Mental Wellness, Physical Wellness

Maintaining Wellness With a New Schedule

From Guest Contributor: Maddie Pelchat

Regular self-reflection is a key tool for general health and well-being, so at the end of the first month of co-op, I looked back on my first few weeks masquerading as a working engineer, and realized I had not prepared myself well for the transition from school to work. Don’t get me wrong, my co-op is much better than my first. I am so grateful for my shorter commute, beautiful view, wonderful friends, and learning experiences, BUT I realize now that I had no game plan for maintaining my health with my new 9-5 schedule.

I added BS/MS last year for Environmental Engineering, which I see as an exciting addition to my career path, however, to do so I had to switch co-op cycles, which meant that I was in classes from Spring term of 2018 through Winter term 2019 (4 straight terms–good riddance!). I had become so used to my flexible class hours where I could come home and eat a snack, take a nap, or do some yoga if I really needed a break or some extra energy between classes and studying. On co-op I leave the house at 7 and don’t return until 5. Most nights I go straight to a night class or extracurricular meeting. The first few weeks of co-op I failed to take time to cook real, healthy meals, stopped doing yoga (my mental and physical exercise), and consistently slept significantly less than my body had been accustomed to. My co-op schedule was definitely different than my class schedules, but I knew it couldn’t really be as bad as I was making it out to be for myself. Therefore, with some self-reflection and planning, I made some changes to my routine that allow me to both physically and mentally thrive.

First, I joined my co-op’s (free!) gym, which I know is a special perk so I’m taking advantage of it! Joining this gym means that I don’t have to go out of my way to work out, which was preventing me from exercising the first few weeks. Through this gym I am able to take two yoga classes a week! Secondly, I started biking to work on good weather days, keeping my bike in my co-op’s bike room and using the locker room showers to get ready each morning. This change was really hard at first because waking up early and immediately throwing oneself into heavy exercise can be rough, but after telling myself to get over it a few times, I ended up really enjoying my biking commutes. Lastly, I started making an effort to grocery shop in a way that made for faster, but still healthy meals that could easily be taken on the go, such as instant oatmeal or veggie snacks. I also realized that when I really didn’t have the time the night before, I could always fall back on the salad bar or healthy entrees at my co-op’s cafeteria. Through self-reflection about  my situation, I found that my co-op held a lot of the answers to maintaining my health and well-being. As this is an adjustment for most working individuals, you may also be able to ask your coworkers for tips on how they maintain a work-life balance. They may have some great ideas or resources that you didn’t know were available to you until you ask. Ultimately, I believe it’s possible for anyone to utilize self-reflection during transitional periods to see where changes could be made to adapt to a new healthy and happy schedule!

Physical Wellness

How to Workout with Your Textbooks

If you are a college student (or have been one) you know that at the end of each year you are left with a pile of textbooks that you may never look at again (you may have never looked at them to begin with). Personally, I have stacks of them—old hand me downs and new ones. Regardless, they have served their purpose and I was done with them, so I thought… 

Recently I suffered an injury that made me unable to run for a few weeks. Restless from inactivity, I decided to do a workout in my apartment. Sometimes when at the gym, I utilize hand weights during these workouts to make them more challenging. I don’t have hand weights at my apartment so I figured body weight would have to do. But then, when lying on my floor getting ready to begin, I looked and saw the stack of textbooks shoved under my bed. I grabbed the heaviest one (s/o physics) and thought, “well, let’s see how this goes”.

Since that day, I have been utilizing my textbooks to help me work out! It sounds strange, but I promise, they are a good substitute for weights. They don’t work for all exercises, but here are some that I found do work: 

(DISCLAIMER: These images are meant as a comedic representation of exercising with textbooks. It is not recommended to stack multiple on top of each other. If you do not know how to PROPERLY do these exercises, please look up an actual tutorial).  *I do not own any of these images*

  1. Squats – hold the textbook in front of your chest with your elbows tucked in as if the textbook were a weighted plate. Proceed with proper squat form. If you want to add a bit extra, lift the textbook up over your head as your rise from your squat. You can also go onto your tip toes for a calf raise as you do this. Remember to squeeze your glutes! 

