4 Dorm-Room Proof Excercises

by Madeleine Brown

Who needs weights, yoga mats or a personal trainer when you’ve got textbooks, towels and a mirror? Okay, maybe they’re not exact equivalents, but they’re respectable substitutes. A little exercise even in your dorm room can make starting an assignment less daunting or settle your nerves before a test or exam. I’ve provided basic prompts for four exercises, images of which are all easily found online. That said if it hurts—not in the good way—reassess and ensure they’re right for your body and you’re following the proper form. You can check your alignment in the mirror, via a timed photograph or from an outside eye. In the latter case, put your roommate to use or get them exercising with you.

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Child’s pose flow
Here’s where your towel can double as a yoga mat. Start slow and ease your body into movement flowing from child’s pose with your arms outstretched in front of you to hands and knees and finally back into downward dog. From downward dog you can repeat the sequence as many times as necessary until you feel settled and warm. Take your time and incorporate your breath, inhaling into table, exhaling into downward dog and so on. You may choose to return to this sequence after the three following exercises to cool down and chill out.

 

Plank
It’s likely the most hated of all exercises, but here’s why I at least put up with it: 1) it engages your whole body as well as your core and 2) unlike crunches you’re less likely to tense your neck and shoulders. These perks are key to a successful plank. Watch out for the following: your heels are over your ankles, your thighs are lifted towards the ceiling, your hips are strong, but your bum is in line with the rest of your body, your shoulders are over your wrists, your upper back is puffed up towards the ceiling and your head is in line with your spine. Start with your knees on the ground—without letting your upper body and core droop—for thirty seconds. Once you build strength increase your hold time by fifteen seconds and eventually lift your legs.

 

Superman
There’s no point strengthening your core and not your lower back. You’re asking for injury. Thankfully, superman’s—the exercise, not the superhero—to the rescue. Lie face down on the floor with your arms outstretched in front of you. Draw your shoulder blades together and engage your lower back. Then lift your upper body and arms off the floor, hold, lower and repeat. One to two sets of eight repetitions are usually a safe place to start, but feel it out according to how your body reacts. Your toes should be pressed into the ground enough to lift your knees off the floor and engage your legs.

 

Squats
Squats exercise your hamstring, quad, bum and hips in one move without any clunky equipment. Pretend to sit back into an invisible chair, keeping your knees over your ankles. Are your toes still visible over your knees? Then your alignment is likely bang-on. Once you’ve “sat,” hold and then return to standing. Repeat for a series of repetitions or until your legs are fatigued, but not walloped. You can extend your arms out in front of you at shoulder height or hold textbooks of similar weights in each hand for an extra challenge.

How To Keep Your Food Resolutions

As the saying goes, “resolutions were made to be broken.” Or was that rules?

Nevertheless I am not against change. But it requires an equal balance of commitment and reassessment. Commit to the change and then reassess whether it makes a positive impact on your life. And maybe it doesn’t. So what? Compassionate understanding is essential to food resolutions. We already have too many negative attitudes to what and how we eat. Whether you were inspired by a magazine article or Facebook status, you’re the one who has to make sacrifices or find substitutions. Because (I have to say it), no one else really cares what you eat. Sure, if it impacts your health or stinks up shared kitchen space then outside opinions carry some weight. But food resolutions particularly as students are personal, so remember that your opinion trumps. So attack resolutions full-heartedly, but with a steady supply of self-awareness.

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Prepare your space

Whether you’re overhauling your diet or cutting out Cheetos (mmm, Cheetos), prepare your kitchen. Fill it with the necessary staples you’ll need to integrate your food resolution into your routine. That said I suggest you keep a space available to store the very thing you’re avoiding. Choose a cupboard out of reach or the back of the refrigerator and stick a blank sticky note nearby. Should you cave and reach for the Cheetos, fine, but make note of it on the sticky note. After two weeks of your food resolution, check the note and see how many times you broke. And separate whether it made you feel bad because of the nutritional implications versus the emotional. Now this is my opinion. I am not a nutritionist. To me though I think students are too quick to give up what they love for the wrong reasons. Don’t force yourself into a situation where your kitchen has nothing you want to eat. That can be as damaging to your relationship to food. This same approach can be applied to the cafeteria. Prepare yourself to visit the appropriate stations for your resolution, but if you break, note it and check that note after two weeks to assess.

