Welcome back to the final post of our summer #WhyIExercise series. It’s an honor to welcome guest bloggers, Bethany Petty and Lee Ann Raikes. Join us as they share their fitness journeys.
Please welcome Bethany Petty from Missouri. Bethany is a high school social studies teacher. She earned her BSEd in Secondary Education from Southeast Missouri State University and her Master’s in Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum from the University of Missouri - Columbia. As well as being a teacher, Bethany is an educational technology instructor, blogger, and author of Illuminate: Technology Enhanced Learning (EdTechTeam Press, 2018). She was recently presented with the Outstanding Young Educator Award from METC (2019) and was recognized by EdTech Digest as a finalist in the School Leader category (2017;2019). Bethany conducts professional development sessions focusing on intentional tech integration to enhance learning throughout the country. Follow Bethany on Twitter @Bethany_Petty.
Let’s hear from Bethany.
#WhyIExercise . . . Bethany
When I started teaching in the Fall of 2008, I was like most first-year teachers - trying to keep my head above water while doing my best to do the best I could for my students! Even though I was an athlete in high school and college, and coached multiple volleyball teams when my playing days were over, my physical health and fitness took a backseat to my teaching career. All of my spare time was spent researching, studying, and creating content for my students.
Shortly after I started teaching, my long-time boyfriend finally proposed! In addition to teaching and lesson planning, I found myself eyeball deep in wedding planning and, according to my friends and family, becoming the epitome of bridezilla! During the second semester of my second year in the classroom, I found out I was pregnant with our firstborn, Hanna. A little over one year later, I learned I was pregnant with our baby, Molly. Needless to say, my first few years of teaching were quite eventful!
Why do I share this brief biography, you ask? During the first part of my teaching career, my focus was on everyone else other than myself. I totally took myself off of my list, so to speak, shoving my physical and mental health to the back burner. Shortly before my 30th birthday, with a fantastic marriage, two beautiful and healthy daughters, a Master’s degree, and years of teaching experience under my belt, I decided it was time, once again, to make my physical health a priority.
In typical “Bethany” fashion, when I decide to do something, I DO IT. I decided that running would be a great physical activity for me because it didn’t require much equipment - other than a great pair of shoes - and it was something that I could do by myself. I used the Couch 2 5K running app to build up my stamina and to actually learn to run. As an asthmatic who is prone to shin splints, I never ran more than I had to in volleyball practice and conditioning! Running became an amazing outlet for me to sweat out my stress and do so in a relaxing, solitary environment.
Also in typical “Bethany” fashion, I ran too much, building up my mileage too quickly because it just felt AWESOME, and I ran into injuries. As a former athlete, I knew what I was feeling in my knee wasn’t quite normal, but I pushed through. This landed me in months of physical therapy, trying to get back to normal.
During that time, unable to run, I found myself getting antsy and anxious. I needed another physical outlet! This is when I stumbled upon Beachbody on Demand programs that let me workout from home, with minimal equipment. Once again, the convenient accessibility to workouts and sweat sessions helped me put myself back on the list, making my health and physical fitness important again.
So, why do I exercise? My workout time, whether it’s with weights, on my treadmill watching Netflix, or on the road listening to 2000s pop radio, is my “me” time. I’m refilling my cup, so to speak, so I can be the best version of me for all of the people who are counting on me in my life. I have the energy and focus to volunteer as a coach for my daughter’s soccer team, cart both of my girls to hours of dance classes and piano lessons throughout the week, while helping with homework, nightly reading, and “snuggle nests” before bed. I exercise to give the gift of health and wellness to myself, my family and my students deserve the best version of me. And - I deserve it, too! #WhyIExercise.
Please welcome Lee Ann Raikes from Ottowa, Illinois. Lee Ann is a 7th grade Engligh Language Arts teacher. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University and her Master’s from the University of Phoenix. Lee Ann’s educational philosophy is to teach to the whole child. She believes that students are humans first and students second. And that building relationships within the classroom is the key to success. Follow Lee Ann on Twitter @mastereducator.
