Exercise, study and apps

BecDo you ever stop and ask yourself, ‘am I exercising enough?’ or ‘am I eating the right foods?’ You probably have. Probably with extreme guilt. But I’m here to tell you that there’s an easy way to start responding to those questions while studying.

University is jam-packed with what seems like a never-ending amount of essays to write, exams to study for and tutorials to attend, and sometimes it can feel as though, before you know it, you’ve been consumed by university life and have forgotten about the importance of maintaining a healthy balance. Exercise can not only make you feel good by releasing endorphins, but it can also help improve concentration levels, which can be great for study . By exercising for only 30 minutes a day you can reduce your risk of many potential health problems.

In our world full of technology and smartphones, what better way to include both study and exercise? If you have a smartphone, there are a variety of apps that can help with your studies that are course specific. They usually have practice exam questions plus loads of other cool study stuff. For the exercise component there are a wide range of fitness apps to get your heart rate up, increase your endurance and all over physical activity. I have taken the initiative and done some app browsing and testing to find an app that seems very promising!

C25KIt’s called couch to five km (c25k) and is available on iOS and Android. This app only takes half an hour of your day and can turn you from being a ‘couch potato’ to a marathon runner! Well, maybe not a marathon runner, but I’m pretty sure there’ll be an app for that too. Anyway, this app slowly takes you through, step by step, week by week, the stages of being able to run a continuous 5 km. It takes 8 weeks to complete and, like I said before, only takes up half an hour of your day! That’s like 2% of your day (Okay, it’s 2.08%, but I rounded down).

I understand that not everyone will be able to do this activity whilst others may find it completely boring, pointless or have absolutely no interest in being able to run 5km. It is important to find an activity to do that you find enjoyable. You might want to join a local yoga class to ease your mind while exercising at the same time. Or maybe join a boxing class to get your frustrations out in a controlled and fun way. Perhaps you’re more into exercising alone, so taking a brisk walk or light jog can be a great way to start including exercise into your daily regime.

As long as you’re doing something, your mind and body will thank you 🙂

– Bec

Leaving it to the last minute

BecUniversity sometimes can seem like everything is going so smoothly. You’re organised, you have done most of your assignments and you are feeling oh so, great! You’re thinking ‘why not treat myself to a well-deserved study break?’ So you decide to sit back, relax and zone out from university’s study stressors. That one-day break quickly turns into two, then three, and before you know it, it has been a week and you have started to panic. That annoying, loud sarcastic voice in your head rings like an alarm telling you, ‘you’re doomed!’ Your cortisol levels rise and you are now in full stress mode! You begin to panic and those exams that have seemed so far away are right around the corner. What are you going to do?

I, Bec, am writing this blog so all of you who thought that exams were ages away and are suddenly remembering about that assignment that is due tomorrow, can get back on track to passing. I have come up with a set of rules that will reassure you that it is not too late to start getting your study back on track and making sure that the nerve-racking click to view your grades at the end of semester isn’t so daunting.

Here’s how!

Rule one. Stop stressing! A little bit of stress is ok, but overdo it and you will just get sick. So take breaks from study (not week-long ones!). Study for an hour, or what works for you, then go for a jog, paint a picture, watch a T.V. show or do whatever you want, as long as it is not study. If you overdo it and make no time for breaks it is just not going to work. Unless that does work for you. Then keep on keeping on.

Rule two. Make a timetable. I know you probably hear this all the time from all your lecturer’s and people who just want to lecture you, but seriously it works! All you have to do is get a piece of paper or whiteboard (my weapon of choice) rule out some lines and make an individual box for your days. You can choose to study an hour for one subject, have a break then study for something else. Having a timetable is great because you can follow things that have been set and it can help with making designated times for breaks so you don’t get bored.

Rule three. Change how you study. Repeating the ways you study can get boring, tiring and even make you stop studying altogether because you’ve simply lost interest. Be sure that one study session is different to the other. For example, you might use cue cards and test yourself with friends for one, and for the next one you can teach someone about what you need to know. By teaching someone else in your own words it helps reinforce the information in your head, so when it comes to that exam question, you’ll ace it!

Rule four. Drink plenty of water, get you’re your recommend 6 – 8 hours of sleep, and exercise. By combing these things with your study you’ll create a great balance that will ensure you will be on the path to success! Oh, but you can’t find any time for exercise? Or you neeeed to stay up till 2am to study? Ummm… no you don’t! Remember rule two! Make a timetable. You can incorporate these things into your timetable! Make exercise one of your study breaks and if you forget to drink water make some sticky notes or put hourly reminders in your phone. Drinking water not only hydrates you but helps with concentrating. Getting enough hours sleep also helps with concentration levels. So I know you’re not seven years old anymore, but make a bedtime. This way you have a set time, where all books shut and pens drop, for you need to get your beauty sleep so you can get the most of your timetable tomorrow!

Rule five. Because five rules makes it feel complete. If you’re really stuck and you feel like you have tried everything else, ask for help. Although this sounds very simple, it can be very effective. There are a ton of great resources out there.

So start your study timetables, drink your water and stress less. Hey, if it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done!