 

Set an alarm

Like the sticky note approach above, regular self-evaluation helps. But not constant self-evaluation. Food resolutions affect one aspect of your life, so they shouldn’t clog up mental space reserved for relationships or schoolwork. Set an alarm on your phone or mark a date in your calendar at the end of either your first or second week of your food resolution. Allow yourself to take that moment to reflect. Perhaps you share your thoughts aloud with a friend or write them down for yourself. Then put those thoughts away for a day. Look them over after a night’s sleep and decide what changes you have to make as a result. Repeat the process as long as you feel prepared to keep the resolution.

Partner up

Let me be clear: partner up with someone 1) who you respect, 2) whose opinion you take seriously, but not too seriously that you forget your own and 3) who shares a similar food resolution. If it won’t overwhelm you, consider forming a pact with a group—at least that way you’ll have many opinions at your disposal. But limit your check-in’s. Perhaps they’re the one you have weekly or biweekly reassessments with. Or perhaps you send the occasional support-seeking text: “lab partner brought Cheetos to class today gaaaaah!!!” Or how about you schedule to share a meal together once a week that serves your resolution. Inviting someone in provides perspective on your resolution.

5 Teas For Every Student

The clichéd student with baggy, bloodshot eyes is typically clad with their laptop, an energy drink and an excuse (or two!) for their incomplete assignment. Sure, maybe my image is a bit bleak. Yes, perhaps there’s a slight chance they just have the assignment in hand rather than an excuse. Or more likely they could have a travel mug of coffee instead of an energy drink. Or for that matter, tea.

 

tea

 

With the increasing popularity of loose-leaf varieties and accompanying accessories, tea isn’t just for your grandparents anymore. It’s cheap, fun and actually healthy. However, I propose that students look beyond English breakfasts and earl greys. We’re constantly asked to challenge and rethink norms in our studies, so why not in our tea selection too? Here are five of my less conventional favourites.

Lapsang souchong

Love barbeque? Or campfire-roasted marshmallows? Chances are you’re attracted to them for their inherently smoky taste. Well, lapsang souchong, is all about that smoke. It’s a Chinese black tea traditionally smoke-dried over pinewood fires. Like any variety, the better the quality, the more hard-hitting the flavour. And this is one I wouldn’t skimp on for that reason.

Rose tea

If you prefer your tea on the sweeter, fruiter side, give rose tea a go. Steeped whole dried rose buds should remind you of the classic candy, Turkish Delight or the slightly less classy, Big Turk (minus the chocolate exterior). Despite the floral flavour, rose tea depending on the variety doesn’t taste soapy. And better yet with consistent drinking you’ll boost your intake of Vitamin C and relieve the pain of menstrual cramps.

Fresh mint tea

No, mint tea is not a revelation, but for me at least, fresh mint tea is. You’ll find fresh mint leaves in the produce section of your grocery store either bundled or in plastic packets. Give each leaf a gentle rub and then steep for a minute or two in hot water. The flavour is far more refreshing than the dried variety and as long as you’re regularly drinking it when the leaves are at their freshest it’s as cheap. (That means don’t let the leaves rot and thusly become a waste of money.) I wouldn’t recommend freezing the leaves as they tend to lose their flavour. Freezing herbs is fine for cooking, but not so much for tea where they’re in the spotlight. Best of all when you’ve finished your tea, you can snack on the leaves.

Nettle tea

I vividly remember the first time, a nettle plant brushed my arm and caused a stinging sensation. Thankfully, an Elmo Band-Aid (and time) eased the pain. However, dried nettle leaves make for a fine tea—fresh too, but unless you know where to find a patch, you won’t find them at your local grocery store. It’s mildly bitter in taste, so a touch of honey is always welcome. Health benefits abound including treating the symptoms of allergies such as hay fever when drinking it on a regularly basis.

Oolong or jasmine tea (aka Chinese restaurant tea)

Now this is one that’s not necessarily transferable to the travel mug between classes, but for me nothing soothes like the pot of tea that accompanies a meal at Chinese restaurants. Of course, what the blend it is varies depending on the establishment, but likely it’s a blend of oolong and jasmine-scented teas. The best bet is to give a couple a go, discover your favourite and ask for the brand. Or keep it a mystery and treat for those few times you make it off-campus for a meal out.

