3 Ways to Show Love to Your #1 Valentine, YOU!

By: Isaiah Bell ’16 and Samantha Enokian ’17, University Health Center Peer Mentors

As busy college students it is easy to get wrapped up in the daily hustle of studying, class, working and extracurricular activities. While all of these are important for personal and academic growth, it is also important to treat ourselves well, both physically and emotionally. In order to practice loving others, we must first practice loving ourselves. Rupaul says it best:


So, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we have pulled together three tips and ideas for showing yourself some love and quality time:

1. Treat Yo Self


If you’re anything like us, you’re hesitant to spend money on things that aren’t for school. However, “treating yourself” doesn’t have to require a lot of money. One way we like to treat ourselves is by making a home cooked meal every once in a while. This could be as simple as mac n’cheese or brownies. If you have the cash, take yourself out to dinner, go get a massage (the health center is an excellent resource for this), or do some online or in store “window shopping” or retail therapy. Whatever it is, the key is to set aside some time to do something that feels special to you!

2. Let’s Get Physical

dog workit

While conventional forms of exercise might not be for everyone, getting moving doesn’t have to require a gym or weights. There are a ton of benefits to various forms of exercise! It can help with stress, anxiety, depression, and getting some movement in can boost your happy chemicals (endorphins). All of these things are excellent for practicing self-love. If hitting the gym is your thing, then that’s awesome! If not, here are some other ways to “get physical”…

3. Netflix and Chill…solo.

If you’re more into the “Netflix” of Netflix and chill, then cozy up to your favorite movie or TV show with a snack and have a fun night at home. If you prefer the “chill”, then try some self-massage or masturbation for a more physical and intimate way to practice self-love. Who better to show you some love than yourself? Obviously, you can combine both of these options, who says you can’t Netflix and Chill with your favorite character? Team Gale anyone?


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Three Reasons Orgasms are Your De-Stress BFF

 By: Simonne Cruz ’17, University Health Center SHARE Peer Educator









It’s finally that time of the semester…the dreaded finals week has arrived. While running to and from McKeldin in your most fashionable sweatpants, replacing sleep with espresso, and carrying a backpack that weighs more than you do, there’s probably a question looming in the back of your mind – what can I do to de-stress? I have a suggestion, and without further ado, I present you:

Three Reasons Orgasms are Your De-Stress BFF

1. One word: Oxytocin. Having an orgasm causes an increased production of oxytocin in your brain – it’s a wonderful little thing, often referred to as the “cuddle hormone,” that can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and acts as a natural mood booster. It’s free, non-toxic, and can come from fun times alone (yes, I said it) or with a partner which can make orgasms a heavy hitter in your arsenal of stress relief.

2. Orgasms can help with memory. Okay, everyone could use a little memory help during finals. Orgasms increase blood circulation, meaning more oxygen-rich blood is going to that wonderful brain of yours, especially the portion in charge of memory and learning. Slow round of applause for orgasms anyone?

3. Orgasms can help you sleep better. The surge in oxytocin from that big O leads to the release of endorphins, which are thought to have a sedative effect. Combine that with a drop in blood pressure and a feeling of relaxation, and you have one delicious recipe for a great night of sleep (or, okay, realistically like three hours sleep – this is finals week after all). Thanks again oxytocin.

Don’t forget – safer sex is less stressful sex! So if you choose to de-stress with sex, consider the awesome safety resources available through the University Health Center.

For more information about stress management, check out the many services available through Health Promotion and Wellness Services!

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7 Reasons Why You Should Sign Up for a Race

By: Liana Stiegler ’17, University Recreation & Wellness Communications Assistant

I love races. Just a few weeks ago I ran the Across the Bay 10k. I woke up at 5AM on a Sunday morning to join 21,000 runners crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on foot. What could possibly drive me to do such a crazy thing?

The beautiful sunrise over the Bay Bridge right before race time

Here are seven reasons why you should join me in the race craze.