Let's hear from Lee Ann.
#WhyIExercise . . . Lee Ann
Humans are born to move. From kicking inside the womb, to countless tries at taking our first steps, movement literally drives us forward. It is humorous to me how in my younger years, I didn’t focus on finding time in my schedule to exercise. I just did it with no conscious effort or the thought of being pushed to discomfort. After graduating from crawling to walking, I went right into running. When I mastered the art of riding a bike, I never got off. I loved swimming so much I even become a lifeguard. As I grew older, life seemed to get in the way. There were schedules to maintain and my joyful mindset of just getting up and moving was replaced with angst and the thought of going through the pain cave. Just like life, my exercise habits have gone through a variety of phases. However, as I am entering the back half of my life, I have not only found a love of pushing my body to its limits once again, but I also now know the countless benefits that exercise offers. Why do I exercise? Let me count the ways.
I am adopted and have no idea what lies in my medical history. This unknown has made me choose to make healthy decisions when it comes to diet and exercise. The benefits of exercise are proven to add years to your life as well as help with countless health issues from diabetes to depression. I watched my mom as she developed and suffered with Alzheimer’s and I understand how remaining active can help deter that terrible disease. Being an educator, I have read all the research on the importance of adding movement in the classroom to stimulate thinking. Clearly, moving our bodies is important both physically and mentally. I am known to have an upbeat attitude as well as countless energy which comes from adding exercise to my daily regime. I don’t want to live my final years taking multiple medications or being limited due to inactivity. I know schedules dictate, but making sure to take the time to take care of myself only makes me a better wife, mom, grandma, friend, and educator. I am selfish and I want to be around as long as I can watch my children and grandchildren grow.
This is an extension of living a healthy lifestyle, but is so important when dealing with day to day pressures. There is research that states that teachers take on symptoms of PTSD and I can verify that is an issue. I, like most educators, take upon ourselves the issues that our students bring into the classroom. There is nothing better than taking the time to get out in nature and take a walk, ride a bike, or run in order to keep stress at bay. Self-care is vital in order for being the best version of me I can be.
I have run 16 marathons and countless half-marathons and have done it all with a wonderful group of women. We have traveled all over in our adventures and have created memories and life long friendships. There is nothing better than making exercise fun and something to look forward to. These women continue to encourage me, inspire me, keep me honest, and push me to limits I never knew I could reach. I insist you find your posse, get out there, and turn exercise into experiences.
Thank you so much, Bethany and Lee Ann, for sharing your stories. Bethany, what a great reminder to find that “me time” in order to be the best versions of ourselves. I can’t wait for your next book to come out. We’re ready to celebrate with you. Lee Ann, you clearly have a passion for adventure, testing yourself, and camaraderie. May we all have your sense of adventure. Again, thank you both for sharing your stories with us.
Readers, what an honor to share 12 outstanding educators and their inspiring stories about #WhyIExercise. As we start planning for our school year, be sure to carve out time to exercise, eat healthy, and get plenty of sleep. As the saying goes, “We can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves.” Have an amazing 2019-2020!!! Let’s continue to cheer each other on both in education and fitness.
If you’re interested in participating in #WhyIExercise next summer, please complete this Google interest form.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤️
Welcome back to week 5 of our summer #WhyIExercise series. It’s an honor to welcome guest bloggers, David Holliday and Jeremy Lowe. Join us as they share their fitness journeys.
Please welcome our first guest, David Holliday. David is from Plano, Texas. He is a 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Reading and Language Arts special education teacher. David earned his Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University. He has been an educator for 5 years, coming over from corporate. He received the beginning teacher of the year award in 2015 at Rice Middle School, has an honorary lifetime PTA membership for community service to youth in 2019, has served for 3 years, and continues to serve, as a lead sponsor for Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Rice MS, and served on the Professional Learning Commission for Plano ISD in 2018-19. David is an active member of the #FitLeaders and #TeacherFit tribes. Follow him on Twitter @docholliday747.
