Our Stories

Get Inspired


Our Stories showcase the community in which we work, highlighting the successes and triumphs of our students, employees and community members. Read through the stories below to get inspired and learn about all the ways that Rec can help you get active.


By: Jenna Hamilton
Assistant Marketing & Communications Coordinator
MRU Recreation

Meet Jessica and Shailynn (Shai), Recreation’s blonde bombshell duo. You might have seen them around Rec or heard their infectious laughs during their stretch sessions. They are friends who met under unexpected circumstances and have an important story to share.

When Shai was a baby, she was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), a disease that robs people of their physical strength by affecting nerves in the spinal cord. Despite being given the life expectancy of four, this quick-witted gal has defied all odds and at 21 is living life to the fullest. Shai is currently completing her third-year of Criminal Justice here at MRU and plans to go to law school for Human Rights Law at the University of Saskatchewan.

Jessica, originally from a farm outside of Winnipeg, has lived in Calgary for 10 years and co-owns a local sandwich shop, Chachi’s, with her husband. Jessica is one of the most positive, outgoing individuals we’ve had the pleasure of meeting. You wouldn’t be able to tell upon meeting her that she’s experienced a tragedy of her own when her six month old son, Lewiston, passed away from SMA last November. The diagnosis of her son is what brought Jessica and Shai together.

Shai is a member of the Calgary Chapter of SMA at The Alberta Children’s Hospital and upon hearing about Lewiston’s story, she reached out to Jessica to see how she could help. In addition to providing comfort and support, Shai was able to give Lewiston a voice and help to explain what he was struggling with, since she’s been through it herself. From there, a friendship formed and now Jessica is helping Shai manage her SMA. Together, this dynamic duo is achieving goals they never thought were possible.


“With SMA, your nerves don’t send signals down to the muscles and they slowly die off. Stretching can help manage this but I don’t have the ability to stretch my body without help,” Shai explains. “By doing stretching exercises with Jessica, it keeps my muscles alive and lowers the chance of injury.”

The progress Shai has made stretching has qualified her to get revolutionary treatment by scoring a 10 on the Hammersmith Muscle Function Test, a scale that tests strength and monitors progress for those who have SMA. Shai can qualify for this treatment by being able to do controlled movements like holding herself on her hands and knees and sitting with her feet out. These movements are virtually impossible with SMA and in order to continue being a candidate, Shai has to maintain her muscle strength. Jessica has played a large role in helping Shai do so while they are here at Rec.




Another opportunity heading Shai’s way is the pending approval of a drug in Canada that has been life changing for children in the United States. This drug has been able to give kids with SMA the strength to hold themselves up to stand and crawl. Shai plans on using this treatment once it’s approved.

When asked what their favourite part about Rec is, their response was both hilarious and inspiring.

“While we’re stretching, we like to scope out the men to find one to help Shai get back into her chair,” Jessica laughs. “We’ve seen the most generous and amazing people come together to help. It truly shows that Recreation is a place where community happens.”

Shai adds that when she’s trained at other facilities, laying helpless was a bit intimidating. However at Rec, she doesn’t feel judged as everyone is willing to help. She also explained that it teaches others that people in wheelchairs are normal, she has the same goals as anyone else, which is to move and be active.

Although challenging at times, Shai and Jessica are motivated to achieve Shai’s goal of one day walking. Once achieved, they intend to head off to Vegas for the weekend and celebrate their accomplishments. With their hard work and determination, we see a trip to Vegas in their future.

Feeling inspired by these two ladies? Follow their journey on Instagram at @jsjanzen and @shaibrooketayy. To learn more about SMA, click here.


SUSTAINABILITY_STORY_HEADER2Breathe Easy - Mount Royal University Receives Five-Star Energy Award
By: Jenna Hamilton
Assistant Marketing & Communications Coordinator
MRU Recreation

Students at Mount Royal University (MRU) can breathe easy knowing their school received a five-star energy rating achievement award in December from Camfil, a leading provider in clean air solutions. The award recognizes MRU for its efforts towards meeting all Energy Cost Index standards and continued energy saving initiatives, while ensuring everyone is breathing top quality indoor air. The award follows a pilot project led by the Building Operations department in MRU Recreation’s (Recreation) U-wing last October.

“We wanted to steer away from the traditional thought process and become more innovative in thinking bigger on how we can improve this institution,” says Owen Zarazun, Manager of Building Operations.

With air filtration equipment older than most of the students enrolled, it was time for MRU to invest in new technology. The new equipment is more efficient in removing particles from the air and maintaining air flow, along with the added bonus of less frequent filter changes. In addition to the new equipment, MRU Building Operations staff save energy and labour costs which will allow their attention to be focused on other university initiatives.

