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"So, how weird is it to develop profound emotional attachments to fictional characters?"
So wrote one anonymous fan of the "Piled Higher and Deeper" comic strip, "the only comic about graduate life (or lack thereof)," according to Jorge Cham, the strip's creator. Grad life can be lonely, and students around the world find succour through www.phdcomics.com.
Cham is now an instructor at the California Institute of Technology, but he still continues to write the comic that he started in 1997 when he was a mechanical engineering graduate student at Stanford University.
Go to onine to read the entire archive, order the book, subscribe, or just keep tabs on your favourite characters as they muddle their way through thesis topics, supervisors, the perils of procrastination and high school reunions. And oh yeah, there are funky mugs, posters and tank tops, too.
McGill's Department of Athletics Assistant Manager of Recreation and Fitness, Jill Barker, gives tips to keep you on track.
Every year about this time Canadians from coast to coast resolve to change their sedentary habits and become more active. By February however, the couch will be looking a lot more comfortable then that brand new stationary bike or pair of cross-country skis. Once again, fitness will have taken a back seat to other seemingly more important commitments.
Even within McGill's hallowed walls of higher learning, this same phenomenon occurs. Take a stroll through the Athletic Complex in January and you'll see the gyms, pool, track and fitness centre overflowing with staff and students anxious to fulfil this year's set of resolutions. And while all this activity shows promise, it tends to have as much staying power as Britney Spears' wedding vows.
To help you stay on track in 2004, here are a few tips to establishing a long-term commitment to keep fit.
Going from no exercise to the recommended daily dose of 30 minutes of physical activity may be too big a leap. Start with 15-30 minutes of exercise once or twice a week. Keep up this schedule for the month of January, and then increase to one more workout a week by the end of February. Continue to add or modify your exercise goals monthly and pretty soon exercise will become a habit that's hard to break.
Don't promise yourself a dramatic drop in pounds. Think in terms of how you feel, not how you look. Weight loss is not a guarantee, no matter how hard or how often you exercise. On the other hand, improved health is a given and can be realized even by the most casual of exercisers.
Choose the type of fitness activity that matches your personality. Do you like to socialize while exercising? If so, choose a class where you can bring a friend or meet new people. If you crave solitude, stay away from the hustle and bustle of a fitness club and take a long walk, cross country ski or swim. Or, if competition turns you on, there are plenty of teams out there looking for new players. Call your local Y, neighbourhood recreation centre or investigate McGill's intramural league. Be it basketball, volleyball or hockey, there are plenty of pick up games or leagues that could use an extra player.
The hassles of added travel time and jockeying for a parking spot can take the shine off your weekly workouts. Choose a convenient place to workout that is close to home or the office. If time is really precious, remember the simplest workouts are the ones that can be done at home or during your lunch break. Consider registering in McGill's staff fitness program or working up a sweat in front of the television with a fitness video, treadmill or stationary bike.
Don't think of fitness as something to do in your free time. Who has free time these days? Schedule fitness into your day as you would any other important activity. Use your DayTimer and pencil in your workouts for the month. Treat them as you would any other appointment. Don't cancel or rearrange unless absolutely necessary.
Don't get bent out of shape if you occasionally wander from your exercise commitment. The best thing about fitness is you can always pick up where you left off. Congratulate yourself every time you manage to squeeze in some exercise and forget about missed commitments. Be positive and keep at it.
Don't get bogged down in the details of training rituals or worry about what kind of exercise is the best calorie burn. Do something active every day — even if it's only a quick walk. Remember, your body doesn't care what kind of exercise it gets, it just wants to keep moving.
Sure it's tough to get going, but it feels great once you're done. Given the chance, the positive effects associated of exercise (more energy, less fatigue, better health), will become addictive. That's when exercise becomes a way of life, not just an annual pledge.
Check out the Athletic Department's buff new website at www.athletics.mcgill.ca. It's easier to navigate than ever for information on getting sweaty and having fun.