Let’s hear from David.
#WhyIExercise . . . David
Ever since I was a young man, I have enjoyed sports and exercise. Football, basketball, and baseball were my favorites because I prefer team sports over individual sports. I played a lot of golf in my adolescent and early adult years; however, the expense of the sport doesn’t allow me to play as much as I would like to with a daughter approaching her college years! I played competitively in youth and high school basketball and played in intramural football and basketball leagues with my fraternity brothers at Texas Tech University. I am a big believer that playing and participating in sports in our youth helps us learn a lot about teamwork, perseverance, and winning and losing graciously. Fitness and sports have had a positive effect in my development as a person and help me stay connected to community and friends.
Trying to decipher why I exercise is far more complicated than it may appear. I believe that in order to be my best, I need to maximize my efforts to produce a healthy body, spirit, and mind. If I am lacking in one of these components, I am setting myself up for a fall. For most of my life, I have had a deep fear of loss. This was compounded when I lost my nephew, Jacob, at the precious age of four to cancer in October of 2005. This devastating loss changed everything, especially for my younger brother, Rob. To say the least, at this time of my life, fear consumed me. Over time, I have had a lot of questions about the role of suffering and loss in my faith. I believe exercise somewhat models suffering in its own unique way. When I endure something that isn’t pleasing, it helps me grow and stretches my limits. From a spiritual and mindset perspective, this allows me to build on failure and trust the process of an exercise regimen to strengthen the core of my body and the discipline of my mind. The suffering I have experienced in my life allows me to empathize with my students, many of whom have had deep suffering in their lives. This makes me a better educator.
In addition, the discipline of exercise and diet has enabled me to lose 28 pounds, 9% body fat, and one percentage point in my blood sugar. This is the healthiest I have been since that devastating loss my family experienced in 2005. Exercise keeps me focused on accepting my past, living my best life now, and preparing for a fulfilling and purposeful future.
Basically, I eliminated all sugar from my diet 13 months ago. I try to keep my daily sugar intake below 10 grams. I eat a lot of lean meats and vegetables. Simple, but it takes a lot of discipline. However, denying myself means I am putting something more important above myself. That is empowering and helps me live a life of humility, which I am called to do.
I work in a challenging atmosphere where student anxiety and stress are commonplace. Being of sound body, spirit, and mind allows me to be a comfort for my students when they need me in their most vulnerable moments.
I have a choice to make every day. Who do I serve? Do I serve self or do I serve others? If I do not take care of my body, spirit, and mind, I cannot make the obvious choice in serving others.
Believe. Believe in yourself and believe in others. Believe that people are trying their best, especially on their worst days. Believe that people are giving you their best on your worst days.
Please welcome Jeremy Lowe also from Plano, Texas. Jeremy is an Upper School Principal at Prince of Peace Christian School. He has a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Educational Technology. Jeremy was named the Administrator of the Year (2006) in the Pacific Southwest District of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod, is a board member on the National Association of Lutheran Secondary Schools, and has been named an inaugural Swivl Educational Video Pioneer. He is active in the #FitLeaders and #TeacherFit tribes. Follow Jeremy on Twitter @DrJerLowe.
#WhyIExercise . . . Jeremy
I remember teaching one afternoon in an American literature classroom; it was my second year as a teacher. The day was like any other – I was having some fun with juniors teaching The Scarlet Letter when suddenly, I doubled over in pain right in the middle of my lecture. The worst pain I’d experienced in my life, I wondered if my appendix ruptured. I tried playing it off as a joke but had to leave the classroom and was taken immediately to the ER. Months went by without diagnosis and the problem worsened to the point I struggled walking up steps or even teach for a full day.
