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

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

On What (or Whom) Inspires You

It has been two months since the passing of Nelson Mandela and many are still mourning for the loss. I still remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when I read the headline that afternoon in December. Even though Mandela and his policies did not play an immediate role in my life, it still upset me greatly to know that the world had lost one of its greats.

Mandela’s death prompted me to think about the legacies people leave behind and the potential impact an individual has on the world. Although his passing was unfortunate, there were very few who referred to it as “untimely” – many believed that after all he had accomplished, he deserved to finally rest in peace. What would it be like to live a life so inspiring, and so monumental, that a young woman such as myself – a person so far removed from circumstances and consequences of human rights in South Africa – would feel as if your life resonated with them as well? To have a life so fulfilling, others look to you on your deathbed and say that your time here and all that you had accomplished was enough for one lifetime?

As a student at U of T, we are often told that our capabilities are boundless, even though we often feel otherwise after cycles of unreasonably difficult midterms. We are constantly and tirelessly challenged, frustratingly pushed to our limits in the pursuit of academia. One has to wonder (as I’m sure many of you have) what we are putting ourselves through all of this for. A common complaint (not so much a complaint now as just a general statement that is made) I hear from my fellow students is why they came here and rendered themselves victims to the toil and turmoil that is U of T coursework.

Our aspirations – whether it be to discover a cure, to become a mother, to become the first in the family to graduate – are all equally noble and important pursuits in their own right. But what differs from person to person is the motivation behind our goals. I believe that it’s because many of us here would like to believe that we, too, hold the capacity to live a life to inspire others by some means. Perhaps not to the magnitude that Mandela has inspired, but to make something of ourselves. I don’t know many underachievers here at U of T. That could just be because I choose to surround myself with other students who understand and encourage one another to go after their aspirations, or it could just be for the simple reason that a majority of the students who attend this school are determined to live up to the expectations and ambitions they have set for themselves.

But often I find myself in the predicament that I can’t quite pinpoint the exact reasons for why I continue to study. Somewhere along the way, we’ll lose sight of what we’re really here for. 2013 as a whole was a very harrowing and challenging time for me. I was physically, emotionally and mentally worn out. For the first time in my entire life, I began to have an inkling of a doubt my decision to pursue higher education. During the most tiring, soul-crushing moments, reasons like making my family proud, or living up to expectations, or wanting to give myself a challenge… they just don’t quite cut it. Very recently, I’ve come to the realization that my motivations for doing most of what I do stems from a very simple, very cliché explanation – I’m just striving to be the best version of myself, in anything that life throws at me. I am spurred (albeit, very frightened) by the idea of the unknown. I am inspired by the idea of possibility.

Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. At some point, did he question his motivations and actions that led to his confinement? I can’t speak entirely on his behalf, but I think it is fair to say that he, too, was very much inspired by the idea of promise – he understood what any one person was capable of doing for humanity, and set forth to do it himself.

My take on staying afloat at U of T? Find what keeps you from hitting the snooze button for the 7th time that Wednesday morning, what keeps you bouncing back after the next job interview you bomb, whatever it is that’s keeping you from going off the rails when its midterm season and you’re swamped back-to-back in deadlines and test dates. Remember to look at what you’ve accomplished so far, and how much more you can. Remind yourself of it. Hold on to whatever, or whomever, inspires you.

‘Til next time -
Kat

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?

Ideas for the U of T.

Last Wednesday I enrolled in a free lecture series called ‘Ideas for the World’, hosted for students at Victoria College.

With the options of different sessions within the program, each focusing on different topics and hosted at different times, the program is an initiative to engage students in academic discussions and learning about issues in the real world, to bridge the gap between theoretical learning and practical application.

Each class has either a professor or a series of professors who come in and host discussion sessions with the students, and here’s the best part: no assignments, no grades. Class sizes are generally around 30 students and food is served, as well.

I signed up and dropped in on Conflict in Culture, a course that explores media representation in our modern world. We watched sections of a documentary called “The Century of the Self” and then hosted a free form discussion about thoughts on what we’d just watched.

What interested me most was the degree of engagement with which the students were responding, there was some energetic discussion about topics that had surfaced in the documentary, and by discussion I mean some real back and forth dialogue.

 IMG_0112
the enthusiastic class discussion.

My general past experience with tutorials has mostly always involved a relatively silent group of students who participate reluctantly or sporadically. Questions raised might start with the material, but also inevitably moves to assignments, marks, and other housekeeping questions. Even a good T.A. can only do so much in circumstances like these.

