Move U’s Motivator took place on September 26 as the first event of its kind by the RAWC’s fitness crew. The event was a way to get students active by taking part in volleyball, Pilates, spin class, jump rope, and other mini-activities.

“We are absolutely excited for the opportunity to expose students to all that the RAWC has to offer,” says Chad Jankowski, UTM’s health education coordinator. “To get people learning about how being active promotes their physical well-being, their mental well-being, [and] their academic success—that is what we are here to do.”

But before the attendees even broke a sweat, they heard a motivational talk by UTM psychology professor Will Huggon on how to live a healthy and active life that includes not only relaxation but also tools to fight depression and a range of other health problems.

Of course, one of the biggest reasons people don’t work out is that they simply don’t have time. Huggon countered that working out improves organization skills, and that a strenuous workout three to five times a week can improve your GPA by 0.4 on average, which, for anyone thinking of grad school, is a major improvement.

“Make a plan,” says Huggon. “If you make a plan and stick with it for 21 to 30 days, that’s the amount of time it takes to create a habit.” He said that those who begin working out, but quit because of their busy schedules, should force themselves to work out for those three to four weeks to solidify the habit, or go to the gym with a friend who can keep you accountable. “There’s a wealth of knowledge at UTM, and it’s pretty much free,” says Huggon, specifically mentioning the personal trainers and dieticians available to students.

An athletic lifestyle also has social benefits. Most people work hard at school to get a good job, often one with a good salary that will allow them to live the “good life”. Huggon points out that if having a “good life” is your end goal, a healthy lifestyle athletically and socially will be more fulfilling than money and success.

Huggon went on to share his own story of trauma and recovery. When he was 20 years old, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and he and his siblings had difficulty finding the silver lining. Despite his mother’s struggle, Huggon recalls her being able to find something positive in her situation. A few years later when Huggon was finishing his undergrad, his father was diagnosed with brain cancer. He passed away, and within seven months his mother’s cancer returned and she too passed away. The traumatic event seems difficult to recover from, but Huggon was able to find positivity in his pain.

“When I think about my mom and think about my dad, I think about the good times I had with them rather than the bad times,” says Huggon. He credits his parents with giving him the strength to move on. “It’s going to be different for everyone. From my personal experience, my parents taught me over and over again to always find the positive. My mom especially would say, ‘I’ve been sick for this tiny amount of time and I’ve been healthy for the whole rest of my life.’ ”

This is still Huggon’s outlook today, and he recently shared his story not only with the Move U crowd but also with UTM as a whole as he prepared to run in the CIBC Run for the Cure for breast cancer research. Before the run, Huggon spoke to his classes and shared his story on his Run for the Cure sponsor page. He vowed to shave his head and beard if UTM was able to raise $10,000. The students raised over $14,000, which according to Huggon was the second-highest among Canadian schools.

“It feels fantastic that we raised this much money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation,” he said. “On Thursday we just crested $11,000 so the last bunch was a lot of last-minute.

“Switching to the purely physical, it’s colder,” he added, “but I think it made me more aerodynamic for the run.”

To make good on his promise, Huggon invited students across campus to witness the event last Friday afternoon at the RAWC, where Huggon and his brother Tim had their faces and heads shaved.

before and after
A before and after shot of Huggon (left) and his brother.