Why exercise Is a menace

By Madeleine Brown

As children our arch nemeses bragged about their spelling test mark, spotted Furby and Disneyland vacation. As young adults, our current nemeses have outgrown these now petty triumphs. No, our current nemeses get into expensive international grad school programs, date committed boyfriends and girlfriends and exercise regularly.

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What jerks.

 

While I could easily help you identify the faults of the first two so-called successes, I intend to address the third, exercise. Since when did gym time and defined abs become brag-worthy? Why must a friend’s weight loss or muscle gain evoke a false smile across our face and insincere congratulations? And how come I honestly can’t believe anyone actually enjoys exercising?

 

I came to university a competitive long distance runner, having been a member of my high school and city cross country and track-and-field teams. While I found myself without the time and truthfully the ability to compete at the university-level, I was adamant I continue to run six days a week and follow my high school coach’s e-mailed out weekly workout schedule. I was hardcore—even rising around 6:30 am the second day of frosh week to squeeze in a morning run at the gym my membership to which wasn’t technically effective yet. And despite two periods of injury when I turned to swimming and YouTube yoga videos, I—sort of—maintained this schedule throughout undergrad. Disappointingly I never found a team I loved as much as my high school one. From a social perspective I didn’t fit in with either the high school student-ridden (and now defunct) city club or my neighbourhood adult equivalent. I met with a personal trainer weekly for a semester in my third year to build strength—my lifelong foe—and while I indeed built strength it was a costly relationship to maintain. So in the end given my demanding school schedule and wavering level of motivation, I likely ran various routes, speeds and lengths on average five days a week completely alone. I practically always had my running shoes and a workout outfit on me until I finally invested in a gym locker in fourth year.

 

Sure, according to my friends, my commitment was admirable. I was fit. And, yes, often those runs relaxed me. But more often than not the pressure to exercise dominated my entire day. I’d wake each morning and ask myself, “When can I fit in a run?” If I didn’t manage, I went to bed with a feeling of guilt. And I felt equally guilty if I laced up and suddenly wished I could just stay home and sprawl on the couch. I was caught between friends who exercised twice a year for two weeks at the beginning of September and January and those who exercised every day in order to sculpt Instagram-worthy muscles.

 

I wish guilt never had to accompany exercise. I never want someone to feel pressure to. College and university students should exercise for fun and the opportunity to socialize. Whatever other benefits come, come. In my third and fourth year I coordinated a walking and running group, the walking group of which I personally led in its second year of existence. Twice a week I walked with students I normally never interacted with for upwards of forty minutes. We hashed out struggles and celebrated triumphs all the while exploring unknown areas of the campus and surrounding neighbourhood. We never counted steps taken or calories burned. Given my own experience and in particular my participation in this walking group, I left university with the promise to myself to squeeze in regular exercise because, yes, I do enjoy it, but never to guilt myself about it. If I’m too tired or it’s practically impossible to fit in, I won’t run. I joined a yoga studio that provided me the fitness community I yearned for through four years of university. I stopped willing myself to adhere to a weekly workout schedule that no longer fit my lifestyle or desires. If I am an arch nemesis to an individual, I want to brag about other so-called achievements, not the hours I’ve logged at a gym I hate. Sure, I’d love a six-pack just like everyone else out there, but not at the cost my sanity. If you truly want to squeeze in exercise as a student, you will. As the clichéd proverb goes: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

When dining with strangers

by Winston Gamache

So you’ve moved halfway across the world, province, or maybe just down the street for college or university, but nonetheless practically every face is new. Alas, you are without a doubt dining with strangers. (And while initially it may seem better, repeatedly dining alone is far worse.) Could it be terrible? Maybe. Does it have to be? Nope. Here are three pointers that I learned the hard way to help you get through and hopefully make some friends along the way.

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She cooks

by Hannah Lank

What always irks me about cooking? It’s widely accepted that women are the “family chefs,” figuring out what to feed the kids every night for dinner, but when it comes to restaurant chefs—well, that role is for men. Unfortunately when I think ‘chef,’ I envision a white-clad, spatula-wielding man. Not a woman. Even though in my own life women—typically mothers, my own included—have cooked most of the meals I’ve eaten.

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These conventions are no longer acceptable. I, for one, enjoy cooking AND grilling—I make a delectable marinated grilled chicken—but in no way do I associate my proficiency in the kitchen with my femininity.  Nor do I understand why it’s deemed conventional for men to be restaurant chefs but not home cooks. The problem here isn’t that women are cooking at home, rather that men are not (or at least not as much as their female counterparts). As a woman, I understand that society places certain demands on each gender: mostly, that it is acceptable for women to cook at home, but not as acceptable for men to do so. And that needs to change.