1. The motivation to train. Nothing will motivate you to run more than an upcoming race. If you’re like me, you’ll get competitive with yourself and will want to beat your previous PR (personal record) every race.

2. You get to explore new places. The Across the Bay 10k is the one time every year people are permitted to cross the Bay Bridge on foot. It’s such a neat experience to run where you normally can’t! Big races in cities often shut down entire streets and even highway exits for the race course. If you sign up for a race in a place you’ve never been, you’re sure to get a great tour of the area!

3. Having fun with friends and family. I always sign up for races with a friend or a family member. It’s great to race with someone you know because you have a built-in training buddy, someone to pick up race packets with, and a teammate to keep you going during the race.

4. The camaraderie of the running community. Racing with thousands of other runners is exhilarating! In most races the participants are very enthusiastic and encouraging to everyone. And then there’s the crowd. In big races where friends and family line the streets, you get a cheering section for the whole race! People make signs, give high fives, and sometimes even bring cowbells.

5. The adrenaline rush! Most people find that they can run faster and longer in races than they normally would on an everyday run. Something about the excitement of the crowds and the pressure to race gets us running at our peak performance.

6. You get awesome stuff. Almost every race includes a free t-shirt. At the Across the Bay 10k we got cool Maryland flag medals (pictured below). I’ve won everything from free socks to gift cards at post-race celebrations.


My friend Brianna and I after crossing the finish line

7. Post-race relaxation . You’ll feel so productive after racing that you won’t feel guilty about relaxing for the rest of the day. My favorite post-race plans are brunch followed by a long nap. Plus it’s usually a good idea to take a rest day from running the day after a race.

So which race will you sign up for first? Luckily there are plenty to chose from. Here are some links with great lists of races happening in the area. Many of them offer student discounts to the registration fee.

Maryland races: http://runningintheusa.com/Race/List.aspx?State=MD

And some in DC: http://www.runningintheusa.com/Race/List.aspx?State=DC

If you don’t want to leave College Park to run, keep your eyes peeled for races on or near campus. Lots of student groups host 5ks as fundraisers.

See you at the next race!

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Mindful Eating for the Holidays

Katelyn Jordan ’16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator
Mindful Eating - Holidays

Modified image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Charles Smith.

Fall is in full swing, bringing visions of beautiful leaves, cozy sweaters, and pumpkin spice everything! One of the best parts though, is the food and the opportunity to enjoy all of the holiday feast favorites. Moderation is especially important at this time of year. However, there’s no reason to sacrifice your favorite foods in order to make your holidays a little healthier. Instead, eating mindfully allows your body the sustenance it requires and allows you to enjoy your food guilt-free.

The following are some easy habits you can practice to help you consciously enjoy your meal and not feel as stuffed as the turkey afterwards.

Listen to your Hunger/Fullness Signals

While people often listen to external signals for when and how much to eat (such as the time of day, portion size, or what the people around them are eating), your body provides internal signals to tell you what it wants and needs. It’s important to take a moment to focus on how your body feels and what it is telling you. For example:

  • When you seek out food, are you just a bit hungry? Or light-headed and starving?
  • After a meal, do you feel pleasantly satisfied? Or uncomfortably full?

Asking these questions is a good habit that will help you get acquainted with your body’s needs before and after eating. Before each eating occurrence, rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, (1 being starved and 10 being stuffed). An optimal time to eat is when you feel you are between a 3 and 4, and stop eating around a 6 or 7.

Know your Options Before Filling your Plate

If you make your own plate during the holidays, be sure to scope out all of the different options before you start serving yourself. It’s easy to fill your plate with foods that you like before seeing the big platter of something you love! Knowing what the options are ahead of time allows you to prioritize your favorites, which can help you avoid overeating.

Focus on your Food

When you eat, be sure to pay attention to your food. Look at your plate, and pay conscious attention to the taste, texture, colors, and how the food makes you feel. It’s very easy to finish a huge plate of food while watching the football game without even remembering most of what you just ate! Mindless munching can lead to overeating and feeling uncomfortably full. Don’t forget those hunger/fullness signals!

