On Majors, Subject POSts and Change

This was the first year I actually had priority enrolment and got into almost all my courses because: *drumroll* I got into my subject POSt!

I’m going into third year so maybe I’m a bit late, but picking majors and figuring out what you want to do is one of the most confusing parts of university. So I’ve decided to share my own subject POSt story, in the hopes that maybe it will help someone!

open book

It’s story time ~ Source: http://spacelordcookie.tumblr.com/

You see, I entered U of T with the intention of a double major in human biology and health studies. I then learned how subject POSts actually work and what on earth a type 2L major was and all that fun stuff. We don’t declare our program until 2nd year, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about that yet, right? Not quite.

I spent an entire year doing the general life sciences and social sciences prerequisite courses, which is where I realized one very important factor: I was not a science person. I find it interesting and I wasn’t horrible at it, but I didn’t love it. So there I was, at the end of my second year, having finished the first-year courses for a program I no longer wanted, and having to apply for a program that had specific mark requirements. Just my luck, at the end of subject POSt enrolment, I didn’t get in.


Not getting into your program can elicit this reaction Source: http://britneyspearsgifs.tumblr.com/

After much panic, I finally got myself together and looked at my options. I sat down for an afternoon with the course calendar and poured through courses and programs and made not one plan, but several. I also got some guidance from every U of T student’s favourite place: the registrar! After painstakingly waiting out the priority enrolment period, I managed to get into most of the required courses for the majors I wanted to pursue so I wouldn’t fall behind.  I also took a couple of summer school courses to completely catch up. By the time subject POSt enrolment rolled around this year, I was prepared! I reapplied and got into a major that I love, and thus my course enrolment was saved this year! Yay Api!

Accurate re-creation of my got-into-my-major happy dance! Source:http://entirelypets.tumblr.com/post/87320623728/brown-dog-happy-dance-gif

Accurate re-creation of my got-into-my-major happy dance!

Although I hope that I don’t end up changing up my plans too much in the future, I realize that it’s a part of life. Some students will go on to study exactly what they always planned, and some won’t. What’s important to know is that you have options, and you have resources! It’s scary having my education in my own hands but it’s also reassuring to know that I’m not in it alone!

I want to hear your stories too, U of T! Let me know how you got through it! 

My School-Year Resolutions

Back in January, in the midst of all the New Year’s hype, I made the same general resolutions I always do: Eat healthier. Exercise more. Try harder at school. I’m not ashamed to say that I usually break them within a month, and continue on with my junk-food-laden, physically inactive, sleeps-through-lecture life.

photo 3

Add a box of Oreos and this is literally me. Source: www.ssandmann.tumblr.com

Well my friends, I sleep easy because my real resolutions start at the point in the year when I feel that my life is starting its next level: the school year!

It’s a ritual I’ve practiced since I was a little kid: Every year, I give myself the first day of school pep talk and think about my school year resolutions. What are my goals? What do I want to accomplish? What do I need to improve on?

After my rollercoaster ride of a first year here at U of T, I resolved to 1) Get more involved and 2) Attend ALL my lectures and tutorials. Sweet and simple. The result was an incredible second year, with better grades, more confidence and a happier Api (if that’s even possible).

photo 1

Happier than this?????

After much contemplation, here are my school year resolutions for third year:

1) Get help as soon as I need it. I have gotten a little better at this over the last 2 years. I attended the occasional office hour, I tried to ask questions at tutorials and I even got some guidance from the Academic Success Centre. But, I realize that running to the professor or TA one week before the final about a topic from the first lecture is probably not the best choice.

2) Relax more!  I’ve had issues with anxiety and stress in the past, so I’ve decided that I want to do something fun or relaxing to let loose every so often during the school year. I want activities that will cause me zero stress, like yoga classes at the Athletic Centre, or even one of the creative classes at Hart House!

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Unfortunately there are no rocks for me to relax and wistfully gaze off over the water on in the middle of the city.

3) Watch fewer TV shows.  Okay, this one sounds like one of those generic New Year’s resolutions, but hear me out. I am not a casual TV watcher. I am a fangirling, fictional-character-loving, Netflix-binge-watching TV show enthusiast. I have spent an embarrassing number of hours catching up on the week’s shows at Robarts (yes, even during exam season) and I think it’s time I put a stop to it. So please, if you ever catch me trying to stifle my laughter while staring at my laptop in a quiet study area, remind of this post and my public declaration to stop.

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My reaction when people tell me to stop watching TV. Source: www.cokelame.tumblr.com

So tell me U of T, what are your goals or resolutions for the year? Let me know down in the comments, or tweet me @Api_UofT!

