Here’s how to stay healthy during your COVID-19 self-quarantine

Tips for maintaining your workout routine and eating well during the crisis

Here’s how to stay healthy during your COVID-19 self-quarantine

It might be hard to maintain fitness and health during the COVID-19 pandemic. U of T has closed all gyms, and minimizing grocery shopping does not bode well for fruits and vegetables, which tend to go bad after about a week. However, there are still many ways to maintain your health without needing to leave the house often.


Although it is recommended that everyone stay inside during the pandemic, it is perfectly safe for you and others around you to go for a run. As long as you are complying with social distancing guidelines, there is no harm in engaging in most outdoor physical activities.

If you are used to running on busy streets, it may be best to find residential areas in order to maintain the recommended six feet of distance between yourself and others. Remember to also avoid drinking from any water fountains.

In terms of strength and conditioning, burpees are one of the best exercises to do at home. They are accessible to anyone at any fitness level and are incredibly efficient. However, you should also be conscious of varying your exercises as well, and should include pushups and squats into your routine. These three exercises alone make for an effective workout.


Grocery shopping can be difficult during this pandemic, given that many things are already off the shelves, and that canned and other non-perishable foods last much longer than other food.

When buying milk, it is best to look for shelf-stable milk, such as soy, almond, or hemp milk. These have a much longer shelf-life than regular milk, and can be a substitute for almost anything you normally use milk for.

In terms of food, beans are one of the most nutritious and cost-efficient items to buy. Dry beans are cheap and can be bought in large quantities, but canned beans work well too and are much more convenient.

Although many fresh vegetables spoil quickly, there are many that you can buy frozen, such as corn, peas, and broccoli. The freezer is also a great way to keep many of your meals fresh for a long time.

One last trick is to smear your pasta sauces, lentil and bean soups, chilli, or other stew-like meals into an ice tray, freeze them overnight, and put the cubes into a plastic bag the next morning. This saves a lot of time in having to thaw meals, and can be reheated in the microwave very quickly.

Mental health

Eating healthy can positively affect one’s mental health. This is important during a time of crisis that causes a dramatic change to routine — especially one that requires self-isolation.

Dark leafy greens, asparagus, legumes, nuts, and whole grains help keep your blood sugar stable, which helps reduce anxiety. Anxiety can also be curbed by antioxidants, such as blueberries, acai, and foods with Omega-3 fats, such as salmon.

For a treat, chocolate can be a stress minimizer as well. Try to avoid foods that trigger anxiety, such as simple sugars, fried foods, alcohol, and excessive caffeine.

How to stick to your fitness goals in 2020

A guide to your New Year’s resolution

How to stick to your fitness goals in 2020

With everything feeling fresh and new with the start of the new year, many people around the world will be practicing the long-time tradition of making a New Year’s resolution.

Most of the time, such promises or goals are positive, and common ones often revolve around school — such as finishing a degree or getting better grades — saving money or spending less on superfluous causes, wanting to be more social, getting a better or a first job, or improving upon romantic prospects.

Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions are related to health and fitness, including gaining muscle definition, toning your body, eating healthier, or becoming an athlete.

Keeping a New Year’s resolutions is a great thing to strive for in theory but, the sad truth is that many people often fail to stick to them. This happens for a number of reasons, such as self-doubt, a lack of motivation, or because they had set the proverbial bar unreasonably high.

A failed New Year’s resolution is especially likely in the case of health-related goals.

The question then becomes: how does one stick to a New Year’s resolution? Here’s a guide on how to stay motivated to accomplish your New Year’s fitness goals.

Keep it fun

No one wants to do something that isn’t fun. Therefore, if you think of your health-related resolution along the lines of “I have to do this,” rather than “I want to do this,” odds are you will give up and throw down the towel.

However, a practical way to stick to your resolution is simple: keep it fun! This can be done in many easy ways. For example, try to focus on exercises that you enjoy doing during your workout session, and don’t be afraid to change up your routine. You can also try to cook healthy — but delicious — new recipes if your New Year’s resolution is to eat healthier.

Make sure that there is no going back

The human mind can be very clever at times. It’s great at finding loopholes or ‘back doors’ in order to get out of agreements, promises, or even New Year’s resolutions.