The new equipment has certainly made strides in Recreation. While working out, patrons can breathe easy knowing dust particles are being removed from the indoor air. Poor air quality can have a negative effect on performance and health. Unfortunately, we can’t make your workouts shorter or easier, but to help get you more active, more often we’ve ensured the air quality does not interfere with your workout.

The university has been crushing the sustainability game since the pilot project’s inception in October, by demonstrating a triple win of sustainability which includes:

  • 84 per cent waste reduction, eliminating 42.6 cubic yards from the landfill (enough to cover Recreation’s Kenyon Court!)
  • 50 per cent energy savings due to using less restrictive filters, enough to power 28 homes for one year.
  • 90 per cent labour reduction, approximately two full working weeks reallocated to other MRU initiatives.

With the success of this pilot project, MRU is committed to continue improving the filtration systems around the school, with hopes of achieving even more energy savings in the future. So breathe easy folks, something fresh is in the air.

By: Erinn Powell
Marketing Event Coordinator
MRU Recreation

A born and raised Manitoban, Steven Trottier entered Mount Royal University’s halls just like any other first year student: full of excitement, anticipation and a little bit of unease. With his sights set on the Bachelor of Communications degree in Public Relations, he was eager to immerse himself in the University experience.

Steven jumped right in by becoming involved on campus as a student-elected Governor for the Students’ Association of MRU, joining various clubs, volunteering for New Student Orientation and much more. As a way to unwind from all of his activities, Steven joined the intramural dodgeball league at Rec.

“I really enjoy playing dodgeball” he says with a smile, “When I’m playing it’s a great way for me to destress and meet new people from around campus.”

Like many students though, Steven’s four years didn’t go quite as he had planned. Upon entering his fourth year in the Public Relations program he bravely decided to make the switch to the Bachelor of Business Administration and it was at this time that he started working at Rec as the Assistant Event Coordinator.

As an active and involved student, Steven brings his drive and enthusiasm to everything that he does. His experience working at Rec is no different, with his stand-out moment being able to help lead the planning and execution of the 4th Annual MRU Colour-U-Blue in 2015. The event was a huge success with over 500 students running and walking the 4.5 km route around campus while getting sprayed with blue paint. Standing on stage with a live DJ pumping up hundreds of students coloured head-to-toe in blue paint is a memory that Steven won’t forget.

“I had a great manager and lots of support from the full-time staff at Rec who helped push me everyday to keep learning more” he
explains. “Not only did this role help me transition between my degrees it also allowed me to take on more senior student roles in Rec and prepare for graduation.”

Since then, Steven has taken on additional roles at Rec such as a Student Program Coordinator and a Get Rec’d Ambassador.
“I think that the best way to stay on top of your game is to stay busy and fully engage yourself in as many activities as possible” he says about balancing school, work and personal life. “If you immerse yourself completely in your goals, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.”

In October of 2015, Steven went through an extremely difficult time. His father passed away unexpectedly, leaving him and his mother stunned. He and his father were very close and explains that it would have been easy for him to derail his education and slip away from himself. In the midst of the most difficult time of his life, he was amazed and comforted by the support that he received from Rec.

“That was the moment which showed me how much Rec values not only their employees, but everyone who walks through their front gate and how they are willing to do anything to help people through a challenging time” he says wholeheartedly. “The last two years of my degree have definitely been the most challenging, but Rec was there for me every step of the way.”

Today, Steven is thrilled to be accepted into the University of New York in Prague’s Master of International Management program which he will start in September. Until then, he continues to use dodgeball and longboarding as a way to unwind and destress and is soaking up as much of the MRU experience as possible.

When asked about what he would say to students who are new to trying out Rec, Steven advises, “Whatever it is that you think you might enjoy, try it! No one cares whether you can bench press 300 pounds, make 10 three-point shots in a row or take out the entire team you’re playing against in dodgeball singlehandedly, it’s just about getting active.”

Steven got involved by using of Rec's student employment opportunities, learn more about how you can work at Rec here.


By: Danielle Alfaro
Assistant Marketing & Communications Coordinator
MRU Recreation

Heather, a.k.a Get Fit Fiona, wasn’t always mindful of her health, but
rather it has become a learned lifestyle and something she has grown into by finding her fit through trial and error.

Upon completing university in her early twenties, Heather worked for a few different organizations before she decided to follow her passion for health and wellness and change careers. She quickly realized this was going to require going back to school to diversify her skill set to give her the tools she needed to succeed. She chose MRU because of its positive reputation and small class sizes. It was also important to her to be able to earn her education in a short period of time, so when she found the Personal Fitness Trainer Diploma through Continuing Education, she was elated. Proud of herself for making the move to go back to school later on in life and be educated in something that inspired her, Heather didn’t anticipate the impact student life would have on her.

