Category Archives: Athletics & Health

Dorm Room Fitness: Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred

LI-JILLIANMICHAELS Personal trainer Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser fame was at Goodlife gym at Yonge and Richmond to promote her new high-intensity class, Monday, February 11, 2013. (Galit Rodan for the Toronto Star)


This is no ‘Sweatin’ to the Oldies’! Get ready to lose weight, gain superhuman strength, and feel great about your body – all for only 27 minutes a day.

While there’s no doubt that Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred is targeted towards women, men have also been known to benefit from it. However, if you’re a man and it makes you uncomfortable to have a lady lead your workout, just adjust your speakers’ treble and bass until she sounds manly enough for you. Instant Jack Michaels.

Jillian Michaels advocates a special kind of circuit training which she calls her ‘3-2-1’ method. This method has you doing 3 minutes of cardio, 2 minutes of strength, then 1 minute of abs, on repeat, over and over again until you feel like you are going to die.

The best part about all of this? It’s totally worth it. After doing the 30 Day Shred, I had noticeably more defined muscles, was leaner, and felt great. Find video links to the workouts below!

Level 1

Pros: This level is a great introduction to the Shred. The moves aren’t too intense or difficult to do, although modifications to each are presented for those who haven’t worked out in a while or want to take it a little easier.

Cons: As it was my first time doing some of these moves, I would have appreciated a little more attention to proper form. I can see overenthusiastic exercisers injuring themselves if they don’t pay close enough attention to the demonstrations on the screen. Continue reading Dorm Room Fitness: Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred

Maddie’s Picks

My journey with blogUT started before I even came to U of T–  I found the site over three years ago while frantically researching the school and convincing myself further and further that this was where I was meant to be. When I got my acceptance email I couldn’t wait to learn as much as possible about my new city, school, and home– hence where blogUT comes in.

So in honour of university application season and the fresh crop of future U of T students that will soon be upon us, here are some of my favourite pieces that blogUT has ever published. Enjoy this (re)introduction to your school and city.

Continue reading Maddie’s Picks

April is the Cruelest Month

First, I’d like to apologize. To poetry fans. To English students. To anyone who’s had any cursory exposure to literature and the search for deeper meaning in words beyond how nicely they fit into blog post titles. And of course, to Mr Eliot.

April is the cruelest month, though, at least for students. It’s exam and final essay time, that moment when the pedagogical procrastination that manifests itself as culminating assignments of obscenely high value rears its ugly head. Or ass. Excuse me; I’m frustrated.

I am frustrated because just yesterday I completed the first of my two exams this semester (the other is on the 29th; go figure) and just this evening I incorrectly answered a Jeopardy question about a topic that had been on the exam. Now, I’m almost certain I got that question right on the test, which means that in the twenty or since, I forgot something fairly important. Something fairly important that I learnt in a class that cost almost a thousand dollars. Something important and expensive that I spent twenty-four hours of class time learning and another thirty or so studying.

Rather than try to project my own experience on to you (I’m honest like that), I’ll ask you to think back to your winter examinations. If you had to take them again, right now, how much lower would your mark be? 10%? 20? “But of course it will be lower,” you say. “That was months ago.” “But,” I say, “why would you take a class if not to learn? And what is learning if not remembering and understanding after the fact?” And therein lies the problem: final exams are not conducive to learning.

They’re not necessarily obstructive, either; there’s no evidence to suggest that culminating exams encourage the forgetting of information, but there’s very little to suggest that they actually evaluate what students will retain. The most common form of preparation is studying all the relevant material at once, over the course of a few weeks or days. This leads to cramming, which, even when it does lead to higher exam grades – which is not as often as you might think – it almost always leads to lower long-term retention. This can be attributed to the distinction between long-term memory and working memory. (Here I apologize again, to psychology and neuroscience students.) Speaking generally, working memory lasts only in the short term, when the mind is focused on a project and the brain is employing all necessary processes and stressors to complete that project. Once that project is done, the memory is largely discarded as it is no longer useful.1

Long-term memory, however, is not subject to the fallacies of short-term methods like cramming, and is activated by studying important material in smaller chunks over a large period of time. Think back to a class that had multiple smaller evaluations throughout the year. How well do you remember material from that course, compared to the others you took that year? I know that I can tell you way more about De Morgan’s Theorem than I can about religious imagery in Skyscrapers of the Midwest, and that I can offer much more insight into the influence of African culture in the Caribbean than I can to um, that Shaw play with the guns. Long-term memory is simply better stimulated through evaluations spread out across the year, rather than only once or twice.