Familiar excuses related to fitness-oriented New Year’s resolutions include — but are in no way limited to — “I’m too tired,” “I’m too busy,” and “I don’t have the money.” Luckily, there are simple solutions that can help you successfully lock up this back door and throw away the key.

One thing you can do is invest in a gym membership, which will force you to stick to your regularly timed gym sessions so that you don’t waste your hard-earned paycheck.

Additionally, a workout buddy who shares the same goals could also be a great way to stick to a fitness goal. Having a partner allows one athlete to encourage the other one by making sure that each person in the relationship attends the regularly-planned workout schedule and doesn’t let the other one down.

F the freshman 15

How to stay fit as a frosh

F the freshman 15

The turmoil of university life can really restrict the amount of time we have to move our bodies! Even for people who have always been enthusiastic about sports and fitness, it can be all too easy to relegate exercise to the bottom of our priority lists, especially when our piles of schoolwork often take precedence. Despite our heavy workloads, it’s valuable to dedicate time to fun and enjoyable exercise. Exercise shouldn’t be a chore; once you find activities you’re really interested in, exercise can energize, inspire, and help you focus on your day-to-day tasks. Here are some ideas for where to start: 

Join a drop-in activity

U of T offers many drop-in, instructor-led classes, from intense, sweat-inducing Boot Camp Fun, to invigorating Zumba. My personal favourite is doing a lunchtime yoga class between lectures. Drop-in activities are free for students — well, they are included in our incidental fees. They’re offered at the Athletic and Goldring Centres, as well as at Hart House. You can find the class schedules on their respective websites.

Check out a recreational club at U of T 

U of T hosts a variety of recreational clubs, including groups that explore the outdoors, go scuba diving, practice martial arts, and do hip-hop. Recreational clubs are not only a fun way to exercise, but also to join a community of new, like-minded people. 

Sign up for an intramural sports team 

Soccer, basketball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and flag football are just some of the many intramural sports offered at U of T. Intramural teams compete against other colleges and faculties within the university. Signing up for an intramural means finding a team and committing to playing games throughout the semester. This is a great option for those who have a competitive streak!

Find an exercise friend

Finding a friend to exercise with can be a great way to stay fit. Personally, having exercise buddies makes me feel supported, especially when my motivation is running low. Walk and talk, go rock climbing together, go for a refreshing swim, or reserve a badminton, squash, tennis, or table tennis court.

Consider registering for MoveU.HappyU

Physical activity can boost your mood and help reduce negative feelings. So, if you’re struggling with your mental health and want to improve your level of physical activity, I highly recommend the MoveU.HappyU program. Participants develop skills to stick to an exercise program and improve physical and emotional well-being through goal-setting, planning, and self-monitoring. 

It can be difficult to achieve a balance between personal life and school while in university. It can also take a while to figure out what kind of physical activity suits you best at this point in your life. The real secret to staying fit as a frosh is as cliché as it sounds: keep exploring and don’t stop trying new things until you find something you enjoy.

How to crush your 2019 fitness goals

New year, new fitness goals: be realistic and stay motivated

How to crush your 2019 fitness goals

“New year, new me,” is what we say to ourselves every single New Year’s Eve. For many people, New Year’s resolutions contain fitness goals to hit, but many of us fall short.

The primary reason why people don’t achieve their fitness goals is because they don’t begin the new year with the required discipline and motivation that would keep them going for the rest of the year. So this year, I am going to help you, Varsity readers, to hit your goals by explaining to you step by step what to do.

The most significant part is to decide on your fitness goal. There are different types of fitness goals and each require different strategies and steps to follow. The most common ones are losing fat, building muscle, and gaining strength. Once you decide the right fitness goal for yourself, you can start the journey.

Losing fat

If you are looking to get rid of some extra weight and get the physique that you’ve always wanted, never forget this: losing weight starts in the kitchen.

Modifying your diet in a few simple ways will have considerable impacts on your health and weight losing process. The most basic modifications can be listed as: eat more soluble fiber, avoid junk food, consume less alcohol, eat more protein, and cut back on carbs and fats.