– Bec

Doing things that challenge you

1234764_10202065217615871_360840302_nI am a strong believer in the saying ‘you will regret the things you do not do in life more than the things that you do’. So when my friend Kieran asked me to complete the ‘Point to Pinnacle’ up Tasmania’s Mt Wellington last November I signed up straight away. Unsure really what the ‘Point to Pinnacle’ was, I decided to google it. Straight away the words ‘world’s toughest half marathon’ appeared on my web page. I soon learnt that the race started at Wrest Point Casino in Hobart and finished at the top of Mt Wellington, 1270 metres above sea level, 21.4 kilometres in distance. I had never visited Tasmania before so this really didn’t mean anything to me. Reviews of the run all expressed how difficult it was. Having completed a few half marathons previously I wasn’t overly worried. I made sure I was training for the event by putting a few more running sessions into my weekly routine. I joined a Saturday running group in Buninyong, believing that the hills out there would help prepare me for what was  awaiting me in Tasmania. Little did I know!

Flying into Hobart the day prior to the race, I realised that the terrain was far more mountainous compared to Victoria. Before heading over I visited my physiotherapist who expressed this to me but it didn’t hit home until this point. I began to get nervous. After landing we went to get our hire car. Through general conversation I told the lady behind the desk that I was completing the Point to Pinnacle. She began telling me how her friend described the race as ‘like child birth’. “Everyone says that they will never do it again, but they always do”. It wasn’t long before we spotted Mt Wellington on our way to our hotel. If you have ever been to Tasmania before you would be aware that it is a monster.  Photos of it really do not bring it any justice. It is huge! At this point I felt a bit sick.

Race day I felt a mix of emotions. Yes I was nervous, but I was extremely excited for what the morning had in store. The starting line was a happening place. People were so keen and full of enthusiasm. Competitors were offering encouraging words to one another, starting chants for all to be involved in. For the first 10 kilometres there was a gradual uphill climb. Many people stood on the side of the road with signs and shouted out encouragement to the competitors. Even the competitors were extremely encouraging of one another. I made the mistake of wearing a singlet with ‘Rach’ written on the back. For the first 5 kilometres I wondered how everyone knew my name!

The second 10 kilometres was a completely different story. The track got a lot steeper at this point and was almost in a zigzag formation. As I ran uphill to a corner, there was another long uphill haul straight after it. This didn’t end! Drink stations were set up along the entire track, with the biggest being at the 16km mark. At this point there were numerous tents playing music. Volunteers were offering water, Gatorade and lollies to keep us runners going. Hitting these drink stations offered so much encouragement and motivation. It really kept me going! At the 17km mark every part of my body was hurting. The balls of my feet, calves and back were killing me! My body was screaming at me to stop but my mind was stronger and kept me going. I broke the last four kilometres down into four quarters, focusing on completing one quarter and then worrying about the next when the time came. I’ll never forget when I reached the 20 kilometre mark and I was running alongside a man. He simply turned to me and said ‘never again’. I agreed and neither of us laughed. We couldn’t have been more serious.

Finishing the race made me forget about all my aches and pains. Seeing Kieran and my other friends at the finish line really made me push and finish strong. I was so proud of what I had accomplished by pushing through the physical and mental challenges I faced whilst climbing Mt Wellington to finish the race. To this day, completing the Point to Pinnacle has been the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I don’t feel like words can describe the experience. It really is something you need to do or witness for yourself to fully understand. I vowed I would never do it again, but as the saying goes, I will most likely be pulling on the runners at the bottom of Mt Wellington again in the future.

– Rachel

App Review: Zombies, Run!

unnamedThe mayday goes out and I hear the helicopter go into a tailspin. We’ve been hit, and god knows by what. The sounds of a crash engulf me, and for a moment I’m left with little more than a ringing in my ears. There’s no word from the pilot. They’re all dead. I’m the only survivor. My radio crackles to life. A man identifies himself as Sam. He can see my position from his tower in the town of Abel. If I can reach them, I’ll be safe. His voice is cut off by his own gasp. There’s a mob of shadows moving on my position. Zombies. They heard the crash. He screams at me to run, and I don’t waste a second.

This is Zombies, Run!, a running app designed around making fitness fun. Before I go on, let me say that I’m not a runner. At all. The thought of exercise makes me so depressed that I end up curled on the couch with a block of chocolate. But this app made me want to try it. And boy was it worth it.

Each time you go on a run, you select a ‘mission’. Each mission serves as a chapter in a longer story, while having some particular task for that run. The plot is well-developed and entertaining, and the developers proudly state that they have over 100 missions. Simply select the mission you’re up to, the songs you want, and head off.

At heart, Zombies, Run! is an interval trainer. You receive snippets of story, with your own music woven throughout. Every five minutes or so, you’ll be told that a mob of zombies is closing on you, and you’ll have to increase your speed for one minute to escape them. Beware: these chases are brutal. I expected that, if I was doing a light jog, I may have to briskly jog. Nope. Not even. These are zombies, for christ sake, and you have to run!

The advantage of this, though, is that it caters for all fitness levels. If you’re not confident in your ability you can walk during the story portions and only jog during the chases. If you find that too easy, maybe increase your pace.

Now if a detailed story and being chased by zombies isn’t enough to get you out there, this app offers even more. On each run you’ll collect items. When you finish the run, you can then use these items to develop the township of Abel, with a full town map. It’s a strategic town management game with resources reliant on your runs.

There are a bunch more features, including a detailed online component, but if I listed every feature this app had you’d be reading an essay, and it’s way too early in the semester for essays. Whether you want to get running but need extra motivation or you’re a regular runner looking for some extra entertainment, this app will do it. I’d recommend this to just about anyone. Really, the fact that it got me out there — and more than once — should be testament to just how engaging this is.

You can purchase Zombies, Run! for iOS on the App Store for $4.49, for Android on Google Play for $4.49 or for Windows Phone for $10.00