We remain committed to the health and safety of our community and our Discovery Centre continues to follow all necessary guidelines.

Fall is a great time to reset our routines. We sat down with lifestyle coach, Vera Ilnyckyj to learn about the benefits of routine and ways we can incorporate easy habits to enhance our productivity and build a positive mindset.

Lifestyle coach Vera Ilnyckyj helps people build the tools they need (re)connect with their purpose, especially those who are in mid-career and experiencing life changes, milestone birthdays, or yearning to connect with what is truly important to them.

Here is what Vera had to say about getting back into routine this fall. 

Why are routines (habits) important for our physical and mental health?

Habits are our brain’s way of being efficient (and our brains tend to be quite lazy!). The less our brain needs to think about, the less energy it needs to expand on rote actions, thus having more energy to expend on more important things – like solving problems, being creative, responding to the needs of friends and family, or learning something new.

Establishing healthy habits, or automatic behaviours, is important because they help us reach goals – such as losing weight, getting fit, eating healthier, learning new skills, improving our relationships, or saving money. 

What happens when our routines are changed and we need to find new ones? 

Our brains like familiarity so when something in our life changes we can feel discomfort, anxiety, resentment, sadness, and even anger. Acknowledge what you’re feeling because it’s valid and totally normal to feel emotional when our routines change (even if we’re the ones initiating the change). You may find that journaling about your feelings helps.

Remember that it will take some time to get on even footing where you feel comfortable with your new routine. It may require some trial and error. Be curious about what works for you, and what doesn’t. Be kind to yourself. Doing something new is not easy and you may get derailed or discouraged from time to time. But stick with it, and over time you will build up a new routine that feels comfortable and right for you. 

What are ways seniors or retirees can build routine into their lives? 

It’s likely that you already have a routine that you follow every day. But if you’re looking to change it up or want to add a new habit into your life, the first thing to remember is why

Why do you want to create a new habit? What is the purpose? Is it to have more energy for your grandchildren? Is it because you want to be able to play golf well into your golden years? Is it because you want to travel and explore new places?

Starting new habits can be hard because we’re not used to them, they may feel awkward at first, and we may forget to do them some days. And that’s okay. But if you have a really important reason as to why you want to create this new habit, it will be easier to stay on track and commit to the journey.

Do you have any tips for recent empty nesters or new parents that will have to change their routine this fall? 

Remember that routines will make your life easier over the long run, but that starting new routines will feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. And that’s okay! 

  1. Start small with any new routine or habit. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to start too many new things at once. What is the smallest thing you can do each day to create your new routine or habit?
  2. Allow for flexibility. Sometimes people think that once they commit to a new habit or routine they need to stick with it 100% of the time, no matter what. While consistency is key to health, we also need to be flexible. Life happens! Build in some flexibility and know that you can always go back to your routine the next day.
  3. Use the 80/20 rule. Examples of the 80/20 rule with healthy habits include: Eating well during the week and indulging in a treat on the weekend, enjoying an alcoholic beverage on the weekend but drinking water during the week, exercising five days a week and resting for two. The 80/20 rule can be used in lots of different ways to provide you with flexibility, enjoyment, rest, moderation, and balance.
  4. And again, be gentle with yourself. Ask yourself what you need and what is best for you right now. Don’t compare yourself to others – there’s no right or wrong way to do anything – there’s only what is best for you.

What exercises do you recommend to your clients to help them create a healthy and sustainable routine?

Start with your purpose. Write out why you want to create a new healthy routine or habit. It may be helpful to post this somewhere you can see every day (I like using sticky notes on my bathroom mirror or my computer monitor. Or you can print out an image from the internet that reminds you of your goal).

Habit trackers can work really well. This doesn’t need to be fancy. You can create a simple tracker on a piece of paper and check off each day that you do the habit. Or use an app (there are many available online).