These kinds of observations have not gone unnoticed. At Harvard University, for instance, only 23% of classes end in final exams.2 Elsewhere in the world, universities are slowly turning to alternative methods to final exams, including the obvious choice of fewer, smaller evaluations. Not as always, the University of Toronto is fairly slow to catch up (that’s the closest thing to a compliment that I can give right now.) Although the percentage of classes with final exams is decreasing, they are still the norm and, in fact, mandatory in first-year courses.3 Welcome to UofT!

I recognize that there isn’t any actually useful information in here. Regardless of whether or not you know how effective exam studying is, you probably still have to do it. It probably still sucks. And you probably won’t remember much of it in a short while. Cruel, eh?

Finish Your Antibiotic Courses and Don’t Abuse Drugs

If you are easily grossed out by thoughts of yucky things, just obey the title and we won’t have any issues.

It started last Friday. Wait, no. Too fast.

It started during Reading Week. I got three wisdom teeth removed. I only had three. Two on my right side. It was a painful recovery – as expected – but I survived. I had my medicine and finished my full antibiotic course. I turned into a chipmunk for half a week. The check-up appointment with the oral surgeon went well; he said the recovery looked good. Life was good.

Then it started last Friday. I felt a strange swelling in my lower right jaw. Unsure if I had just slept wrong the night before, I decided it was probably nothing to worry about. Never make this assumption. Continue reading Finish Your Antibiotic Courses and Don’t Abuse Drugs

The Hangover – Sans Bradley Cooper, Unfortunately

I must confess that while I have never tried the much-vaunted greasy pork sandwich served up in a dirty ashtray (though it has unbounding appeal), there is nothing quite like fast food grease when battling the aftereffects of a bite from the rabid and snarling boarhound that is excessive alcohol consumption. The combination of an as of yet undeveloped frontal cortex and a freshly-purchased liver with not many miles on it breeds a dalliance between oneself and this pernicious beast and while this sloppy canine may present with wet kisses its bite packs a wallop like a donkey kick, a revelation usually reached at around 11 the next morn. The feeling is the kind common to all zombie movie extras, not the hankering for tasty brains; very few of them will take the method route there, but the disorientation, general queasiness, loss of self worth and the vague feeling your all too stunted brain can only guess is hunger. And as hunger appears the symptom with the easiest cure and your mind is host to deep thought-starved larvae it seems the quickest route to dispelling the regret shaped cloud around your skull.

Although it’s rare that last night will rear its pockmarked face in this way after upwards of 3 hours of unconsciousness, never underestimate a good expulsion of fluids through the mouth. Obviously one should aim for the most sanitary of conditions, ideally toilets or sinks rather than beds or friends, as most dorms won’t boast more than a Swiffer.

Now that yesterday’s abundant nutrition is done with one should continue on to today’s. As was said fast food, a pleasant phrase in and of itself, is a saviour in this instance, as its lack of any nutritional value doesn’t confuse your body into thinking there are worthwhile compounds in need of processing but rather just the daily grind of fats, calories, and other such gremlins that spend their days grid-locking your arteries. Muffins and other inventions of men who live on Drury Lane are recommended as they act like sponges to the hideous things you poured down your throat last night. Energy drinks will taste something akin to what you as a die-hard Harry Potter enthusiast can only assume goblin piss is like but will most certainly clear your mouth of the feeling that a cat has defecated in the back of your throat. Carbonated beverages of all types are encouraged,  bolstering your now near-empty energy bar. Fruit is allowed but not preferred as their textures do little for the fragile state of the stomach. Keeping hydrated is a must as alcohol, despite being one, drains a lot of liquid from the body making it harder to recover than a merciful god should allow. If your brain feels like a bullet train, or an actual bullet, has entered it, then Advil or some facsimile thereof will be much appreciated by your head and anyone within a couple miles of you.

But of all the carbonated beverages, pharmaceuticals, and real food-imitators, the best thing for a hangover is a friend who was there the night before and can commiserate. Misery loves company, but it also likes someone sitting closer to the TV remote who’s horrible at rock-paper-scissors to provide the day’s entertainment.

Skip your morning classes, avoid the scene at the liposuction clinic from Fight Club and anything featuring morbidly obese housewives, and you’ll be good to go (go nowhere that is).

Leah Does Wellness: Gratitude

In this video, I talk about why gratitude is important and how, once you’ve realized that you’re grateful for things, how you can channel your gratitude to better others’ lives as well as your own.
The article I refer to:… (There are some awesome videos there too!)
’11 Ways To Feel Grateful For Whatever Life’s Thrown At You’:…
Want others to be grateful with?:

And here’s a little infographic-esque thing! Click the picture to make it bigger.

Mommy Motivation

No, this is not a post about pregnancy.

Recently I’ve suffered from a strong ailment we may know as mid-undergrad crisis. Sadly I didn’t have the money to buy myself a fancy car nor did I have the time to pick up a new hobby.

