Welcome back to #WhyIExercise. We hope that you had a blessed Thanksgiving with your families and loved ones! Please welcome our November spotlight, Mr. Josh Harris
Josh has been in education for almost 20 years. He is currently the Educational Technology Director for the Alisal Union School District in Salinas, California. Josh has also been an EdTech Specialist and middle school history teacher, as well as a ASL paraprofessional. Josh received his BA in History from SFSU, his teaching credential from CSUH, and his MA in Educational Technology from Touro University. He is also a Google Trainer and Innovator. Follow Josh on Twitter @EdTechSpec.
Please join us as Josh shares his #WhyIExercise journey.
#WhyIExercise . . . Josh
I am not a lifelong exerciser. I was a lifelong exercise avoider. I have been, and [sometimes] continue to think of myself as “a fat kid.” Bullying and body shaming never produced any change; fat has been who and what I was forever. I lived my life with that as part of me. I’ve lost and gained hundreds of pounds, but nothing permanent. In my head, Josh was, is, and will be fat.
In February 2017, three months after my 44th birthday, and a lifetime of being told, “you’re gonna get diabetes just like Grandpa/Nanny/Uncle Bernie/Grandpa Jerry/Uncle Jerry/Grandma,” the doctor finally told me that all those predictions had come to pass. Knowing what that disease had done to members of my family, I was...terrified. I was, at last, driven to change.
My doctor pointed out that I was a “good candidate” for bariatric surgery. This was another thing I’d actively avoided even considering. However, a cousin and a close friend who’d had the surgery and I had some real talk about it. I decided to move forward with surgery, but it’s not as simple as just saying yes. Kaiser Permanente (and most reputable bariatric programs) make you lose some weight before they will schedule surgery. In this case 10% of my highest weight in the last 12 months--for me, 42 lbs. Meaning, yes, I was about 420 lbs in February of 2017.
I had to face the nemeses all fat people face: Diet and Exercise. I set the goal of 5,000 daily steps, increasing by 2,000 per month until I hit 11,000--at first I used my iPhone to count steps, then I bought an Apple Watch. I knew I had succeeded in losing large amounts of weight following a high protein, high fiber, low carb diet, so I changed how I ate soon after. I let everyone in my life know what my new rules and goals were, making everyone either a passive or active ally in my new goal.
Food became, and is to this day, something I have to be mindful of everyday, at every meal. Exercise had to become a serious habit, movement like a compulsion. It had to become something I held myself accountable for, and reported out on social media so that people would notice if or when I had gotten lazy. The Apple Watch, a piece of technology I now love, helped in this more that I could have imagined. The constant feedback and reminders, the ability to check several metrics throughout the day kept me focused on my goal. Seeing me always working toward my movement and exercise goals motivated coworkers along with me.
By August 2017, I’d lost about 80 lbs and they scheduled my surgery for Sept. 11, 2017. On the day of surgery, I had lost 105 lbs. That was 5 lbs over my personal goal and really impressed the surgeon. The exercise changes were a massive factor, and were facilitated by all the support from friends, coworkers, and family. Today, I am 250 lbs lighter than I was.
I exercise now to never go back. I worked too hard, endured too many setbacks, and I enjoy what I have become too much to let myself go back. There is not always joy in the exercise itself, but there is joy in the accomplishment. There is joy in the ability to more easily do what was painful and exhausting before. There is joy in those that tell me I have inspired them into action. I exercise so all that doesn’t end.
Thank you so much, Josh, for sharing your journey. And it truly has been that . . . a journey. You are an example of dedication, perseverance, and the power of a loving and supportive support group. You have so much to be thankful for. #WhyIExercise is honored to have you as a guest blogger. Thank you for inspiring us to take our lives into our own hands and do the hard work to achieve.
May all of the #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, #RunLap, and other tribes find joy in the journey like Josh has.
#MuchLove . . . Marilyn ❤
Welcome back to #WhyIExercise. We’re excited to share the journeys of two educational leaders from Wayne, New Jersey, Stacey and Scott Wisniewski.
Stacey is a middle school vice principal. She previously taught kindergarten for 10 years. She earned her BS in Exercise Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Stacey has two master’s degrees from Seton Hall University. One in Education and the other in Education Leadership. Her husband, Scott, is an assistant principal and supervisor of mathematics and counselors. He earned his BS in Mathematics and MS in Educational Leadership from Montclair State University. He is currently working on a second master’s in Education Technology from American College of Education. Follow Stacey on Twitter @staceywiz7310 and Scott @Mr_S_Wisniewski
Without further ado, let’s here from Stacey and Scott.
