“Little Victories” and Where To Find Them

You’ll never guess what I got to do last weekend. I took a stunt fighting seminar! We have a Jiu Jitsu regional event every few months and last Saturday’s regional welcomed Lori O’Connell from British Columbia.

Lori O’Connell is a 5th degree black belt in Can Ryu Jiu Jitsu and a professional stuntwoman! Move over Ronda Rousey (former UFC champion), I’ve found a more suitable role model.

Source: lorioconnell.com

Source: lorioconnell.com

It was AWESOME. Best decision I’ve made recently. We practiced different aspects of stunt fighting and then choreographed short stunt scenes and filmed them. I picked up a signed copy of her book When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-Jitsu Strategies and Tactics for Self-Defense afterward, which I’m super happy about.

Trying new things has been bringing me a lot of pleasure lately. I think it’s largely due to what I’ve coined as “little victories.” Continue reading

Well, That Was a Lot Harder Than it Looked: Circus Silks @ U of T

I walked into my first circus silks class at the Athletic Centre last Friday pretty confident (largely due to the fact that I found my way from the AC change rooms to the Lower Gym in the Benson building on the first try).

Essentially the layout of the Athletic Centre and, of course, University College. Good luck. Background Source: watchervault.com

Essentially the layout of the Athletic Centre and, of course, University College. Good luck.
Background Source: watchervault.com

I wasn’t arrogant — I know I know nothing about aerial silks, but the instructor asked if I had done anything similar or notable and I mentioned that I’ve been coaching gymnastics for over five and a half years and used to do aerial yoga.

This is aerial yoga. 10/10 would recommend. Even if just for the awesome Instagram photos you’ll get out of it. Source: yearningforyoga.wordpress.com

This is aerial yoga. 10/10 would recommend. Even if just for the awesome Instagram photos you’ll get out of it.
Source: yearningforyoga.wordpress.com

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Did You Know? Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre

I recently became aware of the fact that quite a number of students don’t know that their T-Card gives them access to the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre (TPASC), located at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC).

This facility is heaven on earth, my friends. It’s a magical utopia of athletics, fitness and recreation. And it has a Booster Juice! Seriously, this is my favourite place to train. During the summer (I had a membership because I was enrolled in summer courses) I would often go three to four days in a row.

Once finals are over, I fully intend to be back at it and I can’t wait.

Artsy TPASC-appreciation picture I took a little while ago.

Artsy TPASC-appreciation picture I took a little while ago.

If you live in the GTA, I highly recommend checking it out. Holidays are just around the corner and there’s no better way to spend free time and stay active FOR FREE at UTSC.

It’s located just south of the 401 Morningside exit. If you’re driving, not to worry, you can enjoy two hours of complimentary parking. Just drive up to the gate and take a ticket. As long as you feed the ticket to the gate on your way out within two hours, you’re home free! Pun not intended, but thoroughly enjoyed.

A friend once said that when he walks up to TPASC he can’t help but feel like he’s about to do something legendary. I can thoroughly relate. Source: tpasc.ca

Most visitors to TPASC (pronounced: Tee-pask) scan membership cards to get in. St. George T-Cards — as far as I know — still don’t scan as we aren’t in the system. When you arrive at the turnstiles, just show someone at the desk your T-Card and say you’re a St. George student. Most of them will know to let you in. If they don’t, you’ll have to explain your card doesn’t scan.

Isn't it beautiful?

Isn’t it beautiful? Source: tpasc.ca

This facility is massive and expensive. It was a $205 million investment, the largest amount ever spent on amateur sport in Canadian history (according to the National Post). So what did we get for that $205 million? A LOT. TPASC offers a variety of fitness and aquatics classes and the membership is designed so that they’re all free. So is swimming, use of the track, field house and fitness centre, and the CLIMBING WALL.


Source: tpasc.ca

Yes, TPASC has a climbing wall (41 feet!). There are introductory classes and drop-in hours you can take advantage of once the staff are comfortable letting you climb on your own — for safety reasons, of course. I actually haven’t checked this off my to-do list yet and I’m excited to take it on next summer.

For now, I’ll be enjoying this new facility by using the fitness centre. The place has everything I could possibly need, including things I have no idea what to do with! Which reminds me…check this out! It’s not something we have in any of the athletic centres at St. George, and it’s super cool! May I present Jacob’s Ladder:


Source: bickelsinc.com

It’s essentially an inclined treadmill, but instead of running, you climb. It’s actually really challenging and can feel really silly, but I like to use it to change up my routine and do something a little more interesting now and then. You will feel the burn, my friends.

And I’ll feel a very different burn if I don’t get back to studying soon…

This is my last post before the holidays, so I’m wishing you all the best of luck on your finals and a very happy, very restful holiday! Check back in January for the 4-1-1 on new active classes, events and opportunities on campus to help you beat the winter blues.

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.


Source: x3sports.com

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Feature: UC Yoga Club & Upcoming MoveU Events

For this week’s post I interviewed David London, the founder of the University College (UC) Yoga Club. David is a 3rd year undergraduate student studying computer science. He says he founded the club because he had a lot of friends who were interested in doing yoga but couldn’t afford to take a class. Knowing it was something David practised, it was his friends who brought up the idea of starting a club. David says he loved the idea because he wanted to teach but couldn’t do it full time.