But if you think that losing fat is only related to eating less and healthy, you are wrong. Training is just as important as eating healthy for leaning down. Strength training is a requirement because with strength training you build muscle, a process that burns more calories. And of course, don’t forget to pair your strength training with cardio.

Building muscle

When it comes to gaining muscle, what you have to do is fairly straightforward: eat big, train big.

As you have probably heard from any ‘big guy’ packed with muscles, protein is the key to muscle building. In addition to eating more protein, you should basically stop cutting calories and start eating more.

In the gym, you basically should be lifting for two or three sets of an exercise for six to 12 repetitions, with short breaks between sets. Pay attention on keeping relatively lower weights to do more repetitions.

Gaining strength

In order to gain strength and build muscle, you should lift each workout, push yourself to your limits and hit your main muscle groups — your chest, back, shoulders, and legs. Try to maintain lower repetitions and higher weights to maximize the strength gains each workout.

After learning more about what is the right goal for you, the next step is to actually start the journey. At first, it will be really hard, but once you make fitness and healthy living an integral part of your life, you will not only look better, but also feel better.

Getting fitter and healthier is a long and difficult and it requires a good amount of patience, but as Samuel Beckett once said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

A guide to U of T’s tri-campus intramural athletics

The benefits of staying active with intramural sports

A guide to U of T’s tri-campus intramural athletics

As the start of the fall semester slowly approaches, U of T will be in the midst of intramural action once again. U of T, owing to its tri-campus structure, has one of the most exciting and unique intramural programs across Canadian universities.

Every year, student athletes from UTSG, UTSC, and UTM join together to compete in tri-campus athletics. Whether it is soccer, basketball, hockey, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, et cetera, students have the opportunity to play their favourite sports while representing their campus, college, or program.

The U of T Intramural Program is organized by the university’s three main athletic bodies: UTSG’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE), UTSC’s Department of Athletics and Recreation, and UTM’s Department of Recreation, Athletics & Wellness. Each organizes multiple teams for various sports, all hoping to be crowned champions of U of T.

The U of T Development League (D-League) is the highest level of intramural competition, featuring the best and brightest non-varsity athletes across U of T. The program is offered in men’s hockey, men’s outdoor soccer, women’s basketball, men’s and women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s indoor soccer.

Through committed coaching staff and intense training sessions, the D-League offers students a chance to develop their skills for possible future Varsity competition. The four D-League teams include the St. George Reds, the St. George Blacks, the UTSC Maroons, and the UTM Eagles.

Other intramural leagues provide various levels of competition. In general, U of T tri-campus teams are at the same calibre as a good high-school team.

All of the tri-campus teams hold one practice and one game a week, and schedules may intensify come playoff time.

Tri-campus sports is an perfect alternative to varsity athletics, as it offers the right competitive edge without the time-commitment and pressure of being a Varsity Blue. Not only does the program provide students with the platform to compete in their favourite sports, but it also gives the opportunity to network and build relationships with many like-minded athletes and coaches.

As a tri-campus intramural athlete myself, I can safely say that joining the program was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my university career. As a former high school student athlete, I wanted to ensure I continued playing competitive sports once I started at U of T.

After doing some research, I discovered the Intramural Program and became instantly hooked.

Competing in tri-campus sports provided me with everything I was looking for as a non-varsity student athlete. Through great coaching and intense training, I was able to continue developing my skills and growing as a player.

The program also gave me the opportunity to practice and compete in various athletic facilities across U of T, including UTSC’s Toronto Pan Am Sports Center and the Varsity Centre. As a rookie, my teammates welcomed me with open arms and took me under their wings. They provided me with guidance and advice on how to navigate and adjust to university life, academically, socially, and athletically.

Of course, like any competitive athletic program, there came some challenges and obstacles such as waking up for 7:00 am practices, playing in freezing-cold weather, and facing season-long injuries. But, nonetheless, it’s all a part of the process.

This upcoming year, the Intramural Program is expecting over 10,000 tri-campus student athletes to compete in 78 leagues and 20 tournaments. The program continues to get better and better, and students across all three campuses are getting ready for another exciting season.

Whether you enjoy competitive sports or just want to stay fit, the intramural program has something for everyone. Come out this September and try out for your favourite sports!

Believe me, you won’t regret it.