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  1. Lunges – either hold the textbook consistently at chest level or push it above your head as you lunges down as shown below. 

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  1. Russian Twists – hold the textbook with two hands and move it side to side as you twist

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  1. Toe Touches – lie on your back and put your legs straight up in the air. Hold the textbook with two hands and reach upwards to try and touch your toes. This should feel like crunches. 

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  1. Triceps – hold the textbook with two hands behind your head, keep your elbows in, raise and lower! 

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  1. Calf Raises – stand holding as many textbooks as you’d like (make sure you can balance!) raise and lower yourself using your toes 

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  1. Bicep curls – hold the textbook and curl! 

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Have other suggestions? Comment them below!!

Mental Wellness, Physical Wellness

The 7 Dimensions of Wellness

Listen to the first podcast of Wellness Revolutionaries that addresses the 7 dimensions of wellness with host, Blake Beltram, and guest, Alessandro Giannetti. Blake Beltram is a co-founder and evangelist at MINDBODY and Alessandro Giannetti is a healer and the founder of Guided Light Healing. Check it out here!

The 7 Dimensions of Wellness:

  1. Physical [Discussed at minute 13:49]
  2. Spiritual [15:58]
  3. Occupational/Vocational [21:00]
  4. Environmental [24:55]
  5. Emotional [28:13]
  6. Intellectual [36:22]
  7. Social [38:28]

    woman wearing black sleeveless dress holding white headphone at daytime
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Physical Wellness

Active Office Lifestyle

This past weekend at We Local, I went to a workshop titled, “Adopt an Active Office Lifestyle”, which addressed the harm sedentary jobs pose against our health and suggested ways in which to stay active while at work. I was surprised to learn that 80% of US jobs are sedentary and these sedentary habits are linked to obesity and diabetes. Throughout the whole talk, the presenters stressed that too little exercise is not the same as too much sitting. This talk was focused on the too much sitting aspect, while acknowledging that too little exercise is also a problem that many Americans face.

In order to combat the negative effects of sedentary jobs, they recommended low intensity, short duration muscular movements that happen frequently throughout the day. They suggested that every 20 minutes, you should do approximately 2 minutes of standing or movement so your body is stimulated. Some of their (and my) recommendations are below:

  1. Change positions regularly
  2. Hold meetings standing up
  3. Take the stairs
  4. Hold walking meetings (walk around the office or block)
  5. Stand up and pace during phone calls
  6. Walk to a colleagues office/cubicle instead of calling or messaging
  7. Set calendar reminders for posture check and movement
  8. Add an office exercise break to your day (lunch is a great time to do this)
  9. Relocate commonly used items to force you to get up to retrieve them
  10. Park farther from the office
  11. Do small exercises while heating up your lunch
  12. Stretch as you walk through the office
  13. Download movement reminder/suggestion apps
  14. Walk briskly
  15. Walk to the farther bathroom/printer
  16. Do squats in the bathroom
  17. Walk or bike to work
  18. Deskercises!

Some common deskercises are:

  1. Stretching
  2. Arm circles
  3. Squats
  4. Wall sits
  5. Lunges
  6. Desk/wall push ups
  7. Standing leg extensions
  8. Balancing
  9. Squeeze knees together
  10. Engage core
  11. Straighten and bend leg when seated
  12. Raise bent leg when seated
  13. Leg circles
  14. Glute clench
  15. Seated calf raise

I’m excited to try and incorporate some of these tips on my next co-op. I am also going to try some this term during my long hours at the library. Let us know some of your favorite active office tips below in the comments!!

Mental Wellness, Physical Wellness

Finding my Metaphorical and Physical Rock

From Guest Contributor: Manisha Rajaghatta

Back in middle school, I found myself enrolling in a rock-climbing program through my town’s recreation center. I had never had much exposure to it except in summer camps when I was little, but this slight familiarity was comforting as I explored different after-school activities.

It started with top rope climbing. For those unfamiliar with the sport, there are three major types of climbing when indoor: top rope, bouldering, and lead. Top rope is the one most people are familiar with, where the climber is in a harness and is attached to a rope as they climb up routes on tall walls. The slack is picked up by a “belayer” who also ensures safety and helps them down securely. This is the type of climbing our after-school program focused on and where my love of climbing really started.

