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Jaron stands in ALC smiling

Jaron Rykiss, 2022 / Photo by Kyle Sokoloski

UM Recreation Services member testimonial: Jaron Rykiss

Getting into a fitness routine take a lot of self-kindness and compassion, explains Rykiss

June 15, 2022 — 

Jaron Rykiss, a philosophy and political studies student, started using UM Recreation Services several years ago, and it initiated many positive changes in his life. Rykiss, who has recently been elected as UMSU’s next president, says that getting into a fitness routine helped him gain the confidence he needed to work toward success in his life. Rykiss has used the gym facilities in the ALC and has been involved in clubs, and he is adamant about the possibilities and changes people can see in their lives if they start taking advantage of the resources that are available to them. Ultimately, Rykiss emphasizes that being fit and active is all about staying healthy, both physically and mentally, and that though difficult, it’s important not to compare oneself to others or feel discouraged when beginning a fitness journey.

How long have you been involved with UM Recreation Services? Which facilities do you use?

Basically in 2019 after first year, I did it abroad, so I was in Jerusalem on this great program. And while we were learning, everyone was getting gym memberships, and I was the least healthy person I knew. I would go to Don’s regularly and get six junior chickens. That was the plan—enjoy life and don’t worry about it. And then, once we got to Israel, I had my heart broken pretty quickly. I was super into this girl, and she didn’t like me back. And I was trying to figure out ways that I could take control of my life, I was super upset about what was going on. I got into therapy and started dealing with a lot of the things I grew up with— and one of those things was historically, I had a very unhealthy relationship with eating and exercise and even dealing with my mental health.

So, I started going to the gym and I started meeting with a therapist regularly and I started learning what was healthy to eat, what could I eat and not eat, how could I plan my day, so I’m not screwed over health-wise. In the end what I found worked the best was to go to the gym for as long as I wanted for the day, maybe 30 minutes to an hour, get my body moving, not pushing it to try to become a body builder but just move. And that was really great.

So, when I got back to Winnipeg it was that Covid scare of “we can’t go anywhere.” I was trying to work out at home, it wasn’t working, my anxiety was super super bad. And once things started opening back up during summer of 2020, I wasn’t a student at the University yet so I wasn’t going to the ALC but I started going to a different gym near my house and I loved it. Every day, I still go most often. And once I became a student at the University and I started craving that community feeling I started going to the ALC and my friends and I would go skating in Max Bell. I was at the ALC this morning working out. So I think once I started understanding that I could go to a gym or a rink and be surrounded by people my age who are pursuing education the way I am, it was a nice community feeling.

Which areas of the ALC do you use the most?

It depends on the day. The gym facility is great… I do legs, back, abs and arms, that’s kind of my routine with a three-day schedule, so it kind of depends on what I’m working on. If I’m going skating with friends then obviously I’ll be using the rink. Once it gets warmer, I’ll start using more of the facilities. For a while I was playing tennis at the school. There was a little bit of an issue with communication so I’m not in tennis club right now because I didn’t register in time. I was loving tennis club, it was great, I was going twice a week sometimes three times a week to play tennis for like four hours. I played pickleball with some friends. I use as much of it as I can.

For those who haven’t exercised in a while, is it necessary to access some kind of internal, intrinsic motivation in order to start up again?

 I’ve been on both sides. I used to go the gym when I was younger. My high school is built into a community centre, so there’s a gym there. For a year when I was in the 7th or 8th grade I was going to the gym as much as I could. But I never really wanted to be there and I wasn’t doing it for the right reasons, it was like “I want to get buff and jacked,” because you don’t understand what health is. And then I stopped, and I didn’t go at all for a very long time because I just thought like, “I’m healthy, medically, there’s no problems.” But that mentally is wrong. I started developing severe anxiety and self-doubt. You start seeing yourself in the mirror and comparing yourself to other friends. You go to the pool or the beach with friends, and there were moments where I was like, I don’t want to take my shirt off. My friends are all super healthy, and I’m not.

So, having that internal motivation of: “I’m going to go work out right now.” I think there are days I feel motivated and there are days that I don’t. I don’t think I would be where I am right now if I didn’t have that original motivation where it’s like “look you gotta take control of this, even if it’s only a little bit, you know, taking the baby steps.”

For people who are worried about going because maybe they’re not in great shape or maybe they’re not going to be able to lift as much as the other people in the gym, I understand it, I’ve been there. It’s a lot of self-kindness and compassion and understanding. Like when I was there this morning, I don’t look like half the guys there, there are girls there who are lifting more weight than I could conceive of lifting, right? It’s all about being comfortable enough to say look, I’m not doing this because I want to look like Schwarzenegger, I’m doing this because I just want to be healthy. And once you accept that I think it’s a lot easier to start working out as regularly as you can.


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