Heather had to learn how to prioritize more effectively; being a student is not always easy and it can be demanding. Often times in efforts to keep up, she found herself skipping workouts and grabbing not-so-healthy fast food choices. It wasn’t until both her parents fell ill that she really became aware of her health and how important it is both physically and mentally. She knew she had to start making changes if she wanted to be successful and achieve her goals, so she set out on a journey to become a better version of herself.

Heather began putting her health and wellness at the forefront of her priority list by learning how to meal prep and plan out her food. This helped her make healthier choices instead of grabbing unhealthy options while at school. She also needed to make sleep a bigger priority and is mindful of how much sleep she needs to be productive the next day. Soon after beginning her program, Heather discovered Rec and was hooked shortly after trying out her first fitness class. Her favourite thing about Rec is that there is a wide variety of classes and activities to choose from, so she never gets bored. Some of her favourites include ViPR fitness classes and Sunday morning yoga.

When thinking about her first impressions of Rec, Heather explained “at first the weight room was intimidating, but I became more comfortable with it after taking a strength training class and got used to the space and its elements.”

Working out also motivates her to eat healthier. Heather finds spending so much time and effort at the gym helps her recognize the importance of fueling the body with what it needs. Enjoying life and being social are important to Heather; occasionally heading out to enjoy a treat is one way she sustains balance. She explains, “it’s what you do most of the time and consistently that counts.”

After settling into the healthy lifestyle change, Heather decided to start a blog in 2012. She wanted to share her personal experience and journey to a healthier, active way of living in a creative way with others. She creates blog posts by simply writing about her experiences. She gains inspiration from books and other online content that interests her such as new healthy recipes or different ways to get active.

Heather believes that the mental aspect of staying healthy is just as important as the physical and working out helps her increases her productivity at school. It also helps increase her energy and mental clarity.

“Working out allows me to shut off my brain and just focus on my physical health and wellbeing in the moment.” These are topics she writes about in her blog and feels sharing her personal trials and tribulations are a way for her to express her creativity as well as help others.

Heather is inspired to stay healthy in order to live a long and fulfilling life. She knows it takes hard work to be able to reach her goals and looks up to other strong women for motivation. She admires the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team because they are students, employees and moms on top of being elite athletes and respects their dedication and strong will.

A nature lover, Heather also enjoys getting out and walking around her community to take in the sights and sounds of the outdoors while connecting with community members. Mixing it up in order to avoid getting bored is important to her and she’s always looking for something new to try. When asked what advice she would give in order to inspire others thinking about making a lifestyle change she explains, “find something you really enjoy doing, I’ve tried so many different things, but it
is the ones I Iove doing that have become a permanent part of my routine and helped me become my best self.”

Facebook: GetFitFiona          Twitter: @Fiona4343

If you’d like to learn more about Heather and follow her journey to health, visit her blog getfitfiona.com and see what she’s been up to this semester.



By: Christine Thompson
Social & Digital Media Coordinator
MRU Recreation

Meet Colin Cooper. Some may know him as #31, the goalie for the MRU Cougars Men’s Hockey Team, while others recognize his friendly face from business class or the time he spends at MRU Recreation (Rec). Between balancing hockey and school, this self-described funny, happy and competitive hockey player is one busy guy. I sat down with the second year business student to talk about how he likes to stay active, and of course, hockey.

Why is staying active important to you?
Staying active is important because it introduces a healthy lifestyle. If you’re not staying active and you’re just sitting around, it’s sometimes not good. Like for me, I find that staying active is a great stress reliever. If hockey is stressful, or if school is stressful, I like going to the gym for a workout, or even just running on the track; it really helps.

Besides hockey, what’s your favourite way to get active?
I like running quite a bit. Like over the summer, I’d go out with my sister and she’d ride her bike and I’d jog beside her. Again it’s a good stress reliever and something fun that I like to do.

So you use Rec quite frequently. What do you like to do when you come to Rec?
When I go to Recreation, I’ll keep my workout pretty light, just because hockey can be intense. I’ll usually run a bit, stretch and then go down to the weight room and do a bit of light lifting. Some of my teammates and I will swim quite a bit during the summer as well and we also like to go the gym and pretend that we’re basketball players. When regular season takes a break in December, some of my teammates and I will pop in on a Saturday or Sunday and play squash. It gets pretty intense.

How do you think Rec has impacted your time at Mount Royal?
It’s made it more fun for sure, just having that opportunity to go if you’re in between classes. It’s nice to know you can go workout, or go for a swim, or whatever. It helps take away from the school portion and allows you to have fun too.

