Balancing academics and athletics


Throughout the day, the RAWC plays sanctuary to all types of students: the energetic, the motivated, and the stressed. Taking a mid-afternoon stroll between the dumbbell racks and elliptical machines, a smell fills the air—not as strong as perspiration, but noticeable. It is the smell of relief, a relief that comes from exercising away the rigours of being a University of Toronto student.


Although not everybody who finds activity in the gym faces an equal amount of stress, it’s clear that fitness is as high a priority as good grades for these UTM students. Occupying the decline leg press machine, Michael Prempeh, a fifth-year history major and starting wide receiver for the Varsity Blues football team, explains that athletics holds as much weight as his studies do. “If it wasn’t for being an athlete, playing all kinds of sports, I really don’t know where I would be as a student right now,” he says. “It helps with balancing my schedule and staying on track.”


Prempeh’s case reflects how a UTM student-athlete balances academics and athletics. However, there are also those who use gym activity as a means rather than an end. “Of course it’s important to be in shape,” says Bethel Woldemichael, a fifth-year psychology and women’s studies major. “Still, my first priority is doing well academically, and then staying in shape. The gym helps take care of all my stress, puts my mind at ease,” she shares on a break from running laps on the track. “And it comes handy if ever I eat something that I shouldn’t!”


Woldemichael’s running partner, Ruth Yirgalem, a fourth-year CCIT and crime law and deviance major, shares her stance. While taking her water break, she reflects, “I wish I had more time to spend exercising and doing good runs. It gives you a really good feeling when you’re done, and it really relieves you of the stressful workload that comes with being a student.”


The benefits of staying active are greater than just the physical aspect—there is also a great mental and academic advantage. UTM’s Department of Physical Education houses a wide range of activities, from weightlifting, martial arts, and yoga to pickup basketball and soccer—free to all UTM students. The RAWC also offers instructional programs, such as golf and tennis, which begin this week.