As I got older and started climbing with robotics teammates in high school, I was introduced to the world of bouldering.

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This is when you free climb with mats to catch your fall at the bottom of the wall. These routes, like their top rope counterparts, involve a variety of hold types: volumes (like the one my feet are on in the picture above) that project off the wall for added complexity, and “top outs” where you can climb up and over the top of the wall.

While there is also lead climbing where you feed the rope as you climb, my experience has limited me to top rope and boulder climbs. The interesting components of this sport are the two different workouts you can get depending on the type: bouldering is like a sprint, focusing on testing your strength, while top rope climbs are like a marathon, testing your muscular endurance and ability to climb for a long time. This enables the tuning of a workout to target different physical wellness – combining climbing, with cardio and weight training, allows for a comprehensive workout as rock climbing is truly a whole-body workout as legs, arms, back and abs are all used when approaching a route.

This physical component has made rock climbing a passion that’s grown over the years in addition to sports and other activities I’ve done. My athleticism is worked on overall throughout the week depending on my workouts and in turn, so is my brain. Rock climbing is very much a mental sport as well as physical since your biggest enemy can be your motivation and willpower. By training my brain to keep going through a climb or moving on a route, I have been able to work on my focus and internal drive in all aspects of my life. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll never get through the route, and further, you won’t be able to climb at higher levels and try moves that are super fun. Especially on the top rope climbs, the combined test of motivation and endurance really pushes me to be able to achieve my best, both in the sport and in life. It’s a stress reliever in so many ways whenever I get to the rock wall and I find it as a great escape when I need to step back from anything and revisit it with fresh mind and body.

This is actually a part of the sport that has always resonated with me, no matter what is going on in my life. Regardless of the challenges, physical and mental, that life throws at me, rock climbing is always there for me to blow off steam and push myself to achieve more and do better. I’ve left rock climbing temporarily a few times in my life because of time/life choices or injuries.

The first time was from middle school to high school as the transition had me pursuing other activities and in a way, forgetting about rock climbing during my weekly schedule. The second time was freshman year of college, again because of time commitments. The third time was actually for a super short time this past year as a result of a rock climbing injury. Each time, I found myself rediscovering the sport and finding how it fit into my life in a new way each time. The first time was a social activity to do with friends, the second time was a way to blow off stress while getting back into working out, and the third time was a way to maintain my love for the sport as a hobby but also as a competitive sport.

The key takeaway from this has been that no matter what has been going on in my life, rock climbing has been my metaphorical and physical rock to keep me grounded. Each time I’ve drifted from it, I’ve found my way back because it’s something that makes me feel physically and mentally complete. Without it regularly in my life, I find myself itching to get back to the rock wall and trying a new climb. It’s a way to keep me mentally and physically well and if I hadn’t found something like this, that I could rely on no matter what my life throws at me, I’d be very unbalanced.

Physical Wellness

So Much More Than Just the Distance

From Guest Contributor: Isabel Wingert

You often hear the saying “you get out of things what you put into them”. It’s very true. Training and running a marathon is about so much more than just the distance.

Running a marathon had always been something in the back of my head for a long time. The first exposure I had to the feat was in July 2004, when I was in California with my father. I overheard him and my aunt (his sister) deciding over the phone that they were going to run the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC in the fall.

“Huh, 26.2 miles.” I heard my dad remark to my aunt on the phone.

“Daddy, that’s a lot,” I remember saying afterwards.

“Yeah, but it’s amazing,” he clarified to me, then laughed with my aunt. The next morning, he laced up his shoes, and started his training, even on vacation and with the hot California heat. His confidence and watching him run had a small impact on me. When the race came, eight year old me really made sure she was there. And I’m happy it was that way — I remember the spirit at the race among everyone there was indelible. I remember the brisk fall day hanging with my Bubby and Grammom (my grandparents) and walking around the ‘Washington Omelet’ (aka Washington Monument), and the spectators lining up cheering on strangers, there with no agenda or asking for anything to be gained.