If you’d like more ideas and guidance in improving your overall diet, take advantage of the free Nutrition Coaching Service at the University Health Center. To reserve your session, call 301-314-5664 or email UHC-Nutrition@umd.edu.

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Four Fitness Tools to Rock Your Body

By: Jennifer Macko, University Health Center, Peer Educator; University Recreation & Wellness, Fitness Instructor

Have you ever wondered how “in shape” you are? Fitness can be hard to measure because there are so many different measurement strategies out there. I am going to introduce you to four dimensions of physical fitness measurement:  body composition, cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility.


bod pod

It might look like some sort of spacecraft, but it’s actually the BOD POD – a very accurate way to measure your body composition.

Body composition is the percentage of fat, bone, water, and muscle in your body. BMI (Body Mass Index) is an indirect way to measure body composition.

What is BMI?

BMI is a measure of relative weight based on mass and height.

For both gender and age, there are guidelines for what is underweight, healthy, and overweight. Both ends of the spectrum are associated with negative health consequences. For those in the underweight category, eating disorders, bone loss, and hormone imbalances can be found. On the other end of the spectrum, having a BMI over 30 kg/m makes a person more susceptible to conditions such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart attack, and stroke.

BMI                                                                                   Weight Status

Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.9 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

Source: CDC

How do I find my BMI?

Calculate it yourself:

Use the equation:

BMI = weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

Use RecWell:

We have a state of the art “BodPod” to measure body composition using “air densitometry”.

    • Set up an appointment with RecWell Member Services.
    • For $33, RecWell members can have a full fitness assessment, including resting heart rate, blood pressure, body composition, muscular strength, and flexibility.

A side note on BMI: It does not account for body type. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his prime, would have a BMI within the obese range, even though his body fat was most likely in the single digits.

If you are very muscular, take your BMI calculation with a grain of salt OR sign up for a BodPod test. Using your volume, mass, and a very long equation, the BodPod estimates your percentage of body fat and lean body mass (fat free mass).


Cardiovascular fitness refers to how well your heart, blood cells, and lungs supply oxygen-rich blood to your muscles when you move. It is also how well your muscles are able to use this oxygen to produce energy for movement.

Use RecWell:

Once again, RecWell offers fitness testing to members, including a test for cardiovascular fitness:

  • On a “cycle ergometer” (aka a stationary bike), a personal trainer will run you through a “submaximal VO2 test”
  • This test is a reflection of how efficiently your body is able to use oxygen. Generally, the higher your cardiovascular fitness, the higher your VO2, and the greater your capacity to do aerobic activities.

The submaximal exercise test can give you a general picture about your cardiovascular health. Though it may not be as accurate as an absolute VO2max test, you can get an idea of how aerobically fit you are.

On your own:

Use an online calculator following the “Rockport Walking Test” to estimate your VO2max.

  • This test is less accurate and not ideal for people under 26 years of age who are typically of high cardiovascular fitness.

To work on your aerobic fitness, you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week for heart health and fitness maintenance. If you are not quite there, try to add 15 minutes to your weekly routine, little by little.



Strength is a little less cut and dry than aerobic ability when it comes to analyzing your fitness. This is because you can train with three different purposes:

  1. Endurance– how many times/how long you can repeat the exercise
  2. Strength– how much you can lift
  3. Hypertrophy– muscle growth, an increase in size (muscle fiber diameter)