What advice would you give someone thinking about trying Rec?
Getting out to the gym for the first time is the hardest part, but there are tons of other activities in Rec too. I wish I had more time to join some of the activities, like the intramural sports. They look like a lot of fun. If I wasn’t so busy with hockey, I’d probably do intramural basketball. But I guess my advice would be to not worry about what other people think and to just go for it. Everyone at Rec is super nice and if you have any questions, there is always someone there to answer.

How do you balance being a student and being a student-athlete?
It’s tough. The first year I found that I was getting behind quite a bit, because I was focusing a lot on hockey. I’d tell myself, “Okay, you have a game tonight, don’t worry about anything else.” But eventually you learn that just because you have a hockey game, school doesn’t pause. I’ve learned that time management is huge. I learned that you really need to get ahead of school work, instead of trying to catch up. I’ll try to do a bunch of work on Sundays so I can get ahead a week or two, so I’m not stressing too much.

How do you get pumped for a hockey game?
Usually before a game, the team will play sewer ball, which is where everyone stands in a circle with a soccer ball and the goal is to keep it up in the air. Then after that I like to keep it pretty quiet on my own and just do some stretching. I don’t try to get too pumped music wise or anything. I find as a goalie that if you get too fired up with adrenaline, you get kind of jumpy for the game, so I try to keep my warm-up calmer and focused.

What is your favourite Crowchild Classic memory?
Last year I stayed on the bench for it, but it was kind of cool to not be so engaged in the game and kind of just enjoy the experience of it. It’s always cool. The guys were playing unreal out there and the crowd was just going. It was cool to see the atmosphere of it, because you realize how crazy the fan base is and how alive the atmosphere is. It’s really cool to play in the Saddledome. You grow up going to Hitmen and
Flames games and it’s your dream as a child to play where the Flames play. It was pretty mesmerizing and fun.

Why should MRU students come to the Crowchild Classic?
I think it’s an experience that not many university students in Canada get to have. I mean you look at some of the universities out East, like McGill, who play a game in the Centre Bell arena where the Montreal Canadiens play and there are not many people who show up to it. The passion behind the rivalry, combined with how hockey oriented Calgary is makes it an experience that you won’t forget. Being a part of it in the stands is no different than playing the game on the ice; the fans get to feel the same atmosphere and experience it with everyone else.

MRU Cougars VS UofC Dinos
February 2, 2017

Visit mrucougars.com to learn more or pick up your free tickets at the door.






With Mirjan Knapik Ph.D.
Registered Psychologist
MRU Wellness Services

I don’t think any of us, when the fuel gauge in our car shows empty in October, expect it to run fine until we can gas-up in December. But it seems we expect ourselves to run on empty. Self-care is about refueling and without doing so, our physical, mental and emotional functioning will become impaired. We develop sleep difficulties, have trouble focusing, find it difficult to prioritize and end up feeling overwhelmed, emotionally reactive and irritable. We don’t feel like ourselves and those around us can’t benefit from all that is wonderful in our hearts and minds. Self-care is necessary for us to be well with ourselves and others.

If you’ve thought that self-care is either too selfish or too time consuming, here is an invitation to shift your perspective. What if self-care was something we did because it was simultaneously good for ourselves and others? What if self-care could help us identify the stressors in our lives so that we create healthier conditions? What if self-care could lead to social change?

Most of us know the usual list of proposed self-care activities: warm baths, cups of tea, leisurely walks with a pet, or any of the things you find in this Play Book that gets you moving, centred or connected with others. However, not all strategies are equally accessible or effective for everyone. So I invite you to begin your self-care with stopping, rather than doing more, and checking in with yourself using a different kind of attention. Be silent and still and ask yourself, “How am I ? How is my energy? What is important to me at this time in my life? To what am I giving my energy and attention? Is this in line with my priorities?”

This kind of stopping and noticing allows us to see what is going well and feel grateful. There is compelling evidence about the health benefits of expressing gratitude and extending loving kindness toward self, others and the world. Reflecting in this way also allows us see where change is needed so we can respond with a plan rather than react in a state of stress. We may recognize how the context contributes to our stress or identify the barriers for self-care. This awareness can be a first step to exploring with others what meaningful social change might look like. Self-care can reflect a concern for others and the world. We can also view self-care as something we weave into our lives moment to moment.

We practice self-care when we communicate in ways that de-escalate destructive conflict, use strategies to calm our distress, live more mindfully, or take steps to overcome the fears that keep us from connecting with others. We can improve our ability to do these things and build resilience. Self-care is about treating ourselves with the same consideration we give to those people we care about.

How will you be a good friend to yourself today?

Student counselling services offers many workshops that support self-care and resilience building. Connect with us:
MRU Wellness Services (U126)


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