Now, I had been an athlete all my life. Three sports in high school and blessed to play college baseball (a dream of mine) in a small NAIA college. I hiked, lifted, ran mud races and was as healthy as I could imagine. But to look at me sick, you would have laughed. I was 5’7” 125 pounds and literally wasting away until I was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. A disease that attacks my own digestive system much like diabetes attacks the pancreas or rheumatoid arthritis attacks the joints, Crohn’s came on suddenly and with a vengeance. But, God’s undeserved grace in my life, a loving patient wife, and medications with lifestyle changes helped me turn the corner over the span of three years. I gained weight and strength and returned to the classroom with energy and enthusiasm, eventually becoming the principal, then executive director of a Christian high school in Southern California.
With the shift to administration, and the stresses and workload that come with that responsibility over time, I relapsed then let myself go – I’m embarrassed to admit that. However, this time, I began to gain weight as I didn’t hold fast to the lifestyle changes that were necessary to hold Crohn’s at bay. I ballooned up to 206 pounds frankly tired of fighting it.
To dig a bit deeper into the soul of my situation, in the darkness was an incredible feeling of loneliness. You’ve often heard that leadership is lonely, and it is. I believe it is the driver of burnout for leaders in education, and unless we address that issue, we will lose many great people in our field. You see, that negative inertia of my life was strong until the untimely death of my father-in-law. Life seemed to snap into focus. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and, candidly, scared. So, I leaned into the @fit_leaders #FitLeaders #PLN led by Dr.Ryan Jackson (@RyanBJackson) on Twitter. He encourages us to Live Better – Lead Better. I decided to post about my journey even though I felt a little embarrassed that I wasn’t as strong, or fast, or fit as others I was seeing on Twitter. I doubled down on the accountability I felt there and now my inertia is moving in a whole new direction, thanks to encouraging educators like @MarilynEDU, @matthew_arend, @ctopher73, @docholliday747, @MistahBruno, @literacy_kim and many more. I was blessed to share in a podcast with Nick Mann (@S2Change2), who supports educators through #TeacherFit about my journey and received comments from educators who were encouraged. I’m thankful for these leaders in my life and hope to get to shake their hand one day.
Today, I’m 173 pounds with my Crohn’s in remission and exercise 5X per week. I am incredibly thankful that God continues to give me chances each day to be a better husband, father, and leader in my school. That’s why I exercise. I won’t go back; how could I? I don’t know how much time I’ll have to impact others in this life I’ve been given, so there’s no time to lose!
Thank you so much, David and Jeremy, for sharing your fitness journeys. David, so sorry about the loss of your nephew, Jacob, But, what a way to honor his life by using him as motivation to take control of your health; physically, mentally, and spiritually. Jeremy, your struggle with Crohn’s disease has been difficult. But, it surely propelled you to new heights. (For more information on Crohn’s, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America is a valuable resource.) Thank you both for sharing your personal stories. You are both amazing educators and leaders. More importantly, you are men of God that are touching your communities, families, and PLN.
David, Jeremy, and I are members of Nick Mann’s “Teacher Fit” coaching and online community. We are having fun and seeing tremendous results.
When you become a member, you gain access to the SugarWod app, an online community, instructional videos, and access to a certified Crossfit coach. Jeremy was recently a guest on Nick’s podcast. Take a listen here. If you’re interested in the group, scroll here for more information.
There are some amazingly motivating fitness communities on Twitter. Be sure to follow the hashtags: #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, #TeacherFit, and #RunAndRant.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤️
Welcome back to week 4 of our summer #WhyIExercise series. It’s an honor to welcome guest bloggers, Vicki King and Colin Hanna. Join us as they share their fitness journeys.
Please welcome our first guest, Vicki King. Vicki is from Lindenhurst, Illinois. She is an educational partner and advocate as well as a leadership coach. She has earned her BS in Education and her MS and Ed.S in Ed Leadership. Vicki is currently a doctoral student researching Social Justice & Equity in Education. Vicky is an active member of #EquityLiteracy founded by, @pgorski, dedicated to dismantling injustices in educational settings and beyond. She is also an inspiring member of the #FitLeaders and #RunAndRant communities. Follow Vicki on Twitter @vicking02.