First-year students shouldn’t feel intimidated in the gym

A guide on how to get started and navigate UTSG’s facilities

First-year students shouldn’t feel intimidated in the gym

It’s perfectly normal if the thought of going to the gym intimidates you. It’s an experience that I know all too well. The first day I stepped into a gym, I went straight upstairs to the cardio machines because the actual weight room just seemed like an impossible task for me to navigate.

I was also nervous and self-conscious, thinking that I would look out of place, helplessly flailing around without a plan. Attending university and working out seemed like climbing a mountain, when in reality, it was nothing more than a slight incline on a short hill.

While I’ll look specifically at staying active during your first year of school, this advice applies to anyone else who is starting or resetting their fitness journey.

Create a plan and stick to it

To achieve your fitness goals, it is necessary that you first stay on top of your academic responsibilities and social life before embarking on the additional challenge.

Create and follow a plan, track the sort of exercises that you want to do, and determine what is critical to achieve the growth and gains that you want.

Like most things in life, it’s not only motivation that will drive you, but also discipline. Set aside time for your own studies, make a weekly outline or schedule, choose the days and hours when you want to work out, and, most importantly, stick to it.

How to navigate UTSG’s gyms

At UTSG, each of the three main fitness facilities — the Athletic Centre, the Goldring Centre for High Performance, and Hart House — has a unique feature that differs from the others.

At first, the Goldring Centre may seem like a challenging place for working out, but if you take the appropriate time needed to learn your way around the gym, you should have it figured out fairly quickly.

Goldring is the place to be if you’re into powerlifting and barbell exercises. However, if that type of environment seems too challenging for you to workout in or doesn’t fit your needs, Hart House is great alternative that I would recommend from personal experience.

As a first-year student, I remember going to Hart House initially just to run on its unique track and soon learned that unlike Goldring, its gym has more machines. This means that if you’re more self-conscious about using free weights like I once was, Hart House may provide you with a more comfortable starting point.

The Athletic Centre provides students with a mixture of both cardio and strength training. Whether you want to get into serious lifting, or just start with cardio, there are plenty of resources available to you.

If you need help at any gym, be sure to ask one of the available staff members. From time to time, I’m still unsure about how to do certain exercises or even how to expand my own repertoire. It’s also great to work out with a gym buddy, so you don’t go at this alone and also have someone to talk to.

While being a student is hard enough and the challenge of trying to live a better lifestyle can seem like an impossible task, if you create the right plan, you can accomplish any fitness goal you set — no matter if they are big or small.

POUND classes hosted at Hart House

New fitness class incorporates drumming

POUND classes hosted at Hart House

Upon arriving to POUND, I saw a few faces who had come to try something new, in addition to a few who had already heard about the new workout craze. The sun shone through the beautiful Hart House gym windows as we waited for the class to start. We were greeted by trainer Melissa Mazzucco, who instructed us to grab a mat and a pair of neon-green drumsticks.

If you’ve got no idea what POUND is, you’re not alone. The new fitness phenomenon combines the intense rhythm movement of drumming with common exercises, which makes the workout extremely engaging and helps one build their own sense of rhythm. POUND is an excellent substitute for cardio. It involves repetitive movement that takes place on the spot. This form of exercise is great for those who don’t want to get involved with running, which is a huge bonus for those who are wary about knee injuries.

This year, Hart House began hosting POUND as a part of its drop-in fitness programs. The class takes place every Friday from 9:10–10:00 am in the lower gym.

I’ll be honest — at first I expected actual drums, but I then realized that would have been way too heavy for the trainer to carry to class. The music started, a remix of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” and we began hitting our drumsticks together in unison with the beat. We then launched into a variety of movements up and down, side to side, and began hitting our mats by squatting and drumming at the same time. Many of the exercises involved lunging backward and forward, and side to side, squatting up and down, then eventually doing some core work. These exercises mainly tackle the leg, gluteus, and abdomen muscles. I was certainly very sore the next day, and I felt that this class effectively promoted us into doing many, many squats.

POUND was founded by former drummers Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom. As Mazzucco told us, they were looking for a new form of exercise when they took it upon themselves to take their drumming skills to the next level. They began incorporating all forms of fitness movements with the use of drumming sticks, hitting off various surfaces while inducing movement and following the rhythm of the music. It turned into an international organization that continues to update its routines with new music and new moves.

