Jessica Yang/Production Assistant

Time off work doesn’t always mean a perfect break for professors

For many people, the holidays have always been something to look forward to. For students, this means time away from school and for others, it can mean time away from work. 

This year, at McMaster University, student examinations end officially on Dec. 22, 2021, with winter classes beginning on Jan. 10, 2022. While professors technically have the same time limits when it comes to class dismissals, they spend a large majority of break bringing their courses to fruition. 

Courses often require a lot of planning leading up to the first class, but the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in professors planning for online classes since March of 2020. 

Now, for the upcoming winter semester in 2022, there is going to be a transition to an almost entirely in-person learning format, which can mean a shift in planning for professors yet again. What this planning looks like will differ depending on the course. 

Joe Kim, an associate professor at McMaster under the department of psychology, neuroscience and behaviour, spoke about how the IntroPsych team at McMaster had already had a relatively hybrid learning style prior to the pandemic as they were using virtual modules. Kim explained that planning for the upcoming semester was close to completion. 

Krista Howarth, an assistant professor at McMaster under the department of kinesiology, explained that, although a large majority of her course planning had been completed, there were still things like the Avenue course shell that needed to be activated and then formatted. 

To Howarth, the way her course appears on Avenue is important, as it is an essential means of communication to her students. She talked about how it would have been nicer to have a longer winter break so she can better prepare for the winter semester.

“I do wish there was more time between term one and term two and even last year, there was a survey that went around and [asked], ‘Would you guys mind if we sort of started the term later this year?’ to give everyone more time. Not just the students, but also [so that] the faculty have more time to get ready for term two,” said Howarth.

“I do wish there was more time between term one and term two and even last year, there was a survey that went around and [asked], ‘Would you guys mind if we sort of started the term later this year?’ to give everyone more time. Not just the students, but also [so that] the faculty have more time to get ready for term two,”

Krista Howarth, Assistant Professor

Though professors spend time planning, many also try to balance spending time with family and friends over the holidays. 

For Kim, the holidays are a chance to be closer with his family. He talked about the variety of games they play, whether that be Sorry!, Dominoes, Clues or Jenga. He also talked about the importance of good food, exercising and binge watching television shows to help create a relaxing break.

“The holidays means the end of semester, so it is a chance to rest, regenerate and spend a lot of time with family. For my daughter, I think she just loves the holidays because everyone is together in the same house so we have time for lots of games,” said Kim.

“The holidays means the end of semester, so it is a chance to rest, regenerate and spend a lot of time with family. For my daughter, I think she just loves the holidays because everyone is together in the same house so we have time for lots of games,”

Joe Kim, Assistant Professor

Howarth also spoke about how excited she is for the upcoming holidays. 

It’s a hard earned break that she always looks forward to because she gets time to spend with her family. Her family loves to do puzzles together as she said it was their own form of relaxation. 

Howarth also discussed how few days she actually takes off during the winter, spending the rest of the days working towards the first day of winter semester.

“I don’t often get to spend as much time as I would’ve liked over the holidays with my family, [but] at least I do get to take a little bit of time off to do some things with my kids and my other family members . . . Most years I take off Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing day and I’ll spend that at my parents’ house. I go with my kids and we just hang out there and do our typical Christmas celebrations,” said Howarth.

“I don’t often get to spend as much time as I would’ve liked over the holidays with my family, [but] at least I do get to take a little bit of time off to do some things with my kids and my other family members,"

Krista Howarth, Assistant Professor

Both Kim and Howarth shared advice for students on how to have a balanced winter break. They stressed the importance of how taking a break is essential to wellbeing. 

Kim shared how it is good to be productive, but that there are realistic ways to achieve this. He suggested making a list of things one hopes to finish during the break and to ensure that they are realistic goals.

Kim shared how it is good to be productive, but that there are realistic ways to achieve this. He suggested making a list of things one hopes to finish during the break and to ensure that they are realistic goals.

The upcoming break is a much needed holiday for not only students but also professors. Many use this time to spend quality time with their families. Though rest is their main goal, many professors still find themselves spending a large majority of their break planning for the next teaching semester.