I continued jogs regularly growing up through middle school, high school, and through Drexel. In 2017 as a pre-junior, I decided to run the Philadelphia Marathon. As an engineering student, I would go for small jogs on the Schuylkill River Trail, passing the Art Museum, but I had never covered a crazy distance like 26.2 miles. The decision came during a rather rough patch in my life, and I wanted to prove something to myself too, even if it was something insane as running 26.2 miles.

Most of the runs in my training were spent alone, even if it was just a small 30 minute run. It took a bit of getting used to – I was a competitive swimmer growing up, which was very much a team sport. I wasn’t quite used to having myself as my own competition. That made me look at the training as ‘Can I cover X amount of distance in Y amount of time?’ I remember later on, as soon as I started to look at it as if any run was a run to help, it also made me closer to realizing my goal. I also had long runs which I remember I would have to get up at the crack of dawn for to fit into the day. Fitting runs in was sometimes rough, but soon all the running I was doing became very rewarding — something to bust engineering and personal related stressors off. If I had time to worry, then I could run. Balancing something like training for a marathon can be difficult with an engineering curriculum, but the important thing to remember is that work is never wasted. I remember applying the same diligence I learned from the training to my schoolwork. A little of a task like emailing a TA for help is as good as running for thirty minutes. It added up. What I had done, the miles I had covered looking behind me, soon pretty much took over the 26.2 mile race day in my eyes.

Almost all the support I got from friends and family along the way was verbal encouragement. I did have a running buddy in the beginning who was also training, but we drifted apart after he returned home to Harrisburg for his co-op in the Fall of 2017. I tried to not let the thought of being alone in person during the race bother me so much. It was also great that there were apps for my family and friends to track me and send me cheers in the race.

Race day then came on November 19th, 2017. The sun was not even up by the time I got to the start line, the same place where I would finish 4 hours later. Corrals started forming. Even though the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was completely filled to the brim with all of us, I remember the feeling of being alone started to creep in again. It was all a whir when I started to run the race. Honestly, thoughts in my head swirled way too fast for me to decipher, but “What the hell” would sum it up. About two minutes later, closer into Center City, I was able to pinpoint a much needed familiar scream from my younger, eight year old brother, who was holding up a giant sign with my name in giant purple letters. One that I had never seen before. The surprise was a huge boost for me, seeing him jump up and down with a smile, with my brother. He was SO happy and excited to see me do this race. I kept going.

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The run was very scenic. I ran through Center City and Old City. The first 15 miles were great. Soon, things started to dawn on me again as the ran proceeded onto Kelly Drive along the river. One thing that didn’t help was that it was a very windy day. The wind was certainly not on anyone’s side. I remember seeing fellow runners close to giving up because we had to fight through it and some of them were in pain from the wind. At least the 20 mile turnaround on Main Street in Manayunk was huge for a lot of people. It also started to feel never-ending again even with all the spectators from Manayunk dropping by.

The last 6 miles back on Kelly Drive again towards the Parkway was the longest hour of my life. Not that many spectators were as lined up along Kelly Drive as other spots were. I was starting to hit the infamous wall. I decided to call my dad at about mile 23, when my phone was about to die. If I wanted to hear from anyone, it was him. I remember being a bit weepy and in pain to him, but he reminded me again “This is amazing”. And he told me he was proud of me. The wall still did hurt, but 3 miles looked closer to being like a small run again. I powered through. I didn’t meet my goal time (I missed by 10 minutes), but I was still proud of myself. Sometimes powering through is still an incredible thing to do.

As I hit closer to Boathouse Row, I then remembered D.C. There seemed to be a wave of camaraderie that I remember feeling from 2004 amongst everyone as I saw more spectators. I remember a runner who had stayed within the same pace of me along Kelly Drive turned and smiled at me. In that present moment, I definitely felt that everyone there was finishing strong from the event. The race was not all about competition. The finish line was overwhelming as I crossed it. It was strange — the long haul was done, and I remember feeling very light on my feet again. I was gasping and laughing from that final dash and from seeing my little brother chase me down through the parkway, and from thinking about how I had to think about lugging myself through this huge and spirited crowd to navigate to him and my family. It didn’t matter though — everyone there had got something from the race.

