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Fit for the top

Smith program helps students reach their full potential

Many of you no doubt have fond memories of navigating the Kingston campus and participating in challenges and activities as part of the Smith Challenge. That fun exercise is one way Smith’s Fit to Lead (FTL) program is fostering team-building, collaboration and critical thinking skills.

We all know that personal well-being plays a pivotal role in our success individually and as part of a team, whether in the classroom, the boardroom or everyday life. That’s why FTL also integrates mental, physical and nutritional components into its offerings.

Want to reap the benefits of this powerful program at home? Here, FTL team members Shane Lakins, Faizan Imtiaz and Tyler Fedak share some advice and examples to support your well-being efforts.

Nutritional Performance

“We believe strongly that there are not good and bad foods, but there are choices, and some choices are more nutritious than others. For example, an apple is a more nutritious choice than an apple fritter. Neither are bad, but one certainly contains more health benefits,” says Lakins. “Speaking of apples, give these apple nachos a try!”


4 apples (preferably a variety that is more sweet than tart)

  • Core and thinly slice (skin on or off, your choice)

60ml or ¼ cup each of the following:

  • Almond butter
  • Honey (liquid is easier)
  • Coconut flakes
  • Granola
  • Chocolate chips (optional but very tasty)

A pinch of cinnamon to your taste

Instructions: Arrange the apples randomly on a plate (similar to how you would with nachos). Stir almond butter and honey together and warm in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. Drizzle the mixture over the apples and top with the remaining ingredients.

Mental Performance

When we practise mindfulness during regular everyday activities, our brain learns to internalize this state and, in turn, it becomes significantly easier to focus and concentrate during more important tasks. Five to 10 minutes per day can be enough to make significant gains.

Identify everyday tasks that you do on autopilot and try to enhance mindfulness during those activities. “One of the most effective ways of doing this is by turning the volume up on our five senses, paying deeper attention to what we see, hear, feel, smell and taste during the activity,” says FTL performance coach Faizan Imtiaz, MSc’13, PhD’18.

Take the simple task of brushing your teeth as an example. Instead of letting your mind wander to your to-do list for the day, bring it back to the task at hand. What colour is the toothpaste? How does it taste and smell? How do the bristles feel on your teeth and gums? What do you hear (the faucet dripping, a bird chirping outside the window, the coffee pot brewing)?

“The more senses that are involved, the more vivid and effective the mindful practice,” Imtiaz explains. “Activities that our participants find easiest to do this with include mindful eating, driving, walking/exercising and spending time with loved ones without distractions such as technology.”

Physical Performance

Regular physical activity plays a key role in keeping our mind and body healthy. There are plenty of ways to incorporate activity into our daily lives. Tabata — a form of high-intensity interval training — is one of them.

Check out this 30-minute workout from FTL fitness co-ordinator and coach, Tyler Fedak, Artsci’22. It features four exercise pairs. Every exercise in a superset is performed for 20 seconds each followed by a 10-second rest. Perform each set four times. After the fourth set, take a one-minute rest and move on to the next superset.

Workout description:

  • Set 1: Frog squat/straight arm plank
  • Set 2: Hip hinge/wide grip pushup
  • Set 3: Side to side/side plank twist
  • Set 4: Two-way jump squat/inchworm with plank taps

Experiential Learning

“One of the best ways to learn is through real-life experience and activities that leave a lasting impression,” says Lakins. Just like the Smith Challenge builds teamwork, critical thinking and camaraderie, similar results can be achieved with the activities below. Try one out with your friends, family or colleagues.

  1. Escape room
  2. Improv class
  3. Tree-top trekking