By: Jennifer La Grassa

Public Health guidelines suggest 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense exercise per week. McMaster’s chair of kinesiology, Dr. Martin Gibala, has revealed that it only takes one minute of intense exercise to achieve the same long-term health benefits as a 50 minute one.

One of Dr. Gibala’s research interests is interval training, which involves alternating periods of high-intensity activity with periods of recovery. Over a three month span, Dr. Gibala compared the data he received from two groups of individuals. Both groups participated in three cycling sessions a week, with one group exercising for 10 minutes and the other exercising for 50 minutes. Those who cycled for 10 minutes had three 20 second periods (one minute) of intense exercise interspersed throughout their session, with recovery periods that consisted of low-intensity cycling. Those who cycled for 50 minutes had to do so at a moderate level of intensity.

At the end of the three month study, Dr. Gibala found that those who had only exercised for 10 minutes reaped the same health benefits as those who had done 50 minutes. These health benefits included an increase in insulin sensitivity, as well as strengthening of one’s respiratory and muscular fitness. Both groups had also increased their level of fitness by about 20%.

This research is beneficial for those whose fitness regime is restricted by lack of time or endurance. For those who want to work out, but lack the stamina to last longer than 20 minutes, interval training will assist in building up your endurance. You’ll soon find that your body will be able to easily complete those 10 minutes, after which you can begin to push yourself for longer periods of time.

“Brief bouts of intense exercise can be very effective to promote health and fitness. Interval training can be applied to many different forms of exercise and it does not require specialized equipment. Repeatedly climbing a few flights of stairs is a great practical example,” Dr. Gibala noted.

If you’re new to the McMaster community, there are a lot of things to learn. Mac has its own set of standards and rules—some of which may seem more unusual than others.

Among these unusual norms is a rule at the Pulse, the fitness and cardio facility at Mac’s David Braley Athletic Centre. While this portion of the gym asks some fairly standard qualities, among them proper footwear and general courtesy, it also makes another thing clear—no sleeves, no service.

The Athletics and Recreation website states “A full shirt with sleeves must be worn. Halter tops, tank tops or half shirts are not permitted,” adding “sleeveless unitards must be covered by a T-shirt.”

The rule has been in place at Mac since the early 2000s, even before the existence of DBAC. It makes McMaster stand out among other universities. Queen’s, Western and U of T, for example, have no comparable rules.

But what makes it especially unique is how it came to be.

Kathleen Marin Ginis, a professor in health and exercise psychology at Mac’s Department of Kinesiology, explained that the decision to implement the Pulse’s rule was purely evidence-based.

“I would suggest that the use of evidence to inform such a policy is wonderful and a unique thing that they’re doing at the Pulse,” she said.

The athletic centre’s management at the time looked at a body of research and made the decision to change the clothing rules at the gym.

Pulse staff cited a number of studies that suggested people experienced anxiety based on their perceived appearance and the appearance of others exercising around them.

A 1989 study out of Wake Forest University, for example, established a free trial of cialis “social physique anxiety scale,” to assess the degree to which people were uneasy when they felt others were evaluating their bodies. Findings suggested that certain elements of a workout environment—among them, clothing—affected people’s sense of insecurity.

Further research, some of it done in Marin Ginis’ own lab at McMaster, confirmed the study’s findings, suggesting that people were more comfortable and thus more likely to work out if people around them were dressed in a less revealing way.

“The results tend to be consistent,” she said. “When you’re talking about new exercisers—it freaks them out.”

And this is exactly the problem DBAC is hoping to combat.

“McMaster has a very lofty goal for getting high levels of participation in athletics and attendance at the DBAC and is something I know athletics takes very seriously,” said Marin Ginis.

“They’re not just interested in getting the usual gym rats there…they want people to start being active, and to continue being physically active… if it can be as simple as telling people not to wear tank tops in the gym, then why wouldn’t we do that?”

While it’s not a foolproof measure, and the gym staff are not meant to be “wardrobe watchdogs,” staff suggest that the outcomes are worthwhile, and that it results in a more welcoming workout environment.

 

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