During the 2020-2021 school year, the Arts and Culture team at the Bull & Bear has been forced to learn how to stay in shape while staying safe. While online school and shifting lockdowns have been a challenge to navigate, COVID-19 restrictions haven’t stopped our team from participating in our favourite forms of exercise in solitude. Be it a virtual fitness class in front of a laptop screen, or a form of outdoor exercise that we can perform while keeping our physical distance from others, our team has figured out how to keep things moving during two extraordinary semesters.
Moreover, the benefits of exercise are more than just physical. Mental health professionals have long been citing how frequent exercise can manage one’s stress level and, it has even been cited as a tool to reduce anxiety and depression.
So, even when the world felt like it was on pause, here’s how our team at the Bull & Bear kept things moving!
Jonathan Smilovitch — Biking in Montreal
Montreal is a great city for bikers, especially during the summer. In addition to the perfect weather conditions, the city installs hundreds of Bixi stands, and closes down several streets. I would recommend visiting any of these streets on a summer evening, and enjoying the ambiance while walking or biking around. Some of them offer live music, or local ice cream shops, and make a great outing on your own or with others.
For a more challenging route, I recommend biking to Lac aux Castors. The scenic route is mostly uphill, especially with the final trek towards the end, but is more than worth it for the view. Once you reach the top, the huge hill overlooking the lake is a perfect place to drop your bike and take a much deserved break. The spot is usually full of ducks, bikers, and people barbecuing. It’s a perfect spot to relax and read a book, have a snack, or hang out with others. Upon departing, speeding down the hill you once conquered is incredibly satisfying. Be sure to check the speedometer on your way down to see how fast you’re going, and please ride responsibly!
Sarah Caplan — Melissa Wood Health
Back in the day I equated sweat with strength and panting with power but I’ve realized meditative movement is all I need. After the first few months of lockdown literally running away from the world’s problems, I was dreading my workouts but still needed a shift in energy and a way to elevate my mood. And that’s when I stumbled upon Melissa Wood Health.
Melissa’s philosophy is all about consistency and showing up for yourself. She’s the antithesis of “no pain, no gain.” Instead, she’s all about moving through whatever is coming up for you, shifting how you feel not only in your body but in your mind. After a few weeks of completing her free flows on IGTV, I decided it was time for an upgrade and I bought the annual subscription to her website/app MelissaWoodHealth. All you need is a mat and for less than $10/month you have access to over 200 flows based in pilates and yoga.
What I love so much about Melissa’s method is that it never gets old. In articulating such small movements and challenging my balance, it forces me to really tune in and focus on how I’m feeling not only physically but more importantly mentally. All of her workouts have at least a moment of meditation, which gives you a second to “feel that shift” from where you were at the beginning to how you feel at the end of your flow. With most of her workouts ranging from 10-35 minutes they’re great to stack-up or squeeze in.
Melissa’s workouts have really changed how I view fitness. Especially when cooped up because of COVID, I find that rolling out my mat is what allows me to move through whatever I am feeling and go about the rest of my day with much more peace. Honestly, I drank the MWH Kool-Aid and am completely obsessed and recommend her to everyone!
Arly Abramson — Barry’s Bootcamp
It wasn’t until I was stuck inside after coming home from exchange in mid-March that I realized how much I need a serotonin boost during the day. I usually got this running from class to class, or filling my days with plans and activities. When the pandemic hit, Barry’s Bootcamp saved the day! Barry’s is a strength and cardio high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. They began offering free classes on their IGTV in March 2020, as part of a “Barry’s At-Home” series, and continued doing so weekly for the rest of the year. Now, you can find these 20-30 minute videos for free on their Instagram.
With Barry’s I love the fact that these classes are fun and free. I really enjoy the fast-paced energy, and the ability to get my butt kicked even when I feel like I don’t have a lot of time. Plus, few of the classes rely on a heavy amount of equipment, so all you really need is a mat or towel, a water bottle, and yourself. The instructors are all super fun and motivating and validate the fact that you are doing a good thing for yourself no matter how long the workout or how much energy you have to give. I highly recommend trying it out!
