It’s time to try powerlifting

Winter is coming and so is bulking season

It’s time to try powerlifting

As the new year is approaching and the temperature is dropping, it’s official — bulking season is here. If those words immediately remind you of long hours on the treadmill until you can’t breathe or lifting weights until you can’t move the next morning, it may be time to try something new.

Powerlifting may help take your body to the next level this bulking season. Simple in concept, the goal of a powerlifter is to move as much weight as possible. Powerlifting is all about increasing strength above average capabilities and pushing your body beyond what you consider its limits.

Powerlifters focus on compound movements, such as the benchpress, deadlift, and squat. These exercises are multifaceted and incorporate many more muscles than simple isolation exercises like dumbbell curls and leg extensions. By focusing their efforts on compound movements, powerlifters are able to increase their overall strength because they train as many muscles as possible within a single workout.

Bigger and stronger muscles are for more than just show, as weightlifting has been proven to increase bone density, ward off chronic disease, improve mood and sleep, and boost metabolism, among countless other health benefits.

Another good reason to start powerlifting is because it is relatively simple compared to other workout regimens. All you really need to powerlift is a barbell and weight plates. These can be found at the university gyms, and pretty much every gym in Canada. If leaving the house isn’t your thing, a bar and weights are also relatively inexpensive and can be adapted easily to create a home gym setup.

However, this workout regimen is far from simple brute strength. In order to lift properly, let alone powerlift, there are multiple aspects of training that one must master, including proper form, nutrition, and willpower. Powerlifting is as much about finesse and technique as it is about raw power, so don’t just walk into a gym and start lifting as much weight as possible, Rather, take it slow and learn your workouts.

If you want to try powerlifting this bulking season, it’s vital that you start slow, stay consistent, watch your form, listen to your body, and get advice from someone more experienced. These five tips will make your experience more enjoyable and ensure that you see results that’ll carry over into next summer.

More than anything else, powerlifting is an investment in yourself, but the first step is getting in the gym.

Hart House Drop-in Series: Flexibility Fusion

Attending a Flexibility Fusion class at Hart House

Hart House Drop-in Series: Flexibility Fusion

One of the best ways to spend reading week is to take up residence at Gerstein library. Of course, it is in your better interests to also take a break. I did just that by going to the Flexibility Fusion class at Hart House on a breezy Wednesday afternoon.

The first thing that I noticed when I walked in was that those in attendance seemed to already know what they were doing. It just so happens that the instructor, Edith Varga, has been teaching this class since 1984. Varga has known some of her students for decades. Since it was reading week, there were fewer students than usual.

Starting with a few moments of mindful breathing, we took time to sync our breaths and relax. This conscious act of breathing deeply activates the parasympathetic nervous system and promotes relaxation. Throughout the class, Varga would gently remind us of our breathing, maintaining that we should feel comfortable with the way we move and that we should not force ourselves into uncomfortable patterns.

After the relaxing introduction, 30 minutes were spent on the floor, using gravity and working against it for reclining warmups. Limited movements then became much deeper stretches — twists and turns facilitating the flexibility of the hips, shoulders, and neck, and also stabilizing the core. For the finale, another short sequence of relaxing motions pulled us all back down to our mats.

With every challenging movement, Varga offered alternatives, and with every simple pose, she offered more challenging variations. She would also offer tips to accommodate for and prevent injuries; for example, placing our hands off the mat to prevent wrist pain.

Maintaining a consistent stretching routine prevents muscle weakness and loss of flexibility, ensuring a healthy range of motion. Regularly stretching can relieve tension and prevent injury. A good rule of thumb is to hold a stretch for 30 seconds and not to bounce, which can cause injury.

According to Varga, the class is called Flexibility Fusion because she fuses poses from various disciplines that she’s studied, such as dance, martial arts, and pilates. She notes that creating new movements is a creative outlet for her, and that members enjoy the variety. I agree, as there were some stretches that I’d never encountered before, which I loved.

“I’ve never taught the same class twice in 42 years. There’s a structure and there’s certain things you have to cover, and there is a certain familiarity to the flavour, the patterning, but I like to vary it.”

Overall, Varga facilitated the class with visual language that allowed me to envision the way my body would move and helped me stretch beyond what I thought possible. She notes that many people think that they already have to be flexible to take this class, but that is not required at all. Whether you’re flexible or not, I would recommend this class.

Flexibility Fusion runs in the Exercise Room with Varga on Wednesdays at 1:10 pm and Fridays at 12:10 pm, with Martin Phills on Tuesdays at 8:10 pm, and with Debbie Sabadash on Sundays at 10:10 am.

