With the return of the regular school year in the midst of a pandemic, U of T’s gyms have been forced to adapt. Instead of being able to enter freely to work out both whenever and however they want, individuals must book a meagre 45-minute session online in advance to access a limited set of equipment. This is just another novelty to which we’ll have to adjust.

But maintaining a healthy school-gym balance is far from impossible. As someone who loves exercising, here are some of my best tips and tricks to make the most out of your workout under these new conditions.

Follow a workout program or plan your session beforehand

With only 45 minutes per session, your time is already limited. The most effective counter is to plan exactly what movements you’re going to do, as well as how many reps and sets per move.

If you’re a newbie to fitness, try looking up a fitness program online. Be sure you have the right equipment for your session, as the Athletic Centre offers different equipment for separate sessions. You may also want to consider booking consecutive sessions to access all the equipment you need.

Be specific with your fitness and academic goals

Unless you’re a Varsity athlete or looking to build muscle, you’re unlikely to be spending upward of an hour or two in the gym. Ask yourself how much time you’ll need for the gym and plan accordingly.

It’s okay if you need to dedicate more time toward studying than exercising, but remember, exercising can actually assist you in studying, which leads me to my next tip.

Use your workout as a study break or destresser

I’m willing to bet that a university student’s idea of a typical break usually consists of scrolling through social media or watching YouTube. But studies have shown that such activities only worsen your focus. Contrastingly, exercising has been shown to immediately relieve stress hormones and release endorphins.

In particular, aerobic exercise — better known as cardio — has been shown to reduce risks of depression and anxiety, steady and uplift mood, lower tension levels, and better both sleep and self-esteem. These are certainly benefits students could use during exam time!

Block out a time of the day to work out

You may find exercising on a regular basis tedious. By setting aside a specific time of the day, you create a habit, which will make working out feel less like a chore and more like a routine or inevitability. Make sure you have no other commitments during this time.

If time doesn’t allow for the gym, work out at home

We may not always have time to head to the gym, particularly during midterm or exam seasons. If that’s the case, exercise from home! YouTube is a great source for simple, repeatable routines; my personal favourite is Yoga With Adriene. Home fitness programs, like P90X, are suitable as well. You could also consider running or biking if it’s nice outside.

Getting started is always the hardest part. But once you get into the rhythm of exercising regularly, it becomes much easier. Enjoy your workout!