Olivia Whetstone — Yoga With Adriene
I will never forget my first yoga class. About two years ago, a friend of mine convinced me to attend one of McGill’s Hatha I classes with her, raving about their ability to decrease her stress. As a complete beginner, I was nervous because I’m not the most flexible, and I am unfamiliar with yoga jargon. (What do you mean, Chaturanga?) However, seeing as it was a beginner’s class, the movements were basic, and I was proud of my ability to keep up. That is, until the instructor invited us to move from downward dog into up dog.
“What’s up dog?” I whispered frantically to my friend on my right.
“Not much, what’s up with you?” she responded, extending a leg to the sky.
Since that fateful class, I have been hooked on yoga as a way to both destress and get my body moving. I love the burn of each stretch and the calm of focusing on my breath. However, when communal classes were forced to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with finals season fast approaching, I was left searching for a way to recreate the experience of guided yoga practice from home. Enter Yoga With Adriene to save the day.
Yoga With Adriene has made a name for herself during the pandemic, but for those who are unfamiliar, Adriene provides guided yoga videos on her website and YouTube channel. There is a range of content available, but I especially enjoy her 30 day challenges. Adriene is a fantastic instructor, creating a welcoming environment and providing clear explanations of each flow, along with modifications. Each workout is also low-commitment, only lasting about 20 minutes, and no fancy equipment is necessary. These are great for beginners, but all levels are accommodated, as Adriene weaves tougher flows in with more basic movements. What I find most attractive about the 30 day challenge is the way it allowed me to build a habit and stay motivated. I cannot emphasize enough how gratifying it is to feel myself getting stronger with each day, making it easy to set aside the time for yoga practice. The best part is, everything is completely free! For those looking for a way to get active and destress this finals season without it feeling like a struggle, I can’t recommend Yoga With Adriene enough.
Sophia Quinn — Running
What better way to burst out of the McGill bubble and get some cardio in than a run around the city? With gyms closed and the ice melted from the sidewalks, now’s the time to finally put the runners on and get outside. All you really need is a good playlist. There’s plenty of running routes that McGill students and Montrealers alike enjoy – it just depends what you’re into.
For a quick 5K, try running from Milton-Parc La Fontaine. You can weave around the ponds and sun-bathers or just follow the path that takes you all the way around without straying far from Sherbrooke.
If you’re wanting to be close to the water, the Lachine Canal has a bustling multi-purpose path where bikers, rollerblades and runners can go from Old Port to Atwater. Especially on clear days, the canal is a great place to people-watch and have the sun on your face running along the water.
For a bit of a longer run, try running up Chemin de la Cote-Sainte-Catherine, from the corner of Parc and Mont Royal. You’ll pass some parks and a beautiful church turning right into Outremont and making your way back down Parc.
The best part about runs, really, is exploring different neighbourhoods each time and letting yourself get distracted and curious. Sometimes you just have to stop a cathedral over the rooftops and just run to check it out. With everything closed, running is a fun way to get out of the house and explore the city. You don’t just have to stick to just the mountain!
Sam Shepherd — Matty Maggiagamo from Peloton
When did you first see yourself represented in the media? I’ll start. I was lying on my family’s basement floor, my legs wide open, pretending to give birth to the Wicked Witch of the West as part of a free trial of an at-home workout service. Matty Magiacamo is a fitness instructor with a flair for fun and enthusiasm. One of a dozen iconic Peloton instructors, Matty is known for leading classes that fuse challenging, full-body exercises with upbeat pop and showtunes. In one class, you are doing bicep curls to Cher. The next, you are performing excruciatingly difficult ab exercises to the eleven o’ clock number from Stephen Schwartz Wicked.
Matty Maggiacamo’s strengthening classes are a reminder that exercise doesn’t always have to mean a colourless grind. In fact, Maggiacomo’s humorous, irreverent attitude reminds us that getting fit should be fun, and we should all stop treating fitness so seriously. More, Maggiacomo ends every class with a breathing exercise and an almost Shakespearean mantra, “Inhale the good shit / Exhale the bullshit.” Not only is this catchphrase prime material for a tagline on a mug or a t-shirt, but Matty’s words act as a reminder to let go of a toxic exercise culture that says we have to look or sweat a certain way. This makes him well-worth the free trial, if you ask me!