Hart House drop-in: Striking a yoga pose

Yoga is a mix of strength training, relaxation, and balance

Hart House drop-in: Striking a yoga pose

Walking to campus at 8:00 in the morning is hardly the image of an ideal Monday, yet entering the exercise room at Hart House felt like a fresh start to a productive day. Despite being held so early in the day, Morning Yoga Flow was full of welcoming energy from over 20 people of all ages and fitness levels. The yoga teacher, Celton McGrath, was calm and encouraging, setting the scene with relaxing music as he instructed everybody through the morning routine.

Hart House drop-in classes are a great way for U of T students to explore different aspects of fitness for free. They run on all days of the week, with classes ranging from sport conditioning, to flexibility and balance, and aerobics. This week, I tried Morning Yoga Flow, a vinyasa-based class open to all levels of fitness.

Yoga has many misconceptions, including the idea that it’s all about stretching. McGrath was quick to demonstrate that yoga is a mix of everything, such as strength training, relaxation, and balance. Through variations of planking and squatting, downward dog, and moments of unsteady warrior poses, I was surprised to find my core being engaged and I was constantly excited for the next move.

During the 50 minutes of yoga, modified and altered poses were offered to accommodate beginners, such as myself, and challenge those who were more experienced. This was helpful, and I felt comfortable enough to take the opportunity to test my balance and flexibility and make the most out of this shared experience. Needless to say, the supportive environment put me in a positive frame of mind for the rest of the day.

For those who are new to yoga, or even fitness, McGrath said that yoga is a good place to start in terms of physical activity. He noted that the experience allows you to gain insight into yourself and your body, as well as provide you with the confidence to try other physical activities. He also mentioned exploring different routines in each of his yoga classes.

During a period of the day usually associated with groggy musings, this class allowed me to take some time to myself, mentally relax, and be physically well. It is easy to find yourself caught up in the stress of academics, but a quick drop by this morning class can make your day that much brighter.

Health and fitness survival guide

Fitting it all in as we head back to a busy school schedule

Health and fitness survival guide

As the new school year approaches, the challenge of juggling fitness, personal life, and academics loom large.

This article will provide you with a guide in hopes of balancing all three. If you want to change up your own routine for other things, such as different fitness classes, there are plenty that are offered at the university.

For example, if you have always been itching to try that dance class or take up yoga, head on over to any of the three gyms on campus, where free fitness classes are offered daily.

From learning how to dance the salsa to high-intensity interval training, there’s something for everyone.

From the start, the most important piece of advice is to go at your own pace. Don’t fall into the trap of peer pressure or attempt to work out at levels that you’re not accustomed to. Consider your own action plan holistically. A strategy that I’d recommend is to journal the goals you want to accomplish.

The biggest problem is trying to compare yourself to others. You might feel like you are wired to do so, but it’s absolutely critical to disregard this mindset. One of the most effective ways to combat this feeling is by limiting the amount of social media usage. Your life is unique from everyone else’s.

Sometimes, you won’t feel like working out, but you should stick to it, because it’s the right thing to do. As the old adage goes, showing up is half the battle. Times like these, when you initially don’t feel like going to the gym, the resulting physical activity could end up helping you relax and rethink things.

Pushing through the negative mindsets that may occur is critical in terms of making progress, for whatever your own goals may be. Cultivate your discipline and motivation.

The motivations behind improving your own fitness and working out may change, but the discipline is the bedrock of successful fitness journey, from personal experience.

I learned through my own journey to let go of my ego. I used to think that I could do this all by myself, with no help at all. Why would anyone else know about my own situation?

This turned into a toxic mindset that impeded my own progress for a while. When I asked for help, by asking other gym goers what I believed to be the most basic questions for a beginner, I learned more from others, since I came from a place of humility, with a genuine desire to learn. This attitude we can all achieve, not just for our fitness journeys, but for our lives in general.

To complement the journey, there are plenty of affordable places around campus that can offer a healthy bite to eat.

I would recommend any place that lists the number of calories that each item or meal contains, so you know exactly how much you are putting into your body.  Essence for Life Organics can fill your needs if you would like to go down the organic route.

While it isn’t on campus, Kensington Market has lots of eateries and shops that can easily fit someone on a student’s budget. These include fruit markets, where healthy options are abundant.

Challenging your body challenges your mind. Unlike your career, you can assume absolute control over your domain. While it may seem daunting, just outlining a simple plan will go a long way in making it a successful year.