1 Rep Max:

  • A great way to build your weightlifting routine is to figure out your 1 rep max, the largest amount of weight you can lift in one repetition
  • To do this: choose a weight you can lift 1-12 times, and lift it until you can repeat no more.
  • Find out your 1RM based on the number of repetitions you can complete:
    • 1 = 100% of your 1RM, 2 = 95%, 3 = 90%, 4 = 88%, 5 = 86%, 6 = 83%, 7 = 80%, 9 = 76%, 10 = 75%, 11 = 72%, 12 = 70%
    • Example: I lift 6 repetitions of 100 pounds. 6 reps = 83%
    • 100 pounds is 83% of my 1RM, so 100% of my 1RM is 100/.83 = 120.5 pounds
  • Use your calculated 1RM to build your training plan:
  • For Endurance Training:
    • Lift less than 50% of your calculated 1RM, do 15-20 repetitions, and complete 1-2 sets
  • For Strength and Hypertrophy:
    • Lift 60-80% of your calculated 1 RM, do 8-12 repetitions, and complete 2-4 sets



Flexibility is one of the more ignored aspects of fitness, but it is extremely important for injury prevention and joint health. Stretch after hard workouts to reduce muscular soreness and improve recovery as well as to improve your range of motion.

Not only does stretching do wonders for your joints, muscles, and posture in general, but it can be a great stress reliever. If you have trouble stretching on your own, stop by Functional Training Studio and try out the foam rollers or take a yoga class.

Try out these three stretches and see where you currently are with your flexibility.

  1. Sit and reach
  2. Trunk rotation
  3. Groin flexibility

Why should you test and work on your flexibility?

  1. Decrease your muscle stiffness and increase range of motion
  2. Reduce your risk of injury
  3. Help relieve post-exercise aches and pains
  4. Improve your posture
  5. Reduce or manage your stress
  6. Reduce muscular tension and enhance muscular relaxation
  7. Improve mechanical efficiency and overall functional performance
  8. Prepare your body for stress of exercise
  9. Promote circulation
  10. Decrease your risk of lower-back pain

Source: ACE Fitness

Whether you’re trying to make a change in your exercise routine, form a brand new fitness plan, or just assess your fitness, consider using some of these tried-and-true fitness measurements to assess and track your progress!

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5 Easy Ways To Include More Variety in Your Diet

By: Emily Tolino ’16, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator

8 Nutrition Hacks
A freshman enters the University’s dining hall for the first time. An upperclassman, fresh off moving into their first apartment, enters the grocery store armed with their allotted food budget for the month. In both of these scenarios, the bright colors and enticing aromas excite first time shoppers. The world (may it be the dining hall or grocery store), is their oyster. For the first time, food choices becomes an independent decision. Why then, do most students fall into the trap of choosing the same foods each and every week?

Entering the dining hall or grocery store “rut” is a very common occurrence for college students. When the semester starts picking up, classes, exams, projects, and extra-curricular activities can become very overwhelming! As busy as students get, food seems to take the backseat. It’s easy to enter the dining hall or grocery store and just grab what you know you like and what’s the most convenient.

Humans need a varied diet to ensure optimal health. In fact, eating a variety of foods has been the #1 recommendation set forth by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans for decades! By choosing a variety of foods, we are obtaining a variety of nutrients! Each nutrient serves our body differently and we need all of the nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals) to keep our bodies and minds operating as efficiently as possible!

Here are 5 easy ways to include more variety in your diet:

  1. Get out of the chicken rut! Protein is an all-important nutrient. It is responsible for providing the building blocks for our bodies (muscles, skin, etc.). This food group is also a fantastic source of crucial nutrients such as iron (needed to transport oxygen in the body) and zinc (needed to protect your immune system!). Most students consume plenty of protein – but varying the sources of protein offers a wider array of nutrients. Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, nuts, beans, and seeds.

Challenge: This week, try one new protein source! Examples include a tuna fish salad sandwich, roast beef, peanut butter on your morning toast, or a scoop of beans in your lunchtime salad!

  1. Check the colors! Next time you visit the salad bar or farmer’s market, check out the rainbow of fruits and vegetables available! Each color of fruit or vegetable provides a different profile of nutrients.

Challenge: Try to include at least three different colors in your day. For example, include an apple (red) with breakfast, a banana (yellow) with lunch, and broccoli (green) with dinner!

Double Challenge: Once you’ve mastered this, try to include a red/yellow/orange vegetable in your day (such as carrots or bell peppers!).