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MoveU Scary Skate & Varsity Centre Fun

Halloween is over, so we’re officially allowed to countdown to Christmas right?


I LOVE holidays, especially Christmas. I can’t wait to see the city all dressed up and to go gift shopping and skating in Nathan Phillips square.

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Committing to Wellness

How are you feeling?

Well, I hope.

My name is Madelin and I have the wonderful role of blogging about my pursuit of wellness this academic year. I’m a second year student, constantly looking to embrace every opportunity for wellbeing on campus.


A photo of me feeling well on campus!

I am trying to be my healthiest me, and I hope my personal accounts will be helpful in your pursuit of your healthiest you.

Speaking of which, HealthyU is a four-part framework of student wellness that offers a balanced foundation for a healthy lifestyle.

I imagine nutrition, physical activity, mental health and resilience, and personal safety as the four legs of a chair I’m sitting in to study— if one theme is off or lacking, and my chair wobbles, my studies suffer. When all four legs of my chair are sturdy and in balance, I’ve given myself the ideal conditions for productivity, concentration, and achieving my academic and personal goals.

My four-legged desk chair

My four-legged desk chair

We can tackle the notion that “sitting is the smoking of our generation” with a different analogy in another post.

Can I be real for a quick sec and admit that my position as the HealthyU Crew Blogger makes me a bit anxious me because I’d be a hypocrite if I pretended that my chair never is rocky. I am not the authority on health or wellness. My qualifications for this position: I’m a human.

Sometimes I buy dark chocolate with the intention of completing a mindful chocolate eating exercise, and eat the entire bar mindlessly.

oops. I ate the entire bar of dark chocolate

oops. I ate the entire bar of dark chocolate

Sometimes I take the escalator (I mean, the escalator takes me) when I could equally use the stairs.

Sometimes I need to be reminded by my friends and family to honour myself in all of my relationships, and to rid myself of toxic ones.

I'm trying to develop trusting, supporting and meaningful relationships

I’m trying to develop trusting, supporting and meaningful relationships

Importantly, I value my wellness, and when I recognize that my habits aren’t working, I seek out other solutions or support.

Being back on campus is an opportunity to be reminded of the resources and opportunities to be healthy on our campus. I can finally reinstate my bedtime after a summer filled with odd-working hours, travel to a different country and time zone, and the Orientation Week Leaders’ schedule (which might as well take place in another time zone, am I right?).

For me, the very best part of the new school year is making and renewing commitments to myself—a new beginning, and a new opportunity to plan and create new routines:

My agenda/ my brain

My agenda/ my brain

Two weeks into classes, my routine is beginning to form and I am taking the time to check in with myself: Is this routine sustainable? Are these healthy habits that support my health and wellbeing? Do I want these actions to stick?

The commitment that I will make to myself is to be patient in this pursuit of wellness… publicly holding myself accountable to this notion is a good motivator.

What commitments can you make to yourself for this academic year?

Stay well,


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!


Gettin’ Frosh Fitter

Here's an idea of what a Frosh Fit class looks like!

Here's an idea of what a Frosh Fit class looks like!

Thirty seconds of lunges. High-five Dara. Thirty seconds of bent-over band rows. High-five Dara. Repeat. Repeat. Jog to next station. Thirty seconds of mountain climbers. High-five Dara. Thirty seconds in plank position. High-five Dara. Repeat. Repeat. Jog to next station. Continue bootcamp-esque work-out for four more stations.

I survived Frosh Fit with the UpbeaT bloggers. Actually, we all survived. Dara, great teamwork! You really pushed it, which motivated me not to slack off. Lori, Cynthia, and Danielle, I was impressed with your positive attitude, especially since you hadn’t been to the Athletic Centre before. From reading all of your posts, I learned that your bodies were in quite a bit of pain on the weekend. I felt like that the first time I went to Frosh Fit, too. And Cynthia, I was sweating and working hard (although I appreciate that you described me as graceful).

Frosh Fit is a free drop-in work-out class for all students and members, which is structured as a circuit training program that combines resistance training, cardio intervals, and core strength exercises. It’s a forty-five minute workout offered three times a week: Mondays at 6:10 pm, Wednesdays at 4:10 pm, and Fridays at 2:10 pm. Participants even get a few educational visits from a nutritionist and a personal trainer.

For me, this recent Frosh Fit experience was quite different from my first session in September.  Back then, I was incredibly unfit from a summer of traveling through Europe. So, I struggled through the session:

Five pathetic attempts at push-ups (meant to be thirty seconds). Thirty seconds of sit-ups (where I barely lifted my shoulders off the floor). High-five’d partner (who was doing everything he could to motivate me). Repeat. Water break. Limped to next station. Water break.

While the program’s designed so that all fitness levels, from beginners to die-hards, can go at their own pace, I pushed myself way harder than my body wanted me to. In the end, I got a great work-out, learned some new exercises and was motivated to get into a regular work-out routine. But, my body was in soooo much pain the next day. Sore quads, abs, chest, back, hamstrings…actually, every muscle in my body ached.