The winning advantage of the Ideas for the World program for me is its complete disinterest in grading.

Students are released from the pressure to being graded on their performance and therefore their interest in the discussion at hand is motivated by other reasons. This results in less inhibition, more airing of opinions and ultimately, from my experience so far, more critical discussion.

U of T is a rigorous academic environment.

All semester the community crew has been sharing experiences and giving tips on how to make it through such a rigorous academic environment with your sanity intact.

But what if we talked more openly about how the grading system impacted our learning?

There are plenty of different responses to grades:

  1. Some people like the challenge, and feel their potential being unlocked as they ‘conquer’ tough assignments and achieve better grade results.
  2. Others feel crippled by the pressure of expectation, and the rigidity of the grading system, and are afraid they cannot meet the demands asked of them.
  3. There are also those who feel that grades are a box-in, reducing learning to a series of formulas that favour some, and exclude others.
  4. And some take the system to be inevitable and unchangeable, grades are what they are and there is nothing to be done about it.

IMG_0113

Thinking consciously about how our grades affect our performance and expectations toward learning helps us orient ourselves better in our positions on the subject.

When we do this, we can actively and productively contribute the discussions around grading, and how they impact our experience.

What kind of response do you have?
Would you be motivated to work hard and learn without grades?
What kind of learning environment do you thrive in?

 

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.

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.

Little Things Count Too

With the semester coming to an end, I find myself focused on reaching the big goals that I set for at the beginning of the school year. Just to recap, my ambition for this blog is to build the habit of making physical activity a part of my lifestyle. My secondary goals are to become physically fit, more energetic, and fearless when it comes to exercising in public. When I look at these goals, they can be a bit broad and, at times, I lose track of where I am going. Yet, it shouldn’t have to be all or nothing for me when it comes to exercising, because every moment of physical activity counts into my journey. Instead of focusing on the big picture, I’ve realized that I should pick out each pixel to work on instead. Each day is an opportunity to make smaller goals that can help me work up to the bigger ones, and motivate me to stay on track.

I’ve decided to start off with a minimum of three goals to accomplish each day. After all, I don’t want to bombard myself with too many tasks, I’m still getting into to this new lifestyle and change doesn’t happen overnight. Instead of getting overwhelmed with how much work I still have to do, I can change my perspective around and focus on what I have accomplished each day, and see how close I am to realizing my aspirations. Following through with these goals each day will also help me appreciate that even the littlest things that I do in terms of physical activity can contribute to becoming a healthier me.

1) Work On My Posture
Ever since I was sixteen, I’ve had the nasty habit of slouching whenever I am sitting down or standing up. And lately, this slouching has been causing a ton of back pain, especially when I’m hunched over my desk studying. The pain distracts me from my studies. Since having bad posture tends to lag me behind on my exercising, such as making it painful to do crunches, I’ve decided to tackle this problem head on.

Enough with the bad posture! – VIA GIFSOUP.COM

Even though through Pilates (thanks to the plank), I’ve managed to strengthen up my core a bit, I still forget to relax my chest and roll my shoulders back. I know that it’s impossible to have perfect posture 24/7, so I aiming to work on straightening my back for at least a half an hour each day. Then, I will build up to an hour or two, until having a straight posture becomes second nature to me. Correcting my posture can be a pain, even though it sounds simple, but it’s worth it. I get the confidence by shifting my appearance and standing tall, and running around campus becomes less of a task since I won’t have to work on keeping up with my slouching.

2) Start/End The Day By Stretching
Like so many students, I’m often in a rush to get to class in the morning so I jump out of bed and forget to warm up my body as a way to prepare for the day. And sometimes, after many hours of working, I collapse onto my bed, forgetting to loosen up my muscles and relax before passing out for the night. Either way, I start and end the day sore. Whenever I take the time to condition and stretch my body, I’m more energetic, focused, and, obviously flexible.

Even cats do the downward dog. -VIA AMEOWZINGOBSESSION.TUMBLR.COM

Since mornings can be hasty, I plan to do one full-body stretch, standing up on the balls of my feet, lifting my arms above my head, trying to reach for the ceiling. I will also add touching my toes and twisting my body from left to right. At night, I’ll devote more time stretching, and do yoga postures like downward dog (standing on all fours), child’s pose (lying face down, legs bents, and pressing my thighs to my chest while stretching my arms over my body), and tree pose (standing on one leg, while the other is bent with the foot inwards to the opposite leg and knee outwards). The best part about yoga is that it also frees me from whatever state of mind I am in. Was today a rough day? Am I excited about something that’s going to happen tomorrow that I can’t sleep? By stretching, all of that is forgotten, and I’m able to focus on the present. There’s no better way to go to sleep than on a positive note.