My remedy? My mommy.

Perhaps I’m still a kid inside, but when it comes to difficult life choices and difficult life situations, no one seems to be quite as helpful as she is. I mean my dad’s cool too, but in a more “listen to your mother” sort of way. Maybe it’s because I know that in the past my mom was also in somewhat of the same position I’m in now, and she offers not only good life advice but also a girly conversation.

Now I realized not everyone is as close to their mother as I am with mine. I mean, I tell her everything. Except the exact numeric values of my lowest marks of course…

So I’m going to share with you some of Marina’s-mommy-motivation on various topics that I think lots of women in their early-mid 20’s have to deal with. Men too actually, though please keep in mind most of these things were told to me so they wouldn’t really be reflective of what you’d want to hear. Anything you don’t agree with, please take as a joke- cuz that’s probably how she meant it.

She also said most of these things in mandarin, I’m both translating and paraphrasing.


You are 50% your mother genetically. You were also perhaps raised in her household where inevitably some personal biases and preferences got passed over. Heard of the Electra complex? It may not be destiny but you can see some twisted sense in it.

Motherly advice:

There are some kinds of people who work really hard, and others who are naturally smart but don’t do as much work. Ideally you want to find the one who both works hard and is smart… but let’s face it- that’s near impossible and there’ll probably be a lot of competition (see below). In the end I think the ones who work harder are probably worth more in the long run, but can also be potentially boring- so figure out what you want. At the end of the day, if he isn’t an utter failure and you both can respect one another, you’re set.

In the end, it’s a lot easier for girls to chase boys than for boys to chase girls. But at the same time if there are a lot of girls chasing one boy, it may not be advantageous for you to join the race. Especially if the boy (who clearly is popular because he’s a good candidate) knows that he’s a good candidate. In that case, and while it’s not always the case, you might just be more inclined towards jealousy and potential future issues. Also competition is a pain.  Use your better judgement.

Having Fun In School

This would probably apply to both genders. Lots of people in undergrad here feel the competitiveness and get driven to sit and study all day. While it works for some people and they’re okay with it, I had a big issue with the thought that I’d have to study countless hours. During my mid-undergrad crisis, I studied and worked more than ever before, but was completely less productive. The essays I wrote were horrid and the experiments I ran gave the exact opposite result as was expected. Stress is not fun.

Motherly (+ a bit of fatherly) advice:

The undergraduate age is the one I remember the most. All the fun I had and people I met, I still remember vividly to this day. So you really should go spend more money. (That was the fatherly bit.)

At the end of the day, your physical and mental health are the most important. If you die, you won’t make it in life. If you go crazy, you’ll have a much, much harder time making it in life. So do something good for your body. Go take some course at this “Hart House” you keep telling me about. Try dancing – I was good at it, you should be too. Stop staring at your computer screen all day because you’ll end up distracted anyways. While you want to do generally well in school, you also don’t want to snap and end up like what’s-her-name’s daughter who got straight 4.0s throughout undergrad, went insane, and threw things at her parents before going on a tour around Asia and… who knows what she’s doing now anyways!

Career vs Family

I get a bit controversial here, please be nice to me and my mommy. This is more a look at feminism now days too as women are a strong part of the work force but we still are the ones to biologically get pregnant.

Motherly advice:

You don’t want to settle down and have kids until you have the money. That’s not to say you aren’t allowed to start looking for potential partners now, but keep in mind you do have a lot of time if you plan on doing continual education. Unless you find your ideal man now, it’s better to focus on your career. Of course, do remember that your future family life is also an important thing to plan for. But I think until you reach the ripe age of 22-24, you probably aren’t completely ready to think about that – and I mean truly think about it. Of course, if by 24 you aren’t engaged yet, I might get a little worried…

At the end of the day, all things will come. At this current stage of life you’re in, your career should be the biggest priority, with other future plans as a secondary priority. Now this might change for you in a few years when you start to lose fertility, but even then you still have lots of time left. So don’t worry too much about family planning now – you can afford to worry about it in a few years time when your career will (hopefully) be less of a worry.

Concluding Mommy Motivation

Don’t let a couple of bad grades on your courses drive you nutty. Look at the broader picture and remember that the entrance average for a lot of programs is in fact, the average: there are people admitted with lower GPAs. So don’t give up, make a backup plan to deal with the stress and then keep aiming for the same goal. Chances are, you’ll make it – otherwise you’ll have a backup all ready so you won’t need to do more stressing over that. And always remember, that at the end of the day your father and I will always be proud of you.

While this may have given you a bit to think about or just a few laughs is really up to you. But I’ve become quite inspired by this rare trip home and really needed to share the joy. Perhaps this was the best time for it as well.

Happy Exams, everyone!