After that first Frosh Fit session, when I tried to get into a regular routine, I found every excuse possible to avoid the gym. But, I persevered, and overtime, I started exercising more regularly. For me, the trick was finding a workout buddy to go with. Unfortunately, my class schedule prevented me from being able to squeeze Frosh Fit into my schedule on a regular basis. Too bad, because it would have been a lot easier for me to go to these classes three times a week, then plan the work-outs on my own. But, my work-out buddy and I have been doing yoga classes, and the Hart House circuit twice a week, and managed to find a routine that works for us.

Unlike the first Frosh Fit experience, from which I’d limped away as though I’d just been on the losing end of a boxing match, this time, I surprisingly didn’t feel that sore. I felt like I challenged myself physically, but recovered quickly from the work-out after we did some stretches.

Yes! Finally!! I thought. I’m getting fitter!

Then I thought, wait a minute…what does “being fit” actually mean? How do I know if I’m actually there?

Rosie Posca, strength and conditioning manager at the Athletic Center, tells me that you’ll know you’re getting fitter when you’re “climbing up stairs and it finally feels effortless.” I have noticed that hiking up stairs with my heavy backpack has gotten easier (but not exactly effortless). So, I’m getting there. And readers, if I can do it, so can you!

The challenge now, for me, is to keep up with the routine, so I’ll continue to improve my fitness and will have more energy to participate in the activities I enjoy, like playing sports with friends, or going on hikes in the summer.

It was also really fun to exercise with the UpbeaT bloggers. Being with friends definitely made the whole experience seem less like work, and more social. Hey, Cynthia, Lori, Dara and Danielle, what are your thoughts on having active meetings?

Just dooooo it!! Turn those resolutions into healthy habits

This year, I will get to the gym more.

I’ll confess, that was last year’s resolution too. But I was teaching in the UK and traveling most weekends, so it was hard to get into a routine. Well, that’s my excuse. Yes, 2011 WILL be the year I get fit.

Gyms are always PACKED in January with those of us trying to stick to tour resolutions and sweat off holidays sweets (OMG- I have no self-control when it comes to shortbread or those chocolate oranges).  And then we trickle off. Too tired. Too busy. It conflicts with our dates with “The Bachelor.”  Yes, our excuses are endless.

So, how can we avoid becoming just another “January gym-goer?” How can we turn our resolutions to get healthy into regular habits?

Matty Kwan, a PhD student in the Faculty of Physical and Health Education, had some advice to offer. He researches why university students tend to be less physically active than they were in high school. He shared a few tips on how we can make physical activity part of our busy student lifestyles.

Action Plan. Kwan encourages us to “establish a routine and make it a priority.” He also reminded me that many students often skip physical activity for schoolwork.  But, in fact, being physically active has been shown to help students succeed by improving our concentration, memory and sleep habits. It also reduces our stress and anxiety. So, making an action plan to get fit will also help us get better grades.

Be specific. According to Kwan, “routines need to be structured and specific.” Instead of telling ourselves “I’m going to the gym this week,” we need an action plan like, “on Monday from 6:10-6:55pm, I’m going to Mylene’s Zumba class in the field house at the Athletic Centre” or “on Tuesday, I’m going swimming at 12:10 in the 50m pool at the Athletic Centre for 20 minutes.” We need to write these into our weekly schedules, the same way we prioritize our academic classes.

Key Reminders. Little things like putting a yoga mat next to your school bag before you go to bed if you’ve planned to do a morning yoga class, putting a drop-in fitness schedule on your fridge with the classes you want to go to circled, or setting an alarm on your watch 30 min before you were planning on heading to the gym to lift weights, are simple strategies to keep you on track with your goals.

Enjoy physical activity. Really? Is this possible? According to Kwan, one of the main reasons that students stop doing physical activity in university is that they tend to play less sports and do more exercise. They stop doing the activities they liked to do in high school. When you are on a team, and have committed to practices and games, you stick with it to avoid “letting the team down.” But, it is much easier to put off exercise. A few ways to get involved in campus sports are:

Intramurals: This term’s sports include basketball, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, lacrosse, inner-tube waterpolo, field hockey, and hockey. Contact your faculty or college intramural rep to join a team!

Drop-In Recreational Sports: At the Athletic Centre, you can play recreational sports like basketball, volleyball, tennis, and badminton. You don’t need to register- just show up and have fun!

Registered Programs: Sign up for activities like yoga, spinning, ballet, and hip hop, karate, fencing, and skating. Last term, I did Tae Kwon DO and it was definitely worth the 60 bucks. Each class, I got a great work-out, met new people, had fun, and learned new skills. AND, I think that forking over a bit of cash helped me stay committed to it.

Regardless of what physical activities you choose, whether it’s sport, fitness classes, lifting weights at the gym, or a nice walk in the park, make sure it’s something you enjoy! You ARE doing these things during your limited free time! And, sadly, readers, simply having a resolution is not enough. You need some serious action planning!! Like Cynthia advised, ““C’MON. GOOO. STOP MAKING EXCUSES! YOU CAN DO ITTTTTT!”