Living in a healthy and balanced way

It’s the end of the month, which means that gym rats everywhere are beginning to see the light at the end of the long January tunnel. The resolutioners are on their way out. After a long bitter month of awkward stretches, disorganized weight racks and packed classes, the Ryerson gyms should go back to normal next month.

It’s the same thing every year. If you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution, it likely has something to do with healthy eating, going to the gym or losing weight — which is fine. But making resolutions is a lot easier than carrying them out and sticking to them.

I’m not really the New Year’s resolution-making type; I just try to live a healthy lifestyle. Right now, that includes yoga almost daily and lifting weights at the gym a few times a week.

But if you are one of these “resolutioners,” or anyone interested in living a healthier lifestyle, it’s important to remember that every gym junkie starts out as a n00b.


(Erin Petrow/The Ryersonian)

Erin Hesselink performs the Eight-Angle yoga pose.  (Erin Petrow/Ryersonian Staff)

Resolution 1: Go to the gym/work out

The first time I tried yoga was a disaster. I grabbed a mat from the back of the room and strategically placed it in one of the back spots, almost out of the teacher’s view. It had some weird discoloured spots on it of unknown origin, but I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of my Zen.

The class started and we began to breathe and move — slowly. I had never moved so slowly in my entire life. But that didn’t stop me from falling over multiple times because of my lack of flexibility. I felt like a puppy tripping over my own feet, while my cousin was next to me downward-dogging and breathing like a true guru.

I started to look around. I was amazed by the cute outfits some of the girls had on. My mind slowly wandered off thinking about what kind of cute workout gear I should buy with my tiny bank balance.

Then the teacher told us to lie on our backs. OK I thought. Now this I can do. I lay down and it felt good. But something smelled a little funky — hopefully not my mat.

The instructor’s calm, soothing voice spoke out to the class, “Now, imagine you’re on a beach on the sand. Close your eyes and just feel the ocean breeze.” I shut my eyes and spread out my hands. I didn’t feel sand. I felt nasty residue on the gym floor. You know those tiny little particles of unknown substance that are somehow always on the floor of a gym? That’s what I felt and it was definitely not relaxing.

Again we were instructed to breathe and keep our eyes closed.

I wondered what other people were doing with their hands. Are other people feeling the floor? I can’t hear anyone breathing anymore. Is everyone gone? Imagine if the entire class left me and I had no idea because my eyes were shut.

At this point, minor anxiety kicked in and my eyes started to twitch.

The teacher spoke again, telling us to relax. My eye lids started twitching even faster. Then my hands started moving involuntarily. What was I supposed to be doing with my hands?

I opened my eyes and saw the entire class lying down, peaceful and relaxed.

At that moment, I decided yoga was not for me and I would never take a class again.

It wasn’t until last summer that I even considered giving yoga a second chance. I was scrolling through my Instagram and stumbled on some yoga accounts. I started creeping – hard. After seeing all of these yogi contortionists in these crazy positions on the beach, I was suddenly inspired to try yoga again. But this time on my own at home. Once I started doing it alone, away from the dirty gym floor and without any distractions, it turned out to be the perfect stress-reliever and a great way to unwind at the end of the day.

It became even more important to my lifestyle after I started working in a factory and was too tired for conventional workouts.


Tree pose

The Tree Pose is a simple yoga pose that promotes better posture. (Erin Petrow/Ryersonian Staff)

Resolution 2: Lose weight

In this new factory job, I had maintained my healthy eating habits but suddenly I was working physically exhausting shifts for eight and a half hours a day. I lost 15 pounds in the first two months. But I got way too skinny.

While losing weight is often a goal for people, it doesn’t always mean you’re getting healthy — and it definitely wasn’t my goal.

Gradually I did manage to put some of the weight back on by eating massive portions so I could sustain myself for factory work. But I wanted to be physically active too.

I easily could have quit the gym and yoga, opting for sleep. I could have been like every resolutioner that decides it’s too tiring to balance working all day with going to the gym. And in many ways I did decide that. But I didn’t give up on my goal to stay active. I adapted it by finding what worked for me and my schedule — yoga at home.

People have asked me if I’m at my goal weight, or if I’m still trying to gain more, but I don’t really have a goal weight. While I’m constantly aware of my exercising so I don’t over train, making healthy choices and living a healthy lifestyle is more important to me than stepping onto a scale.


Resolution 3: Eat healthy

As a working student, making healthy decisions is a constant effort. But finding a way to exercise while balancing work and school wasn’t my only obstacle for staying healthy.

In high school, I was forced to cut out sugar from my diet because I found out that I was intolerant — yes that is a real thing.

My entire diet needed an overhaul and a lot more attention. I found the easiest way for me to stay on track was to cook enough food to last for a few days. So investing in a bunch of containers made my life a million times easier. I’ll make a lot of chicken and then package it with salad, potatoes, rice or pasta throughout the week. I’ll also load up on fruit and veggies or any other good foods that are on sale at Metro that week.

Chicken is my favourite because it’s packed with protein, which benefits my gym, school and yoga activities. Plus it goes with everything.

I don’t eat perfectly clean and I don’t have the desire to. My sugar intolerance helps me live my life in a balanced way, but I don’t say no to the occasional treat because … chocolate. Even Taylor Swift’s diet includes Starbucks on the weekends.

Sticking to resolutions — or even personal goals — is difficult, but worth it. It’s important not only to find the style of workout that you like best but the right atmosphere to do it in, because that can be the difference between sticking or quitting. It’s OK to not like an exercise or a class you try, but push yourself to try new things. Or even the same thing in a different environment — like I did.

I get bored of things very easily, so I switch up my workouts and yoga routines all the time, which makes it so much easier to stay motivated. If the weather is crappy, work out at home. If your diet sucks, tweak it bit by bit until you feel healthier. If you don’t like the equipment or people at one gym, switch to another.

Experiment with different workouts and classes and find one you enjoy, because there really is something for everyone.


By Erin Hesselink


You can find a photo gallery of various yoga poses, as performed by Erin Hesselink, below:


This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Jan.  28, 2015.

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