Find yourself an accountability buddy. This can be a friend or colleague, a coach, a personal trainer, or your spouse. Having someone that holds you accountable and reminds you of your purpose and goal can be a very powerful way to build new habits or routines.

Celebrate your accomplishments. At the end of each week, acknowledge yourself for all the days you stuck with your new routine. If you write down your successes, you’ll have an amazing list to review at the end of each month or quarter. 

Start reading. Pick up a copy of Atomic Habits by James Clear, or my personal favourite book on habits – Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg. 

Lean into gratitude. One of the best healthy habits to practice is being grateful. This can look like jotting down three things you’re grateful for at the end of each day, asking everyone (including kids) at the dinner table what they’re grateful for that day, or simply doing a mental gratitude “treasure hunt” before you go to bed each night.

University District is home to residents, visitors, students and thousands of employees who work in the world-class facilities, hospitals and offices in the vicinity. We know you’re on the go, so here are six ways to maximize your time when you’re taking a quick break in U/D. 

Fuel up

There’s no shortage of quick and delicious ways to spend your lunch break. U/D has quickly evolved into one of the city’s most exciting culinary destinations with on-the-go options such as Five Guys, Freshii, BarBurrito, The Alley Bubble Tea and Osmow’s Shawarma, all located along University Avenue.

If you are looking for a sit down option be sure to check out Canadian Brewhouse, The Banquet, OEB and our newest addition, Borough Bar + Grill

If your idea of the perfect lunch is an iced coffee or scoop of ice cream, local favourites Monogram Coffee and Village Ice Cream are great options to try. Both are Calgary-based businesses, and known for their rotating seasonal menu items such as Kathy’s vegan cookie dough ice cream at Village and hopped cold brew coffee at Monogram. 

Get a manicure at Almond Nails

Opening Fall 2022, you can enjoy your lunch break by getting pampered by the team at Almond Nails. Known for their magic no drying time polish, they are known as a premier nail bar, and they also offer waxing, facial and threading services. 

Watch for more retailers joining U/D this fall including Foxy Box, McDonald’s, Fuwa Fuwa and The Adaptability Store.

Go for a walk 

Did you know that taking breaks throughout the day actually improves focus and creativity? Moving your body helps reduce fatigue and keeps your brain firing all day long. U/D is home to more than 12 kilometres of pathways, connecting parks, communities and retailers. 

A few parks you can enjoy all year long are the Northwest Commons Park, North Pond and Urban Dog park and the highly-anticipated Central Commons Park . Opening this fall, Central Commons Park is a community hub that will be home to countless amenities including an ice skating rink, amphitheater, splash pad, BBQ pits and plenty of nearby underground parking. 

Squeeze in a mid-day workout

Do you find it challenging to fit in a daily workout? OrangeTheory Fitness and YYC Cycle are easy to access along University Avenue, and both offer regular noon hour classes.

Cram in some studying at Staples Studio

One of the most exciting changes in U/D is the addition of Staples Studio, the first of its kind in Alberta. Staples Studio provides a unique coworking space for individuals looking to collaborate and connect in the community. Entrepreneurs, students and small businesses are already filling the space to help meet their business and studying needs. 

Open seven days a week, Staples Studio is the perfect place to work, meet and dream up your next great business opportunity. 

Pick up ingredients for a cook at home meal

Set yourself up for meal planning success by stopping by Save-On-Foods for your last minute grocery needs. The U/D location also features click and collect grocery services, so you can order your groceries online and pick them up at your convenience.

Some of the other grocery solutions at U/D include Cobs Bread, perfect for a fresh loaf or dinner rolls, and Market Wines, offering a curated collection of wines, beers and spirits. 

Looking for an insider tip? Market Wines’ wall of $20 and under bottles of wines is one of the best spots to find a bottle to celebrate midweek. Their team works tirelessly to keep the rotation unique and seasonal.