A great quality of the class is that it’s in the morning – the perfect time for people to begin their day.

Mazzucco has a background in dance training, is certified in many forms of fitness training, and is certain to expand your knowledge to beyond that of the class alone.

Traditional gymgoers may hesitate at first taking one of these classes. I used to play a lot of intense sports and worked out occasionally, but once I took a Zumba class, I was amazed to see how tired I was afterward.

One can certainly equate the intensity of these rhythm classes to that of traditional exercises. POUND runs at an intense rhythm. Like Zumba, you are constantly moving to the beat of the music that won’t slow down until the end of the class. What’s great about both POUND and Zumba is that you feel like you’re dancing the entire time while getting in a great workout.

Overall, these classes are great for accommodating to the needs of people of all abilities and ages. The instructors insist on this to make sure that you don’t feel an absolute need to keep up with everything. The instructor will help adjust exercises in a manner that accommodates to any level one feels comfortable with.

What you need to know about circuit training

The popular and highly debated workout regiment aims to improve flexibility and coordination

What you need to know about circuit training

Circuit training has always been a hot topic within the fitness world, and it may just be worth sweating over. Circuit training is a rotation of repeated movements that maximizes cardio and strengthens muscle through sets and reps. The objective of circuit training is to train endurance as well as to strengthen and target muscles in order to improve an individual’s flexibility and coordination. Each training session typically includes a combination of both aerobic exercise and strength training.

The debate surrounding circuit training

Arguments against circuit training claim that it can limit the ability to increase strength and power, but it can also be interpreted as a workout that challenges the whole body. What you get out of your training depends on how you choose to structure it.

Circuits are designed to fit at least eight repetitions per exercise and per station. Because circuit training consists of various exercises and stations, each targeting different muscle groups, it may decrease the gains you would earn from a more specific muscle training workout.

Despite that, it is possible to do low-repetition, high-weight exercises during a circuit to include the strengthening component. The purpose of a circuit is repetition to increase endurance. Hardcore weightlifting exercises within a circuit can be too exhausting to complete in multiple rounds, especially when performed with little rest or recovery time.

How to effectively circuit train

While circuits can be tiring, an individual’s pace is important. People should be wary of the tendency to work harder and push themselves in the beginning, only to give in by the end.

This is a common mistake partly because participants may minimize or eliminate rest between stations. Participants are most effective when they use a work-rest ratio of at least 1:1. One good example is 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest.

To help avoid fast muscle fatigue, you can structure circuits for strength training by alternating between low-rep strength and high-rep endurance exercises. You can also vary the muscles each station intends on targeting, which may allow you to have a more balanced full-body workout.

Research shows that this type of training is more effective than a regular workout. You can burn up to 10 calories per minute, and the afterburn effect will have you burning off calories for up to 48 hours after your workout ends. For those who lift weights, circuit training burns 30 per cent more calories than your typical weight workout and offers more cardio benefits.

The stations associated with circuit training also provide a way to organize an individual workout plan within a tighter period of time. Another point in favour of circuit training: you can do it at the gym or at home. By participating in a circuit, you’re guaranteed to hit every major and minor muscle group.

How to create your own circuit

First, create your own circuit by deciding how long you want your workout to be. Challenge yourself by taking part in this type of training two to three times a week by completing a full circuit of four to eight exercises.

Next, create your stations. You can start with upper body then work your way to muscles in the lower body. My personal favourites for upper body exercise are ab twists, pushups, or bicep and tricep curls with handheld weights. When selecting a lower body workout, you can include lunges, calf raises, or sumo squats.

The next exercise should be compound, combining upper and lower body. Some exercises can include jumping lunges, mountain climbers, and burpees. Keep each exercise on a 30-second rotation between performance and rest. Remember the 1:1 ratio of performance and rest.

Conclude the circuit with a one-minute cardio set. Your exercise choices can be jump rope, high knees, or stair climbing. Once completed, allow yourself one minute of rest as you gear up to work through another repetition of the circuit.

Like with any workout, you get out what you put in. In the end, it is up to you to give your best 30 seconds or let the 30 seconds get the best of you.