shannon in a corner!

No one puts Shannon in a corner!

This past weekend, I watched my friend, Ali, along with many other talented U of T dancers in the Only Human Dance Collective, showcase their stuff in “Pieces: A Collection of Choreographic Works” at the Winchester Street Theatre. I was impressed with the range of dance styles – like hip-hop, modern, ballet and jazz – that the dancers fused together to pull off creative, energizing and passionate performances. But, most of all, I was inspired by the obvious love of dancing that came through with each step by every dancer on stage. Regardless of their level, experience and technical ability, it was clear that these dancers were having a great time.

The Only Human Dance Collective (OHDC) has “a unique all-inclusive mandate, which is to welcome all dancers regardless of experience and draw on all members of the university community – students, staff, faculty, and alumni.”  This means all dancers – from living-room hip-shakers like me to seasoned experts -are welcome to take part in classes and work towards a professional dance performance that the group puts on every year.

Initially, I was a bit surprised when Ali told me she was going to be in a dance show. I never would have described her as a “dancer,” just “someone who loved to dance.” Now, after seeing her talent and flair on stage, I’d say she’s a “Dancing Queen!”

Watching the range of skill levels that “Pieces” showcased made me wonder how many of us lovers of dance hold back from getting more involved out of fear of that we aren’t quite the “dancers” we see on stage, in movies or in music videos. But chatting with Ali made me realize how important it is to keep doing the activities we love to do, especially when our busy lives as students can cause us much stress and anxiety.

She got involved with OHDC after seeing a poster advertising the club at Hart House in September, which emphasized that, “dancers of all levels were welcome to join.” Since Ali loves to dance and thinks it’s important to have a healthy, active lifestyle, she went to an information session where choreographers led demonstrations of what their classes would be like. After sampling her options, she signed up for a weekly contemporary/jazz class aimed at intermediate-level dancers. This experience gave her the opportunity to meet new people, and forced her to take a break from her busy student life each week to do an activity she enjoyed.

If you’re someone who loves to dance, Hart House offers registered dance classes like contemporary, street jazz and ballroom dance so that beginner to experienced dancers can stay fit and healthy while doing something they love.

Readers, have you made an effort to get involved with a physical activity you’ve loved this year? What was it? Please send me your stories so that I can keep getting inspired to take my bopping, shimmying and shaking out of my living room! Or maybe, you’ll introduce me to a new passion altogether!


What do hatha, yin, and ashtanga have in common? Yoga!!!

Readers, do you know the difference between ashtanga yoga, hatha yoga, yin yoga, and Pilates? Neither did I. Or I should say, neither do I. But I’m learning.

Following my commitment to get fitter and healthier, I’ve registered for the “Mind/Body Flex Pack.” This allows me to go to any registered yoga or Pilates class at the Athletic Centre. Last term, I did a few drop-in yoga classes, and always felt so calm and relaxed afterward. And, my muscles always felt really sore from holding poses like “downward dog” and “triangle.” So, for me, yoga has been a challenging workout, much different from the running, cycling, and aerobics-style fitness classes that I’m used to.

I’m hoping, that by registering for the Mind-Body Flex Pack, I’ll have an easier time staying committed to keeping my body healthy and managing my stress. So far, it has helped. On Tuesday, I’d planned to go to a 12:10 pm ashtanga yoga class. If this were last term, when I hadn’t been registered, I probably would have skipped working out and kept reading to prepare for the sociology seminar I had later that afternoon. But, since I’d registered for the Mind/Body Flex Pack, making it to the class was a real priority.

What I discovered was that while I really enjoyed the drop-in yoga classes I’d done before, I prefer the experience of participating in a registered class. The class was much smaller- a mix of about 20 staff and students. In Tuesday’s class, some were beginners, like me. Others, from the way they easily twisted into positions I didn’t think were physically possible, had clearly been taking yoga for a while. Also, unlike drop-in classes, where there’s a different mix of people every week, participants in registered classes sign up for regular weekly sessions. So, it’s the same group of people every week. This allows us to learn new progressions, making each class a little tougher than the last.

I also prefer the equipment we use in registered classes. The mats are thick and cushion-y, which is comfortable for my knees and feet. We also use foam blocks. I’d never used these before, but I found it helpful to have the option to place the blocks under my hands or shoulders to add extra support for some of the more challenging poses.

The instructor did a great job of demonstrating proper technique and giving options for the poses so that everyone felt challenged. I was inspired by how gracefully she was able to move from one pose to another. She made everything look so easy. And for me, she was a live example of how strong and flexible I might get if I stick with yoga!

Since this class was ashtanga yoga, the focus is on breathing and concentration as we went through a series of poses.  Ashtanga yoga means “eight limbs” in Sanskrit. This refers to the eight systems of practice developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, like breath control, sense control, and meditation. So, by practicing ashtanga yoga, I’ll learn how to strengthen my body and cleanse my mind of stressful thoughts that might be damaging  my health. I have a bit of work to do on my technique, but after the class, I noticed right away that I felt really relaxed and less stressed out about all the reading I had to finish for my seminar!

So, now I know that ashtanga yoga is about connecting the mind with the body through breathing. Next up is yin yoga. Readers, have any of you tried it? Any advice to help me out before my first class? Don’t know what it is? Well, you’ll have to just have to check in next week to find out…or, you, readers, can be adventurous and try it out yourself!