An Ode to the Work-Study Program

As the summer unwinds, we get closer and closer to that time of year! No, I’m not talking about course selection, or frosh week or even Ribfest (although I should be, I mean have you tried those ribs?!). As the end of the summer draws closer, it means it’s time for…WORK-STUDY POSTINGS! Do you want to have a cool, fun job, where you can pretend to ‘adult’ (whatever that means), while still getting the most out of university? Then fear not my friends, for you have come to the right place!


Nothing quite says ‘adult’ like taking selfies at your desk during work

A quick background on the work-study program: The work-study program is offered to help students develop their professional skills through various jobs on campus. The jobs run for the majority of the term (either summer or fall/winter). To be eligible, you need to be taking a minimum of a 40% course load. The best part is that you only have to work a maximum of 12 hours per week, so you have plenty of time to study, participate in student groups, or pursue other things you love!

In my first two years here, I didn’t think I would really benefit from a work-study position, since I already had a part time job. I finally decided to apply during my summer school term. and trust me, it was no easy task, but definitely worth it. The first day the positions opened on the Career Learning Network (CLN), there were over 500 postings. Thankfully, the CLN has some pretty nifty filters that you can use to find jobs that suit you. Cover letters and tailored resumes tend to feel like the bane of my existence, so I ended up using some of the online resources from the CLN and U of T’s career centre website. Tucked away in Koffler Student Services Centre is the Career Centre, where you can even get one-on-one help with a career educator!


Actual early version of my cover letter.

After polishing up my resume and cover letter, and applying to about 12 different positions, I landed a few interviews. Finally, I got an amazing research assistant position at the the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evalution (AKA my dream job as an undergraduate in health studies).

This is why I love the work-study program so much, and I regret not applying to it earlier. You get the same experience without the time commitment of a full-time job. Although some people take to balancing school, work and life really well, for me, it’s not the easiest thing to accomplish. The work-study allows you to have more time. I used my time this summer for another job, summer courses and some relaxing!

Screen shot 2014-06-12 at 2.47.55 PM

#TBT to that time I relaxed a little too much

So mark your calendars, U of T! Postings go up on Monday, July 28th. Don’t miss out! If you have and questions or concerns about how to apply or how it works, let me know in the comments, or on Twitter at @Api_UofT!

How to be Happy


In last week’s blog post, I wrote about how students can often feel overwhelmed and explored a couple of strategies for returning back to a peaceful state. But I found myself wondering if there was more I could do to make my mental state the best it can be.

U of T’s Health and Wellness offers a five-part webinar series addressing what happiness is and how students can foster it through simple changes in their daily routines. Each section includes reflection questions that provide a chance to sit back and think about how the information could be applied to your own life.

Happiness = cats. via lovemeow.com

Happiness = cats. via lovemeow.com

First step! Think about what happiness means to you, and make a list of things that make you feel that way. For me, being happy is feeling calm and centred, while also feeling full with a sense of purpose and direction. A few things that help me reach that state: finding amazing new music, finishing a good book, spending time with people important to me, working towards a goal, petting cats, lazy Sundays, reading in cafes and going for walks around the city.

Ever the student, I was interested to see what researchers have to say on how to harness even more happiness. The webinars outlined 10 keys to happier living supported by scientific research. Check the webinars out yourself for the full list, but here are the ones that resonated the most with me:


Being aware and grateful can keep you focused on the present, rather than being stuck in the past or worrying about the future. I make a point to stop and think about what I’m thankful for when I’m walking around campus and lying in bed before I fall asleep. A habit I’ve picked up from my boyfriend is to stop and look at my hand when in the middle of an experience that seems to go by too quickly. It’s a physical reminder to notice and remember what’s so special about the moment.

Be sure to appreciate the beautiful architecture on campus!

Be sure to appreciate the beautiful architecture while walking around campus!

The webinars offered another technique to increase your daily amount of gratitude. Every evening, write down three good things about the day, no matter how small. Over time, you’ll be surprised at how small pockets of happiness can embed themselves into the most frustrating of days.

Trying out new things

It’s important to keep learning and trying new things; research shows that being exposed to new ideas increases engagement and your sense of confidence. I try and incorporate this into my life in small ways: cooking new recipes and reading widely.


Having an exciting but achievable goal to work towards is incredibly motivating. Is there anything more satisfying than accomplishing something you’ve worked hard for? I do my best to think about and define goals. In the next few years, those goals look like the completion of my Master’s degree and finding a job in my field.

What makes you happy, U of T? What do you do every day to make yourself happier?


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.




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?


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!


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?


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 -

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.

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.


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?