Let’s hear from Vicki.
#WhyIExercise . . . Vicki
I remember running the forest preserve and park paths with my grandpa when I was still in grade-school. After our runs . . . well, I was probably the one running and my grandpa was more likely jogging with me. Afterwards, we would hit the pool or jacuzzi in the backyard. My grandma would bring out lemonade or ice water for us. There was no competition; there was just my grandpa and me running.
I can vaguely recall going to the high school track in Chico, California with my mom and dad. They would sit on the bleachers and just watch me run around the tracks. I would pick up an acorn or rock every time I took a lap and hand them to my parents to keep track of the number of laps I had completed. I loved the way they would smile or laugh when I’d toss them another marker. There was no competition; there was just my parents smiling and me running.
At some point, I entered a local race with other kids roughly my age. I was the youngest in the group. I remember being disappointment at not winning; I placed third. I remember the celebration afterward with my parents and grandparents. I remember them giving me a bright yellow jumpsuit with a silly phrase across the top about being a champion or something. I remember feeling their full support and pride. But that was the last time I remember running until I was 18 and started dating my husband and our first run was so far from pretty and I was miles away from the runner and athlete I had been 10 years earlier.
The first run I did with my boyfriend, BK (now husband), was only ten or twenty minutes long. I didn’t own any running attire or running shoes. I was sucking air loudly. It’s funny to recall because he had to ask me several times if I was going to be okay. I couldn’t answer him, but I kept going. We kept running around the park on the one-mile track. We did that together everyday for weeks. Months went by and we had eventually gotten me shoes and appropriate exercise attire. There was no competition; there was just my best-friend and me running.
Eventually, I found myself running seven to eight miles around that park all by myself. It felt freeing. I felt alive. There was no competition; it was just my thoughts and me running.
Since then, I have realized that I am at my best, emotionally and physically when I am not living life as if it were a competition. I am an Achiever by nature and it is a strength that keeps me pushing limits and my boundaries. But sometimes I run a fine-line with my goals, and get my wires crossed about why I am exercising or running with an unhealthy and unnecessary need to be faster, better, stronger . . . Faster, better, and stronger than who?! Even when it is myself I am competing against to achieve a fitness goal, it isn’t always a healthy competition.
I exercise, I run, I lead, I learn, and I serve because I enjoy doing those things. Those things bring me life. I especially love doing all those things with people I love! I am also immensely grateful for the relationships on social media I have developed with others who are like-minded on their exercise and fitness journey. There is no competition; there is just a couple thousand of my closest social media friends, my hot hubby, and me sharing a fitness journey.
Please welcome Colin Hanna from Saint Louis, Missouri. Colin is a physical education and health teacher as well as an assistant football coach with a focus on strength training. He earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Physical Education and Health, a Master’s of Science in Educational Administration, and is currently completing his Doctorate of Education in K-12 Educational Leadership. Colin is active with the #FitLeaders tribe. Follow him on Twitter @coachcolinhanna.
#WhyIExercise . . . Colin
I have always loved to exercise. As far back as I can remember, I was moving and shaking. Exercise was interchangeable with neighborhood games and team sports. Whether it was tag in the neighborhood or basketball games on the weekend, I found joy in exercise. As a high school student, I enjoyed participating in three-sports and working out. I was then blessed with an opportunity to play collegiate football at The University of Central Missouri. This love and passion for movement led me to a career in education as a physical education and health teacher, as well as coaching football and strength and conditioning. It has been in that arena that I have been able to develop relationships and support students and players in their pursuit of overall health. I really appreciate that I get to work with students and players with varying exercise and health goals. It is truly a metaphor for exercise as we continue into adulthood. Some of us enjoy running, others lifting, other people love tennis, golf, hiking, CrossFit, basketball and the list goes on and on in terms of the ‘how’ of our exercise and fitness.