Owning up to food waste

by Danielle Del Vicario

“Finish your dinner. Don’t you know children in Africa are starving?”

The first time someone accosted me with this time-honoured Western mantra, I was baffled by its complete illogic. What difference would it make to a kid in Africa whether or not I finished my vegetables? After all, she wasn’t getting my leftovers.

I know we should be grateful for the food and lifestyle we have, but raising kids thinking this is why food waste is bad really bothers me. Food waste is as much a local problem as a global one. We shouldn’t have to make reference to another continent to make it relevant.

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Why spend money on food, really?

by Madeleine Brown

Before you get at me, I am well aware of the masses that would quickly respond to my question, “If only I had money to spend on food!” And it is for that reason I pose my question specifically to those masses that choose to cringe at the total of their grocery store receipt or provide a running commentary throughout the meal itself on how much their dinner out will cost them. Although we ultimately consume it, digest it, “dispose” of it and then promptly forget about it, food is a necessary expense like rent or tuition. One I argue that—if you have the choice—you shouldn’t skimp on.

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Yes, ask me what I ate last Wednesday for lunch and honestly you’d have to give me a couple of minutes to remember. However, ask me what the last piece of clothing I bought was and I’ll (quietly) admit that it was over thirty dollars worth of black tights. The point is that I remember. And while that may be entirely different for a proclaimed fashionista, I think for the majority of the population we are quicker to forget food-related purchases over other, more permanent ones. And hence why we often attempt to cheap out on food.

Sure, I am all for cost-cutting measures. I meal plan, buy a grocery store’s line of products—often the cheapest any day — and make my own pasta sauce over the jarred stuff. But I make these choices actively and where it counts. When I eat with friends, I order what I want to eat, not what my wallet wants. Cheese, meat and out-there condiments, don’t deter me from making a particular recipe. I happily buy a baked good to accompany my afternoon tea. If you can’t dispense your guilt about that jelly doughnut you ate between labs or the three energy drinks you chugged to finish that essay, at least rid yourself of any about incurred food costs.

I admit you’ve probably made some stupid food-related purchases, be it useless kitchen utensils or practically inedible frozen entrees, but you shouldn’t channel that anxiety toward the cost of the basket of farmers’ market apples you bought last weekend or the anniversary dinner you covered for both you and your special someone. Both of those cases likely provided you memorable lived experiences. Even if you forget the apples and let them rot to a point of inedibility or you break-up with your boyfriend or girlfriend a week after your anniversary, admit it those are still fairly memorable moments. And food has fueled you your entire life including your proudest accomplishments. Now some may suggest some food fuels you better than others and, sure, if you truly believe you’ve become a better person since you’ve become gluten-free then good for you. But I like to think whatever you invested in to fuel your day as long as you thought about and actively chose it, you made no wrong. Embrace food costs. It’s money towards more than just what you had for dinner last night.

My relationship to cafeteria staff

by Winston Gamache

I remember back to the good old days of life in residence. My favourite part was without a doubt the food that was always waiting ready to eat in the caf. Sure, I love having a kitchen now and cooking—baking especially—but some days I just don’t want to. With a busy schedule I often end up cooking when I’m already hungry and more than a little grumpy and that just as often affects the quality of my cooking. A hangry chef is a hasty chef. The caf was this magical place where you just walked in and instantly had so many different options to choose from. You could have a burger or the pasta of the day and fresh salad. You could also just take one of each and stuff your face.

But beyond the food itself, it’s the people who make that caf-magic possible.

Music and food

by Madeleine Brown

I force a soundtrack on my life. When I’m home, my iTunes, YouTube or Spotify is rarely off. Part of the joy of the restaurant where I serve is its Sonos system and our manager’s insistence we play music—loud music—throughout service. Then between my home, the restaurant or wherever I find myself headed I’ve likely got the radio playing on my cellphone. (I realize how disgraceful and uncool this may be, but I don’t have data and have yet to figure out how to transfer music to my phone. So, please, no judging.) It’s not surprising then that every time upon entering the kitchen to cook I, of course, choose an album or playlist to underscore me. And this music often continues to play while I eat whatever I’ve prepared.