Staying fit without the fitness centre

a/Student Living by

If one were to do a Family Feud-style poll of the most common New Years resolutions, getting in better shape would probably take the number one spot—and rightfully so. Especially during winter, when getting to class can feel like a burden in itself (residents of Lorne and Aylmer excused), committing to frequent physical activity can take some serious motivation.

To many people, “getting in better shape” is synonymous with “going to the gym”—hence the Monday after New Years traditionally is the most crowded day of the year at gyms. There’s nothing wrong with going to a gym, especially if building up muscle strength—or more bluntly, getting jacked—is your intended goal. But for those students who aren’t set on that particular result, McGill and the downtown Montreal area offer plenty of alternatives that will keep you fit through the winter semester—and maybe even save you some money.

Using the Fitness Centre in the McGill Sports Centre requires a $27 membership fee from undergraduate students and a $37 fee from graduate students each semester. If you’re mostly interested in a good cardio workout and don’t feel like forking over the money or potentially waiting in line for a treadmill, the track in Tomlinson Fieldhouse might be a better option for you. Certain time slots are booked for varsity team practices, but the six-lane ovular surface is available pretty frequently, even when intramural games are taking place in the centre of the track.

Another free, viable cardio option in the Sports Centre is the Memorial Pool. Although water polo season takes up some extra pool space on weekends, there’s usually a minimum of three time slots available on weekdays for recreational swimming. Slow swimmers have no need to worry about keeping up in a crowded lane, since lanes are divided and marked by pace. Other perks include the assortment of flutter boards available for use and the stream of generally good songs blasting from the speakers. I recommend swimming head-up breaststroke to take full advantage of the music.

For those who are more sports-oriented, there are a variety of free pick-up games available in the Centre. On Friday afternoons, recreational badminton and basketball are offered in the gymnasiums, and volleyball and soccer are offered in the Fieldhouse. Squash courts are available most days of the week, provided you book a court online in advance.

If you’ve also resolved to relax in the year or increase your flexibility and strength, free or inexpensive yoga classes are available around the city. Lululemon holds free yoga classes once a week at their four locations. The classes differ each week and have a different focus including a meditation class. They have mats you can borrow if you don’t have your own, but be sure to go early to grab a spot since the space fills up quickly.

Hitting the ice is a classic Montreal winter fitness activity—no, navigating the treacherous ice-capped sidewalks doesn’t count. Skates don’t necessarily come cheap if you don’t have them already, but they’re a great investment and also one of the best ways to be active and outdoors. There are small fees involved for skating and shinny (pick-up hockey) at McConnell arena, and there are also public rinks available nearby like Beaver Lake on Mount Royal or Jeanne-Mance Park. If you’re a casual skater and don’t feel like gliding around for an hour is enough of a workout, try walking over to Parc La Fontaine. It’s a scenic skate over a winding frozen pond and walking there and back from the Milton-Parc area is a workout in itself.

Staying fit until the snow starts to melt is no easy task, but at least there are lots of options available. Whether you end up running laps around a track from January to April, skating in the Plateau, or taking up an obscure sport like squash simply because it’s available, best of luck to you.