We might be a little biased, but Calgary’s NW quadrant is a thriving hub of activity, with award-winning homes, facilities, community activities and public parks. We connected with our neighbours in Varsity, Montgomery, and University Heights to learn more about the places and spaces they offer for all Calgarians to enjoy, and we’ve included a few ideas of our own too. 

Outdoor play

Spending time in the great outdoors is important to many Calgarians. The city’s northwest offers a variety of outdoor spaces to practice your favourite sport or simply take time to explore and enjoy nature. Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

  • Practice mountain biking right here in the city. Children and beginner mountain bikers can take advantage of the dedicated space at the Montgomery Bike Park. Construction of a paved pump track, suitable for riders of all abilities,  is currently underway, with an anticipated completion date of Fall 2023.
  • Shouldice Athletic Park is a favourite among aspiring and established athletes in the northwest, with batting cages, biking trails, picnic spots, and an accessible playground where children of all abilities can enjoy sport and play together.
  • University District is also home to a Playcore National Demonstration Site for inclusive playground in the Northwest Commons Park. The park was recently recognized with a BILD Alberta Award for Best Community Feature. U/D was also presented with the award for Best Existing Community. 
  • Varsity Ravine Park offers plenty of space to explore, with access to Bowmont Park. It’s a popular destination for dog walkers, or to enjoy a casual bike ride or rollerblade along the pathways. Varsity GM Doug Smith shares, “Varsity’s streets and pathways are conducive to walking around, yet the neighbourhood’s expansiveness means you never feel fenced in.” The community of Varsity welcomes visitors to the community to be engaged too. Continues Smith, “The Varsity Community Association (VCA) offers many recreational and cultural programs for all ages. Memberships for the association are not limited to Varsity residents. Benefits include tennis and pickle ball access, before and after school childcare, community clean-up, craft sales and engaging play tools for kids.”

Farm-to-Table Shopping

Shopping local is a great way to support your community, while accessing fresh and organic food and reducing your ecological footprint. You can find weekly farm stands in communities across the NW including:

  • University District – Fridays between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the University District Discovery Centre (Seasonal)
  • University Heights – Thursdays between 10am and 1pm at the Foothills Mennonite Church south parking lot (Seasonal).
  • Varsity Community Hall – Wednesdays between 2 p.m. and  6 p.m.

Artisan Markets

Local markets help showcase small businesses and artisans, while connecting the community. U/D has been holding monthly Night Markets this summer with music and entertainment, and there’s only one left this season!

  • University District Night Market: Wednesday, September 28, 5-9pm
  • Varsity Christmas Craft Sale: November 18, 2022 from 3 – 8 PM, November 19, 2022 from 10 AM – 3 PM
  • Montgomery Annual Festive Artisan Market: Friday, December 2 & Saturday, December 3, 2022

Community events are one of the best ways to bring residents, visitors, and retailers together. The U/D plaza is where the Night Markets are held and is designed to be a central meeting point for groups can gather, shop, and dine along University Avenue, while providing easy access to Central Commons Park, which will provide ice skating when it opens later this fall. 

There’s nothing better than getting your skates out of storage once the snow starts to fall! University Heights has a community rink thanks to the City of Calgary Adopt a Rink program. You can find the rink behind the alley that connects Utah Cres and Utah Place NW. If you’re looking for something larger to really stretch your legs or play a game of hockey, check out the Varsity rink – it’s three quarters the size of a standard NHL rink. 

Parkdale also offers a unique skating experience. Designed for sledge hockey and accessible ice activities, this rink is the first of its kind in Alberta. The entire facility is accessible including the washrooms, social areas and change rooms. 

If you prefer to stay warm in the winter, try some of the indoor classes offered at Varsity community centre, including pilates, dance, seniors yoga, art, and Bridge.

Book a Special Event

Looking to host your own event? The communities of Varsity and Montgomery rent out their community spaces to accommodate a variety of public and private events. Visit their community websites for more information.