#WhyIExercise . . . Stacey
The position of principal and assistant or vice principal has transformed more than anyone, not in the field could ever imagine. The modern day school leader needs to be a student advocate, teacher, leader, motivator, tech-savvy, connected, engaged, visible, mediator, committee spearhead, expert, and the list goes on. Basically, we need to clone ourselves to do all the things we need to do. So now that I have stated that there is basically not enough time in the day to do our job responsibilities, add in parenting and personal commitments, we barely have enough time to sleep! But, if you value something enough, you manage to fit it in.
I read in a running magazine a long time ago, in one of their featured stories, about a woman struggling with fitting it all in. Her driving force was the feeling that if she couldn’t take care of herself, how could she take care of others. That resonated with me. If I don’t value myself, my body, my health, how could I possibly know what it feels like to truly value something. I exercise and commit to health and wellness because I feel what I exude physically, emotionally, and intellectually is all equally as important. I see myself as a model for my own daughters, the students, and the teachers. I put my all into everything that I do, starting with myself. I value exercise, health, and wellness, because I feel it is all tied together to our ability to manage, cope, and function in our careers and professional lives. In a field that is has a high female population, it gives women something else to connect to with me as a leader.
We started a workout club in my school last year. Seeing each other struggling and motivating each other through the moves allowed for me, as a leader, to develop deeper relationships with the teachers in my school. People at work no longer make snide remarks about my body, or that I am skinny or about what I eat. They know me differently now. They know I dedicate time and energy into my body as well as my career and it is not something to be taken lightly. Why I Exercise is simple…..I do it for me . . . because if I can’t take care of myself, how do I take care of the 800 + students in my building.
#WhyIExercise . . . Scott
Exercise has always been a part of my life. Being involved in football and wrestling from middle school and high school, the expectation was to be in the weight room. I was fortunate enough to be able to play football at Montclair State University. During this time, my weight went from 195 pounds in high school to close to 240 pounds in college and eventually reaching 249 pounds about a year after finishing my playing career. I began to get chest pains and really did not feel confident in myself. I began to eat healthier and incorporate more cardio and running into my workouts. Over the next 10 years, I went from struggling through 2 mile runs at 10 minute miles to running half marathons, spartan races, and completing a full marathon. I was fortunate to have met my wife during this time as she has been an huge motivator and partner through this. She got me into running but more importantly got me into eating better and taking a healthier approach to life. Within this timeframe, we also discovered Insanity by Shaun T. This was a comprehensive, total body cardio. From Insanity, we continued through various other Beachbody workouts.
Now, exercise and health are such important aspects of our lives. I believe it is important for our daughters (ages 6 and 4) to see us exercising and understand the importance of making positive, healthy choices with our bodies. My wife and I will alternate our workouts between Beachbody workouts and running in the morning before work. Our workouts will take between 30-40 minutes and there are several exercises incorporated into the workout. We recently signed our 6 year old daughter up for a 5k! I also believe in modeling positive, healthy behaviors for the students.
In addition to modeling positive behaviors, exercise has also allowed me to satisfy my competitive spirit. I like the challenge of improving my times in running, I like the challenge of increasing my pushups or pullups. The idea of challenging yourself in various venues is a value that I would like to install in my students and my children. When my students see me running races and putting in my all, I believe it helps set a standard and expectation for them.
There are so many positive reasons why I exercise as it improves my personal health, displays a positive role model for my children and students, while providing me a vehicle to continue to motivate and push myself to improve. So many people in their lives and careers get “stuck”. They stop growing, stop learning, stop improving themselves. Exercising is a way that I can continue to challenge and handle adversity. A month ago during a half marathon, I dehydrated mid race but refused to not finish even if it meant walking. I ended up in the hospital requiring an IV. As I lay on the hospital bed, I promised myself I would sign up for that same run again next year and finish the run the right way. I believe it's important to face your challenges head on and remove “I can’t” from your vocabulary. If someone were to have told me that I would complete a marathon back when I weighed 249, I would never have believed them. My mindset now is not that I completed a marathon but I want to do it again and do it faster. I want to set an expectation for my children and my staff/students to not run from challenges but to train, prepare, work hard and be better than I was the day before.
There are so many life lessons in this post. A huge thank you to both Stacey and Scott for sharing your stories. You’re definitely leading your family, schools, staff, and students by focusing on being your personal bests. I love how Stacey models a healthy lifestyle for her daughters and others. And Scott’s motto can be applied to both our professional and person lives: train, prepare, and work hard.
Many blessings to our readers as we enter the Thanksgiving season. I’m thankful to all of you for inspiring and motivating the fitness tribes. Shoutout to #FitnessEdu, #FitLeaders, and #RunLap for leading and encouraging all of us to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others.
#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.