  1. Healthy fats are essential! There are some nutrients that the body cannot make on its own so it is essential to obtain them from our diet. Essential fatty acids are an example of a nutrient that we must get from the foods we eat. By consuming a variety of healthy fats, we provide our bodies with the variety of resources it needs to function optimally.

Challenge: Try to include olive oil, nuts, seeds, or avocado in your meals this week! Since each one offers a different array of essential fatty acids, try new ones as often as you can.

  1. Go one food group at a time! Don’t feel overwhelmed by the large number of food possibilities! Make a goal to try one new food each day.

Challenge: At the grocery store, try buying a new kind of fruit or vegetable. In the dining hall, check out the Chef’s Feature Meal; it’s on a rotating schedule so you can ensure different foods each day!

  1. Make a new meal or snack! Look online for ideas about how to combine foods to make a new meal or snack! Combine familiar foods with new ones and see how you like it! Examples of healthy snacks include apples and peanut butter, oatmeal with blueberries and walnuts, or a yogurt parfait! Keep trying new snacks each week.

Remember that variety is the spice of life! To learn more about how to include additional variety in your diet, reserve your session with a Nutrition Coach today by calling 301-314-5664 or UHC-Nutrition@umd.edu.

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Textual Health: Three Reasons Why Our Smartphone Society is Getting out of Hand

By: Jennifer Macko, University Health Center, Peer Educator; University Recreation & Wellness, Fitness Instructor

smart phones

Smartphones are great. You can navigate a road trip, discover the best Thai cuisine in town, answer urgent work emails, check the weather before getting dressed, and consult Next Bus. The convenience is undeniable.

However, nowadays we push a fine line between appreciation and addiction to our phones. We can’t leave the house without them, we say we feel “naked without them”, we even get ghost vibrations, thinking our phone is notifying us even when it’s not.

Smartphone addiction is getting ridiculous. Here’s why:

The anxiety from texting is real.

We’ve all spent ten minutes crafting a text, worried about conveying our message with just the right amount of exclamation points and emojis, when it would have taken one minute to pick up the phone and call.

We use it to replace face to face interactions.

Our smartphone society tells us it’s okay to get to know a romantic interest over text rather than over dinner, or to text a friend to get the scoop on her new job rather than meeting up. When we have what probably should have been a face-to-face conversation over text we lose out on moments to really connect with friends old and new.

It’s hard to interpret meaning and tone over text.

“He put a period at the end of the message instead of an exclamation point. Do you think he’s mad at me?” Sound familiar? Miscommunications and hurt feelings happen unnecessarily when we misinterpret the tone of a text.

WE NEED AN INTERVENTION!! I went without my phone for a whole month. Here’s what I learned:

  1. The sun is shining and I appreciate it so much more when it isn’t just a glare on my screen that makes me turn up my brightness.
  2. Food tastes just as good even if I don’t Instagram it.
  3. You discover a whole new side of your city when you’re not using Google Maps.
  4. It doesn’t matter if Snapchat knows I’m having fun, as long as I am.
  5. All those times my mom said, “put it away” at the dinner table… she had the right idea.
  6. You walk taller, smile brighter, and avoid collisions when you’re not staring down into your hands.
  7. Having the World Wide Web in your hands can make you forget about the amazing world around you.
  8. But I did really missed silly texts from my mom…

The key is balance!

You don’t have to give up your phone completely like I did, but do consider how you can use your smartphone without missing out on real life. Now is the time to ask… Do I need to put this entire concert on Snapchat? Am I actually feeling the music? Will 20 Instagram likes make this sushi more real? Did I just miss half of this lecture checking my Facebook feed? Why are my thumbs twitching? Am I living my life through my smartphone?

I challenge you to make small changes in your smartphone use. Can you call instead of texting a friend this weekend to make plans? Can you leave your phone in your backpack for the whole lecture? It might be hard to break the addiction, but when we improve our textual health our whole lives benefit.

Need some more inspiration to put down the phone? Check out this video:

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