3) Do At Least One Physical Activity
Be it taking a walk, going to Pilates class, going to the gym, or dancing like crazy to a favourite song, it doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I manage to fit in some sort of activity into my day. I’ve come to the realization that being physically active doesn’t have to only be about running on the treadmill for 90 minutes, and if there’s no time for that, then nothing else will do. Instead, it’s about the minor changes I make in the way I live, such as taking time to stand up and move around after a long study session. Life can be busy, so why not get creative and fit in a workout in between the most crowded moments?

I mean, running away also counts as exercise, right? – VIA GIF-CENTRAL.BLOGSPOT.CA

What are your daily active goals that you plan to achieve?

-Amanda

Face The Music (and Mid-Terms)

On the school calendar, the first semester might as well highlight the months of October and November as not the months that belong to fall, but to midterms instead. Like I have mentioned before, midterms are notorious energy-drainers. It’s easy to lose momentum and plateau when the majority of your day-to-day schedule revolves around doing school work. So I like to keep an ever-growing playlist of songs to help keep me determined to not only survive, but ace mid-term season, and to remind me that yes, it is possible to slip in a little exercise in between working.  I like to match the music that I listen to according to how I feel, I also like to listen to songs that will help me to find the energy to exercise.

Here are three songs that keep me on track in between my sleep, eat, work, eat, exercise, work, sleep (well, not all in that order) schedule:

TV on The Radio – Wolf Like Me
The colder the weather, the sleepier I get, and the more I envision myself becoming best friends with the heater in my room. Lately, my body is trying to retreat into a three-month hibernation, so just waking up has been struggle —my brain is like an overheated computer that needs to take time to load. So while it’s in the “buffering” mode, I like to play an upbeat song such as Wolf Like Me as an alarm clock to help me wake up. Listening to a song about being an unstoppable force of energy inspires me to get out of bed and prepare myself to start the day in a not-so-sluggish manner.

Sky Ferreira – You’re Not The One
For those who know me personally, my favourite type of cardio is the “dancing like crazy in my bedroom”-type of cardio. Dancing (in my room) is cathartic, because I can jump up and down, do a twirl here and there, all while no one is watching me. Whenever I put on this song, I forget the fact that I’m exercising because I’m so immersed in moving along with the tempo.

One day I’ll make my dancing debut. VIA MICSGIFS.TUMBLR.COM

I’ve also been using this song as a motivating tool to complete my assignments, or readings, by creating “dance” breaks whenever I feel like I am running out of energy or losing focus. Most recently, I came across this song (via the recommendations of many music review blogs), and have used it as my go-to track when starting my ten-minute breaks to do cardio. I like to say that I don’t like pop, but I secretly do—and I must admit, this song does glam pop very well. It’s lively, and is also about moving on and not dwelling on the past, and I take heed by dancing away my worries. I’ve come to realize that I need to open up my options when creating a song list in order to get me on my feet and moving. And since I used this song during my break in between writing this post, I can tell you that opening up my options has been working so far.

King Krule – Out Getting Ribs
During mid-terms, I’ve still managed to go to my Pilates classes at the Athletic Centre, but I’ve fallen behind on going to the gym more than once a week this month. However, I’m still determined to not spiral back into my past sedentary lifestyle, so I’ve kept active when dancing in my room, or practicing my Pilates moves. One of the main motivators for me right now is that I can do a killer plank without slouching, and that I’ve moved on to practicing other positions and exercises, such as butterfly crunches, (I lie down on my back and lift my legs in a slanted positions, all while doing quick breaths and waving my arms just above and below my abdominal muscles).

Sometimes, when writing papers, I hit a roadblock and worry about whether the words that I have written on the page make sense. This kind of anxiety makes it easy to lose focus. So I use what I’ve learned in my Pilates class, take a break to do a few moves and refresh my mind—but not without the help of music playing in the background.

I like to stick to dreamy and calming music that sometimes have a rising tempo—and the beginning guitar riffs in Out Getting Ribs do just the thing. Also, the song isn’t’t too slow so that when I do pick up my pace in doing moves like butterfly crunches, I can at least keep my body in sync with the beats. As well, I like to end my night feeling relaxed, and this song helps to soothe me into resting mode.

Sleep, eat, work, eat, exercise, work, sleep schedule still intact.

What songs do you listen to when you feel like you need to calm down, or get up and going?