So I’m taking a course this semester called ‘Highway to Health.’
I know. It’s a jazzy title.
It’s essentially a survey course on topics in health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, relationships, spirituality, drugs, disease, etc.
You know. The basics.
To be honest, I enrolled in this course to fulfill a prerequisite. Since I’m not in the Faculty of Science, this was one of the only Health Science courses open to me, so I signed up.
Doesn’t the Highway to Health look appealing?
Going into the class I was a little skeptical, and to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to learn much. I thought: “I lead a fairly balanced and healthy lifestyle — I’m not sure that I’ll learn much from this course.”
(I should know by now that there’s always, always something to learn).
While broad in scope, the textbook is highly personal, if you allow it to be. It’s set up, not as a document of facts and figures, but as a sort of guide. Each chapter concludes with a self-assessment and reflection on personal wellbeing related to a particular area of health. A lot of students skip these sections, but given my status as a part-time student, I always have that little bit of extra time to read them. I’m glad I do, as they’ve brought out a kind of curiosity in me!
As it turns out, the course is indirectly teaching me to question the components of my own health. What does it really mean to be healthy? It sounds like such a silly, fundamental question, but I’m realizing that the answer isn’t simple.
I’ll get more into that later, but for now I just want to share one of our assignments with you:
We’ve each chosen a small, sustainable lifestyle change to integrate into our lives over the course of the semester. Some people chose to drink more water. Others want to watch less TV. Some have chosen to exercise three times a week. Others want to go to bed earlier.
I hummed and hawed for days. There are a lot of lifestyle changes I want to make, but which one to choose? Which one is small enough to maintain and turn into habit, but significant enough to be a real, valuable challenge for me?
Finally, I settled on my big challenge: Reading before bed.
Okay, maybe that sounds weak to you, but it’s a big deal for me! I often struggle to fall asleep because I’m trapped in my own mind — there’s a lot swirling around in there! Reading allows my mind to slow down after a busy day, and it gets me out of my own head for a bit. I can get into someone else’s world, stimulating my own creativity and sense of curiosity.
I’m at a time in my life where I often feel as if I’m just going through motions and adhering to structure — like I’ve lost my own ability to think critically and be creative. Giving myself just 15 minutes to read — to let my mind simultaneously deflate from the day and expand in perspective — is proving to be beneficial for both my mental and physical health. I’ve never really made time to read recreationally in university before, but now’s the time!
Wait. This is ‘Athlete On Fire.’ Why are we talking about reading?
As athletes, we boast healthy lifestyles, but sometimes we forget that healthy means balanced. While your physical health is important, your mental and social wellbeing are equally salient. Don’t forget about them!
Challenge: what’s one small, sustainable change you can make in your life today? Maybe it’s adding a stretching routine into your schedule. Perhaps it’s sitting down for a weekly family meal. Maybe you want to start writing in a journal before bed, or you just want to take the stairs more. Start small — pick something attainable that won’t fall apart. That’s your best chance at developing a new, healthy habit!