As I have gotten older, I have worked to be a more reflective and introspective person. In that reflection, I have found that my ‘why’ comes down to three distinct ‘whys’.
· Family: Family over everything. My family is part of my why because I want to be my absolute best for them. I want to be as healthy and fit as I can be to ensure that I live a long and healthy life. When my wife and I had our son, it was another great reminder of the gifts and joys of this life, and family is most certainly a gift. I want to be my best for both of them!
· Competition: Competing makes things fun. As I have grown, I have been better, with some help from great coaches and mentors, about healthy competition. I firmly believe competition should start within oneself, but doesn’t have to remain there. I have found that if I focus on competing with myself, it allows me to appreciate a competition with others and respect their work toward competition. This could be a weight lifting competition, marathon, sports, etc. My encouragement to students, players and peers is to never take away competition between yourself and others, but rather remember and learn the skill of healthy competition with self and others.
· Being My Best: I simply feel my best when I exercise. It may be the simplest why, but I just have to keep that in mind at all times. Getting in the gym and starting is the biggest part of success. Stay consistent, it makes you feel sharp and prepared to take on anything.
My ‘whys’ drive most, if not all, of my decisions and help me to continue toward my true north. I am so thankful for my ‘why’.
Accountability, Follow-Through and Support
Every day I challenge myself to remember all of the support that I have around me from my family and friends. Like many of you, I work to maintain a high-level of discipline and motivation, but having accountability is still something we all benefit from. A few reminders I like to use when times are tough and days get busy:
1. Consistency beats programs: having a plan is key, but if a day gets away and all you have time to do is a walk, instead of your normal high intensity workout, take the walk - your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.
2. Maintain a healthy, but realistic outlook on food: many times ‘diet’ and nutrition are the bane of our existence. Don’t spend unnecessary time beating yourself up if you don’t eat the healthiest meal. The focus is being present and conscious about your eating. Conscious eating says, “I am going to have this ice cream because I want to enjoy it with some friends.” It puts the control back in your hands. When you do this, you will find that your conscious choices become more health focused, with occasional treats.
3. Find the fun in exercise: find exercise that you enjoy. If it is weight lifting, perfect. Running, great. Playing pick-up basketball, soccer or softball, go for it. Hiking or walking, put those shoes on. The only requisite is that YOU enjoy it. If you make an exercise choice based on your interest it will never feel like work.
4. Put family first: this one isn’t directly related to fitness, rather overall health. Family and close friends should come first. Build a regimen around your loved ones and your daily schedule. The reason I advise this is because what is a healthy body if you never visit, fellowship, or spend time with those you love? It is in the balance that we can truly enjoy our commitment to our health.
I implore you to find your why and then find your exercise bliss! I look forward to connecting with many of you as educators, leaders and fitness fanatics. Cannot wait to hear your story, too! #FitLeaders
Thank you so much, Vicki and Colin, for sharing your stories. Vicki, your story is full of love and connectedness. You are so blessed to be surrounded by loved ones that have nurtured you and your desire to run. Colin, your tips and reminders are spot on. Each one of us is different. And that’s o’kay. At the end of the day, find what you love and do it. Fitness and healthy living is a lifelong pursuit. Whether we find motivation in competitions with ourselves or others, keep striving to be better everyday. Thank you again, Vicki and Colin, for sharing, inspiring, and leading.
On a side note, Colin and I have an interesting connection. When I first saw Colin on Twitter, I was in shock. You see, I have a son named Colin and a daughter named Hannah. Needless to say, Mr. Colin Hanna is one great guy.
As always, if you’re looking for a tribe, there are many to choose from. Follow these hashtags for inspiration: #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, #RunAndRant, and #TeacherFit.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤
As educators, we know the importance fitness has on both our bodies and minds. This blog is a celebration of educators and the role exercise plays in our lives.