I came home and stayed home for the entire week, doing all my homework online through communication with my professors, and I remember partially being stressed from that, but hey, I freaking ran 26.2 miles and I worked towards it too. I definitely feel nothing discounts something like all the work I had showed myself that I was capable of doing.

On race day, I powered through with everyone, and I little-by-little achieved something huge to share. That’s the one thing that makes me happy when look back to the training and race day.

My dad is now back to running, and we are planning on doing the Broad Street Run and a Steelman Triathlon together over the summer. One of my best friends also recently told me he wants to try Broad Street with me as well. I would be so excited if the three of us get to run Broad Street together. Both my father and my friend are two of my biggest supporters, and I can only hope that I can give the support they deserve as well. I can only hope that they learn something for themselves like I did. I really hope something unique comes to them if we can race together.

If anyone really wants to run a race like a marathon, I definitely recommend it. Running a race is such an individual experience that one can fully own. Yet it can be shared. It’s so much more than a distance.

Mental Wellness, Physical Wellness

“I feel like I haven’t slept.”

I ordered a Fitbit after wanting to keep track of my activity for quite some time. With co-op coming to a close, I thought “girl treat yo self” and pre-ordered the newest model, the Charge 3. Although it has many great features, the one I became obsessed with was the sleep tracking. Unfortunately, my tracking started right as Drexel’s midterms season rolled around, so I was more than optimistic when I set my sleep goal to 8 hours per night. I also set a sleep schedule goal, where I aimed to sleep between 11:30pm and 7:30am. My Fitbit was set to remind me every night at 11:15pm to start getting ready for bed. You can imagine how cruel it felt when my wrist would buzz reminding me to wind down for bed soon when I was still over a half mile away from my bed, in the library with hours of studying still ahead of me. Each night I thought that it would be alright and when I finally did get into bed I would pass out and get some quality deep sleep. Apparently I was wrong.

To my surprise, every morning my Fitbit would tell me that I was spending significant portions of the night awake or restless. I couldn’t understand how I was possibly so restless if I was exhausted. After seeing this, I was determined to improve the quality and quantity of my sleep.

Here are some tips for getting better sleep:

  1. Track yourself! You don’t need a fancy watch or app to do it. (If you are interested in sleep apps, you can check out this article for some good ones!) You can keep a post it note by your bed and jot down what time you go to bed and wake up. You can calculate your weekly sleep average (c’mon engineers, it’s simple math!) and look for weekly patterns. By writing it down or tracking your sleep in some capacity, you will learn more about your sleep habits and may feel more motivated to stick to your schedule.
  2. Don’t let the last thing you look at before bed be a screen! During my sophomore year, I would read a little bit every night before bed even if it was just a page. I felt so much better and I found that falling asleep was actually easier. Plus it helps you to slowly tackle that reading list that you never seem to have time for. If you have to look at a screen late at night, make sure you set it up to be in night mode where the colors are adjusted to be easier on your eyes.
  3. Put your phone on do not disturb! Don’t let late night notifications keep you awake. You can adjust your settings so your favorites will still be able to call you if there is an emergency. This term, I am aiming to not look at my phone for the rest of the night once I put it on do not disturb. Most notifications can wait until morning anyways!
  4. Wear a sleeping mask or ear plugs! If the noises of West Philly are keeping you up, try some ear plugs. I know there are some nights when I feel like all I hear as I am falling asleep is “bus is turning”. If your shades are insufficient or your roommate likes to keep lights on, invest in a sleeping mask. They are much cheaper than blackout shades and it is portable so you can take it with you on trips.
  5. Drink decaffeinated tea! Drinking tea as you wind down your nightly activities will help you to relax. Plus it is delicious! For a list of some of the best night-time teas and why they are beneficial, check out this article.
  6. Don’t nap in your bed! For the past 3 years, I have made a point to never actually nap under my sheets and comforter. Instead, I have a blanket that I use specifically for naps that I use while I sleep on top of my comforter. Although this may sound silly, it has helped my body distinguish between when it is time for a short nap and when it is time for a longer period of sleep.

With this new term approaching, I am hoping to finally set my sleep schedule and reach my sleep goals! If you have tips for getting better sleep that you’d like to share, comment them below!

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